How Important Is the Hardness of Your Wood Flooring?

If you are looking for a long-lasting wood flooring for your home in Toronto, then your obvious choice should be a material that is naturally hard. But just choosing a hardwood species is not going to cut it since their level of hardness is different for each species.  Knowing the hardness of the material can give you a better idea of whether your new floor will withstand the impact of time.

In this post, we are going to tell you about the ways to measure the hardness of different wood species, and how it can impact your choice of wood flooring.

How to Better Understand Wood Hardness

First, let’s discuss what wood hardness is.

Choosing the right wood flooring is not just limited to picking the species or deciding a colour scheme. “Species” is just what the wood type is known as, for example, oak, maple, cherry, hickory etc. It can be domestic, grown in the U.S, exotic, or grown somewhere else, such as the tropic and sub-tropic areas.

Now each species can be categorized based on three factors:

  1. Colour
  2. Grain
  3. Texture

The direction of the wood grain, i.e. the wood fibres or the patterns running in a lengthwise order, impacts the hardness of the material.

The endurance of the floor is caused by the hardness of the wood species, and here lies the uniqueness of the material since the natural density or hardness of the product cannot be altered.

Myths About Hardwood and Softwood

It is a common notion to think that hardwood flooring is always tougher than softwood, but there are examples of some hardwoods being softer than some softwood species. After all, these are mere biological terms, even if it is true that most hardwoods rank high on the Janka Scale.

Hardwood is obtained from the dicot species of trees, in which there are two embryonic leaves or cotyledons in the seed. Softwood species, on the other hand, are gymnosperms, where the seeds are naked or unenclosed, such as pines and spruces.

Even though normally you will notice that dicot tree wood is much harder than gymnosperm wood, there have been instances where the softwood species ranked similar to the hardwood species on the Janka scale.

Janka Hardness Test

For convenience, the lumber industry has designed a measurement method, called the Janka Hardness Scale, which is now the standard for ranking the hardness of any wood. This test calculates the amount of force needed for a 0.444-inch (11.28 millimetres) steel ball to go halfway through the wood, and the higher rating denotes harder products. It is a valid way to find out whether your wood floor will last long.

Check the Janka list to get a better idea about the strength and hardness of the species, before purchasing, especially if you need to support heavy furniture.

The hardness scale ranges between zero (lowest) and 4000 (highest). Low ranking on this scale means that your product is more prone to dents and scratches. For example, Balsa wood, with a Janka ranking of 100 lbs is definitely not suitable for flooring, since a rating of 950 or higher is the standard.

Of course, the Janka Scale is more of an impact test and does not guarantee against scratching, scuffing, or wear and tear.

Things to Consider When Choosing Flooring

When you are thinking of installing wood flooring in your home, keeping these few factors in mind is going to prove beneficial.

  • Hardwood or Engineered Wood

Engineered hardwood contains a thin veneer of real hardwood on top of the ply, but it’s not enough for ensuring the durability of your flooring, even if it is the hardest Brazilian walnut flooring. A solid flooring made of hardwood is always going to be tougher than hardwood-veneer engineered flooring.

  • Making a Choice Between Hardwood and Softwood

According to the Janka hardness list, there are harder softwoods and softer hardwoods, as mentioned earlier. However, when it comes to your flooring in general, hardwood like oak, ash, and walnut may be a better choice of material than softwoods like fir and pine. If you are really eager to install Black Walnut or American cherry wood flooring in your home, then you must remember that both these types are relatively much softer and more prone to damage.

  • Choosing Exotic Wood over Domestics

While domestic wood is grown in the United States and Canada, the exotics are brought from places like South America and Indonesia. They may not always cost more either.

This is great if you fancy an exotic Brazilian walnut and Ipe wood flooring. These are two of the hardest hardwoods to exist, and will not get harmed so easily. But that also means that nailing or sawing through the hard exterior will be much more difficult. Installing them in a really dry climate can cause the planks to split as well.

Lastly, remember that hardwood flooring does not come cheap, are much more difficult to saw, drill and nail than the other wood variants, and require a greater amount of time and effort. Though a higher Janka rating implies greater durability, all wooden floors get scratched and dented at some point. The chances of damage increase if you have pets or children at home. Thus, getting in touch with a flooring store near you will be a better solution if you’re looking for awesome tips to maintain your hardwood flooring.

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