By Steve Cooper
Exotic hardwood is a hot choice in flooring. With the amazing colors and rich natural character seen in so many species, it’s easy to see why. Choose carefully and you can have a floor that doesn’t look just like your neighbors’. In fact, it will wow them.
Names of the species are as exotic as the look. Jatoba, merbau, zebrawood, and ipe are a few. But these are sometimes sold under more American-friendly names. These coined names include Brazilian Cherry, Brazilian Maple, African Walnut, and Patagonian Pecan.
But a word of caution: How you approach shopping may impact your long-term satisfaction with the performance of the wood you choose. The look that you are so excited about at purchase time may not be as stable as you think.
A lot of cutting, shaping and finishing is done to transform wood into flooring, but the foundational material remains a product of nature. That’s why we love it! As a forest product, wood is subject to natural processes, including its response to humidity and sunlight.
When shopping, make certain that you see enough of a species to understand the variations in its look. Ask the seller if they guarantee that the samples you see are what your new flooring will look like as it matures. Will colors and textures remain as they are or will they change? The look of some exotics may change substantially as they darken over time. Better, name-brand manufacturers adjust for these variations. However, websites selling imported flooring on price alone may not. They may be purchasing products that go quickly from harvest to milling to finishing without letting the wood settle into what it will become. Even shipment via freight ships can have an impact on the quality of the product.
Beware the dot-coms that seem to offer too-good-to-be-true prices. There’s a reason they can do it. Their exotic flooring may change from the light and bright you thought you were getting—taking on a shadowy cast that later obscures original grain patterns and appealing colors.
For more information on flooring visit the World Floor Covering Association’s Consumer Carpet & Flooring Guide.