Following on from our Walnut hardwood flooring buyers guide we thought our readers would appreciate a deep dive into the most sort after type of the species, Brazilian Walnut.
Brazilian Walnut is very particular and won’t suit everyone’s taste or budget, but it is a classic option that has always been it style.
This Brazilian walnut flooring guide includes a general review of the wood including its pros and cons. Then, we review the top ipe brands, the products they offer and the average cost of Brazilian walnut floors.
Readers can also see our guides to other popular hardwood species here.
Brazilian walnut is the name given to a group of seven tree species that are turned into flooring. All have a rich, dark appearance similar to walnut trees that grow in the United States, and hence the name Brazilian walnut. Ipe is another common name for these trees.
This exotic wood flooring combines gorgeous dark hues with tough-as-nails durability. Brazilian walnut is pricier than domestic hardwood flooring and can be difficult to install. Premium good looks come with a cost.
Brazilian Walnut Flooring Review
This wood has been imported for many years, and its popularity has risen dramatically in the last decade. It is considered a premium hardwood flooring and one of the most beautiful available.
Brazilian walnut (genus Tabebuia) is grown in Brazil and nearby South American countries. It grows in rainforests, and concerns about sustainable production and harvesting have been addressed.
Illegal harvesting and importing still occur, but you can avoid concerns by choosing a product certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Lacey Act or the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).
Ipe (rhymes with eBay) is a richly dark wood, like mahogany. Some is chocolate brown, while other varieties feature red and yellow hues. Brazilian walnut is widely considered one of the prettiest exotic hardwoods, and that accounts for the demand.
Ipe flooring begins at about 2 ¾ inch widths and can be as wide as 8 inches. Each box of flooring contains boards of various lengths, usually from about 1 to 7 feet with an average of 3 feet. This allows the installer planks so that butt ends are spaced properly relative to the boards next to it.
- Finish options:
Most Brazilian walnut is pre-finished with stain and/or just sealer with a topcoat of tough aluminum oxide that is very resistant to scratching. A few sellers also offer unfinished Brazilian walnut flooring.
Smooth boards are the most common and most affordable. Handscraped ipe is available at a premium cost.
- Solid and engineered:
Like all hardwood flooring, ipe is produced in both types. Engineered Brazilian walnut is preferred in bathrooms, laundry areas and on cement because moisture-related expansion and contraction is less likely to cause it to buckle or crack.
However, because the wood is also resistant to moisture, solid hardwood might be an option even where floors get wet.
Discuss this decision with your flooring retailer or installer to determine the right product for your application. Solid Brazilian walnut flooring costs up to twice as much, but because it can be refinished more times, has a lower lifetime cost than engineered flooring.
A wood’s hardness or density impacts its durability and wear performance. The Janka Scale measures the hardness or density of each wood species. Brazilian walnut has a hardness of 3680, and that makes it the hardest wood available for flooring.
Compare these Janka Scale scores to the hardness of ipe: Black walnut (1010), red oak (1290), Ash – used in baseball bats (1320), white oak (1360) and hard maple (1450).
Pros and Cons
We’ve alluded to some of the ipe advantages and disadvantages, but here’s the whole story.
Brazilian Walnut Advantages
These pros show why Brazilian walnut is some of today’s most in-demand hardwood flooring:
There’s a wow-factor with Brazilian walnut that is hard to resist. Oak, maple, hickory and other domestic hardwoods are certainly attractive woods. But when you prefer something out of the ordinary, ipe is unique and very appealing.
Brazilian walnut is a floor that will last 100+ years. Part of the Coney Island boardwalk was covered in Brazilian walnut for more than 30 years. The material has two to three times the hardness of domestic hardwood flooring, and that means it won’t easily dent or scratch. It stands up to heavy traffic, the claws of large dogs, hard-playing kids with toys and the occasional dropped pot or mug.
Can be refinished – but it’s required less often
The beauty is long-lasting and can be refreshed, if needed. Like most hardwood, ipe can be refinished multiple times – four or more times for solid hardwood and at least twice for engineered flooring.
As a bonus, its hardness means that refinishing is required in intervals of 25-30 years instead of the 15-25 for many other wood floors.
Naturally resistant to moisture
There are fewer worries about water with ipe than with domestic hardwood flooring. Because the wood is so dense, moisture penetrates slowly compared with softer woods. In fact, the wood resists moisture so well, Brazilian walnut is a popular choice for outdoor decking.
