What’s the Most Durable Hardwood Flooring You Can Get?
What's the most durable hardwood material?
A hardwood floor is an investment, as it can last decades. If a home is to remain in your family, it can outlive you without too much trouble. If, that is, you've selected the right kind of hardwood floor material.
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. That finish is a barrier between the wood of your floor and everything that's going to happen to it. Therefore, your floor's durability has a lot to do with it.
Not that wood selection doesn't matter, but you do need to know that the finish makes quite an impact too.
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. One of the most popular for flooring is bamboo, which has many attractive properties.
Bamboo is eminently sustainable, which is good for the environment and the bamboo industry. 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, bamboo treated with successive (up to ten) coats of aluminum oxide finish will be quite tough, provided good bamboo and good finishing by a quality producer. You'll pay more for it than the cheapest of bamboo flooring, but it will stand up to abuse about as well as some of the hardier hardwoods out there.
Wood Hardness Scale
How to get a picture for how hard the flooring you're looking at is, you'll want to look up the species on the wood hardness scale. Specifically, the Janka wood hardness scale, 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 hardy 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.
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 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 flooring material. It helps to consult with a hardwood flooring installation experts prior to choosing flooring. 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, depending on how its 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, 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 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 has a Janka hardness 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 walnut - can last and is very attractive with a good finish.
- Hickory 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 is a popular choice due to expense, but at Janka rating of 620 to 900 requires a good finish to be durable.
- Brazilian walnut, however, 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.
There are many other examples of course, but these examples should give you an idea of what the most durable flooring woods are and what to look for in a wood floor. If you're having trouble decide, give us a call, we've installed all types of hardwood flooring and are happy to help out.