Dear Bob and Betsy,
I’m getting ready to install hardwood floor in the main hallway and living room in my house. The floors get walked on all the time so I need something that’ll withstand some abuse from foot traffic. What is the most durable hardwood flooring out there? How can I be sure I don’t buy wood that’s too soft?
– Barbara L.
Hardwood is one of the strongest, most durable materials available. Even so, there are some types of wood that are softer than others. This type of wood is more prone to damage from foot traffic. High heels, pet nails, and other sharp edges can leave unsightly dents or scratches. To help maintain the looks of your hardwood floors, opting for the most naturally durable hardwood is a smart choice.
To determine how durable hardwood flooring is, many people look at Janka ratings. These ratings test how much pressure it takes to put a dent in various types of hardwood with a steel ball. The more pressure is required, the more durable the wood.
Janka ratings range from zero to 4,000. Higher numbers are more durable.
Although it’s not a full indication of quality and durability, it’s the best measure available on the market today.
Some of the top Janka scale rated types of wood include:
- American Black Cherry
- American Black Walnut
- Yellow Birch
- Red Oak
- White Ash
- White Oak
- Hard maple
- Santos Mahogany
- Brazilian Cherry, Teak, or Walnut
This list is ranked from softest to hardest.
Janka ratings can get confusing – especially if you’re researching hardwood flooring in various countries. Each country uses its own style of Janka rating. For example, Sweden uses kilograms of force, whereas Australians use Newtons. In the United States, we use pounds. To keep Janka ratings easier to understand, many manufacturers list “good” and “bad” ratings.
It’s also important to remember that a softer wood doesn’t mean it’s weaker. This number shows you how well it’ll stand up to heavy foot traffic, but without proper care, your floors won’t last for the long run.
Price also plays a role in the type of flooring you get. Oak is middle of the road on the Janka scale ratings, but it is much more affordable than a lot of other types of wood. That’s why it’s one of the most popular hardwoods to use for floors. It’s durable enough to last for decades but isn’t the hardest wood you can buy.
The bottom line is this: Use the Janka scale ratings to determine how hard a floor is, but don’t limit your buying decision to that metric alone. Look into other factors to find the perfect flooring for your family.
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