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How Hard is Hard?

Published: 03/03/2011 by Matt Landauer - The Floor Guy

» Home Improvements
»» Carpet and Floors

A question that comes up often is what hardwoods are the hardest. The answer to that question is fairly easy, but probably not the right question. So as not to dissapoint, let's start with the answer to the question.

The Janka hardness test measures the force required to embed a .444-inch steel ball to half its diameter in wood. It is one of the best measures of the ability of wood species to withstand denting. By the same token, it also is a good indicator of how hard or easy a species is to saw or nail.

The hardest species that we work with regulary is Brazilian Walnut with a rating of 3680

The most common hardwood flooring in the US is Northern Red Oak with a rating of 1290

Other popular species:

  • Brazilian Cherry 2820
  • Santos Mahogany 2200
  • Hickory 1820
  • Maple 1450
  • Ash 1320
  • Beech 1300
  • Birch 1260
  • Heart Pine 1225
  • White Oak 1210
  • Douglas Fir 660

Now, for the truth that surprises most people. A Douglas Fir floor that is properly finished and maintained will perform better over time than a Brazilian Walnut floor that is poorly finished and/or poorly maintained. As a consumer, what this means is that your floors long-term success has more to do to with who installs and finishes it, how they do it, what finish products get used, how many coats get put down, how thick/thin the coats get applied, etc.

To summerize, my advice is simple. Do not make wood species hardness a huge factor in your decision making process when choosing a floor. Pick a species that you really like and make sure you hire a contractor with a great local reputation.

ProWorks Flooring, in Denver, CO has established a repution over a decade of doing solid quality work. What sets us apart, however, is our commitment to our clients flooring's long-term sucess through regular inspections and preventive maintainance every 2-3 years. If you live outside of the Denver Metro area, you should look for a flooring contractor that will provide the ongoing inspections and maintainence as part of their normal service.

If you are shopping for prefinished flooring, look at the type of finish (aluminum vs. titanium oxide), and number of coats as a far better indicator of durability than the species relative hardness. Furthermore, make sure you are taking care of the floors properly and having them coated at regular intervals.