Learn About Acacia Wood: A Hard & Durable Flooring, with Unique Beauty at a Reasonable Price
Once you’ve seen Acacia wood flooring the chances are you’ll never forget it. It certainly is unique in appearance and not for those who like uniformity in their flooring, as you can see from the image below. At Home Flooring Pros we think there’s something sensual and luxurious about this wood, but accept that it would only suit certain properties and even then should perhaps be used as part of a carefully considered interior design scheme. Read on to find out more about Acacia wood and whether it’s right for you.
What is Acacia Wood: And what else is it used for?
Acacia is a term that refers to more than 1,200 varieties of tree and shrub species that are native to Australia and Africa, but are also grown in parts of Asia, the Pacific Islands and North America. These varieties grow in diverse habitats including rainforests, woodlands and coastal dunes. The acacia species used in hardwood flooring are grouped into two categories: small leaf acacia and large leaf acacia.
Acacia is known by several other names, most commonly asian walnut and wattle. It is marked by a wide, open and modulating grain pattern combined with distinctive knots that produce beauty and interest. The wood is also resistant to water, mold and fire (NOTE-fire resistant, not fireproof!).
Richly colored acacia wood has many uses including:
- Attractive, durable wood flooring
- Elegant furniture
- Uniquely pattered bowls and plates
- Wind and string instruments
- Wood art
Acacia trees and shrubs also provide seeds that are ground into flour rich in fiber and protein, edible gum with antibacterial properties, tannins for tanning, and tinctures and ointments to treat a range of digestive and skin maladies.
Acacia Flooring Options
Like most wood flooring species, acacia is used in the production of three types of products.
Solid Acacia flooring is 3/4″ (19mm) thick. Plank width ranges from 3” to 5”. Standard and hand scraped acacia flooring is produced in solid wood.
Engineered Acacia flooring is available in 3/8” (10mm) and 1/2″ (12mm) thicknesses with plank widths from 3” to 5”. As with solid flooring, standard and hand scraped engineered acacia are made. Engineered acacia has an engineered plywood base and a solid acacia wood wear layer.
Laminate Acacia flooring features a photographic applique of acacia wood fused to a wood composite base and covered with a clear, protective wear layer. It is made in thicknesses from 1/4” (7mm) to 9/16” (15mm) and a variety of plank lengths.
Several colors are available in all the acacia flooring products. Warranties are as little as 5 years for cheap acacia laminate to 50 years for solid hardwood flooring.
Leading acacia flooring brands and prices include:
- Solid hardwood flooring: TAS Flooring, Mazama and US Floors with prices from $3.00 to $8.00 per square foot. Products include standard, hand scraped and hand carved finishes.
- Engineered flooring: Jasper at Build Direct, Saso, Armstrong, LM Flooring, Green Touch and Mohawk with pricing from $2.60-$8.00 per square foot. Hand scraped and hand carved flooring is available in addition to standard finish.
- Laminate flooring: Lamton, Mohawk and Armstrong with pricing from $0.80 to $3.50 per square foot. Styles mimic solid and engineered flooring options.
Acacia Wood Flooring Pros & Cons
There are hardwood flooring pros and cons for all species, and the following list will assist you in comparing acacia to the other hardwood types you’re considering.
Acacia flooring advantages:
Color variety and beauty – The large number of species used for flooring gives you an excellent selection of colors from chocolate brown through rusty reds to off-whites and golden yellows, all with acacia’s distinctive grain patterns and textures. However, note the acacia flooring problems below for more information about color variation.
Options – This flooring is produced in solid, engineered and laminate in a variety of plank widths and detail choices such as popular hand scraped and hand carved finishes.
Durability and wear – Acacia is harder than oak and maple and provides many years of dependable wear before refinishing or replacing is required (see Durability & Hardness below for more details).
Easy maintenance and low costs – Acacia flooring is easily maintained with sweeping or just-damp mopping, so the floor won’t trap allergens and dirt like carpet does, and no special cleaners are required.
Cost – Most acacia flooring is moderately priced which, combined with its durability and low maintenance requirements, produces outstanding cost value over the lifetime of the floor.
Resistance to water and mold – The wood is naturally resistant to moisture and can be installed above and at grade (all types) and below grade (engineered) too
Sustainability and Eco-friendliness – This is a green flooring choice because acacia grows quickly, harvesting is managed in most areas, production requires fewer emissions than many flooring choices and the wood is recyclable and reusable.
