One of the major custom hardwood flooring trends we’re seeing is the growing popularity of exotic hardwoods. Trees from all over the world can be used for hardwood floors, and many homeowners love the uncommonness and natural beauty of exotic species.
Because of their rarity, exotic woods are an excellent way to achieve the distinction and uniqueness that homeowners are looking for in custom hardwood flooring. Trees from other countries can vary dramatically from those we’re used to in the U.S. Brazilian or Asian walnut will look quite different than American walnut grown here.
And because of the rich variety of woods available—with their wide selection of colors and grain patterns—exotic woods can greatly expand your interior design options, such as allowing you to "tie in" your flooring with furniture, bookshelves, walls, or windows.
At Ralph’s, the most-popular exotic hardwoods among our customers include Asian Walnut, Brazilian Walnut, Spotted Gum, Cumaru, Santos Mahogany, Brazilian Cherry, and Amendoim.
If you’re intrigued by the possibilities opened up by using exotic wood, you probably have some questions about it. Here are three facts about exotic hardwoods that we hope will answer a few of them.
1. Many exotic woods are extremely hard.
The hardness of hardwood is measured on the Janka scale, and exotic hardwoods dominate the top of the Janka ratings. For example, Brazilian Cherry—perhaps the most popular exotic wood—has a rating of 2350, compared to only 1450 for Hard Maple and 995 for regular Cherry. And many exotic woods rank higher than Brazilian Cherry.
Hardness is particularly important if you expect your floors to see rough use. Pets, children, or having the floors in a heavy traffic area are all good reasons to consider hardness an important factor.
2. Exotic hardwood is available in solid, engineered, prefinished, and finished on site products.
Most options available with traditional hardwood flooring are also available with exotic woods. It comes in different sheens, widths, and lengths.
3. Responsible harvesters replenish what they cut.
Some may be concerned about the environmental harm that could come from harvesting exotic species for use as flooring. But, by and large, the industry is diligent about replanting. At Ralph’s, we work only with suppliers that practice sustainable forest management.
We’d be glad to talk with you more about how you can stylishly use exotic wood in your home. There’s a whole world of possibilities.
We have the good fortune at Ralph’s Hardwoods to be located in Wisconsin. Nowhere else in the country will you find better material for finished wood flooring than Wisconsin hardwood. There are several reasons why this is so:
Wisconsin hardwood, as well as hardwood from other upper Midwestern states, is harder and more stable than hardwood from regions to the south. For example, northern oak is about 20 percent harder and 30 percent more stable than southern oak. This means less dending, gapping, and buckling and a floor that generally requires less maintenance. All things being equal, northern harwood will require resanding much further down the road, saving you money in the long run.
Wisconsin hardwoods also have a significantly different appearance from southern oak. Preferred wood characteristics are a matter of individual taste, but for many of our customers, Wisconsin hardwoods have just the look they’re after.
Obviously, wood from Wisconsin doesn’t have to be transported far to get to us, thereby reducing shipping costs and the impact on our environment. Wisconsin hardwood is not only a highly durable and strikingly attractive choice, it’s also a great value.
There’s also the appeal of choosing wood floors that reflect the natural beauty of the region where you live. Many Wisconsin homeowners take pride in having finished wood flooring produced from their own state’s forests. At Ralph’s, we understand and share that pride, so we’re always delighted when a customer selects Wisconsin hardwoods for their custom wood flooring.
If you’re shopping for wood floors, strongly consider Wisconsin hardwood—its reputation for satisfying homeowners is well deserved.
...in a home in Wisconsin? Ok so maybe it isn't the best start for a joke but the real story is worth hearing.
A few years ago a couple came to our showroom looking for a specific hardwood floor for their new home. They were working with an interior designer who was helping them create a look, that while very unique, was perfectly suited to this couple.
Now in most cases this wouldn't be unusual as many customers come to us looking for a specific or unique floor. In this case however, the couple was looking to create lower level entertaining area that looked and felt like an old English pub. They loved the atmosphere of pubs and their favorite restaurant also had a very authentic “old” feel to it.
Now I have never been to England or in a real English pub and so off I went to do a little research. I visited the the National Wood Flooring Convention and I saw a lot of really cool floors but realized what I really needed to do was visit one of the sources of the original inspiration for the look the homeowners dreamed about.
As I descended the stairs into the restaurant's cellar-like main room, I began to understand the effect the homeowner and designer wanted to re-create - charming, lived in but not worn out and above all else, comfortable. The customer’s vision was starting to implant itself in my mind and I knew how the right hardwood floor would be essential.
We eventually settled on a reclaimed hardwood floor that achieved the level of comfort, hospitality and enjoyment they were seeking. Looking back on the overall experience and seeing the finished product, I realize how we grow as a hardwood floor company each time we get the opportunity to help a homeowner find that perfect look. In the end projects like this are as much a journey for us as they are for the homeowner.
Here is the finished product, let me know what you think.
In this article in Hardwood Floors Magazine, internationally renowned ecologist and environmentalist Patrick Moore says we should embrace using wood instead of non-renewable materials such as steel, concrete and plastic.
As wood is a natural product, using it should be a common sense ecological choice but it isn't. Whether it is the reputation of the foresty industry or concerns over clear cutting, we regularly meet people who love the look and quality of hardwood floors but worry it is a non-ecological choice.
We don't want to suggest that all forestry practices are perfect or that using products other than wood is bad. Rather we just want to help educate people to the idea that hardwood is as eco-friendly, and potentially more so, than other floor options.
Solar factories have no carbon footprint
As Moore points out in his article, every substitute for wood products must be produced in factories but wood comes from forests which are effectively 'solar factories' that require no fossil fuels, only time, to produce. When you consider this, installing anything other than a wood floor means using a product that is almost is guaranteed to cause an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
Trees can and do grow back
We don't support non-sustainable logging practices but as Moore suggests a lot of rhetoric is used to give the impression that logging is somehow different from other forms of forest disturbance such as fire, ice or volcanos. Moore even goes as far as to say, "Forests are just as capable of recovering from destruction by logging as they are from any other form of disturbance."
Natural, beautiful and eco-friendly
Hardwood floors come in a wide array of eco-specific options such as reclaimed timbers or specialty bamboo but all hardwood, whether it is Wisconsin Maple or American Cherry, are eco-friendly by definition. So embrace the natural beauty of hardwood and rest easy you are also being good to the earth.