Why the Hardness Rating of Your Wood Floors Matters

As we explained in a previous Home Flooring Pros guide there are plenty of good reasons to choose solid hardwood flooring ahead of other flooring options.

Once you’ve decided that solid hardwood is the right choice for your home you will then begin the journey of choosing the species of hardwood, the wood grade, the size of plank, the finish and of course, unless you’re going to do the work yourself, the installer.

In this flooring guide we are going to look at the relative hardness of different species of wood, the hardest wood flooring and why wood hardness might influence the type of wood you choose for your floor.

  • Is the hardness of my wood floor important? – Laying solid hardwood throughout your home will be a significant investment in time and money compare with say carpet flooring. The most important consideration is that you choose a wood type that you love and gives you pleasure. That said you should at least be aware of how the hardness of the wood you choose might affect your continued enjoyment of your floors at a later date.
  • Pros and Cons of a Soft Hardwood – Are you desperate to install Black Walnut or American Cherry wood in your home? If you are that’s fine but you should also be aware that both these woods are relatively soft and as such will be much more prone to dents and dinks from heavy furniture or careless treatment.
  • Pros and Cons of a Hard Hardwood – Perhaps you’ve set your heart on an exotic hardwood like Brazilian Walnut or Ipe. These two examples are amongst the hardest hardwoods and are much less prone to dents but are also a lot less flexible. In a really dry climate installing the hardest wood could result in planks splitting because they have far less give in them than a softer wood like Oak.
  • How can I tell the hardness of a wood species? – The Janka Hardness Test measures the force required to embed half of a .444 inch steel ball into a piece of wood. Take a look at this Janka Hardness Chart to get an idea of the relative hardness of some different species. It is perhaps unsurprising to see that White and Red Oak, two of the most popular species used in home flooring today, sit quite close to the middle of the range when it comes to hardness. Brazilian Ebony is listed as the hardest wood and not one you’re likely to find down at your local Home Depot!

It is worth noting that the Janka Hardness test should only be used as a general guide to wood hardness. Results may be affected by the actual harvest location, the construction of the plank and, of course the finish.

Remember it is the finish of the floor that you are actually walking on and it is the first line of defense against wear and tear. Also bear in mind that no wood, no matter how hard, is indestructible! Even the hardest exotic hardwood can dent.

Finally, understand that the Janka test and all references to wood hardness in this guide are related to solid hardwood flooring rather than engineered hardwood flooring.

So to sum up, Home Flooring Pros recommends that you choose the solid wood that you want to live with rather than the hardest wood, but bear in mind that the hardness of different wood species vary. If you’re not sure whether a particular hardwood is a good choice for your particular climate and needs then ask the advice of a local installer or take a look at our hardwood flooring guide.

More Information on the Hardness of Different Hardwood Flooring

YouTube – A video demonstration of the Janka Hardness test in action

County Floors – An Online wood floor store with a helpful hardness chart and lots of info on different wood species.

Have you had any first-hand experience of choosing a softer species of wood over a harder one? What’s the hardest hardwood flooring you’ve used? Do you have a preference and why? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or contact us directly.

6 thoughts on “Why the Hardness Rating of Your Wood Floors Matters

  • March 30, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Hello everyone, my husband & I just bought some ash flooring so he’s the deal. While @ the store we both like the look of the American Cherry. We have heard that it’s a soft wood flooring. This is going to be on a level w/ a smaller kitchen/ upstairs living area & small hallway. My main problem is the color & softness. We have a black lab. We try to keep her nails trimmed as much as possible, but we are as many families a busy one. We also have boys, a teen & a grade schooler. I know that ash is lighter in color but harder on the wood scale. American Cherry I know is darker but softer. We both seem to lean toward the American Cherry as we are changing out the trim & bring a peacan color from down stairs up. I’m worry that the Ash may yellow to much over the years & w/ the Cherry I’m worried that it may get to dented up. Can anyone help? Or I’m I rambling on?

    • December 10, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      I have had my American Cherry floor in my kitchen, foyer and powder rooms for about 17 yrs. It is absolutely beautiful but I must admit it has taken quite a beating.

      Two sons and three dogs over the yrs have done considerable damage (esp the dogs). I have gouges where my two small terriers turned the corner after running down the stairs and I now have a boxer mix who is doing his part as well.

      While the dents and scratches are a part of living with hardwood floors, I probably should have stayed away from the American Cherry. I’m now looking to replace them with something harder. Hope this helps with your decision.

  • November 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Hi everyone, and thanks for taking a few moments of your time to help a newbie renovator out. We recently had a flood that went through the main floor of the house. (We moved in only a few months ago and knew that the laminate floors would eventually be replaced. Just sooner than expected. So the entire main floor is relatively open concept with a galley kitchen. I personally do NOT like tiles for the kitchen because it kills my back and I have foot problems. If I have to I will, but need help one a couple of questions, because every site I go to says do this/do that.., don’t so this/don’t do that. So here are my questions.

    1. What is a good quality mid priced range of hardwood flooring that a busy family with a 140Lb St. Bernard ‘puppy’.

    2. What woods will stand up to him, including maintenance /refinish capabilities. Scratch and dent resistant ( please note that I do keep his nails trimmed and when he gets excited he goes outside to play, but he does drool in the summer but tends to be a lazy dog)

    3. Is there a wood that could be used in a kitchen? Aka mild resistant/water resistant?

    I ask for some expertise because every single place we have been to has said something different. Trust me I’ve been to at least 25 stores and no one is on the same page.

    So if you have a personal story of wood love/horror and some honest answers to mid-range hardwoods, it would be most appreciated.

    • November 21, 2014 at 4:12 am

      Hi Val, I hear your frustration. I think maybe you’re getting conflicting advice because you have some conflicting requirements. I too would like to hear the experience of others in your situation. For my part I see it like this…no wood is going to be completely scratch and dent resistant and no wood is water resistant so my gut would say that putting wood in your kitchen is not a great idea (especially as it just got flooded!).

      If I had to guess I would say that most stores are desperate to sell you a wood floor but loathed to make promises they can’t keep!

      How about a high quality luxury vinyl plank? There really are some impressive products out there which will be easy on the feet and pet durable.

      • March 3, 2016 at 7:09 am

        Hello, I read your story about flooring and I have been told different recommendations . I also have a 150 lb dog (lab) . Open concept kitchen living room . What flooring did you decide and are you happy.

        Thank you,

        Look forward to hearing from you.


      • January 29, 2021 at 2:52 pm

        Hi! We remodeled our home & with sad faces, removed the bamboo floor we’d enjoyed for years in our kitchen because we’d dropped the cast iron skillet too many times on said bamboo. We replaced the food prep area flooring with stall mats purchased at a local farm store & it was heaven under my feet! Very easy to clean & it did look great with our new cabinets & countertops.


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