If you are in the market for hardwood flooring that will last for decades, the obvious choice will be for wood in its natural form. It’s not enough to simply just pick any hardwood species, because hardwoods can vary quite a bit in their hardness and some are actually much softer than some softwood species.
To give quantification to this issue of wood species hardness, the lumber industry created the Janka hardness scale. This standard is now widely accepted as the best means of ranking the hardness of wood. The Janka test measures the amount of force needed to drive a 0.444 inch steel ball into wood to a depth equal to half its diameter. The higher the rating, the harder the wood. There are other elements that go into how a wood species performs as a flooring material but the Janka scale will give you a good idea as to whether your wood floor will last for decades or will quickly surrender to the onslaught of dog nails and basic foot traffic.
So how do we use the Janka Scale? It runs from zero (softest) to 4,000 lbs (hardest). Woods with a low rating on the wood hardness scale are those that will dent and scratch easily. Balsa wood, for example, is extremely lightweight and used for crafts. It has one of the lowest on the scale at 100 lbs. It definitely wouldn’t be a good idea to use it for wood floors! But on the other hand, a higher score indicates that more effort is required to nail or saw the wood since it’s so hard. With a score of 3,684 lbs, one of the hardest woods is Ipe (also known as Brazilian Walnut or Lapacho). This wood is often used for decks, flooring and even furniture, especially when high shock resistance is needed. And because it is so hard, Ipe is often pre drilled for screws.