If you want to improve the appearance of your home by adding hardwood floors and you’re looking for something different and dramatic, American black walnut has a lot to offer. It’s the only naturally dark American hardwood.
The deep, chocolate color is quite distinctive and because it’s natural and not achieved by staining, each of the boards will have their own subtle color variations. This will give your wood flooring a unique, one-of-a-kind look.
Although walnut was once pretty common, it’s popularity for wood flooring and furniture has made it relatively scarce today. It’s the first choice for gun stocks and airplane propellers.
Walnut grows all over the Eastern and Midwestern United States, from Vermont to Florida and as far west as Kansas. Unlike other trees which grow predominantly with their own species, walnut usually grows in mixed forests with maple, poplar, beech, and oak.
They are intolerant of shade and grow best in sunny locations with rich, moist soil. You’ll often find them along river banks. They can grow to heights of 150 feet, though 70 or 80 feet is more common. And their massive branches can create a canopy that’s 80 feet across.
The sapwood of the walnut is nearly white, while the heartwood is the rich chocolate brown that’s highly prized for wood flooring. Some wood even has a purplish appearance punctuated with dark streaks. Most of the time, the texture is fine and the grain is straight and open. But some burled and curly grain is available. Because the uneven grain comes from stumps or crooked trees, it’s more expensive.
With a Janka Hardness of 1010, it’s not as hard as red oak, but it has excellent strength and stability. In fact, it’s one of the most durable woods available for wood floors. It resists splitting and it sands and finishes beautifully. Sometimes, it’s bleaches to create a modern look.
One of the best things about walnut is that because the color is natural and goes all the way through, scratches, dents, and mars hardly show. If your walnut wood floors are damaged, they probably won’t need to be refinished because what’s below the surface is the same as the surface.
A satin finish will also help to minimize the appearance of any imperfections.
The dark color makes a very dramatic room, so walnut is often used for borders or inlays. Because of its stability, it’s a good choice if you’re installing over a radiant heating system or in high-humidity areas.