Janka Hardness Scale

There are many considerations when choosing the right hardwood floor for your home. Cost, wood type, finish, and other installation concerns are all evaluated. During this process, you may have considered the hardness of the wood, or you may have heard about the Janka Hardness Scale. Being better informed about this scale can help you get a better sense of what you want out of your floors.
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What is it?

The Janka Hardness Test was created in 1906 by Austrian wood researcher Gabriel Janka. It has since become an industry standard for analyzing a wood’s overall hardness. The test uses a 0.444” (11.28mm) steel ball, and that ball is driven into a piece of wood until half of the ball is embedded. The force used to drive the ball is then measured, and a numerical value is given. The higher the number, the harder the wood. Northern Red Oak is used as the baseline for which the hardness or softness of a wood is calculated. It has a value of 1290 on the scale. There are some considerations when dealing with the values of the scale. First, the Janka Hardness Scale can be expressed in different values in different countries, leading to some potential confusion. Second, the values on the scale are not absolute. There will be natural variations based upon where the wood was grown. Finally, the test is done on the wood only, not on actual flooring. Things like general maintenance, plank construction, and wood finish have an impact on the wood.

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How should I use it?

The Janka Hardness Scale should not be the deciding factor on which wood you will use for floors. Basically, the scale should be used as an overall guide for durability. The scale can be helpful when picking a wood for high traffic areas. While a harder wood will be more durable, it will also be harder to work with. Wood workers and instrument makers pay close attention to the Janka Scale to find woods that will best suit their needs. Sometimes a wood will be too hard to work with, regardless of its beauty. Hardness is not always better either. If you want a more weathered look for your floors, you will go for a softer wood that will show its wear more easily. No floor is invincible. All floors will get dings and scratches regardless of its rating on the Janka Hardness Scale. The values on the scale should be considered as a part of the overall construction of your floor. The wood will provide the initial color, grain and baseline durability, but the finish you put on top is what will have a strong impact in reducing wear on your floors. Having a better understanding of the different parts of your floor will help protect your investment and ensure a lifetime of enjoyment.

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