floor covering and design...with a fuzzy side

Friday, May 2, 2014

The secret to choosing a wood floor that's right for you

Are you considering purchasing a wood floor?
Do you have a wood floor and wonder why it scratches so easily?
Did you know there is a universal hardness rating scale for wood floors?

It’s called the Janka rating. (See below for a Janka rating scale) The Janka rating assigns a numeric value to wood species based on the Janka Hardness Test.
The test measures the force required to embed a .444” steel ball into a sample of wood half of its diameter.

The industry benchmark is Red Oak, which has a rating of 1290. The relative hardness of all other wood species are compared to this benchmark.

Red Oak -1290

Okay, what does that mean?

We all know the harder the wood, the more durable, more resistant to scratches, longer life, etc. So the question is, how hard is your floor? To know that you first have to determine the species.

Red oak makes up roughly 37% of all wood floors installed in the United States. Why? Red oak is a domestic product and, compared to nearly every other domestic, it is more common (cheaper) and has a higher Janka rating (1290).

A few examples of other domestic species with higher Janka ratings are:

White Oak -1360

Maple -1450

Hickory -1820

Each of these has a different look than Red Oak, which factors into its popularity along with, obviously, cost (all are less common compared to Red Oak).

A very common domestic hardwood seen in many older homes is Yellow Pine -690-870 (depending on what part of the tree the wood was taken from). Yellow pine is extremely soft. A dog’s nails will scratch grooves into Yellow Pine very easily.

Yellow Pine -690-870

An increasingly popular choice for wood flooring is bamboo, which is a grass, not a wood. Bamboo is very hard -1650 because of how it is manufactured. We have an entire blog post about bamboo manufacturing. I’ll put the link at the bottom. I’ve seen staples bend during the installation of strand woven bamboo flooring.

Bamboo -1650

Other popular imported high Janka rating species are:

Santos Mahogany -2200

Brazilian Cherry -2820

Brazilian Teak -3450

Hardness should play a large part when considering what type of wood floor you are going to purchase. Questions you should ask yourself:

  • What kind of traffic will my floor get? (Kids, dogs, commercial etc.)
  • Am I willing to live with scratches in the floor (sometimes they can add to the character)
  • What can I afford?
  • How long do I want my new floor to last?

Finally, the beauty of wood floors (and even bamboo in some instances) is they can be sanded and refinished giving your floor a completely new or different look. A quality wood floor should last as long as the house around it.

A very cool time-lapse video of a floor sanding and refinishing:

The Janka Rating scale

Learn more about how bamboo floors are made.