Wood Hardness Scale: Your Buying Guide to a Durable Floor


Hardwood floors are one of the best home improvement investments you can make. Besides being beautiful and timeless, hardwood floors are strong and durable . . . and that means they can comfortably carry your family’s footsteps for generations.

There are many species of hardwood available, each with its own characteristics. Color, grain pattern, the presence of knots or a smooth, closed texture are some of the aesthetics you’re likely to consider when shopping. Another important consideration is strength or hardness. When it comes to performance, you want a floor that can hold up to scuffs, scratches, dents and every day wear and tear – and still look beautiful. Choosing a durable hardwood floor is made easier with the hardwood hardness scale.

The hardwood hardness scale assigns a hardness rating based on a species’ resistance to indentation under a controlled force, as determined in laboratory testing.

Strong, resilient red oak with a rating of 1290, is the benchmark against which all other wood species are compared. Red oak was chosen as the median standard because it’s one of the most readily available hardwoods. And red oak makes a great floor – it’s not so hard that it’s difficult to saw and nail, nor so soft that it’s easily dented. It’s just right!

On the hardwood hardness scale, you’ll find a wide range of species. At the top is Brazilian walnut with a rating of 3680, almost three times the hardness of red oak. At the lower end are softer species like yellow pine (690) and Douglas fir (660).

Hardwoods softer than red oak may dent or wear more easily. This is something to consider if you have young children, large pets or a very active household. Of course, you may like a floor that takes on a rugged look and feels more “lived in” over time. Then there are hardwoods that are so dense that they’re challenging to work with, meaning installation may require more time and special tools. Exotic hardwoods tend to be exceptionally hard. For example, Brazilian Cherry (2350) is about 80% harder than red oak.

Armstrong makes it easy to gauge durability when comparing hardwood flooring. You’ll find a hardness scale for every hardwood species under its “details” tab. You can also search the Internet for “hardwood hardness scale” for a standardized listing by species.