Have you ever walked into a home and been taken aback by rich-toned flooring that feels sturdy and reliable under your feet? Did you marvel at the way that it resists scratches from the paws of animals or evades stains from the drink your friend spilled? What you’re admiring is likely well-installed Brazilian hardwood flooring.
What you may not be able to see are the few downsides to this particular type of flooring and the ways that it can be detrimental to your health, home, or good-standing with laws (yes, you read that correctly, there are legal properties to this woodworking business).
If you’re invested in the beautiful style and gorgeous color of this wood, you may be able to overlook the pitfalls (apart from the legally restricted varieties—there are always dupes or comparable finds!). If you’re willing to make the investment, Brazilian hardwood can be the most exemplary addition to that home renovation you’ve been putting off for years.
Without jumping to any conclusions or purchases, let’s go through all of the important aspects of Brazilian hardwood, where it comes from, what it can offer, and what you must be careful about. The final decision then lies in your hands—or your feet!
Geographical Origins of Brazilian Hardwood Flooring
Before we get into the specifics about whether Brazilian hardwood is worthwhile or not, we should outline where exactly it comes from. Unlike domestic hardwood found in the United States or the neighboring country of Canada, Brazilian hardwood comes from offshore.
Labels Can Be Deceptive
It is possible for some hardwood marked as hailing from Brazil to come from other places in Central America and South America. For example, Brazilian teak is actually found in Mexico or Argentina and not Brazil, as the name suggests. Do some research before you assume that the nickname a hardwood goes by indicates where it truly is being forested.
Typically speaking, local hardwood is far cheaper than lumber bought and transported from overseas. The cost of the labor and the resources necessary to move such a heavy product immediately climbs.
You can cut out this middleman principle when you purchase wood from the United States or Canada with cheaper shipment. This might be of interest to someone trying to remodel their floors on a budget, as they could find comparable domestic wood that is slightly more affordable.
Domestic hardwood can retail in the wheelhouse of $5-$10 for each square foot. Alternatively, Brazilian hardwood ranges between $8-$14 for each square foot. That said, if durability is your concern, Brazilian hardwood is well worth the steep price and will pay itself back many times over the years.
Signs of Bad Products
If you think that you found an excellent sale, dig deeper. Not only are you potentially receiving a bad supply of hardwood, which wears and tears faster than the real deal, you are probably also participating in bad labor conditions for workers.
The process of milling Brazilian hardwood can be more laborious for workers because the wood itself is harder than other woods. That means the work being done is worth a higher pay grade because it takes more time and effort.
To guarantee that you are supporting fair wages and healthy working practices, you may have to shell out more money, but it is worth it in the long run for you, the workers, and the economy; a win-win-win.
Hardness of Hardwood
Perhaps the greatest part of Brazilian hardwood flooring is that it is incredibly durable. While this is only one of many factors in determining whether a wood is right for installing your home, it can make a big difference in whether it can endure harsh weather, animals, and insects.
This is what separates Brazilian hardwood from the rest—you can use it all throughout the home and in industrial or commercial settings since it will last through a multitude of footsteps and can endure heavy weight.
The Janka scale is the best way to determine the hardness of a type of wood. It was created to follow the process of pressing a steel ball halfway into the thickness of a piece of wood.
The highest numbers at the top of the scale are the most durable, and there are five classes that range from Class One (a Janka of 25000 or more) to Class Five (a Janka below 1000).
What the Janka Scale cannot determine is how susceptible a piece of wood may be to scratches. It can be complicated to guarantee whether or not a type of hardwood can resist being worn down by normal home occurrences like shoes, heavy furniture, drops, and spills.
Still, the good news is that Brazilian hardwood traditionally forgoes these worries. Most types of this wood rank at the highest level on the scale, comfortably situated in Class One.
For example, Brazilian cherry has a Janka rating of 2350, Cumaru (or Brazilian teak) comes in at 3540), and most remarkably, Ipe (Brazilian walnut) falls at the exceptionally high hardness of 3684. Just like the wood itself, your flooring will have a solid chance at dodging major dents, scuffs, and necessary refinishing like being sanded down every few years.
With such a high Janka Scale ranking, Ipe is worth looking into for outdoor flooring. It comes in a variety of beautiful hues, from a deep brown to a red-brown to yellow-brown with deposits of yellow throughout.
Ipe is a tropical wood, and the tree can grow to be 100-130 feet tall with a trunk that is 2 to 4 feet around.
What Are the Benefits of Ipe?
If you’re looking for the perfect wood to complete a brand new deck, then look no further.
Ipe was used in Coney Island for the iconic New York City boardwalk, enduring 25 years of storms, beach weathering, and extensive tourism. It did not need to be replaced or fixed for 25 years, an incredible feat for such a well-used stretch of hardwood.
Considering how long-lasting Ipe is, it’s remarkable that you can still find reasonable prices. If you are on a budget, this hardwood may be for you.
While Ipe is relatively rare within a big landscape, it is not in the CITIES Appendices—this means it’s legal to forest and import. Ipe is also not included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Ipe Installation and Prep Issues
If you plan on installing this hardwood for decking or flooring on your own, the process can be stressful. Ipe is hard to cut down because it has such a high Janka score and is incredibly dense. Cut edges are blunt, and it is frustrating to glue together pieces without fixing the wood before this step.
The Case Against Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian rosewood is one type of Brazilian hardwood you will want to avoid.
It has some of the same perks as most regional species, with a nearly identical size to Ipe. It ranks as 2,790 on the Janka Scale, a Class One durability that allows it to be sustainable against weathering.
Brazilian rosewood has a gorgeous “chocolate brown” hue, sometimes differing in light, warm tones like purples or reds. It is known for its streaking within the wood, giving it an identifiable look.
Legal Issues With Brazillian Rosewood
Brazilian rosewood is on both the CITES Appendix I and the IUCN Red List.
In recent decades, more than 20% of these trees have been forested or died off. Since the species is so heavily threatened, anything made of this wood can be confiscated during importation. This not only raises the price of pieces that are smuggled over borders but makes it highly illegal to sell or produce Brazilian rosewood.
Brazilian hardwood is available in two categories, just like most types of flooring: solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. The former is simply the direct wood taken from the tree and cut down into shapes, often priced for its authenticity.
The latter is created when a laminated piece of plywood or fiberboard is attached beneath a piece of hardwood. This wood is not broken down or moved around as easily over time as solid hardwood.
Engineered hardwood can last up to 30 years and doesn’t warp as much as solid hardwood under rough weather conditions. If you are installing Brazilian hardwood flooring on your own, it is worth considering the option of engineered hardwood to get more bang for your buck and make your process faster.
Here at Hardwood Bargains, we are committed to bringing you the best quality, sustainable, and visually pleasing flooring possible. You can now confidently decide if our Brazilian hardwood offerings are worth the investment or you would rather explore other options at different price points or for different purposes.
Brazilian Hardwood Floor Basics | The Spruce
Brazilian Rosewood |The Wood Database