What’s the Most Durable Hardwood Flooring You Can Get?
A hardwood floor is a long-term investment, as it can last decades. If a home is to remain in your family, hardwood floors can outlive almost a generation without too much trouble. If that is, you've selected the right kind of hardwood floor material.
Below you'll find more information regarding how hardwood floor finish matters, the wood hardness scale Janka, and some suggestions for the most durable hardwood floor. Keep in mind while reading that what matters most is what works for you.
Note that no matter if you get the most durable hardwood floor or a softer wood, maintenance cannot be avoided. What can be avoided is an excess number of repairs with durable wood flooring options.
Why does it matter ?
It is important that your hardwood floors match your taste, and better your home. But it is also important that the flooring is durable enough to be around for a long, long time. Think of getting a piece of furniture and having it crack or tear all the time; you end up spending money on repairs and reupholstery or buying the same piece of furniture soon after purchasing the original.
By investing in the durability of a hardwood floor you'll save yourself money in the long term.
It is important to think about your lifestyle when looking at what kind of hardwood floors are most durable, for you. For example, looking for the most durable hardwood floors for pets will be different than if you don't have any. The same goes for if you have children or an active house with lots of foot traffic. If you have a floor that scales lower on the Janka scale, it probably isn't the most durable hardwood floor for your home.
On the other hand, if you know that you don't need the most durable hardwood floor because of your lifestyle but want to ensure you don't need to refinish it very often, you can use a good finish to help improve durability.
Solid Wood Vs Engineered hardwood flooring options
While looking for hardwood flooring options, you might come across two kinds of flooring options. Solid wood flooring and Engineered hardwood flooring. Here's how the two are different from each other;
Solid wood flooring
Single wood flooring is made from one piece of wood. It is nailed and glued to the floor for installation.
Engineered hardwood flooring
Meanwhile, engineered hardwood flooring is carefully made with two layers of wood flooring. The base layer is plywood or fiberboard with a top layer of solid hardwood. Unlike the popular perception that engineered wood flooring is fake wood flooring, it is just another type of wood flooring. In fact, engineered wood floors tend to be more durable than solid wood floors and they are also cheaper to install than solid hardwood floors.
#01 Engineered hardwood floors are less affected by environmental changes.
For people living in extreme regions with stark temperature and weather changes, engineered wood flooring can be the best bet. Engineered hardwood can stay at its place even when there are changes in the moisture and humidity of the environment, which makes it a low-maintenance option. Meanwhile, solid hardwood can soak up the moisture easily, swell up, and get majorly damaged.
However, it is not water-resistant. If you are looking for completely resistant flooring, it is better to look for other materials like tiling and laminate flooring.
#02 Engineered hardwood flooring is cheaper.
Now, if you are looking for cheaper options for flooring, engineered hardwood flooring is the deal for you. Engineered hardwood is cheaper than solid hardwood since the use of actual exotic species of wood is less than that in solid hardwood, i.e. only the top layer is the actual wood. Engineered hardwood also comes with a click-together flooring option that can be used for a floating wood flooring installation process. This process is the cheapest and easiest to carry out as there are no requirements for stapling, nailing, or gluing. This feature can lessen the costs drastically.
#03 Solid hardwood can be refinished indefinitely.
Solid hardwood flooring can be refinished again and again. So, if longevity is what makes the flooring durable for you, solid hardwood flooring is the best option for your flooring requirements. Meanwhile, engineered hardwood floors can only be refinished a few times as the top layer of the engineered floor is pretty thin. This is the biggest disadvantage of engineered hardwood floors.
However, engineered hardwood bought from a high-quality producer can be re-finished at least once.
Hardwood Floor Finish Matters A Lot
You need to know upfront that wood selection isn't the be-all, end-all; as a matter of fact, hardwood floor finish makes an enormous difference. As you may be aware, wood has a relative hardness scale; some are very soft (balsa, for instance) and others, such as Bull Oak, are harder than a coffin nail. However, the finish is a barrier between the wood of your floor and everything that's going to happen to it. Soft or hard, solid or engineered, your floor's durability has a lot to do with the finish.
For example, Bamboo is eminently sustainable, which is good for the environment. It's relatively inexpensive, great for the homeowner. However, it's quite soft, which means it is not very durable in its unfinished state.
However, when bamboo is treated with successive (up to ten) coats of aluminum oxide, the finish tends to be quite tough, provided it is good bamboo and good finishing by a quality producer. You'll pay more for it than the cheapest bamboo flooring, but it will stand up to abuse about just like some of the hardier hardwoods out there.
