Thanks to Janka: Forgiving Flooring for High Traffic Areas

Written by  //  May 26, 2014  //  Flooring, Home Construction  //  Comments Off on Thanks to Janka: Forgiving Flooring for High Traffic Areas

Hardwood has been a popular flooring option for centuries because of its beauty and also because of its durability. One of the scourges of hardwood is damage to its finish, which allows water to penetrate the wood. Water, in turn, can cause discoloration, buckling, gouging, and even rot. Fortunately, the finish on a floor can be easily protected through routine maintenance and by keeping the floor clean of debris. Modern finishes have made it a breeze to protect wood from water.

Unfortunately, water isn’t the only thing that can damage a hardwood floor. Even with a solid finish, some wood develops dents when objects are dropped onto it. While certain finishes do offer some protection from dents, particularly finishes that contain acrylics, it is actually the hardness of the underlying wood that determines just how easy a floor is to dent. Harder woods are denser and thus much more difficult to dent than softer woods, which are less dense. Fortunately, for those looking to install a hardwood floor, there is a scale that helps to classify hardness and thus makes it easy to match a wood to its intended use in a home.

The Janka Hardness Test

The Janka Hardness T est refers to a method of classifying how hard a wood is. The process is simple. A steel ball that is 11.28 mm (0.444 in) in diameter is placed onto a plank of wood. A machine then puts increasing pressure on that steel ball until it sinks half of its diameter into the plank. The pressure required to achieve this determines the hardness of the wood.

To get a better idea of how the Janka rates woods, it is useful to look at a few examples. The first wood to consider is from the Australian Buloke (or Bull Oak), which is known as the hardest wood in the world. It is so hard, in fact, that it is often referred to as ironwood. Buloke can withstand 22,500 newtons of force before a steel ball becomes embedded in it during the Janka test.

Another wood, sugar maple, classically considered a very hard wood, scores only a 6449 N on the Janka test. White oak, a common flooring material, scores slightly lower at 6049 N. White pine scores only 1690 N, while Balsa scores just 444 newtons. In other words, white oak is thirteen times more resistant to denting than balsa. Buloke, which is protected as an endangered species and is no longer used for flooring, is more than fifty times more resistant to denting than balsa.

How to Use the Janka Scale

The higher the Janka rating, the more resistant the wood will be to denting from things like rocks, sharp-heeled shoes, pet claws, and so forth. Keep in mind that the scale differs from one country to the next, so take care to determine if you are dealing in newtons, pound-force units, or kilogram-force units. Once you have determined the units that you are working in, it is helpful to have some references to guide you through the options that somewhere like Lifewood Flooring offers. Here are a few rough guides.

Bamboo, a common flooring material, is tougher than white oak and even hard maple (sugar maple), making it a highly resilient material for flooring. Brazilian walnut, an expensive import wood, is about the hardest wood you can find for flooring. Softer woods include black walnut, teak, and most pines, which is why they are often used for trim and furniture, but seldom for flooring.

Oak is easily scratched by dog claws and even cat claws, but bamboo is not. Stones, particularly small stones, will wreak havoc with many hardwoods, but not with Brazilian walnut or bamboo that is properly finished. Keep in mind that when dealing with woods, the finish can make a difference, particularly with woods that are already considered hard. Well-manufactured bamboo can be highly resilient, even when faced with constant insult from stones and animal claws.

Choosing Wisely

Determine what kind of traffic your flooring will see and what kind of lifestyle you lead. If you have a gravel drive, large dogs, and an active lifestyle, you will want to go with a hard wood throughout your home. If you have a paved driveway and no pets, then you can get away with a softer wood in some locations, though maybe not the entryway.

Scott Coleman is a home contractor with a knack for making smart investments in great materials. From countertops to light bulbs, he enjoys blogging about the ins and outs of how to choose building and design materials that will last and end up saving money.

About the Author

View all posts by

Comments are closed.