The result is that you can use solid Brazilian walnut in more locations and don’t need to be concerned about damp mopping it or sanitizing it with a steam mop.
Do you love warm floors? You won’t have the cracking or buckling problems with Brazilian walnut that occur with other wood flooring. Ipe is very stable, so temperature changes cause little movement in the wood, and the potential for problems is greatly reduced.
Fire and insect resistance
While not common problems inside most homes, most wood flooring burns easily and is attractive to bugs. The extreme hardness of ipe gives it a Class A fire rating, the best for building materials. And wood-boring insects like termites and carpenter ants are repelled.
Brazilian Walnut Disadvantages
Here are a few cons to consider before deciding that ipe is the right flooring for your home.
Higher material cost than domestic hardwood
There’s more on cost below, but the range for Brazilian walnut is about $4.25 to $15.50 per square foot for the planks. Installation accessories like the required subfloor, transition strips and fasteners cost an additional $.75 to $1.75 per square foot.
Domestic hardwoods start at closer to $1.75 per square foot and rarely cost more than $7.00. Demand for Brazilian walnut, lower supply than domestics and transportation/import fees contribute to the higher cost.
Higher installation cost
The strength of ipe is also a weakness. If oak is hardwood, then this is super-hardwood. That means it will bend flooring nails unless holes are drilled that the nails can be installed through.
That installation technique takes more time, and time is money for flooring contractors. Expect installation estimates of $4-$6 per square foot just for labor.
We recommend professional installation because Brazilian walnut is difficult to work with due to its hardness. If you do the work yourself, you’ll need a carbide blade on your saw, and you might need to replace it before you’re done. That’s in addition to pre-drilling fastener holes – and replacing a dulled drill bit a time or two.
The wood of each tree varies from very dark to medium dark, so you can expect a range of colors. Some consider the color variety part of the wood’s intriguing appearance. Others would prefer color consistency.
Dark shows dirt
The downside of Brazilian walnut boasting a deep brown base is that dust, pet hair and other debris is more visible than it would be on light flooring. You might feel compelled to use your hardwood mop several times per week to keep your floors looking clean.
Fake Brazilian walnut
Ipe and Brazilian walnut are loose terms often misused by exporters shipping the wood and importers selling it to flooring retailers. Most wood is the real deal – the very hard wood we’ve been discussing. However, the names sometimes apply to a cheap, soft wood also called Imbuia that grows throughout South America. It looks much like Brazilian walnut, and hence the potential for being ripped off.
Imbuia’s Janka Hardness rating is about 970. To avoid buying faux ipe or Brazilian walnut, ask the seller what is the Janka rating of the flooring you are considering. If it’s not 3000+, it isn’t genuine Brazilian walnut/ipe. Another option is to see our Seller Reviews below to find a manufacturer or retailer offering genuine, durable ipe/Brazilian walnut.
The color might not suit small spaces
Some interior designers suggest that dark flooring is confining, even “suffocating” in small rooms. They recommend that it be used in large, open areas. Others disagree, because it comes down to personal preference. If you are trying to create a cozy ambience in a den or bedroom, this flooring’s dark hues might suit your purposes.
Brazilian Walnut Flooring Cost
Ipe or Brazilian walnut flooring cost is $9.00 to $18.00 per square foot when installed by a professional flooring contractor. There are multiple Brazilian walnut floor cost factors including whether the planks are solid (harder to install) or engineered (easier).
Cost will also be impacted by the size of the area to be covered, how much trimming around obstacles like doorways and fireplace hearths is required and whether you install it yourself or do as most homeowners do and hire a professional flooring contractor.
This table shows all ipe flooring cost factors and how they impact price:
$6.50 – $9.00/sq. ft.
$9.35 – $11.50/sq. ft.
$11.75 – $18.00/sq. ft.
|Installation||DIY or Pro||Pro||Pro|
|Type||Engineered or Solid||Solid||Solid|
|Width||2 3/4″ to 5″||3 3/4″ to 6″||5″ to 8″|
|Texture||Smooth||Smooth or Handscraped||Smooth or Handscraped|
|Subfloor Installation||No||No or Yes||No or Yes|
|Prefinished||No or Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Job Complexity||Easy to Moderate||Easy to Moderate||Moderate to Difficult|
Top Brazilian Walnut Flooring Brands Reviews
These manufacturers and retailers sell certified Brazilian walnut or ipe and have a good range of products. Here is an overview of what they offer.