Versatile installation – Installation options vary by manufacturer and product but include nailing, gluing and floating the material.
Acacia flooring disadvantages:
Short plank lengths – Because acacia plants used in flooring are usually shrubs or short trees, long planks are not possible.
Knots, stains, variations and defects – While you might enjoy the rustic and varied character of acacia, some prefer wood flooring that is “cleaner” and more consistent. Because it is so distinctive, it is also therefore a very personal choice which will not appeal to everyone – so it could be a negative factor when/if you come to sell your home.
Possible shrinkage – Acacia flooring problems occur when the wood hasn’t been properly kiln dried and in very dry homes.
Expense – This is a pro and a con because acacia costs less than many exotic wood species but is still costlier than most carpet and sheet vinyl flooring.
See Acacia Flooring Problems below for more information on what can go wrong with this material.
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Acacia Hardness & Durability
One of the reasons to consider acacia hardwood flooring is its hardness. The Janka Hardness Rating for small leaf acacia is 2220 and for large leaf acacia is 1700, so the wood is harder than popular species like hard maple (1450), white oak (1360) and red oak (1290), though not as hard as exotic woods such as African cedar (2600) and Brazilian walnut/ipe (3670).
The hardness of acacia wood offers two significant benefits. First, it wears well, so is very durable. With proper care, solid acacia hardwood flooring will last 50-100 years depending on its thickness. It can be refinished multiple times over its lifetime and look like new each time.
Secondly, acacia’s hardness makes it less susceptible than softer woods to dents, gouges, scratches and other damage. It is a good choice for families with pets, active kids and their toys and anywhere very heavy furniture will be used. Acacia is popular in commercial settings, though warranties are shorter than when used in residential application.
Click here for other durable flooring options.
Further Acacia Flooring Points to Consider
We’ve mentioned potential acacia flooring problems that you should consider before selecting it for your home or business. Here are more details.
- Plank lengths are just one to four feet due to the limited height of acacia shrubs and trees. Each case of acacia flooring will contain planks of various lengths, but the average might be less than two feet. Compare that with the industry standard length of 3.5 feet. Consider a room 20 feet long. Each row will likely have eight to twelve seams when acacia is installed versus just five or six with most other hardwood species.
- Color variation in acacia wood is more extreme than with most hardwoods. As a result, your installed flooring will likely show more colors than the flooring sample you used to make your selection. For example, if you choose a sample that is rusty brown, that color will dominate, but each plank might also show deep brown, golden tans or off-white hues from combining both heartwood (darker) and sapwood (lighter).
- Knots and small defects are more prevalent in wood produced from short, shrubby trees because of shorter trunks and branches that are often twisted. Getting long runs of clean acacia isn’t possible. To harvest any usable timber from acacia, wood with knots, mineral stains, noticeable color variation and other blemishes must be included.
- Acacia is prone to buckling when not properly dried or acclimated and in very arid conditions. This wood is actually quite stable, not typically prone to these issues. However, when acacia isn’t dried to about 6% to 8% moisture content, it might continue to dry out in your home. When it dries, it shrinks; when it shrinks, planks will separate and buckle depending on the installation method. Either way, the results will be calamitous for the floor. The same result occurs when the wood isn’t given at least five days in the house before installation to acclimate to the home’s humidity level. Finally, desert homes and homes where a forced-air furnace runs without a humidifier become extremely dry. This creates a significant threat of shrinkage for any hardwood, but acacia is more susceptible than most. Therefore it is essential that this potential problem accounted for by opting for one or more of these solutions:
- Choose flooring dried to 6% to 8% humidity, often requiring two passes through the kiln
- Allow the wood to acclimate in your home in open boxes for at least five days
- Maintain a humidity level in your home of at least 35% but not higher than 55% at which point the acacia might take on moisture and expand, causing a new set of problems
The first three acacia floor problems might not be a concern to you. The thousands of homeowners that have made acacia a trending home flooring material view them as part of the uniquely appealing appearance of this beautiful wood. The final issue with acacia flooring is overcome with the solutions provided. In short, if you love its rich and varied beauty, the potential acacia problems shouldn’t stop you from putting it on your short list of possible flooring materials.
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About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years’ experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”