What is acacia wood? A Complete Guide to Using Acacia at Home

Acacia wood may be used less in the United States than other popular hardwoods such as oak, pine, and teak. Still, it’s garnering more and more attention for its beauty and durability from designers in recent years, and we definitely agree. “Acacia is native to places such as Australia, but is grown all over the world, including Africa, Asia and the United States,” says John Mazzuca, cabinetmaker and custom furniture maker and luxury home builder at Gambrick. “There are around 1,000 species, all of which have slightly different appearances,” he adds.

And that’s part of the charm! Indeed, because there are so many different species of acacia wood, you can find a range of shades, from white to pale yellow and even rich brown tones. Some types have a pronounced, dramatic grain, and some have an indiscernible grain. “We often leave it the natural wood color because it doesn’t need more than an occasional coat of mineral oil every few years for maintenance,” Mazzuca tells us. Even better: it’s also incredibly durable, more so than other popular hardwood types. Specifically, it is more than twice as hard as oak, measuring 2300 on Janka’s scale, indicating how well a species of wood can withstand impact.

Learn more about acacia wood ahead.

What is acacia wood used for?

Acacia wood is used for a variety of products, including household items such as cutting boards or decorative plates. Because it is dense and resistant to pests and moisture, it is an ideal material for outdoor furniture; you can leave it out and not worry about it rotting, fungus growing on it, or insects. It’s also used for railings, custom cabinetry, and butcher block countertops, Mazzuca says. In Europe it is more often used for structural components such as beams, but it is not as common here.

Another common use for acacia wood is for flooring. It is available in solid parquet, which is made from a single piece of wood from top to bottom, or engineered parquet, which consists of layers of thin sheets of wood glued together, with the grain going in different directions. to ensure stability. It is then finished with a thin top layer of acacia wood.

What are the benefits of acacia wood?

Acacia wood is tough! Because it’s super dense, it’s a great choice for flooring and holds up exceptionally well to occasional knocks and scratches. This is a smart option if you have large dogs or wear heels regularly, as it’s nearly impossible to dent or damage them. “It’s as close to being maintenance-free as you can get with hardwood,” says Mazzuca.

Although most people like to leave acacia wood in its natural color, it sands well, leaving a smooth, silky surface that holds stain or paint well. On outdoor furniture it can develop a grayish cast over time if left untreated, but you can apply a mineral oil protectant to help maintain its natural color.

Are there any downsides to using acacia wood?

One of the disadvantages of acacia wood is that it is expensive. While oak flooring typically costs $3 per square foot, solid acacia is closer to $8 per square foot. However, you can use it as an accent wood to lay out a border, for example, to cut costs, suggests Mazzuca.

Another problem is that the average home builder or furniture maker is probably not familiar with the shades of wood; for example, it needs to be dried very slowly to prevent it from warping, and it can be a little tricky to work with if you don’t know its intricacies. You may need to find a carpenter who’s comfortable handling it if you’re planning a new project or remodel and want to use acacia wood, Mazzuca says.

Finally, although its density prevents acacia wood from expanding and contracting with changing environmental conditions like other hardwoods like oak do, it can be prone to warping or cracking. This is usually only a problem in parts of the country with very little humidity, such as Arizona or other desert climates, Mazzuca says. Running a humidifier or periodically applying a light coating of mineral oil can protect and restore the resilience of acacia wood.

Is acacia wood sustainable?

Acacia wood is sustainable because it is a fast growing wood that can be harvested at a young age. For example, with a species like oak, you would have to wait 20 to 30 years to have usable wood. But acacia trees grow 6 to 8 feet per year, so in four or five years you’ll have a tree 20 to 40 feet tall that can be harvested, Mazzuca says. Many growers also seek FSC certification, which promotes responsible use of the world’s forests.

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