Learn About Walnut Wood: A Versatile Flooring, with Unique Style at an Affordable Price
Continuing our series on different hardwood flooring species, let’s now look at a true classic: walnut flooring. Walnut has been used as a flooring material for centuries in America, Europe and Asia, mostly chosen for its wonderfully deep, rich brown tones that gives your space an elegant feel.
Whilst not as dark a wood as mahogany or ebony, walnut floors should definitely be in the running if you’re a fan of darker toned hardwood. But there are other aspects to consider, so read on to decide whether walnut hardwood flooring is the best option for your home.
Different Types of Walnut Wood
The first thing you need to know about walnut wood flooring is that there are three different types:
- Common Walnut flooring, also known as the American Walnut, has a warm almost purplish-brown color at its heart mixed with lighter tones on the outer layers.
- Black Walnut flooring, also known as Gunwood has a dark colored heartwood with deep grains that is particularly beautiful.
- Brazilian Walnut flooring is also known as Ipe and is very dark and much harder than the other two, and also more resistant to damage from insects and mold.
Finally, you may also hear the term Asian Walnut used, but this is more commonly known as Acacia and has a very distinctive grain and honey toned coloring.
Walnut Flooring Options
As with the majority of popular hardwood flooring, there are different walnut flooring options, these include:
- Solid Walnut flooring is almost always 3/4” thick with a great variety of plank widths from 2 1/4” up to 5” wide. Different brands offer different finishes, but usually you will find both hand scraped and smooth options from most brands.
- Engineered Walnut flooring comes in a variety of thicknesses from as little as 1/4” thick. Generally speaking engineered walnut plank widths are between 3” and 5” inches wide, but there are some brands that go up to 7” wide. Different finishes are available and care should be taken to check that your engineered walnut has a good thickness wear layer.
- Laminate Walnut flooring is also available, with the advantage of having a greater range of colors and aesthetics due to the way the laminate is created. Laminate flooring usually come in standard 5” width.
Deep chocolate, almost purple tones are typical in Walnut flooring
Walnut Flooring Colors and Stains
Walnut flooring is available in different colors depending on the stain and finish. For example you can put a bleach treatment on walnut to make it lighter – almost whitewashed in appearance, or add a dark stain to make it even darker. Using an oil finish will give a richer more luxurious feel, whilst polyurethane varnishes can add a high gloss or matt finish.
Thinking of a dark hardwood floor? Check out Dark Hardwood Floors – Can You Make Them Work?
Walnut Hardness and Durability
When it comes to hardness of a walnut floor, you need to be clear about the different types of walnut as the levels of hardness are strikingly different. Whilst American Walnut and Black Walnut floors aren’t that hard, rating 1010 on the Janka scale, Brazilian Walnut is much harder with a rating of 3684. To put this in context, Red Oak, which has a Janka rating of 1290, is the industry benchmark for comparing the relative hardness of different wood species.
This means that American Walnut flooring will scratch and dent more easily than Brazilian Walnut flooring, and so you will need to consider what measures you’ll take to maintain your flooring in a good condition – being careful not to wear sharp heeled shoes indoors, and adding area rugs and doormats in high traffic areas are sufficient protection for most households.
You will also need to be willing to commit to a schedule of sanding and refinishing your solid American Walnut flooring – usually every 3 to 5 years – in order to keep it at looking its absolute best. This could be considered a frustrating added cost, but in the long run it makes financial sense over and above having to rip out and replace the entire floor.
American Walnut often comes in tonal mixes of the darker heartwood and the lighter sapwood.
Walnut Flooring Costs, Brands and Where to Buy
As with most flooring products, walnut flooring comes at different price points depending on the type of product and finish. Generally speaking walnut flooring is more expensive than others, but if you take care to keep your walnut floors well maintained it will give you a great return on investment as it has a great reputation for being a high quality product that is highly sought after by property buyers. Here are some further details on costs and brands:
- Solid Walnut flooring: recommended brands include Somerset Flooring, Mannington, BuildDirect (Walking Horse, Jasper and Tungston) with prices starting around $4 per square foot and up to $12 per square foot depending on style and finish.
