Hardwood Flooring Hardness
Having seen changes in the wood flooring business over the years, I never realized how many people were ill-advised of how to actually go about buying wood floors. Phone calls and emails 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 and maintenance given. Throw in prevention as well!
It's Also About Appearance
The video below discusses popular American hardwoods. Some will prove more useful than others if you’re concerned with a house full of kids and or a few active large dogs. Hardwoods offering more grain or character and contrast tend to perform best when concealing the inevitable damage all hardwood floors endure.
|North American Cherry||950|
|North American Walnut||1010|
|North American Maple||1450|
¹ Will vary significantly from one brand to another
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?"
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. Higher quality will see Baltic birch. Others may use poplar, Douglas fir or 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. However, a thicker wear layer will resist denting better than a thin one.
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. In 2002 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 in the year 2000. 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. In 2008 I was back at the same house and their floors needed 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.
There are many wood flooring types and colors available today and I 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.