Domestic and exotic hardwood dealers like McIlvain are seeing continued growth in the demand for exotic hardwoods, particularly for use in exotic hardwood floors. Domestic hardwoods have traditionally been used for this application, though, so it’s only natural for customers to ask for a breakdown of the differences between the two woods. Two woods that beg a comparison are Black Walnut, one of the most popular domestic hardwoods, and its exotic counterpart, Brazilian Walnut, which is also known as Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”).
Hardness and Durability
One characteristic of a wood used for flooring is its hardness. The industry-wide hardness scale, the Janka Hardness Scale, gives Ipe a very high rating of 3680, while Black Walnut comes in at only 1010. The exotic variety clearly tops the domestic in this category, offering higher durability, better pest control, and superior rot resistance. Even if left untreated, Ipe is estimated to last approximately 40 years, and if effectively treated and properly maintained, it can last up to a century. As a result of its high resistance to decay, Ipe is often used for decks and other outdoor applications.
In contrast to domestic Walnut’s black-ish brown appearance, Ipe has a fairly wide range of coloring, from olive to black. The fine, swirly graining of both woods are similar to one another, but the domestic variety tends to have more swirls and other variations in color throughout. In this area, the domestic and exotic woods are probably on par with one another, as appearance is highly subjective and both woods are regarded as being highly appealing.
While the prices of most exotic woods are much higher than domestic varieties, the price of Black Walnut is actually very similar to that of Ipe. Engineered Black Walnut costs between $5.00 and $5.50 for 3- to 5-inch planks, while 3-inch Ipe ranges from $7.40 to $8.80, with allowances for fluctuation due to importation issues. While the domestic Walnut clearly wins the price war, it is far from being considered a bargain.
The reason for the relatively high price for the domestic Black Walnut is that the wood has natural availability limitations, such as its smaller size and shorter growing seasons. Black Walnut trees often top out between 30 to 70 feet high, making long planks extremely rare, and lower branches make knots more prolific than other domestic hardwoods. These natural characteristics mean that much Walnut lumber fails to meet top FAS (Firsts and Seconds) grading system requirements, so as a result, the grading system for FAS Walnut has been altered to reflect Walnut’s natural appearance, a change that only makes sense.
While domestic Black Walnut may have understandably given way to its Brazilian counterpart in use for hardwood flooring, lumber experts can recommend many other excellent applications for domestic Walnut lumber. With over 200 years of experience in the lumber industry, McIlvain Company has a wide selection of domestic and exotic lumber. Their unbeatable expertise, quality selection, and great customer service have been pleasing customers for over two centuries. Their specialists would be more than happy to answer any wood-related questions you might have, whether about purpleheart or some other species. For more information on how McIlvain can help you with your next lumber-related project, click here to visit their website today.
From the McIlvain Blog
Want to learn more about the lumber industry and get tips on using domestic and exotic lumbers? The McIlvain blog is a great resource for all of your lumber-related questions. Check out the selections below: