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I am having a house built and the developer wanted to charge me $10/sq ft for the cheapest $3/sq ft Bruce Oak, and more for anything better quality. There was no charge for Vinyl so, I had them put that in and figured I would get someone else to do the wood floors. I plan on having the foyer, dining room, kitchen and breakfast area done. These are all very heavy use areas. I expect lots of kids with shoes on. What is the best hardwood for my heavy use application? I don't mind spending the $10/sq ft for wood that's worth it.

Edit: We have a wood subfloor.

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Consider that for scratch and wear resistance, you are talking about the finish, not the type of wood. The type of wood will determine how easily it dents or gouges when you drop things on it, and is not usually a big deal unles you are using pine or some other softwood. –  dbracey Mar 9 '12 at 18:59
    
Yellow Birch also gouges very easily. I dropped a bottle of water on mine and it left behind a nice indent in the shape of the cap edge. –  kwakmunkee May 9 '12 at 7:09
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3 Answers 3

The answer is "it depends" -- on what you need, on how well it's cared for, and how often you want to refinish it. Real wood is measured by something called the "Janka Hardness Scale" -- oak is a good choice, as it's rated at about 1300, with only more exotic woods being harder. I was told that Oak would probably be scratched by my dogs' claws, though, and I imagine that the invariable stones stuck in kids shoes will be worse. If it's possible, get real oak and make the kids take their grubby shoes off at the door... :-P

The "engineered" hardwoods are better because they're cheaper, but worse because they're not able to be sanded smooth and refinished. You'll usually see thicknesses plus a Janka measurement or an AC rating. The thinner the veneer, the more likely you are to crack through it no matter what the hardness of the veneer or the AC rating of the floor are.

For 100% composite stuff, such as Pergo and Kronotex, you'll see hardness measured on an "AC" scale that's basically a designation for how much traffic the wood is designed to bear in a residential or commercial setting. "AC2/Moderate Residential" will be too soft for your needs. "AC3 - Light Commercial/Heavy Residential" may be durable enough for your needs, but might show wear. "AC4/Moderate Commercial" is most likely what you'll need to go with, and it's harder to find and more expensive. However, it's less expensive than wood is no matter what.

Two things you didn't say... first, what kind of structure you're installing it on. Is it a wood subsurface, or is it slab-on-grade or slab basement? If it's on concrete in any way shape or form, you definitely want to go with something that is composite and less expensive. I know that you CAN install wood on slab-on-grade, but I would never consider doing it, personally. Second, what rooms is this going in? Wood floorings, regardless of composite or engineered or natural, is not good in places that will receive water on the surface or may be exposed to leaks. So the entry hall (front door and back), the kitchen, and the bathrooms are places to avoid having wood floors. I would keep vinyl or tile in those areas, or explore the wood-grain ceramics that are becoming quite popular for those areas or over slab-on-grade.

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Take a look at strand bamboo. It is very hard, twice as hard as oak, and extremely resistant to scratches.

We installed the Morning Star Strand Carbonized Bamboo in most of our house and have been very happy with it.

In two years of daily living, the only scratches we've had are where my toddler was jabbing and scratching with a screwdriver.

You will need a good saw and blade to make the cuts. This stuff is very hard and will wear your blades out fast (even faster if they are cheap and/or low quality).

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I think all bamboo is pre-finished, and it is the finish that is providing the scratch resistance, not the wood. –  dbracey Mar 9 '12 at 19:00
    
@dbracey I don't know about all, but most bamboo flooring is pre-finished. However, it is not the finish that makes it scratch resistance. Horizontal or vertical bamboo scratches quite easily, but strand bamboo is very hard (2 times oak) and that is where the scratch resistance comes from. –  aphoria Mar 10 '12 at 13:41
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Consider that pre-finished flooring has a much more durable finish than finished-in-place flooring. Pre-finished is a two-part system that hardens via chemical reaction, and is also impregnated with silica to make it very wear-resistant.

The down-sides are that it won't be flat, it will have cracks between boards, and you can't refinish it (you just replace it).

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Why can't you refinish pre-finished solid wood floors? –  auujay Mar 9 '12 at 20:08
    
Can't sand them, because the finish is so hard and has the impregnated silica. You could but it would take forever. –  dbracey Mar 9 '12 at 21:08
    
I've had my pre-finished wood floor refinished and it came out great. We had originally gone with a whitened oak look and later decided to do the rest of the house in normal red oak. At about 20 years we had the original whitened oak redone and stained to match the rest of the house. –  user14588 Aug 18 '13 at 7:34
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