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Harder is Not Always Better

You want your hardwood floor to look good for a long time. Your first instinct might be to simply choose the hardest wood possible to ensure its long-time sturdiness and durability. However, buying a hard, solid wood floor may not necessarily reduce the need for extra special caring over the years. For example, maple is a wood that is harder than, say, oak. But because maple is a clearer wood, scuffs, dents, and dings may show up quicker than on a darker-grained wood like oak. The result is that even though you have a harder wood on your floor, you'll still end up having to refinish it more often that a softer choice that has a darker grain that can better mask normal wear markings.

 
Solid Wood = Stronger Wood?
 
If you think solid wood flooring is naturally stronger and harder than engineered wood flooring, think again. While solid wood does offer the solidity of one complete piece of milled lumber, engineered wood combines several layers or "plies" of wood in the planks. Solid wood comes in widths from 2-1/4" to 5" wide and have standard thickness of around 3/4". The overriding benefits of solid wood are its "natural" state, as well as the fact that it can be sanded and refinished over time. Alternately, a coat of urethane can be added and reapplied to the flooring, which reduces the cost of full sanding and refinishing.
 
Dogs and Hardwood Flooring
If you have dogs, you may wonder how wise it is to redecorate your home with hardwood floors. The good news is that dogs and hardwood floors can live in perfect harmony! Here are a few pointers: 
  • Match your dog and your wood. Not colors (!), but weight. The larger your dog, the harder wood you should purchase.
  • Consider prefinished hardwood. In this process, a varnish is baked onto the wood at a very high temperature, making it extremely durable.
  • Keep hair and dirt to a minimum by regular sweeping and/or vacuuming.
Brinell Numbers
 
One of the methods by which hardwood floors are measured for hardness was created by Swedish designer, Johann A. Brinell in 1910. Originally developed to test the hardness of metal, the procedure involves placing a hardened steel ball on a flat surface of the metal to be tested. The diameter of the dent made by the ball is measured, and the result is what is known as the "Brinell" number.
 
Janka Hardness Test
 
Using the original Brinell test to measure the hardness of metal, Janka developed a similar method to specifically measure the hardness of wood. It’s a standard still used today. In Janka’s test, the force expressed to press a 11.28 mm-diameter steel ball into the wood being tested into a depth of half the ball's diameter give you the result of the wood’s hardness level. 
 
Be aware that different countries have alternate ways of noting the results. The US measures in “pounds-force.” Australia uses newtons (N) or kilonewtons (kN). And in Sweden, the results are marked in “kilogram-force” (kgf). Alternately, you may find standardized results, where the measurement is noted in “Janka,” such as “250 Janka.”
 
How Hard is Hardwood Flooring?
 
Hardwood flooring is extremely durable by (nature's) design. However, different species of tree (or plant, in the case of bamboo) have different levels of hardness. Use the list of popular hardwoods below to determine which species might be right for your home or office needs: 
 
Ash : 3.8 
Bamboo: 6.1 
Beech: 3.0-3.3 
Cherry Birch: 2.5 
European Cherry: 3.1 
Hevea: 4.3 
Kempas: 5.6 
Maple: 2.9 
Oak: 3.5-4.5 
Walnut: 3.6
 
(Note: The higher the number, the harder the wood.)
 

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