Wood Floor Hardness Ratings - How Important Is The Janka Test?

By Suzanne Hendrix, 01/23/13

Welcome back to the Nova USA Wood blog, the most in-depth hardwood species series on the web. Today's blog is about wood floor hardness ratings and the importance of the Janka test.

Is the hardness of your wood floor important?

The answer to that question is… it depends.

In North America the hardness of a wood floor is determined by the results of a Janka test. The results, which are measured in pounds-force, are determined by embedding a .444 in. steel ball into the wood to half the ball's diameter.

Nova Blog Photo

Janka Hardness Scale

Brazilian Cherry, for example, has a Janka rating of 2350. That means it takes 2,350 pounds of pressure to embed the steel ball into the wood. Conversely, Red Oak has a Janka rating of 1290/lbf.

Do these numbers mean that Red Oak is soft? Well, maybe a little bit compared to Brazilian Cherry, but keep in mind these numbers are all relative. If we were to compare Red Oak to American Cherry (950/lbf) the opposite could be said.

The fact is all hardwoods are plenty hard for most residential applications. In too many instances consumers allow their focus on hardness to dictate which type of wood flooring they should purchase. That's not to say that hardness is unimportant, just that it's over emphasized in many situations. Additionally, keep in mind that regardless of how hard your wood floor is it's the finish that takes most of the abuse. Generally speaking, all hardwood floor finishes will scratch, scuff, dull & dent to some degree.

Harder wood floors will develop wear patterns much slower than softer ones will and they will be more resistant to creasing & denting. Nonetheless, if you drop a can of corn on your hardwood floor, whether it's American Cherry or Brazilian Cherry, it's going to leave a dent. The only difference would be the severity of the dent, which you would need to measure with a micrometer.

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Patagonian Rosewood - At a Janka of 3,840 it is the hardest

natural solid wood sold commercially.

The following are some examples of situations where a harder wood floor would be beneficial:
High traffic applications; i.e. commercial establishments
Homes with large families
Homes with medium to large indoor pets; i.e. dogs
Unless you fall into one of the above categories you should choose a wood floor first-and-foremost by preference. What wood species do you like best? Which one meets your style & design requirements? From there you can start to narrow the options based on your specific application, your budget, and your lifestyle.

If you have any questions regarding this blog or any of our products, please don't hesitate to contact us.


By Suzanne Hendrix, 01/23/13

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