Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood Flooring

What type of hardwood is the most durable?

The question I am most frequently asked by homeowners selecting new flooring is, “What wood is the most durable?” Again this is a trick question because there are three primary factors that will determine the durability of any hardwood floor: density of the material, finish coats, and maintenance.

The density of hardwood flooring material is tested by the Janka scale of hardness. Essentially, a standard sized ball bearing is hydraulically pressed into the material to a certain depth and that amount of force necessary to achieve that depth is measured. For red oak (a wood that is considered to be a hard material), the Janka hardness is around 1250. Now relate that to Brazilian walnut or Ipe, which has a Janka hardness of 3680, and you can see that material choice is a big factor. The density will help guard against dents in the floor when you drop phones, pots, pans, etc…

The second factor in the durability of a floor is what type of finish will be on the floor and how many finish coats will be applied. For this side of the discussion I will keep the post to on site finished floors. There are a myriad of finishes available, but the two I would most consider to be durable would be acid-curing Swedish finishes and 2 component chemically cross linked waterborne urethanes. The layers of a true Swedish finish chemically integrate to form one large finish layer and they have a lot of optical clarity when scratched so that the scratch won’t turn white. What this means is that these finishes will tolerate and rebound from a scratch quite well. By comparison, catalyzed waterborne finishes form a very hard surface layer over the floor. They somewhat resemble a hardened sheet of plastic over the floor that is very hard to scuff and scratch. My experience is that both finishes will last a very long time, although catalyzed waterbased finishes emit less odor when applied and it goes away much quicker.

Sometimes I think that people want the beauty of a wood floor but they never want to clean it and this seems a little odd to me. To properly clean and 800 square foot floor takes no longer than 10 minutes and requires only a microfiber mop and a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner. I DO NOT recommend cleaners that leave a residue on the floor such as Murphy’s oil soap or cleaners that are not pH balanced such as ammonia or water mixed with vinegar. Over time residue will dull the finish and non pH balanced cleaners will attack and destroy a finish. The final point is that I have seen countless people pay $5000 or more for a new floor or refinish who absolutely will not pay $200-300 a year to have a large dog’s toenails groomed once a month. This is one of the greatest contributors to scratching on a wood floor that can be avoided for a minimal cost. The only other recommendation I have is to use felt protectors on your furniture that moves regularly and small rugs at high traffic doors.

In the end your wood flooring investment is a product of good planning and maintenance. For any additional information, please e-mail us or visit our website.

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