Brazilian Walnut Flooring
Brazilian walnut flooring is known for two factors: greater color variation and a high degree of density. The hardwood that, in spite of its name, is not related to its similar-sounding American walnut counterpart has a Janka scale rating of 3680. Visually, the hardwood, because of higher grades, is characterized by a deep, rich brown color, but a wide array of hues, including greens, yellows, and reds, can be found in lower grades.
Properly known as Ipe, Brazilian walnut is found in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and Guatemala, although most domestically-available hardwoods are milled in South America. The color of the wood changes with location, varying from a yellowish tan to green to black-brown. All, however, transition from a medium to darker shade of brown with time. Color, as well, significantly changes with grading, and Brazilian walnut flooring is sold under one of four types:
• Clear is given to hardwoods that are consistently a rich, deep reddish brown shade. This hardwood is composed exclusively of heartwood.
• Select and Better has greater color variation. Reds, greens, and yellows are mixed into the darker or medium brown hue.
• Rustic offers even greater color variation.
• Lapacho is a color-sort grade given to green hardwoods.
Density makes Brazilian walnut flooring ideal for spaces needing high shock resistance, but it presents a handful of challenges in installation. Generally, the wood is too strong for hand tools, and to add nails, holes must be pre-drilled first. Oil finishes, additionally, may react adversely, either not drying or changing color. If you decide to go with unfinished Brazilian walnut, as opposed to a prefinished product, be ready with a test piece for trying out different stains.
Brazilian walnut, as well, is known as one of the most stable hardwoods. However, this stability is within a 10-percent equilibrium point; if it goes below, the wood becomes very unstable and may shrink significantly in drier areas. The hardwood, to combat this change, must be over-dried in the kiln process.