Interestingly enough, one of the question we get the most from consumers while they shop for their hardwood floor is “Does hardwood floor hardness matter? ”. The perception is that the harder the hardwood floor—or the harder the finish—the better. Is this perception a reality? In today’s post, we will take a closer look at this.
Defining wood hardness
First, let me explain what wood hardness is by answering these 6 questions.
1. What most influences hardwood floor hardness?
The main element that influences hardwood floor hardness is the hardness of the wood species itself. It is important to understand that wood is a natural product—no manufacturer can influence the density or hardness of a wood species. It is inherent and unique to the species of the hardwood you choose.
2. How is wood hardness measured?
Wood species hardness is measured using the Janka Scale. The Janka Scale determines the hardness of a particular species of wood over another. It includes hardwood and softwood. The Janka Scale was invented by Gabriel Janka, an Austrian wood researcher, back in 1906. It was standardized by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in 1972. The Janka Scale measures the denting and wear resistance of a wood sample. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28-mm (0.444”) steel ball to half its diameter into a wood plank.
3. How do we use the Janka Scale?
The Janka Hardness Scale runs from zero (softest) to 4,000 lbs (hardest). Woods with a low rating on the wood hardness scale are those that will dent and scratch most easily. For example, Balsa wood, which is extremely lightweight and used for crafts, is one of the lowest on the scale at 100 lbs. We definitely wouldn’t want to use it for wood flooring! On the other hand, a higher score indicates that more effort is required to nail or saw the wood. With a score 3,684 lbs, one of the hardest woods is Ipe (also known as Lapacho or Brazilian Walnut). This wood is often used for decks, furniture and flooring, when durability and high shock resistance are needed. Because it is so hard, Ipe is often predrilled for screws.
4. What is special about Red Oak?
With a rating of 1,290 lbs, strong and resilient Red Oak is the benchmark against which all other wood species are compared on the Janka Scale. Red Oak was chosen as the median standard because it is one of the most readily available hardwoods. Plus, Red Oak makes a great hardwood floor—it’s not so hard that it is difficult to saw and nail, but it’s not so soft that it dents easily. It’s just right!
5. What is a “good” Janka rating?
The Janka Scale does not claim that a given species of wood flooring is better than another. When choosing wood flooring for a home, the Janka Scale rating can only provide buyers with an idea of the wood species’ strength and hardness, for example to support very heavy furniture.
6. What is a “bad” Janka rating?
A rating of 950 lbs or higher on the Janka Scale is the standard for wood flooring options. Therefore, there is no truly “bad” rating when comes the time for you to choose your wood floor, among all the hardwood floors available on the market.
At Lauzon, you can rest assured that all species offered are hard enough to walk on. Moreover, we only offer hardwood flooring; we do not have any softwood, such as Pine, hemlock, fir or cedar.
Other variables to consider
Now that we all know that the Janka Scale is used as a general guideline when comparing hardness of various species of wood flooring, let’s take a look at some of the other important variables that WILL influence the resistance and hardness of your hardwood floor.
1. Wood provenance
Because the grain of the wood is formed by the annual growth rings of the tree, the location where the wood is harvested can make a difference in its hardness. Growth rings are formed each year—one hard and one soft. The soft ring is formed when the tree makes its rapid growth in spring, and the hard narrow ring is formed during the slow growth in summer. Because these seasons’ climates vary from one region to another, you can understand how this can influence wood harness.
2. Wood grain direction
The wood grains used for the test can affect the results. The grain presented on the Janka Scale is flat—considered normal. But when you compare for example the grain of a flat White Oak to the grain of a quarter sawn White Oak, the latter is the harder of the two because of the wood grain direction.
Click here to learn more about the flecked look created by the quarter sawn technique.
If you are interested in knowing more about the different hardwood floor sawing methods, I encourage you to come back to our blog, as this subject will be discussed later.
Textured hardwood floors help mask the effects of daily traffic, dogs, and life in general. But did you know they are also harder than smooth hardwood floors of the same species? The process used to give texture to your hardwood floor removes a portion of the soft wood grain (spring growth), leaving more hard wood grain (summer growth).
Click here to discover the top 5 hardwood floor textures available on the market!
4. Plank construction
Where do engineered hardwoods stand on the Janka Hardness Scale? They don’t. Why? Because these wood floors have one (or many) layer of softer wood beneath them, hardness cannot be gauged correctly on the scale. This bottom layer giving them their superior performance and stability. We cannot have everything in life! There is little information available on where engineered wood floors fit on the scale due to the variety of materials used to build the flooring layers from one brand to another. This new fact is a clear indicator as to the importance you should give to the hardness of the wood species you choose, compared to all the other attributes.
Hardwood floor finish is one of the most important factors for determining the durability and ease of maintenance of any hardwood floor. In fact, the quality and not necessarily the hardness of the finish determines how well your hardwood floor can withstand traffic and normal wear and tear. Keep in mind, however, that when there is impact with or pressure applied to wood flooring, wood fibres crush, resulting in the appearance of dents. Some wood species do have natural characteristics that camouflage dents better than others, such as Red Oak and White Oak, or textured. This is why we usually recommend our hardwood floors from our Authentik or Urban Loft Series as great choices when people are looking for the best hardwood floors for dogs or busy household.
That said, high quality hardwood floor finishes will have good flexibility instead of being extremely hard. This flexibility allows the finish to absorb heavy impact without cracking by bending with the wood underneath. Cracks in hardwood floor finishes will cause water to seep in and cause unsightly stains.
Lauzon is a top-of-the-line manufacturer of hardwood flooring and as such, we offer the best UV cured finish on the market with our Titanium finish. Lauzon’s Titanium finish offers better durability, because the finish flexes with the wood instead of cracking when a heavy item falls onto it and provides remarkable protection against scuffing and chipping. Furthermore, it will not leave a chalky trace if scratched, as is the case with a standard Aluminum Oxide finish. It also makes your hardwood floor much more resistant to high levels of traffic over a long period of time, maintaining its luster.
You can be sure that your hardwood floor will need proper maintenance and prevention to withstand the wear of time. If you don’t take care of it, it doesn’t matter how hard or how soft it is.
Maintenance and prevention are really important to determine how good a hardwood floor will look years after it is installed! Click here to take a look at our maintenance guide for all our tips.
In conclusion, Janka hardness rating is just an indicator of a species’ resistance to indentation under a controlled force and can be used as a general guideline when comparing various species of wood flooring.
When comes the time to choose your hardwood floor, you need to consider ALL the other factors that WILL influence the resistance of your hardwood floor, such as maintenance, texture and finish of your hardwood floor. But most importantly, when comparing high quality hardwood floors, choose your hardwood floor based first and foremost on your taste and preferences in terms of look!
So… Is the perception a reality? Do you still think the harder the better when it comes to hardwood floors?
Photo 5: Absolut, Red Oak, Authentik Series