In the flooring arena, the term hardness refers to how well a particular hardwood type can stand up to things such as marks, scratches and stains. This is particularly important in hardwood flooring materials as these damages eventually distract the overall appearance and look of the wood. High heels, pets and kids are all culprits when it comes to putting marks, stains and scratches on the floor.
In general, wood hardness gives a homeowner an idea on how durable a flooring type will be in the long run. A high hardness characteristic however can not guarantee that a hardwood flooring type can resist all dents, dings and scratches forced on it. Remember that even the hardest of hardwood floors can still get damaged or marred if not properly cared for.
Janka hardwood hardness test
This is one of the most used tests for hardwood hardness in the U.S. The test measures how much force is needed to drive a steel ball into a specific wood type. The resultant measurement is reported in pounds-force. Harder woods require more pounds-force, or Janka, to drive the steel ball into them. This hardness test gives a physical indication of how well the wood can stand up to things such as wear and tear brought about by the pets, furniture and feet.
According to this test, the commonest woods for flooring that have a high hardness rating are such as ash, oak and maple. Hardwoods like walnut and cherry are the softer options. Hemlock, fir and pine are some type of softwoods that have lower rating on the Janka hardness test, though that still can be used for flooring
Is hardwood flooring materials from the same family equal in hardness test?
It should be noted that not all hardwoods from the same family of trees have the same hardness rating. For example, sugar maple though from the maple family of trees has a hardness rating of 1460 pounds-force, while red maple can only register 950 Janka. With every manufacturer of hardwood flooring materials on the lookout for new sources of wood, there is now a whole range of flooring materials from foreign woods. Some of these materials have hardness scores of up to 3000 pounds- force. Foreign hardwoods such as Brazilian cherry have a hardness score of 2350 Janka.
Hardwood grading and hardness
The grade of a hardwood flooring material can be used to judge the hardness of a wood flooring item. This however is not as accurate as the Janka hardness test. Hardwood material grades were set by NHLA (National Hardwood Lumber Association) more than a hundred years ago with a sole objective of standardizing wood grading. Grading indicates how valuable a specific board is since a knot-free board can be used in almost any application. This is because none of the wood is wasted trying to cut out the knot.
Knotted woods are quite weak and thus arenâ€™t recommended for flooring applications. Knots are known to alter the direction of grains in woods as tree fibers grow around it. The resultant alternating fibers greatly weakens the strength of the wood at the knot point.
The highest grade of hardwood is the First and Seconds (FAS). This kind of wood is fairly uniform in clarity and is normally used in furniture manufacture. This is the most expensive of the hardwood materials. The commonest grade of hardwood floor materials is Number 1, Number 2A or 1C and 2AC. These grades might also be commonly listed as Common #1, #2, #3, and so forth.
What about the price?
The higher the grade, the more expensive a hardwood flooring material is. Most homeowners prefer the look of the lower grade hardwood flooring due to among other things, their relatively low prices. Their unique and natural patterns and rustic look also make them a favored flooring material choice with many homeowners.