Renovating your home can quickly become a costly, exhausting project. As you get down to the finer details, you’ll have to consider every material, color, and cost. This is especially true of renovating your hardwood flooring. Here are 3 things you need to know about the Janka hardness scale and how it can affect the quality of your floors.

What Is the Janka Hardness Scale?

Simply put, the Janka hardness scale is a method of ranking wood species from softest to hardest. The test consists of measuring the force required to embed a steel ball into a wood plank. The Janka hardness scale then determines the durability and resistance of each wood species. Softer woods require less force, while harder woods require more force. This is one of the most important things you need to about the Janka hardness scale to make the best choice for your home.

How Hardness Is Determined

Developed in 1906 by Gabriel Janka, an Austrian wood researcher, the scale derives from a string of tests on 2”x2”x6” pieces of wood using a 0.444” steel ball. The test itself determines how many pounds per square inch of force are required to push the ball halfway through the wood plank.

For example, if a wood’s hardness rating is 1,400, it took an estimated 1,400 pounds of force to embed the steel ball halfway through the wood. Each wood species has different levels of strength, so it’s necessary to understand the Janka hardness scale so that you can find the right hardwood flooring grade for your home.

Understanding Wood Rankings

Under 1,000

When woods rank under 1,000, they’re inherently softer. They still make beautiful hardwood flooring, but they’re more susceptible to dents, dings, and scratches. Some popular choices include cherry and Douglas fir, which rank at 950 and 660, respectively.


Woods with rankings between 1,000 and 2,000 are ideal for hardwood flooring. These woods remain durable and robust, but they have enough flexibility for installation. Some popular woods between this range include red oak (1,290 ranking), sugar maple (1,490 ranking), and hickory (1,820 ranking).


Woods that rank between 2,000 and 3,000 come with extreme durability; they’re ideal for high-traffic areas. However, because they’re so strong, they offer less flexibility, which can make installation difficult. Additionally, they have higher price tags compared to softer woods. Popular choices include Brazilian hardwoods such as cherry.


Ranked the highest on the Janka hardness scale, woods with a ranking of over 3,000 have the highest durability and strength. However, they’re also the most difficult to install, and they have the highest prices. They offer flexibility, but bending can result in breakage or splinters. One of the highest-ranked woods is Brazilian ebony, with a whopping 3,692 score.

The Janka hardness scale is a helpful tool when you’re choosing your hardwood flooring. Take a moment to review your home’s layout, its foot traffic, and your budget before taking the plunge.