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Why Flooring Wood Density Matters

The look of hardwood floors is unbeatable, and it works in traditional, transitional and contemporary homes. For most people, choosing between light wood and dark wood is difficult enough. Add in confusing elements like wood density and your head can start spinning when it’s time to build or renovate a space.

Flooring wood density doesn’t have to be particularly difficult to understand though. Choosing flooring with the ideal density and hardness for your space can also help ensure that your home or commercial floors look their best for many years to come.

In the end, a little research can save you quite a bit of money and ensure that you’re happy with the final results. Use this guide to learn more about wood flooring density and why it matters.

What is Flooring Wood Density?

Flooring wood density is all about hardness. To test hardness, the Janka Scale has been used since about 1972 in the United States. The test dates back to 1906 though, when Gabriel Janka, an Austrian wood researcher, developed it for use.

The test is a simple one that basically applies brute force to different types of hardwood to see when they will dent or show signs of wear. During the test, a 0.444″ diameter steel ball is driven into a particular plank of wood with more and more force as the test goes on. Eventually, the wood will show signs of wear and a final Janka Scale score is determined.

How Does it Impact My Flooring Choices?

Wood density might seem like a term that doesn’t really matter much or like some sort of scientific data point that really isn’t important for the end user. Wood density does matter when it comes to how long your floors are expected to last and how they’ll look over time.

With hard, dense flooring materials, you’ll get wood that is resistant to scratching and damage longer. That means that day-to-day wear like your dog’s toenails, dropped packages, backpacks and the movement of furniture will have less of a visible impact. Softer woods will show signs of wear much more quickly.

red oak flooring
Sonora Floors Engineered Red Oak in Sable / SKU: 15211890

High-quality hardwoods can cost more than soft or engineered wood materials, but not in all cases. Depending on what style you’re looking for, both domestic and exotic hardwoods can be quite affordable.

When you do pay more, the initial cost is typically offset considering that your durable hardwood floors will likely remain in your home for a lifetime. Maintenance and repair costs will also be greatly reduced, allowing you to enjoy your floors a lot longer without having to go through the headache and expense of an upgrade.

Why Can’t I Use Softwood for Flooring?

Softwoods can be used for flooring material, but they simply don’t have the long-term durability of their harder brethren. Before long, they will show obvious signs of wear, including scuffs, dings, dents and scratches.

Woods with low hardness ratings are particularly problematic in high-traffic spaces like kitchens, entry areas, living rooms, family rooms and hallways. They are generally not suitable for commercial spaces either.

If you do love the look of a particular soft wood, you’ll need to find a place where foot traffic is minimal. A private master bedroom suite or guest room may be your best option. Hardwoods are still preferable in these areas though.

What About Bamboo and Engineered Wood?

Bamboo and engineered wood are two distinctly different materials that often don’t get discussed when talking about wood flooring density. That’s because bamboo is actually a grass product, while engineered wood is made from a combination of real hardwood veneer and plywood underneath. Some engineered wood varieties may contain other natural or man-made materials besides plywood as part of their substrate as well.

plank direction
Sonora Floors Bamboo Collection in Vertical Carbonized / SKU: 15247396

Bamboo Density

Bamboo flooring, along with other unique materials like eucalyptus, tend to fare well on the Janka Scale. Some types of bamboo flooring are even harder than certain natural hardwoods. That makes bamboo an excellent flooring option if you like the look.

Engineered Hardwood Density

Engineered wood is relatively strong and high-quality products can stand the test of time. However, engineered wood typically does not perform as well as the harder varieties of natural hardwood like cherry, walnut, ebony or oak. That’s because the lower layer of engineered wood is simply not as strong as a solid plank.

Still Unsure?

Looking to add high-quality hardwood flooring that will stand up to lots of foot traffic or a busy family lifestyle? Natural hardwood with a high wood flooring density or hardness rating is your best bet. Combining a look you love with serious durability, hardwood flooring can stand up to lots of abuse and continue to look excellent minimal maintenance.

Still confused as to which hardwood flooring material will work for your home or commercial space? Reach out to one of our trained representatives today. We can help you with your project from the planning phase to delivery, ensuring that you get the materials you need so you can complete your job on-time and on-budget.

are you ready to make a solid choice?