Hardwood floors are rated on a scale by their hardness. A flooring product’s hardness determines its durability and resistance to scratches and scuffs. In this brief guide, we want to explain to our customers how the hardness scale works, and how a wood species’ hardness should impact your final purchase decision.
What is the Hardness Scale?
The most common scale used in the industry is called the Janka wood hardness scale. It is a universal system used by hardwood retailers and manufacturers to define the hardness of any particular wood species. A wood’s hardness is determined by the amount of force needed to drive a .444 inch diameter steel ball to a depth of half the ball’s diameter. The amount of force this takes, measured in pounds-force (ibf), becomes that species hardness rating. The higher the rating, the harder the floor.
Red Oak is the benchmark by which all other species are compared. With a hardness rating of 1290, it strikes a perfect balance between standing up to daily wear and being easy to work with. Floors with higher hardness ratings will be more resistant to scratches and dents. It’s important to note that a wood’s species is not the only factor that contributes to the product’s durability. The Janka rating does not take into account other factors that affect the hardness of the floor such as finishes and manufacturing processes.
Why is a Hardness Rating Important?
Most hardwoods are suitable for regular flooring use, but the hardness scale gives buyers an easy way to compare the durability of two or more species. Though aesthetics tend to be the most important factor for homeowners shopping for new flooring, the hardness rating can be the determining factor when deciding between two similar products. Also, certain homeowners might place a higher importance on more durable or scratch resistant products such as those with children, pets, or heavy appliances in the space. Ultimately, the hardness scale exists to help homeowners and contractors make informed decisions about their flooring purchases.
A Higher Hardness Rating Isn’t Always a Good Thing
Just because one species has a higher rating than another does not mean it is the right choice for your home. Woods with high hardness rating are more challenging to work with and install because it is more difficult to drive nails and screws into the wood. This leads to a long and often more expensive installation.
Have Questions about Hardwood Hardness? Ask Your Local Flooring Expert.
If you have any questions about the durability or scratch resistance of a hardwood – don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local hardwood flooring retailer. A hardwood flooring expert will be familiar with which hardwood species and products will be the best fit for your home and can help you make a purchase decision. If you are in the DC Metro Area, feel free to give District Floor Depot a call. Our associates are standing by to answer questions you have about hardwood and other flooring products.