Brazilian Walnut Flooring

Brazilian walnut – a common name for Ipe – is a very dense South and Central American hardwood with a rich brown color and fine graining. Resembling American walnut, to a certain degree, earned this hardwood its nickname, but the two species are not related. A Janka scale rating of 3680 and significant color variation set this species apart.

Ipe is found in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala, but most hardwood is milled in South America. Color changes with location, ranging from a yellowish tan to green to black-brown. Over time, the hardwood's appearance transforms from a medium to dark brown. However, significant color variations still exist between grades. Brazilian walnut flooring can be purchased in one of the following grades:

  • Clear Grade describes Brazilian hardwood flooring that's exclusively heartwood. The look is a rich, even darker reddish brown.

  • Select and Better Grade has far greater color variation than its Clear counterpart. Among the deep reddish brown are hints of green, red, and yellow.

  • Rustic has the greatest color variation for this species.

  • Lapacho is a color-sort grade, one that's solely for green hardwoods.

Brazilian walnut's density and high level of durability are necessary for areas requiring high shock resistance. Care must be taken in installation, however. The density makes working with hand tools difficult, and as a result, the wood must be pre-drilled before any nailing is done. Oil finishes, additionally, react negatively with the hardwood, possibly not drying or changing color. Any do-it-yourselfer opting to add a finish to unfinished Brazilian walnut should try out various stains on test pieces. Otherwise, prefinished Brazilian walnut is more convenient.

Brazilian walnut, as well, is one of the world's most stable hardwoods, but within a 10-percent equilibrium point. Should the wood go below, it becomes very unstable, and if the flooring is installed in dry areas, it may shrink drastically. To prevent this, the hardwood is over-dried in the kilning process.

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