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Expert Insights: Decoding Which Wood Flooring is the Hardest

Which wood is the hardest?

When it comes to choosing wood flooring, durability is one of the most important factors to consider. Wood flooring is an investment that should last for years to come, so it's crucial to select a hardwood that can withstand heavy foot traffic, impacts, and wear and tear.

One key characteristic to consider when assessing the durability of wood flooring is its hardness. The hardness of a wood species is measured on the Janka hardness scale, which determines the force required to embed a steel ball halfway into the wood.

In this article, we will explore the different wood species and their hardness ratings to help you make an informed decision when choosing the hardest wood flooring for your space.

Hardness ratings for wood flooring

The Janka hardness scale is a widely recognized measurement of wood hardness. The scale ranges from 0 to 4000, with higher numbers indicating harder and more durable woods. Here are some common wood species and their respective Janka hardness ratings:

  • Hard Maple: 1450

  • White Oak: 1360

  • Hickory: 1820

  • Red Oak: 1290

  • Cherry: 995

  • Walnut: 1010

Hardest Wood Flooring Types

While the aforementioned wood species offer decent levels of hardness, there are certain types of wood that are renowned for their extreme durability. One such wood is ipe.

Ipe Wood

Ipe wood, also known as Brazilian walnut, is widely regarded as one of the hardest woods available for flooring. With a Janka hardness rating of 3680, ipe is incredibly dense and resistant to abrasion, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas.


Ipe, also referred to as Ironwood or Brazilian teak, is an exotic hardwood known for its exceptional strength and longevity. Its natural resistance to rot, decay, and insect damage, combined with its elegant appearance, has made it a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor applications.

What Is Ipe Wood

Ipe wood, or Handroanthus spp. as it is known scientifically, is a hardwood species native to Central and South America. It is known for its exquisite grain patterns and color variations, ranging from dark brown to olive-brown, which can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any space.

Ipe Lumber

Ipe lumber is highly sought after for its durability and strength. It is a dense wood that can resist scratches, dents, and general wear and tear, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas. Its exceptional density also contributes to its resistance to moisture, ensuring its longevity even in humid or damp environments.

Ipe Meaning

The term "ipe" is derived from the Portuguese word "ipe," which means "hardwood tree." It is a fitting name for this wood species, as it is one of the toughest and most resilient hardwoods available. The strength and durability of ipe make it an excellent option for various applications, including decking, siding, and, of course, flooring.

Ipe Hardwood

Ipe is classified as a hardwood due to its dense cellular structure and durability. Unlike softwoods, such as pine or cedar, ipe possesses a higher level of hardness and strength, making it an optimal choice for areas that experience heavy foot traffic or may be prone to impact damage.

Ipe Flooring

Ipe flooring offers numerous benefits beyond its impressive hardness. Its rich, dark color adds warmth and elegance to any interior space. Additionally, ipe is naturally resistant to mold, mildew, and fungi, making it a hygienic choice for areas prone to moisture or humidity, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Brazilian Ipe Wood

Brazilian ipe wood refers to ipe that is sourced from Brazil, where a significant portion of the world's ipe supply originates. Brazilian ipe is highly regarded for its superior quality and hardness, making it a preferred choice for those seeking top-notch wood flooring that can withstand heavy use and provide long-lasting beauty.

What Does Ipe Stand For

Ipe is an acronym for "Ironwood Palisandre Extremis," highlighting the wood's exceptional density and hardness. The term "Ironwood" refers to ipe's incredible strength, while "Palisandre" is a nod to its dark, reddish-brown color.

Ipe Wood Problems

While ipe boasts numerous benefits and is widely celebrated for its hardness and durability, it is important to be aware of potential drawbacks. One potential issue with ipe wood is its high density, which can make it more challenging to work with during installation.

Its hardness can also make sanding and refinishing more laborious compared to other, less dense wood species. Additionally, ipe wood comes at a higher price point due to its exceptional qualities, so it may not be the most budget-friendly option for everyone.

In conclusion, when it comes to selecting the hardest wood flooring for your space, ipe wood stands out as an excellent choice. Its impressive hardness rating, coupled with its resistance to abrasion, moisture, and pests, make it an ideal option for areas that experience heavy foot traffic. While ipe may come with some installation and refinishing challenges, its exceptional durability and elegant appearance make it a worthwhile investment for those seeking long-lasting and visually appealing wood flooring.

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