Janka Hardness Scale
Sometimes it helps to know a little about hardwood in general to get a better understanding of what species of wood will best suit the lifestyle you lead., especially when it comes to rank on the Janka Hardness Scale. The Janka Hardness Scale is a tool used to gauge the relative hardness and strength of various different species of hardwood. This is achieved by trying to forcibly insert a .444 inch steel ball into the hardwood stopping by about half its diameter. This test is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear. It is also a good indicator of how hard a specie is to saw, mill and nail.The species and hardness of any potential flooring, may dictate which hardwoods should be considered viable options to install in your home. With that in mind, generally speaking however, if you stick with a North American species of wood, you can expect a similar level of performance across the board. Hard Maples, Red Oaks, Birches Hickory and Beech’s are the most common and widely used hardwood floors in the North American market, and more than likely what you will see most widely available in your local hardwood flooring store i.e, M Squared Flooring 🙂
So let’s take a closer look at each of these species to get a better understanding of why they may be the best option for your next home renovation project.
Is one of the most popular hardwoods used in North America for a number of purposes, from Hardwood, to furniture and cabinetry. Found widely in Canada and the US, red oak has a pinkish tinge to its heartwood, which is the origin of the name red oak, . Also plentiful is white oak, although not in as high numbers as red oak, making it on average a little pricier than red oak. In terms of color, white oak has a greener tinge than Red Oak does making it a rather cooler version to red oaks warm undertone. Ranked at 1290 red oak is durable, and is used as the benchmark to which all other hardwoods on the Janka hardness scale are compared to here in North America because it is so widely used and readily available.
The difference between northern and southern red oak, are the duration of time it takes for them to grow; southern types growing much faster than their northern counterparts. Longer grow times in turn end up producing a more dense quality hardwood, where the consumer is concerned this is a positive because it means a more durable wood. The grain of Red Oak is pronounced and often sought after specifically for this quality, as it takes stain very well, a wide variety of colors can be easily achieved.
Very common to Canada, 13 species of over 100 maples grow in abundance in North American regions. There are two major groups of maples; hard and soft hard maples being the most sought after when it comes to hardwood flooring as it’s name indicates, ranks higher on the Janka scale at 1450, where as soft maple, or silver maple is comparable to species such as Elm. The best selection of maple trees for hardwood floors can be found in the Northern US and along the southern Canadian border. Both have a sap wood that is a light to white color making maple a good choice for anyone trying to achieve a Scandinavian type look when applies to spaced with a natural finish.
The coloring of birch ranges from white to golden yellow, it has a subtle grain, similar to that of hard maple. At 1260 on the Janka hardness scale just under red oak, yellow birch makes a great choice for North American Hardwood. Red birch and yellow birch are actually the same species of tree, the only difference being the Red birch has less yellow sapwood then yellow. There are also two other groups of Birch; paper, which is the softest of the bunch and sweet birch which is the hardest among all three. The price point of birch is comparable to that of red oak and maple, making it also a good option for anyone on the market for any of the three.
Found in eastern portions of the US and Canada, Beech has a very light to light yellow colored sapwood and a dark reddish brown heart wood. However, beech has a very fine grain, and closed cell structure making it a little harder to stain then most other domestic hardwoods, if one were to take on the task of staining their floors on their own. Again, with technology available, prefinished hardwood flooring can eliminate this concern. If you refer to the Janka Hardness scale American Beech is ranked just above red oak in hardness at 1300, making it again an excellent choice for hardwood flooring. The main difference between American and European beech is the coloring, European beech being a light tan orange color, and American a tan to brownish red. The European beech being softer is more ideal for furniture, as opposed to hardwood floors.
Known for it’s strength and shock resistance, hickory is r you can find hickory trees growing in the southern and northern regions of Canada and the US. Growing up to 140′ in height, hickory is typically known for its great variation in color, with boards ranging from brownish red heartwood to pale yellow/white sapwood. Hickory has a straight grain and stains exceptionally well.
There are other hardwoods that rate very high on the Janka Hardness Scale, but the harder does not always mean the better. Exotic woods like Brazilian Cherry, for instance come from a completely different environment, and requiring them to perform in North America where is is more often cold and dry, as oppose to their hot and moist environment often will require a little more care and attention than domestic breeds.