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Understanding the Janka Hardness Scale for Hardwood Flooring

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So you’ve decided to go with hardwood flooring—wonderful choice! Hardwood is a great investment and is guaranteed to add timeless beauty and elegance to your home. But there are many types of hardwood flooring created from a variety of wood species—which one are you going with? To make this decision, it helps to know the level of abuse your floors should expect, as well as the Janka hardness scale. While the first one you can determine yourself, our Carroll County hardwood flooring experts can help you figure out the Janka scale and what it means.

What is the Janka Hardness Scale?

The Janka scale was established to measure hardness of wood and assigns hardness scores to different tree species. The hardness is measured by embedding a 0.444-inch steel ball half-way into the wood surface. The amount of force necessary to accomplish this is the hardness score.

But wait a second. Won’t there be a difference in applied force depending on which part of the wood is impaled by the ball? Your are right—the hardness score will be affected by whether the force is applied parallel to the wood grain or perpendicular to it. For the purpose of the Janka scale, the perpendicular application is used, because that’s how the grain is typically laid on the floor.

Below are Janka scores for most common wood species used as flooring materials:

Red oak – 1,290

White oak – 1,360

Bamboo – 1,380

Maple – 1,450

Brazilian Cherry – 2,350

Brazilian Walnut – 3,684

Cedar – 900

Hickory – 1,820

Heart Pine – 1,225

Mahogany – 2,200

How Important is the Janka Score?

As you can see, exotic woods like Brazilian walnut are in a completely different league compared to the common tree species found in our climate zone. However, with a hardness of just 1,290, the red oak has been a US industry standard for years and is durable enough for most home applications. Pines and firs, on the other hand, are rather soft and dent easily from impact. You probably don’t have to get exotic hardwood to tolerate your active household, but if falling objects and heavy furniture are not uncommon in your home, make sure your flooring is up to the challenge.

While the Janka scale is certainly important, don’t forget that it’s mostly good for predicting how your flooring will cosmetically respond to wear, not necessarily how long it will last before you need to refinish or replace. When it comes to durability, plank construction and finish are just as important.

Need help choosing the right hardwood for your home or commercial property? Stop by our designer flooring showroom in Sykesville and see and feel hardwood before you buy. Or give us a call and have your questions answered right away!


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