The difference between hardwood and softwood actually has nothing to do with hardness, so how can you choose the best timber for you?
Density: The durability of anything we buy is an important consideration for anyone. With flooring it sometimes gets related back to the timbers density, with the common belief that harder, or hardwood timbers are the best. We break it down for you below.
Difference? Firstly did you know that there are softwood timbers that are harder than hardwood timbers? Balsa wood is actually hardwood timber. The term hardwood and softwood is actually determined by the type of seeds. In general this means that hardwood trees are deciduous, losing their leaves annually whilst softwood trees remain evergreen. The seeds of a hardwood tree are generally protected by a shell or a fruit where as a softwood tree has seeds that are exposed to the elements. In most cases hardwood trees are slower growing which often does mean they are more dense. More density however is not always the best option or what is going to make your flooring more durable than others.
How is it tested? The most common is the Janka scale or Janka hardness test. This simple test is done by either measuring the difference in pressure it takes to drive a steel ball into timber, or measuring the depth of a dint when dropping a steel ball from a certain height onto the timber. The interesting thing here to note is that all of the timber dint in the process, and the numbers on the scale are comparing fractions of a millimetre in the depth of the dint.
How to choose the best timber? The reality is they are all going to dint, some deeper than others. Timber flooring is chosen by its natural beauty, not because one is harder than another. Every decision to use timber always comes with the understanding that it is a natural product, and yes it could dint. With flooring companies providing guaranteed products, timbers that are ‘too 2/2 #14 soft’ for flooring generally are not even used. In fact one of the softest timbers on the market is Oak, and this still remains one of the most popular timber floor choices world-wide. How to get better durability? If durability is a big factor for you then there are solutions for that. Firstly, there are alternative products on the market such as laminate flooring. These floors provide one of the most durable flooring options on the market. For the pre-finished timbers available, the coatings of recognised brands are designed to withstand every-day normal use. There are also incredible advanced scratch resistant coatings available with some even including a wear warranty or guarantee of lifespan. For site finished floors, the lower sheen or matt finish coatings generally ‘hide’ a lot of general scuffs and minor scratches and also tend to be a lot easier to keep clean.
How to repair? A large range of scratch fix pens or stick are available for surface scratches as well as wax kits and touch up kits for heavier or deeper scratches. Click here for more info. In recent years, specialised hard wax oils have also become available that allow for a protective finish that can be touched up in higher wear areas or areas with scuffs and scratches.