The Janka, or “side,” hardness rating of wood is a relative measurement of its resistance to impact and wear. Therefore, the rating gives prospective flooring buyers a numerical representation of the wood’s durability. This is obviously very important for matching flooring material to its intended usage. Higher levels of foot traffic would require a more durable species and thus one with a higher Janka rating.
The Janka test basically involves measuring the amount of force, in pounds per square inch (psi), required to embed half the diameter of a 0.444-inch steel ball into the face of a wood sample. Of course, several tests are performed to find the proper amount of force, and then a series of tests are averaged to determine the rating. Technically, the average includes samples of tangential (plain-sawn) and radial (quarter-sawn) material.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there is another point you need to keep in mind about the hardness of wood. The harder the wood, the more difficult it will be to saw or nail. Unless you have top-of-the-line equipment and a lot of wood flooring experience, you may not want to select the species with the highest Janka rating.
To give you a comparison between a popular domestic and a popular exotic hardwood, let’s look at Northern red oak and Jatoba (aka Brazilian cherry). If you have ever worked with red oak, then you are familiar with how it cuts and nails. Its Janka rating is 1290. Jatoba, on the other hand, has a Janka rating of 2820 – that’s 119% harder!
If we compare the Northern red oak with Southern yellow pine, we see a different extreme. The short leaf variety of Southern yellow pine has a Janka rating of 690, making it 47% softer than Northern red oak. Though the pine would be easier to work with, it does have its drawbacks. Being softer, it will certainly dent much easier and possibly scratch easier, depending on the finish. All it takes is one step from a shoe with a pebble stuck in the sole, or a step with a spike high heel, and you have instant floor damage.
Although all of the hardwood products on FastFloors.com have their Janka rating listed, we thought it would be convenient for our visitors to have a comparative reference. So we put together the following list of the most popular wood species to help you with your selection.
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