When choosing the hardwood for your home, one of the most important considerations to account for is your lifestyle. Family size, pets and indoor habits all have different effects on the hardwood. If you want your hardwood to look great year and year and hold up against damage, it’s necessary to choose a hardwood not just for its aesthetic appeal — but also for a level of durability that will accommodate your everyday routine.
Testing the Durability of Hardwood
When you select a hardwood, you’re really choosing a specific combination of three elements: species, colour, and finish. The colour and finish are mainly a style preference — but the species will determine the hardwood’s durability, and therefore how well each species is suited to your lifestyle.
Hardwood durability is tested according to the Janka Hardness Scale, which assesses each species of wood under pressure to determine how much it can withstand before it dents and scratches. Here are some considerations to take into account when selecting your flooring.
What does it mean to choose a hardwood that suits your lifestyle? It mean examining your present home life and the home life you anticipate in the near future and considering how it will affect your floor. For example, a single person or an adult couple living alone will likely not put their floor through much wear and tear — a less durable hardwood could be a viable option for them. A large family or one with young kids and pets will probably put the floor “to the test”, so to speak. In that case, you’d want to choose a very durable hardwood that can resist all the traffic, running, paws, strollers, spills, toys and other challenges a high-energy family can throw at a floor.
But it’s not just about who’s living with you. It’s also about the activities you do in your home and how you do them. For example, do you prefer to wear shoes in the house, or go barefoot? The advice of a professional designer can help you determine just how “hard” you are on a floor — and therefore how hard the floor should be for you.
Species: Which is Right for You?
Here is a brief summary of some of the most popular kinds of hardwood, and their relative durability.
Walnut: A softer, “tropical” wood that is more susceptible to dents and scratches. Great for small families of all-adults and no pets. (Though not a type of wood per se, some homeowners are interested in bamboo flooring. Be aware that bamboo has about the same durability as walnut, with some finish options that can make it more resistant.)
White Oak: With a medium hardness, white oak is the standard choice for hardwood flooring.
Ash: Though it has the same hardness as White Oak, aesthetically, ash has more “movement” in the grain. This means that the colour is likely to be less consistent, but also that scratches will likely be “camouflaged” and therefore less visible because of the grain movement.
Maple: Has a medium hardness, like Ash and White Oak. The colour is more consistent with Oak than it is with Ash.
Tigerwood: High contrast in colour; some pieces may be very light and others very dark. Exotic woods like Tigerwood and Guajuvira woods tend to be incredibly durable and have a high ranking on the Janka Hardness Scale.
There’s durability, and then there’s seeing the imperfections. Though the colour and finish of the hardwood won’t have much influence of the floor’s durability, they will influence what you see and what you don’t. Dark coloured woods and hardwoods with a high gloss finish tend to show dents and scratches the most obviously. Lighter-coloured woods and matte finishes refract less light and will “camouflage” any imperfections to a certain extent.
Choosing your hardwood should be about what will give your home the perfect look — but also what will hold up over the years. Think about your lifestyle and choose a hardwood whose species, finish and colour all match your needs.