Ralph's Blog

The Hardness of Hardwood Floors: Does It Matter?

Posted on Fri, Nov 28, 2014 @ 16:11 PM

We’re often asked which hardwood floors are the most durable.

To answer that question, two items must be considered—the floor’s finish and the wood’s hardness.

The finish is the protection over the bare wood. Finish prevents water from penetrating the wood and provides protection from everyday wear and tear. However, no finish will make the wood underneath it measurably harder. 

Each species has a different hardness. Some woods are soft. We often joke that if you look at White Pine the wrong way, it will dent. Other woods are extremely hard, such as species from South America like Ipê.  

So you should pick the hardest wood possible, right?

Not necessarily. Each species has other characteristics such as color, grain, and cost that may or may not appeal to you.

How Hard Is Hard Enough for You?

Two questions must be answered to decide on the right wood hardness for your home:

  1. How much activity will the floor see?

The more activity you have on your floor, the more likely something will be dropped on it or something really hard will be dragged across it and cause an indentation into the wood.  

If the floor is in a room with heavy traffic, such as a kitchen or a hallway, you may want a harder floor.

The same is true in a room where you’ll do a lot of entertaining.

If you have kids or pets, hardness in a floor can really be a virtue!

  1. How bothered are you by a ding or dent?

For some people, dings and dents are a problem, and hardness will be important to them. However, many people view a dent in a floor as character. In fact, we are now distressing floors to purposely put dents into them.

Measuring Hardness

Below is a chart of the hardness of various species. Hardness in wood is measured by dropping a small ball onto the piece of wood and determining when the wood will dent. This is called a Janka measurement.


If hardness is important to you, some guidelines to follow are:

  • Species between Hickory and Ipê provide the most dent resistance. In everyday life, you will not see much difference among woods in this section—they’re all hard enough. You’re not dropping a ball on the floor.  Your kids are playing in the house.

  • Species between Birch and Hickory represent most of the North American woods. They provide good dent protection and are excellent choices for most families. Grainy woods such as Oak and Ash will hide dents better than other woods.  Expect to notice a fair amount of dents from dogs if you select less-grainy woods such as Maple and Birch.

  • Softer woods such as Cherry, Walnut and Pine are good choices if you consider dents to be signs of character or live a lifestyle that won’t result in a lot of activity.

But remember, even if hardness is a significant concern, each species has many factors to consider. Hardness is only of these factors.

Tags: about hardwood floors, types of hardwood used in flooring, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

Is There a Turkey Under Your Table?

Posted on Sat, Nov 22, 2014 @ 09:11 AM

13459122185_79a4727fea_z-2Most people have turkey on their table on Thanksgiving Day. But is there also a turkey under your table?

I’m talking about your floor. Has it become a “turkey?”

Benjamin Franklin thought highly enough of turkeys to claim they were a more suitable national bird for the U.S. than the bald eagle. However, his admiration of the turkey never caught on.

When we call something a turkey now, it’s definitely not a complement. It means “having little appeal” and being a “dud.”

Does that describe your hardwood floors? Have they become an eyesore rather than the beautiful centerpiece of your home that they could be?

That’s how many customers who visit our showroom during this time of the year feel about their hardwood floors. Preparing to entertain family and friends, they become painfully aware that their floors are past their prime.


I think there’s also something about this season that causes people to reevaluate the condition of their hardwood floors. The weather’s turning cold, and everyone is spending more time inside where it’s warm. If your hardwood floors don’t feel cozy and inviting, you particularly notice it as the days grow shorter and harsher.

Fortunately, hardwood floors that have become turkeys don’t have to stay turkeys. One of the great things about hardwood floors is that they can be refinished and/or re-sanded numerous times to bring back their splendor.

If the floors are worn to the point that they can’t be re-sanded, installing new floors isn’t nearly as messy as you might think, and you usually benefit from increased home value and marketability.

What’s really nice is that homeowners who are refurbishing or installing new floors are able to create virtually any look they like. If you want to keep the old style, but just make it look fresher, no problem. If you want an entirely new style, you can do that too. We’re always happy to consult with you about your options.

During Thanksgiving, when you think about turkey, you should be thinking about a delicious meal, not your hardwood floors! 

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Photo courtesy of Rachel, Don McCullough. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Tags: remodeling

The Colorful Splendor of Fall—and Hardwood Floors

Posted on Sun, Nov 09, 2014 @ 08:11 AM


Last month, my wife and I took a “color trip” around the state, checking out all the wonderful fall foliage that was just reaching its peak.

As we expected, it was an enjoyable, relaxing time. We delighted in the crisp fall air, took photos of the colorful landscapes, and were reminded of how beautiful Wisconsin can be.

The red, orange, and yellow leaves create a color palette that truly thrills the eyes. As the president of Ralph’s Hardwood Floor Co., I feel particularly attuned to this play of colors. I’m always focused on color because color variety is one of the great things about hardwood floors.

At Ralph’s, we’re constantly helping our customers find the perfect color for their taste, décor, and interior design. It’s not the specific colors of fall that get me excited—it’s the way the colors relate to each other, enhancing each other’s beauty. A hardwood floor’s color can work together with the colors in the rest of a room in just the same way.

8066012816_9f05644b8a_zWhat if all the leaves on trees turned yellow, and there were no reds or oranges? It sure wouldn’t be as visually interesting. It wouldn’t be much different than during the summer, when all the leaves are the single color green.

By choosing a hardwood floor color that complements or smartly contrasts with other color tones in a room, homeowners can make a room come to life! Walls, furniture, window dressings, accessories—they can all be coordinated with hardwood floor color for a marvelous effect.

The choice of hardwood floor colors is virtually unlimited. Floors can be brown, tan, beige, black, grey, white—you name it. The color can come from the wood’s natural color, or from staining. 

Some hardwoods—such as maple, hickory, and many exotic species—naturally have considerable color variation within the wood itself. This variation helps the floor become the highlight of any room!

Another wonderful thing about hardwood floor colors is how rich they are.  They have a naturalness, depth, and splendor that’s lacking in the color of other types of flooring.  

The fall colors are gone now, but homeowners who have made good use of hardwood floor color in their homes can continue to relish the visual excitement of appealing color interactions all year long.


Ralph's 2014 Idea Book


Photo courtesy of GSankary, Indy Kethdy. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Tags: hardwood floor colors, installation

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