The Janka Hardness Rating To Compare Wood Species

As mentioned previously, there is a huge variety of different wood species available for hardwood flooring. So how could you possibly compare them, apart from their color, pattern and texture?

Obviously, when it comes to flooring, concerns go beyond the looks of the material. A big question homeowners and remodel professionals face is the durability and resistance to wear of a certain wood species. And obviously, for high traffic areas a more durable, resistant wood would be more appropriate than for the bedroom, for example. However, if you are considering only pre-finished hardwood flooring boards then you can pretty much ignore the Janka rating (please see the last paragraph of this article).

Without wanting to go into the specifics and details, the Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. During the test a small steel ball is pressed into the wood until half the ball’s diameter and then the newton force needed to push the ball in is measured, then displayed on a scale in form of a score. Usually, hardwood flooring starts at around 1000 points on the Janka scale, which can be considered the rather softer woods (with American Cherry being the “softest” at 950 points), and can go up to 5060 points for Australian Buloke, one of the hardest woods on earth.

During the test, the hardness of the different wood species is measured to make it possible to compare them to each other in terms of durability as well as workability. The harder a certain species of wood is (displayed in a higher score on the Janka chart), the better it can withstand denting and wear in comparison to a species with a lower Janka rating, i.e. it has a higher durability. On the other hand, however, this also means that the harder a species, the more difficult it is to work with in terms of nailing. It will also show a decreased flexibility compared to softer wood.

Generally speaking, most of the hardwoods and softwoods used for flooring are durable and able to withstand normal flooring use, especially if installed and finished properly. Keep in mind that a harder type of wood doesn’t mean it needs to be maintained less! However, no matter which rating was scored on the Janka scale, over time all wood is going to dent with a hard enough impact.

Click to view larger version.

Click to view larger version.

On the right hand side, you can find a small graphic showing the Janka rating for a few select wood species. This list is by no means extensive and it’s a known fact that the Janka test isn’t 100% exact, yet it’s a good and widely accepted reference. Credit  1

Interesting to note is that the Janka hardness rating should only be of big concern when you purchase unfinished or oil coated flooring as this is the type of wood the test has been done on. For Modern-day hardwood flooring, the Janka test has basically become irrelevant since pre-finished floorings are usually treated with aluminum-oxide based sealers, effectively doubling or tripling the dent and scratch resistance of the flooring.

Did you purchase or intend to purchase your hardwood flooring with taking the Janka scores into consideration? Please leave your comments below!


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