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What is the Janka Hardness Scale?

So you’ve got your heart set on solid cherry hardwood flooring but just before your sink your money into the purchase, the dogs cross your mind. Will cherry wood stand up to the pitter patter of kitty claws and puppy paws? When you ask the salesman, he refers you to something called the Janka Hardness Scale chart.

“Anything 1000 or above should be fine,” he tells you.

Sure enough, cherry wood is a 950. You could risk it or get rid of your critters but the most workable solution, you decide, is to choose another, stronger wood for the flooring.

The Janka Hardness Scale Explained

The Janka Hardness Scale determines if a wood species is a suitable candidate for wood flooring and if so, to what extent it will hold up under certain conditions. It is the primary test for measuring a particular wood’s resistance to wear and tear and a definitive guide to its durability.

The Roots of the Janka Hardness Scale

It all began when an Australian forestry worker, Gabriel Janka, was given the duty of finding a way to measure the hardness of different types of woods. In 1906, he came up with a test which became the standard measurement across the world although some countries go by pounds and others use the metric system. Little has changed since Janka first invented the scale.

How the Janka Test Works

The Janka test is based upon a test that measures the force that’s required to embed an 11.28mm steel ball to the halfway point of a piece of wood. The greater the degree of force that is needed to penetrate, the higher the Janka score is which also means the more durable the wood is.

Janka Rating Wood Flooring

When choosing your flooring, you’ll want to decide what color, material, style, and installation method you are partial to. You’ll also want to think about what activities will be going on in the room the flooring will be in. The Janka Rating is an excellent way to determine what wood flooring will work best for you in your given situation.

Some factors to consider are:

  • Traffic. If you are installing wood flooring in your office and get hundreds of clients in a week, you’ll need a floor made of wood that is high on the Janka Scale so it will hold up to all the abuse.
  • Pets and Children. Wood that rates harder on the Janka Scale is definitely more suitable for pets and children. A score of 1000 is good for children and pets but 1250 and up is even better.
  • Water. If you live in a humid area or the flooring will be in an area at risk of flooding, like near a laundry room or bathroom, you may want to consider a harder floor.
  • Indoor/Outdoor. Wood flooring can be inside or outside. Many decks are made of solid wood flooring so it is important to go with a hard wood when laying the floor outdoors due to the amount of abuse it is likely to suffer.

What is a Good Janka Rating?

Typically, any rating that is 1000 or above is considered good. Softer wood flooring starts around 850 and although it is likely to scratch, scuff, and dent, if it is the wood of choice such as for a formal dining area that is rarely used and there won’t be much traffic or pets or children, it is acceptable as flooring.

Keep in mind that although a score of 1000 is the starting point for flooring that is hard enough to withstand at least some abuse, the higher the rating, the better it will hold up. Teak has a score of 1000, but maple boasts a score of 1450 so if you have high traffic, pets, or children, maple would be the best choice.

On the other hand, black walnut has a score of 1010 and red oak is at 1290. If you aren’t particularly partial to either, red oak would be the one to go with. If you absolutely love red oak, there’s not a big enough difference to hold you back.
While bamboo is one of the softest solid wood floorings, natural strand and tiger strand bamboo are some of the toughest and hardest with a whopping score of over 5000.

Engineered flooring can also be rated on the Janka Scale. The wood used for the veneer is the material that is tested.
One thing to keep in mind is that the harder the wood is, the harder it is to install, typically. A mid-range wood is sometimes best due to the difficulty and expense of having the harder wood installed.

How Much Stake Should I Put into the Janka Rating?

A Janka Rating can’t assure you how long your flooring will last. Neither is the test perfect. Janka Scores can vary depending on the manufacturer. In addition, Janka doesn’t test vertical lines so it can be misleading in certain circumstances.
The Janka Score is, however, an excellent indicator for how well the flooring surface will hold up to dents, dings, scuffs, and scratches.

It all depends on how important the hardness of your wood flooring is to you. If you place personal taste above how well it will guard against imprints, dents, etc., you won’t want to totally base your choice on the Janka Rating. But, if you are worried because you have a houseful of heavy traffic, children, and pets and you don’t want to replace or repair your floor anytime soon, you may want to go with a wood that has a good hardness rating.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Compromise is the key. If you are going to have normal wear and tear on your flooring, you may want to choose from woods you like that are mid-range on the Janka Scale. It’s a good idea to take your top three or five choices and create your own scoring. Consider hardness, beauty, price, and personal preference. Then, go shopping. You are sure to fall in love with one and then…you’ll know that you know. It’s that simple.

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