- Engineered Walnut flooring: a lot of great brand choice in engineered walnut including Armstrong, Bruce, Mohawk, Kährs, BuildDirect, Home Legend from HomeDepot, Mohawk and Somerset Flooring. Prices are usually a little less than solid walnut from as little as $2 per square foot up to $10 with an average of around $4 or $5 per square foot.
- Laminate Walnut flooring: a good deal of options here too with brands such as Pergo, Traffic MASTER, Armstrong, Bruce, Home Legends, Mannington and Shaw Floors all offering laminate walnut options starting as low as $1 per square foot and up to $8 for top of the range brands.
Where to Buy: Although you can find walnut flooring at the big bow stores like Home Depot and Lowes there’s not much in the way of choice beyond their own store brands. There is a wider selection online and here are two online stores with a wider selection.
BuildDirect – As well as selling their own store brands, BuildDirect also sell well known brands like Armstrong, Kahrs and Mohawk.
Wayfair – The huge online home retailer has a surprisingly large range of flooring including plenty of walnut hardwood floors from popular brands like Armstrong, Bruce, Mannington,Mohawk and Shaw. They also have a respectable selection of laminate walnut floors from equally established brands.
Here solid Black Walnut planks have been bleached to create a lighter, caramel color.
Walnut Flooring Pros and Cons
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of walnut flooring so that you can decide if it’s the right choice for your home.
Walnut Flooring Advantages
- A major advantage of walnut flooring is that good quality options are locally harvested and manufactured in the USA – a lot of American Walnut on the market is grown in California – meaning it has a better environmental footprint than exotic hardwoods.
- With its deep, warm chocolate tones, walnut floors give a lovely sumptuous feel, that is often interpreted as being more high-end.
- Walnut comes in lots of different plank sizes, finishes and colors, which means it can work with just about any décor, from traditional to modern, farmhouse chic to slick minimalism.
- Whilst walnut flooring is a bit more expensive than some hardwood options, it’s not the most expensive type of hardwood, making it an excellent choice for a mid-range budget.
- Walnut is a durable and resilient wood that makes it a great investment. Solid walnut is a particularly sound choice as it can be sanded and refinished many times over, and will last a lifetime if you take care to maintain it regularly. For greater lifespan with an engineered walnut floor, opt for one which has a thick wear layer.
- Walnut is a stable hardwood so it can be used with radiant heating.
- Because walnut is not as ubiquitous as oak, choosing walnut will give you a flooring that is less common and more desirable.
Walnut Flooring Disadvantages
- American walnut is not that hard – in fact it is quite soft – so it is easier to dent or scratch than other hardwoods. If you have an active lifestyle, young children or pets this might not be the best hardwood option for you. Brazilian Walnut would be a much better option.
- Darker woods like walnut do tend to show up dust and dirt more, though this can be mitigated against by carefully placed doormats and rugs.
- Dark wood flooring can make rooms look smaller than they really are; in this case try opting for walnut with a lighter stain or bleached finish.
- As with most hardwoods, walnut flooring is not as sound proof as alternatives such as carpeting, cork or rubber. However, having a soft shoes or socks only policy will minimize this problem.
Further Walnut Flooring Points to Consider
Walnut is a very stable type of hardwood, so there’s no reason not to have a great result if you choose a good brand and use experienced installers to get the best finish.
A few things to consider, which are largely true of all hardwood flooring choices, is to check the fine print and detail when it comes to warranties – some brands will offer warranties for up to 50 years or a lifetime, whilst others for just 15!
It’s worth also taking stock of both the different width sizes but also length sizes of the walnut planks you choose. Some manufacturers mainly stock walnut flooring in short strips, whilst others have bigger ranges with lengths of up to 6 foot. Opting for a brand that offers planks in random lengths will help create a more traditional feel, whilst uniform short planks are more modern.
Finally, if you’re choosing engineered walnut flooring then be sure to choose the one that has the thickest wear layer and which can be sanded back – this way you will be able to maximize your investment by refinishing the planks if or when they get scratched and dented.
Walnut is a lovely, sumptuous wood – perfect for an elegantly decorated space.
About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 10 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-overcomplicated 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.”