In order to understand which type of wood flooring is most durable, we must consider two factors:
- The impact resistant properties of each wood species
- The difference between solid wood floors and engineered wood floors
We will now look at each point individually, beginning with how hardness is tested.
Understanding the Janka Hardness Test
Wood floor ‘hardness’ is measured using the Janka Hardness Test. Simply, the test involves measuring the force required to embed a small steel ball in the wood (exactly half of the steel ball must be embedded in the wood). This gives an indication of the resistant properties of each different wood species. Typically, the rating is given in relation to the surface durability of a wood plank (although results from ‘end-on’ stump tests are also available).
Common wood species used in flooring (in descending order of ‘Janka’ hardness):
- Australian Buloke (hardest commercially available wood)
- Chestnut (Brazilian)
- English Oak
The hardest wood on the list is Australian Buloke. This is the hardest wood ever tested, able to withstand impacts of up to 22,500 Newtons without significant denting – this is the equivalent of 2,294 kgs of weight applied at speed over a small area the size of a marble. The softest wood on the list is Chestnut. Despite being arguably one of the softest wood species used in wood flooring, Chestnut can withstand a high speed impact of around 4,430 N – equivalent to roughly 451 kg – without suffering a significant dent.
Durability – Solid Wood Floors vs Engineered Wood Floors
Solid wood floors are not necessarily more durable than engineered wood floors. This common misconception is based on the much longer lifespan offered by solid wood floors – solid wood floors can typically be maintained through sanding and refinishing up to time times (as compared to an engineered wood floor, which comprises core material glued to a much thinner upper layer of hardwood that can therefore only be maintained in the same way roughly three times).
However, lifespan says nothing of impact resistance durability. For example, the core material of an engineered wood floor may be composed of ‘springy’ materials such as pine, poplar, or HDF. Faced with isolated high-weight surface impacts, engineered wood floors composed of absorbent materials will generally outperform comparatively much denser solid wood floors – the high density contributing towards the ‘brittleness’ of solid wood floors.
Wood Floor Durability – Conclusion
The question over which overall choice of wood floor is most suitable in terms of durability is best answered by first looking at the floor’s intended purpose. For example, a busy hallway or foyer that is likely to experience higher than average footfall is a good candidate for a high density engineered wood floor (i.e. a wood species scoring highly on the Janka Hardness Test glued to more absorbent core materials). This should provide ample impact resistance and sufficient ‘springiness’ to withstand high usage.
However, in a low impact area such as a lounge, where foot traffic is likely to be comparatively much lower, maintenance and lifespan become more prominent considerations. In this case, solid wood floors are seen as the more popular choice.