Timber Flooring Hardness – Janka and AC Ratings

Hardness Ratings Explained – JANKA & AC Rating Systems

Timber floors have provided a basic walking surface in homes across Australia since the earliest days of European settlement. Today they are increasingly used to provide and attractive feature within homes and entertainment venues.

In most cases, appearance is the main consideration on which the selection of a timber flooring product is made. Appearance is influenced by colour, amount of feature or character, width of boards and type of finish applied.

For some heavy use applications consideration should be given to selecting a product of appropriate hardness to suit the application, as improved resistance to denting and abrasion is desirable.  For most domestic households a floor rated as moderately hard will be appropriate. When choosing a softer flooring product, which is usually done to achieve a particular aesthetic, then additional care is necessary to prevent damage, such as the removal of foot wear.

One further point of importance is that surface finishes/coatings do not improve the hardness of the floor surface. The hardness of the timber flooring being used, has no correlation with the propensity for its surface finish/coating to scratch, these are two fundamentally different things. Scratches are generally less visible on mat finishes and lighter coloured flooring products.

Janka Hardness Testing

The Janka hardness rating of timber is a measure of its resistance to indentation. The test measures the force (kN) required to press a steel ball of 11.8 mm diameter into the test specimen until the ball has penetrated to half its diameter. There are Janka hardness ratings available for many commonly used timber species. The Janka rating system can also be applied to non solid timber flooring products such as engineered flooring, laminate flooring and bamboo.

The table below provides some examples of species hardness ratings

Very HardHardModerately HardSoft
Spotted GumBrush BoxTasmania OakRadiata Pine
BlackbuttTallowwoodVictorian AshTeak
Grey Iron BarkJarrahMyrtleKauri
Strand Woven BambooKempasEuropean OakHoop

Engineered flooring generally has a solid timber species face lamella that is approximately 3mm thick. The hardness of the product is relates to the species used as the lamella and as such the Janka ratings used in the above table still apply.

Bamboo is available as both a laminate and a strand woven product. (Solid Board) In terms of categories the laminated version would be regarded as ‘Hard’ and the Strand Woven as ‘Very Hard’

The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood species. It involves measuring the force required to embed an11.28mm (0.444in) steel ball into wood to half its diameter. This method was chosen so that the result would leave an indention 100mm² (0.16sqin) in size. It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear. The higher the Janka Rating, the harder the timber is.

SpeciesJanka Scale (kN)
Bamboo (strand woven)16.1
Grey Box15.0
Red Mahogany12.0
Spotted Gum11.0
Brush Box9.5
Forest Reds9.1
Sydney Blue Gum9.0
Australian Beech7.5
Flooded / Rose Gum7.5
Northern Beech7.5
Bamboo (vertical)6.6
Cypress Pine6.1
New England Oak6.1
American Oak6.0
Bamboo (horizontal)5.9
Tasmanian Oak5.5
Victorian Ash4.5
Baltic Pine2.9

 Laminate flooring is constructed with a melamine coating over a hardboard core. With these products there is usually an ‘Abrasion Class’ or AC rating associated with them, which relates to their overall resistance to wear. Theses products are suitable for domestic and even commercial applications.

The Laminate Flooring AC Rating

This system ranks laminate flooring products on a simple scale from 1 to 5. The higher the AC rating the better the floor performs. Laminate floors with an AC rating of 1 or 2 are generally to be avoided, as they were not found to withstand scratches, stains or other adverse conditions during testing.

AC1 /21-Moderate Residential

Floors with this rating are suitable only for moderate residential use such as a bedroom or a closet


AC2/22 General Residential

Suitable for “normal residential” applications such as living rooms and dining rooms


AC3 /23 Heavy Residential

Good for all residential applications.


AC3 /31 Moderate Commercial

Suitable for all residential applications plus light commercial such as hotel rooms or small offices  


AC4 /32 General Commercial

Use for all residential plus general commercial applications such as offices, boutiques and cafes


AC5 /33 Heavy Commercial

Good for all residential applications plus heavy commercial applications such as public buildings, department stores etc.