*Hardwood Flooring and The Janka Scale

May 8, 2012

When you begin shopping for new hardwood floors, one of the things you will notice rather quickly is in all the magazines you read, and the salespeople in all the flooring stores will start talking about a certain hardwood species’ rating on the Janka scale.

The first thing cropping up in the average homeowner’s mind at that point is, what on earth is a Janka scale and why should I care?

The Janka scale or the Janka rating system measures the relative hardness of wood. In scientific terms, this is the force in pounds required to embed a 0.444 inches (11.28 mm) steel ball into wood up to half its diameter. This leaves a 100 square mm indentation in the wood being tested. The Janka scale thus tells us how hard the wood is.

The hardness of a certain hardwood flooring option has two important considerations. The harder the wood is, the better it will withstand wear and tear over a long period of time. A higher Janka rating thus indicates greater durability and stability. Such woods are ideal for flooring and can put up with a lot of foot traffic and a considerable amount of abuse.

On the other hand, the harder the wood the more difficult it is for the amateur to work with. A hardwood ranking high on the Janka scale is going to be difficult to cut with the tools the average homeowner has in their garage or basement. It is for this reason the installation of such hardwoods is best left to a professional.

At this point, you may be wondering exactly how the various species of hardwood stack up against one another in general. One of the hardest hardwood flooring options available on the market today is an exotic – Brazilian Walnut, also known as Ipe. It boasts a Janka rating of 3680, compared to the better known Red Oak which averages a 1290.

Most good hardwood flooring retailers will have a comparison chart on hand listing the Janka ratings of all the products they sell (although many great salespeople know them right off the top of their heads anyway).

A certain hardwood’s rank on the Janka scale should certainly be a consideration when choosing hardwood flooring but not the only one. All hardwood flooring is pretty tough and you should not dismiss a certain species just because it has a slightly lower Janka rating than another.

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