Floors of Import

floors of  import

Exotic woods are “the” new flooring status symbol, as more and more discerning homeowners with a taste for something different come on board. By Dana Asher

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What’s new in flooring? Wood. Not just any wood, of course, but wood that hails from the forests of Brazil, the Amazon Basin, the depths of Africa, and the Far East. Domestic oak and maple, a longtime staple in American homes, now have to make room for some foreign company.

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Why the sudden popularity of “exotic” woods? For starters, they’re different. “Homeowners are looking to install flooring that reflects a totally unique design concept,” says Debbie Munden, senior designer for Amtico, a leading manufacturer of floor products. “Our cherry and chocolate wood looks are bestsellers.” Second, many of these exotics are eco-friendly. Bamboo, for example, is actually a grass with a quick growth cycle, making it a prime “green” choice. Palm trees, with more than 150 species growing in countries such as Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America, are being hailed as a sustainable import. And cork, unlike hardwood produced from cut trees, comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Since it can be harvested without killing the tree, it’s high on the sustainability scale.

And these imported woods are colorful. “You’ll find a wide palette among the exotics,” says Anita Howard, director of communications for the National Wood Flooring Association. “There’s even a purple variety—purpleheart from South America.”

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Since these imported woods naturally come in rich shades of yellows, reds, purples, and chocolates, most don’t require a stain. And the shade extends entirely through the wood, so if it scrapes or scratches, the color doesn’t chip off. “Their own color is so precious,” says Jeffrey DeFrancesco of Suburban Floors in Mount Kisco. “Nobody would stain a Brazilian cherry floor in walnut as you might an oak floor.”

Finally, these stunning wood floors go well with today’s looks. Global-inspired furnishings and accessories, so hot right now, mesh well with these imported woods.

Pricing varies widely and it’s best to shop around. “Cost depends on the way the wood is milled and finished. It also comes in different widths: wider planks cost more per square foot,” reports Gino Marchetti, a sales representative with Sam’s Floor Covering in White Plains. “The pricing varies depending upon what part of the tree it comes from. Wood from the outermost part of the tree has the least variation. Quality manufacturers mill the better part of the wood and throw away the rest.” Whether you purchase the floor finished or unfinished or require standard three-quarter-inch floors or engineered floors (a veneer over hardwood or plywood that can be laid over concrete floors) can factor into the cost as well.

Exotic wood floors are still a relatively small part of the market—about 15 percent—but there’s evidence that’s changing. “Oak still has about fifty percent of the market share,” reports Howard, “but a few years ago it had about seventy-five percent.”


Across the Boards


Looking at the exotics but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Exotic wood floors span the spectrum of color, grain, and hardness. Even when you settle on a single species, it’s impossible to guarantee its exact appearance: like all organic materials, wood comes with its own character and mineral variations, and will change over time.

“Wood floors are an investment,” says Anita Howard, director of communications for the National Wood Flooring Association. “They’ll add beauty and value to your home for years to come.” Exotic wood floors, with their distinctive good looks and unique nature, only more so.

Considering going against the domestic grain with an exotic wood? Below, the lowdown on a few foreign favorites.


Australian Australian



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