Hickory is available in several grades. Lower grades are the least expensive but may contain more knots, burls and defects than the higher grade alternatives. These "faults" give the lower grade hickory a rustic look that may be the ideal choice for some settings but inappropriate in others. Higher grades will have a smoother finish. Factor in the grade and appearance of the wood to create the desired look of the room.
With a tendency to move, swell and contract, hickory is less stable than other hardwoods, such as red oak. To combat this issue, the flooring should be allowed to acclimate itself to the climate conditions of the room for a minimum of four to five days prior to installation. Once installed, clean up any liquid spills as soon as possible.
Ironically, the same qualities that make hickory a good choice for flooring create some workability issues. The extreme hardness and density of hickory make sawing it with normal saw blades and hand tools difficult. Carbide-tipped saw blades are recommended for cutting hickory. Using the appropriate angle when nailing hickory is important as the wood is easily split.
The density and light color of the wood make sanding hickory a challenge. Sanding marks are more easily seen than on darker colored woods. Hickory has a sealed grain that does not hold stain. Once the wood is sanded and installed, the surface should be wiped with a damp cloth. This procedure is called "water popping" and opens the grain of the wood, allowing it to accept stain. A wood conditioner is commonly used to reduce blotches in the stained finish.