Best Practices for Designing Exotic Wood Flooring

I am a self proclaimed wood nerd and rightfully so.  For many years, I managed a retail woodworking store where I bought and sold some of the most beautiful and rarest woods in the world.  As such, I can truly appreciate wood floors made from these unique species.  However there are advantages and disadvantages to consider when selecting exotic woods for your project.

Advantages of Most Exotic Wood Species

1. Hardness

Exotic wood species, with the exception of Teak, offer the hardest available Janka ratings averaging 2300 psi as opposed to standard White Oak at 1340.  Therefore, exotic wood species are a great choice when concerned about durability.

2. Unique appearance

There is no mistaking the exquisite elegance that some exotic species offer to a design. From deep rich Mahogany to the inherent lineal striping of Zebrawood. Exotics offer an allure many find irresistible.

3. Availability

Most are available in an engineered wood flooring platform for increased stability. Also available in solid but be mindful (see disadvantages).

4. Finish

Can be purchased unfinished for customization by Woodwright Hardwood Floor Company (shop finished) or field finished, typically sanded smooth to show off their beauty.

Disadvantages of Most Exotic Wood Species

1. Unstable

Many exotic wood species are extremely reactive to changes in moisture, demonstrating substantial expansion and contraction. Please be cautious of the environment you are bringing the wood into and plan to maintain a tighter tolerance of temperature and humidity fluctuations than normal, especially with solid wood flooring.

2. Finish

The majority of exotic wood flooring available on the internet are factory finished with multiple coats of urethane and a filled grain. This causes the surface to be reflective which tends to create a “fake” wood look throughout the flooring. This process also makes re-coating, the act of abrading the top layer and applying a new top coat, very difficult.

3. Wear Layer

A majority of the prefinished exotic wood flooring available is manufactured with a thin wear layer, typically 0.6mm to 2mm. This limits the number of re-sandings in the future.

4. Site Finish

Site finishing exotic wood species can be done, but it presents its own set of challenges. Please read below.

5. Color Changes

All wood species change color over time and exposure to UV light.  However, exotic wood species are more prone to color changes. Please set clients’ tolerance for color changes in advance.

Tips for proper selection of your exotic wood floor

  1. Buy from a well known source with experience dealing with hard and unstable exotic wood species.
  2.  If site finishing your floor it is critical, please use a reputable, knowledgeable wood flooring contractor that is well versed in best finish practices of exotic wood floors.
  3. Job site conditions, especially in residential, can present challenges in the installation and finishing stages of a project. Please extended the wood floor acclimation period to reduce your risk.
  4. Dust management is vital. Many species have toxic dust that can cause health concerns or issues in the home such as staining fabric, etc.
  5.  Exotics are often difficult to stain.  The finish product a contractor uses regularly may not be compatible with your exotic wood floor specie.
  6. Manage the clients expectations by addressing the above issues in advance.  Any specie selected can be successful with proper education and expectations.

As you begin exploring your design options with exotic wood flooring species, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.  Exotic wood species make beautiful wood floors and can be a success if managed correctly from design to finishing.

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