There are many perks to exploring different types of hardwood, particularly those in a certain family. Brazilian hardwood is prized for its durability, incredible range of hues, and versatility in where it can be used in or outside your home.
Whether you are fascinated by the deep colors found in Brazilian offerings or love the luxury of international products, note that not all Brazilian hardwoods are created equal. Some are subject to trading bans, while others can be difficult to work with because they are too hard.
Cumaru, better known by its nickname Brazilian teak, is a prized type of Brazilian hardwood that shines in all the right ways—literally and metaphorically!
To Teak or Not To Teak
Prior to settling on teak hardwood, let’s go through the different kinds of teak on the market. One of the downsides to Cumaru is that it has a deceiving title.
Types of Teak
Similar to African teak, Brazilian teak is not actually authentic teakwood. This may come as a surprise to some customers, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Some of the greatest types of teak are actually slight variations, and they function just the same. If you are looking for more genuine teak, however, Cumaru is probably not for you.
Burmese teak wood comes in a golden-brown hue and is true teak, but it can be hard to find because it takes around 50 years to grow before being forested. Thailand teak has an analogous problem, as it has been placed in the same category as other “endangered” trees. This is an issue throughout real teakwoods and is a main reason why imitations are frequently substituted.
Indonesian teak wood is your best bet for real teak that is harvested with a manageable turnaround time (every 20-30 years) and is not threatened by endangerment. Otherwise, real teak has a wait-time for harvesting every 70 to 100 years, which only raises its value (and price). Cumaru is the best of both worlds in terms of price and environmental consciousness.
While Cumaru is labeled as Brazilian teak, it does not only hail from Brazil. However, this is not worth considering a con unless you are very seriously stuck on the idea of having flooring from this country. Cumaru is from Central America and some northern parts of South America (namely Brazil) and is typically found in tropical climates.
Most hardwoods found domestically in the United States has a lower price because it does not factor in time, labor, and additional resources necessary to ship materials across oceans. The same goes for wood in Canada. Once you start to harvest hardwood in Central and South America, the value goes up—but so does the cost. This is worth considering when researching Cumaru options.
Dipteryx odarata, the proper name for Cumaru, is typically 130 to 160 feet tall with a diameter of three to five feet. This makes it one of the larger Brazilian hardwood trees. It weighs about 68lbs when it is not wet and has interlocked grain.
While available in many underlying shades, Cumaru is best known for its mid-to-dark brown coloring. Sometimes there are hints of red in the wood, while other times, it presents as purple. These variations allow for a plethora of options in matching rugs, furniture, or paint on walls. You can truly DIY a room by tailoring the color of your chosen Cumaru to fit what is around it.
A bonus to the wood is that it often smells like vanilla and cinnamon while being cut and shaped. This is because the tree produces tonka beans, which have a similar aroma. It is not known for causing any severe or even notable mild allergic reactions, unlike other Brazilian hardwoods.
Perfect for Outdoors
While Cumaru can be used for the ends of tools, cabinets, saunas, and of course, indoor flooring, it is magnificent when installed as decking.
Janka Scale Durability
The hardness of a type of wood is determined by the Janka scale, measured by placing a steel ball halfway deep into the thickness of a piece of said wood. Cumaru ranks in the highest and most durable bracket of the Janka scale. It comes in with a score of 3540, and anything above 2500 is considered “Class One.” This is typical of Brazilian hardwoods.
Issues may arise due to the tightly interlocked grain and how tough Cumaru is when shaping it. Additionally, it can dull tools when trying to cut pieces. Be careful when working Cumaru to avoid injuring yourself or harming the wood before use. If you are using nails to install this hardwood, use a pre-drilling technique so the boards do not splinter.
Weathering the Weather
Not only does teak withstand water and wick away reasonable amounts of moisture, but it can also hold up underneath heavy weight and the wear and tear of excessive footsteps. It retains a sheen from its natural oils and should not be refinished or stained.
Homeowners often play around with light or dark stains on old wooden flooring, but if you want hardwood that can accommodate full renovations, Cumaru is not your best bet.
Another con is that the oils can make gluing boards of Cumaru together a rough process. The properties that help this wood endure in different environments are also what makes it so resistant to superficial modification.
Protective Measures for Cumaru
Like with any hardwood, it is essential to know how to care for the flooring year in and year out.
Since Cumaru is so long-lasting (due to its durability and weathering qualities), you will have this floor on your hands for quite a while, and accidents will inevitably happen. Whether it be a storm, a spill, or a dent created by an animal, you must be prepared for any worst-case scenario. Fast, calculated actions can fix Cumaru easily.
Unfortunately, Cumaru requires a unique level of maintenance. Don’t worry too much; it is not tedious.
Adjust your regular floor cleaning routine to include oils and wash the floors with them appropriately in correlation with how often you use the hardwood (think: parties with many guests, how many occupants are in your home, whether or not you have rambunctious dogs, and so on). If your floor is not used that often, you can oil it once every year. For frequently-stepped-on wood, oil it every six months with a bare cloth.
Sun exposure and unpredictability in temperature or humidity do impact Cumaru over time. Be cautious of these variables as they change, especially if you live in a climate that is unpredictable or experiences all four seasons.
Warm, humid weather can cause boards to grow larger. It is particularly bad for the wood if humidity exceeds 55%. When temperatures drop drastically, boards can grow smaller. When combined, these fluctuations produce gaps in flooring and sometimes even cracks.
Mold and fungus breed in these gaps, as well as many different kinds of debris. It is also a safety hazard, as heels of shoes or fabric can get caught in the crevices and cause slips.
To fix these spaces between boards, first, you should use a flathead screwdriver to pull up anything stuck in the middle. A mixture of plain water and ammonia can be added to the space and wiped with a mop. Use a cloth for drying and proceed to fill the gap with additional strips of wood, pieces of rope, or wood putty.
Since you cannot stain teak, it is difficult to repair gaps because you may not be able to adequately blend in new boards, rope, or putty.
Your best bet for regular cleaning is with a vacuum and a broom.
Frequently wetting wood is never a good idea because it can leave stains, even if your floor is resistant to water like teak. Steaming should also be avoided so as to not contribute to premature discoloration that may come from sun exposure. Change the position of area rugs from time to time to alleviate the stress of the sun on only one section of floor.
We always present our customers with quality, affordable selections of hardwood. Brazilian hardwood flooring is no exception to this rule. While it can come at a hefty price, Cumaru is a cheaper option for those looking to invest in sustainable and stunning floors.