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Expert Contributor

If you’re the type of person who prefers hardwood floors instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, do you know what kind of tree you want for the source of lumber in your home?

Not all trees are created equally. Some are prized by people because of the fruits they bear or the shade they provide, while others are desirable primarily because their wood is strong, sturdy and sufficiently hard to serve as flooring for homeowners.

Whether you are building a new home or are preparing to remodel your current house, you have a number of options to consider for hardwood flooring. With so many species of trees being harvested for use in construction, architects, builders and buyers have come to rely on the Janka hardwood scale to help them make their selection. Without standards to refer to, it would be difficult to plan flooring installation based on the hardness of specific types of trees, after all.

Before you get serious about which wood to use in your home, you’ll want to consider the Janka hardwood scale.

Janka Hardness Scale

Researchers and scientists develop standards for a wide range of materials in construction. To determine the suitability of wood for flooring, they have created the Janka hardness scale, which involves pressing a standardized steel ball into the wood to a certain depth.

Hardness is defined according to how much resistance wood has and it is “measured by the load required to embed a 11.28-mm (0.444-in.) ball to one-half its diameter” in any given piece of wood, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s “Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material.”

Examples of Various Woods with Hardness Ratings

When it comes to flooring durability, home building professionals turn to the Janka scale as they prepare for the perfect type of wood for their upcoming project.

This makes it easier to compare one species of tree with another using objective, numerical standards that everyone can refer to. The higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood flooring will be. For example, a Douglas fir tree has a Janka rating of 660, while a Brazilian walnut tree has a rating of 3680.

Another favorite from Brazil, Brazilian Teak has a Janka hardness rating of 3,540. Or, you might prefer the look and feel of mesquite, whose Janka rating is 2345. Lower on the scale are wood species such as hard maple (1450), Australian Cypress (1375) and Northern red oak at 1290. Near the end of the scale, just above the Douglas fir, is black cherry wood, with a Janka hardness rating of 950 or less.

The new hardwood flooring that you put into your home will reflect your sense of style as well as improve the value of the house when it comes time to put it back on the market. Hardwood flooring is appealing to the eye, is easier to keep clean than carpeting and it brings the beauty of nature into your dwelling. 

You may be in the market for some engineered hardwood flooring or are more interested in natural hardwood for your new floor. Referring to the Janka hardness scale in consultation with your builder or remodeling team will definitely help you decide just what type of wood to install during construction or renovation.

Dave C. has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree from San Francisco State University. He has been freelancing for more than 15 years, and was on staff as an editor at two magazines. He was also a founding editor for Harpoon, a local humor magazine based in San Francisco. Dave has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics for websites and numerous print publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Popular Science, Wired, OMNI, The Net, Diabetes Interview, Mobile Home Monthly, Video Guide, Food and Beverage Journal, S.F. Weekly, Aquarium Fish Magazine, Carnegie Mellon Magazine and The Optimist.

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