Hurst offers one of the largest selections of ipe in the US. Prices start at about $4.00 per square foot for engineered, unfinished Brazilian walnut and go up to about $8.00 per square foot.
Solid Brazilian walnut hardwood is sold in prefinished and unfinished versions. Both styles are available in 5 widths ranging from 2 ¼” to 5”.
Engineered Brazilian walnut is also produced in prefinished and unfinished styles. Prefinished material is ½” thick with planks 5” wide. Two stain colors are available.
Unfinished engineered ipe flooring gives you more options. The 5/8” boards are cut in 6 widths from 3” to 8”.
All products are certified by the National Wood Flooring Association as sustainably produced.
This company owns its own mills and molding machines that turn raw Brazilian walnut into uniform widths and tight-fitting floor boards.
Advantage produces planks from 2 ¾” to 5” in several grades of unfinished and finished planks. All are solid wood. Cost starts below $3.00 per square foot for sapwood grade and rises to about $8.00 for clear grade.
This company harvests and mills Brazilian walnut in South America and sells it wholesale to large retailers like Hoskings.
IndusParquet is compliant with FSC regulations and the Lacey Act that imposes criminal penalties for illegal harvesting and sales of ipe.
Solid ipe is ¾” thick and sold in widths of 3”, 5 ½” and 7 ¾” with smooth (standard) finish. Handscraped boards 5 ½” wide are also available in solid flooring.
Engineered ipe is sold in 3/8” boards 3 ¼” wide and ½” boards 5” wide.
Engineered Brazilian walnut starts at about $6.15 per square foot. Solid ipe flooring is $10.00 to $14.50 per square foot. Those are retail prices from Hoskings and other retailers of IndusParquet.
Also know as Brazilian Hardwood, this company has been producing premium Brazilian walnut flooring since 2002.
In its early years, Brazilian Direct was cited by an organization called Rainforest Relief as a company that exported uncertified lumber. We mention it because the list of denounced companies is still available online and has not been updated to remove Brazilian Direct.
Brazilian Direct now produces Forest Stewardship Council-certified flooring. According to the company, its mill in Brazil “uses Sustainable Forestry Practices, which includes environmental and socially responsible forestry.”
Brazilian Direct produces ¾” solid hardwood in 3 ¼” and 5” prefinished widths and unfinished ipe in 3 ¼”. Cost range is $4.50 to $7.00 per square foot.
The company has its own mills in South America and imports Brazilian walnut and other exotic hardwoods into the US.
Ipe is produced in ¾” solid wood flooring. Finished and unfinished planks are available in widths from 2 ¾” to 6”. Pricing isn’t available from Robinson, since it is exclusively a wholesale dealer to large flooring retailers.
Robinson is another company listed as not having proper certifications, but the company claims it has been accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council since 2001.
This brand is a supplier of a wide range of exotic and domestic hardwood. Standard and handscraped ipe flooring in 3 ¼” and 5” widths. It is solid wood flooring, so the thickness is ¾”. Flooring is certified by the NWFA as authentic and responsibly produced.
Compared with other sellers, prices range from average to high. They start at about $5.50 per square foot for engineered and top $14.00 for prefinished handscraped planks. Pennington is one of the few sellers that offer handscraped Brazilian walnut flooring.
Standard flooring with an oil added that protects from UV damage is available too. It’s a good choice for rooms where natural sunlight reaches the flooring.
County Floors is a large retailer of ipe, but does not mill it. It’s Brazilian walnut offerings include solid hardwood and engineered flooring with a top layer of solid material that can be refinished once or twice depending on the depth of the surface scratches.
Widths range from 2 ¼” to 5”, and like all brands, County Floor ipe is sold in planks that average 3’ but range from 1’ to 7’.
County Floors is part of the NWFA and sells certified products.
County Floors domestic hardwoods that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, but no certification is listed for Brazilian walnut.
This brand provides Brazilian walnut flooring and decking materials.
Four ipe flooring products are sold: 4” and 5” boards in prefinished and unfinished options. This is solid hardwood – ¾” thick. Prices are competitive, from $6.00 to $7.00 per square foot for the planks.
This company does not currently produce ipe flooring, as it has in the past. However, some of its affordable engineered Brazilian walnut flooring is available from retailers like Fantastic Floor.