Hardwood Flooring Hardness


Having seen changes in the wood flooring business over the years, I never realizedHardness Ratings how many people were ill-advised of how to actually go about buying wood floors. Phone calls tell the story with hardness being very near the top of the list.

What's The Best Hardwood For Me?

One popular question is "what's the best hardwood for a high traffic area?" Many assume if they choose a hard product as in the imported exotic lines, they will hold up much better than a softer one. This is true and false. Why? The longevity of any floor depends on the care & maintenance given. Throw in prevention as well!

I've seen some of the hardest hardwoods such as Brazilian Teak look trashed after a few short years because it was not taken care of properly. On the other hand, a good friend owns a beautiful American Cherry floor near the beach. It looks good as new after ten years of use. See more below.

Flooring Species Hardness
North American Cherry  950
North American Walnut 1010
Carbonized/Caramel Bamboo¹ 1120
True Teak 1155
Iroko/Kambala 1260
Yellow Birch 1260
Red Oak 1260
Beech 1300
Ash 1320
Amendoim 1340
White Oak 1360
Australian Cypress 1375
Royal Mahogany 1400
Caribbean Walnut 1400
Natural Bamboo¹ 1410
North American Maple 1450
Brazilian Maple 1500
Timborana 1570
Kempas 1710
Padauk, African 1725
Doussie 1770
Hickory 1820
Pecan 1820
Jarrah 1910
Merbau 1925
Tigerwood(Goncalo Alves) 2160
Santos Mahogany 2200
Caribbean Rosewood 2300
Chestnut, Southern 2670
Tiete Rosewood(Guibourtia) 2800
Brazilian Cherry(Jatoba) 2820
Brazilian Teak(Cumaru) 3540
Tiete Chestnut 3540
Brazilian Walnut(Ipe) 3680

¹ Will vary significantly from one brand to another
Hardness Defined

All Hardwoods Will Ding, Dent, and Scratch

While it's true harder products are more resistant to damaging, they will still ding, dent, and scratch under the right conditions. My feeling has always been buy what you like and take care of it. Looked from another perspective, years ago nobody talked about hardness. Then it was oak, oak, and more oak. Across America red oak flooring was the mainstay. Today they still represent a large portion of the floors people buy for their homes and they last!

My Thirty Year Old Oak Floor Looks Great!

With far too much emphasis on having the hardest floor on the planet, red oak floors have been around for generations. Why aren't salespeople putting red oak and this hardness thing together? Quite frankly I'm lost on this one. Have you ever heard anyone say.."My those are beautiful floors..and you say they're 30 years old? How hard are they?"

Engineered Hardwoods

When considering engineered wood flooring the hardness scale should not be taken in earnest. While there are no official studies I am aware of with engineered products, the actual hardness testing reporting is done with solid wood flooring.

Engineered hardwoods have different materials under the actual wear layer. Some use poplar (a soft wood) while others use some form of luan (another softie) pine, or rubberwood. It would make sense engineered hardwoods with thicker wear layers (more actual hardwood) will offer more resistance to dinging than ones with much thinner wear layers.

I'm not implying engineered products are cheaply made with softer material under the actual wear layer. There are reasons manufacturers choose what they do. Some has an effect on shipping costs (pine is lighter than oak, etc) while another consideration is the price of raw materials. What should be kept in consideration, the hardness ratings should not be the definitive guide to selecting any hardwood floor.

True Story. American Cherry Vs. Brazilian Cherry

I always offer this true story example. I have a friend that owns a condo on a Naples Florida beach. Ten years ago they installed a beautiful American (considered very soft) cherry floor and in that time took extreme care of it by paying attention to care & maintenance. It looks as new as the day it was installed.

On the other hand I installed a Brazilian Cherry (considered quite hard) floor on Fort Myers Beach, FL about six years ago. In both cases they were less than 50 yards from the beach itself, where sand created a problem.

The owner of the Brazilian Cherry floor had a very active adult household who didn't clean up after themselves as much as the other family of four kids and a few pets. Today their floors need refinishing near high traffic areas and moisture sources such as the kitchen sink, refrigerator with icemaker. Simply paying attention to the problems that can occur or placing area rugs in important areas would have aided in some floor protection.

Softer, Stronger Hardwood

Some consumers get hardness mixed up with whether or not they are stronger than one another. Hardness and softness shall not be confused with actual feel, but rather how resistant they are to damage potential. Softness in relation to a comfort zone is also not applicable.

Conclusion

There are many wood flooring types and colors available today and we realize the choices can be overwhelming. If you're sold on buying for hardness, do not be disappointed unless you live in a careful household.

Related Pages

Types
Colors
Floor Care
Floor Care Forget hardness