shutterstock_2782049One of the key factors by which the quality of hardwood is measured is, predictably, hardness. The ‘hardness’ of a species of wood refers to how well it resists dents and scratches upon impact, the harder a hardwood floor, the less likely it is to get damaged. Extremely hard hardwoods are commonly used for things like decks or cutting boards, where they will be required to stand up to near constant abrasion. Hardness is measured via the Janka scale, which assigns a number value to a species of wood, with harder woods having higher Janka ratings. The most common hardwood flooring species is red oak, and most wood species compare their hardness to red oak. Red oak has a Janka rating of 1290. Floor Coverings International of Vancouver and Portland thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the wood species whose Janka ratings blow red oak out of the water. Here are the hardest hardwoods!




Mahogany is a classic luxury wood, evoking images of beautiful paneled walls and classic mansions. Mahogany is typically a darker wood, with tones of warm, reddish brown. Typically harvested in South America, Mahogany has a Janka score of 2200, making it 71% harder than northern red oak. Mahogany features striped grains and minor color variations, and if properly cared for it can easily last over a century.


Brazilian Cherry


Brazilian Cherry, also known as Jatoba, is somewhat less iconic than mahogany, but only because it is less well known. Like mahogany, its coloring is rich, dark, and warm, with beautiful variations of red, brown and blond highlights. Brazilian cherry, like the other woods listed here, will darken and grow richer looking over time. Native to South America, the Brazilian cherry tree can grow up to 150 feet in the rainforest and grows a medicinal gum in its bark. With a Janka score of 2820, Brazilian cherry hardwood floors are harder than mahogany.


Brazilian Teak


Also known as Cumaru, Brazilian Teak is another of the hardest species of wood, and is commonly used for outdoor flooring such as decks. Lighter than Mahogany or Brazilian Cherry, Cumaru ranges from medium tans to reddish browns with minimal graining. Originating in Central and South America, Brazilian Teak has a Janka rating of 3540, making it 176% harder than northern red oak.


Tiete Chestnut


With a Janka score of 3540, Tiete Chestnut is right on par with Brazilian Teak as far as hardness goes. The other name for this South American hardwood is Sucupira, and its colors range from tan and light brown to darker reddish brown, with course, distinct graining giving it a unique appearance. With similar durability to other hardwoods, Tiete Chestnut is imported from countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, and Bolivia.


Brazilian Walnut


The hardest of our hardwoods is Brazilian Walnut, or Ipe, which has an astonishing Janka score of 3680. This sort of ultra-hard wood species is excellent for high traffic areas and will be far less prone to nicks from things such as animal claws or stiletto heels. Brazilian walnut comes in a range of rich browns, with the sapwood being dark tan and the heartwood a cool chocolate color. Like many of the others on this list, it originates from South America and will darken over time, being quite varied in tone when it is first milled. 185% harder than red oak, this wood can truly weather any storm.


Whether you’ve been tempted by these exotic hardwoods, or prefer to stick with more classic domestic species, make sure to call Floor Coverings International of Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR, for your next hardwood flooring job.


Photo: Mark Bernard