Popular types of wood floor finishing options
Oil Based polyurethane
Oil-based polyurethane finish is one of the most durable wood flooring and thus it is also the most popular one. Chances are your retailer has already put this finish on the hardwood flooring if you are opting for prefinished flooring.
This is also one of the most common options. However, hardwood floors with a water-based polyurethane finish tend to be less durable than the oil-based variety of finishes.
Lacquer or Shellac
These are the traditional type of finishing. Lacquer and Shellac finish are loved for their super glossy finish that can give your interior a very rich look. However, it is more commonly used on woodwork and furniture rather than flooring.
Natural oils and Hardwax
If you are opting for a natural oil or hard wax flooring, it is important to note that the finishing needs to be reapplied often for the flooring to stay durable for long. Thus, with proper maintenance, natural oil, and hard wax finish can be a very good option.
Aluminum Oxide finish can give your floors maximum durability as it makes the floor resistant to scratches and UV rays. It helps fight the ‘fading’ of the floor, keeping it as shiny and beautiful as newly done flooring.
Wood Hardness Scale
To get a picture of how hard the flooring you're looking at is, look up the species on the wood hardness scale. Specifically, the Janka scale for wood hardness. It is a test that measures how much force is required to bury a .444-in diameter steel ball halfway into the sample plank.
Balsa wood has a rating of 22, meaning only 22 pounds-feet of force are necessary to do that. You could do it with your hands. Cherry, a very attractive wood for furniture, has a Janka rating of 995.
The higher the Janka number the better. This tells you how hard the flooring is, though you will still need a good finish applied to take the brunt of impacts and also to seal it from moisture. Softer woods will also require a maintenance coat a little more often to maintain durability.
The Most Durable Hardwood Floor Woods
So, here are some examples of the most durable hardwood floor wood species. These will stand up to wear if you take care of the finish. Some happen to be beautiful woods to look at, which is also important.
Red oak; the industry standard
is rated about 1300 and is generally considered about the minimum you want in hardwood flooring. Any softer and it won't stand up to much, so this is about a good entry point. You can get softer, of course; some people like the "distressed" aesthetic, and a few dings, dents, and scratches won't compromise the structural integrity of your floor.
Make sure you know what you're looking to get out of a floor prior to choosing a flooring material. It helps to consult with hardwood flooring installation experts prior to choosing the floor. That way, you'll know what is going to work best and where.
Woods with a similar rating include American Beech, Ash, Tasmanian, and White Oak. White Oak happens to also be a very popular wood for flooring.
Bamboo; unique and hard
depending on how it's made can be in the 900 to 1300 range for typical bamboo boards but up to 3000 for a strand-woven composite. For standard construction bamboo, spend a little more to get quality boards with a durable finish; those will last.
Zebrawood; stain resistant
an African hardwood with a very distinctive grain - people either love it or hate it, and it rarely gets stained too much because the owner wants to look at it - is rated about 1575. Hardy and wonderful to look at.
Hard maple and sugar maple woods; contemporary style, shock absorbant
have Janka ratings of 1450. A little harder than Red oak, both take a finish rather well and are fine choices for the typical home.
Domestic walnut; very aesthetically pleasing
has a Janka hardness of around 1000. While on the softer side, a good finish and some care will give you decades. Cherry has a similar hardness rating, but - like a walnut - can last and is very attractive with a good finish.
Hickory; the hardest species of wood in America
is very hard, at 1820, and has a very distinct grain. As a result, it is a very hardy, durable flooring but some don't care for the appearance.
Pine; stylish and cheaper
is a popular choice due to expense, but a Janka rating of 620 to 900 requires a good finish to be durable.
Brazilian walnut; extremely hard and most durable wood flooring
has a Janka rating of 3680. It takes high traffic very well, has a gorgeous figure, and as such doesn't usually get stained as much as sealed, so you can enjoy the gorgeous appearance. It is a very popular flooring wood, and for good reason.
When judged on the basis of the Janka hardness scale, bamboo flooring and Brazilian walnut tend to be the hardest flooring option. With the right kind of finish, they are also the most durable wood flooring options available. However, at the end of the day, it's your choice and requirements that matter the most as you are going to live in your house. Thus, the best way to choose your flooring will always be checking for the pros and cons of every hardwood and finish option and then going for the most durable choice that you want in your home.