A type of hardwood, commonly known as Brazilian cherry, was used as flooring in countless houses from 2000 to 2005. In reality, this wood is not a member of the cherry family at all but is instead a legume species, Hymenaea courbaril. It is also known as jatoba, locust, or courbaril. The common name Brazilian cherry was a marketing ploy used to play off the wood's blazing deep red color. Brazilian cherry signified over-the-top grandiosity at one time, but while its popularity has somewhat faded, this beautiful wood is still a viable choice for flooring. It is available in several forms, ranging from solid hardwood planks to look-alike plastic laminates.
Brazilian Cherry's Origins
As the common name implies, Brazilian cherry (Jatoba) does hail from the rainforests of Brazil. It is an extremely hard wood, with a Janka hardwood rating of 2350 (white oak has a Janka rating of 1360). While hard to work, Jatoba accepts stains and finishes very well, which is why it has been such a popular choice for flooring. Trees typically grow 100 to 130 feet high.
As a Flooring Material
This red or salmon-colored wood often has attractive streaks of darker strips. Solid hardwood planks are difficult to install except by professionals, but engineered wood varieties are available, which are easier for DIYers to install. While the wood's popularity among furniture builders and woodworkers has waned, Brazilian cherry is still regarded as a very strong and durable flooring material.
Brazilian cherry is considered by some to be an endangered tree species since it comes from heavily-logged Amazon areas. However, FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) Brazilian cherry flooring can be purchased. And the species is not listed in the CITES Appendices; it is listed by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
01 of 09
Jasson hardwood Brazilian cherry comes in the same two standard sizes that comprise most hardwood flooring on the market:
- 3/4-inch thick and 3 1/4-inches wide. Most retailers will sell in lengths ranging from a few inches to 6 or 7 feet. These lengths are mixed together.
- 3/4-inch thick by 5-inches wide. Same lengths as above.
Some plank-style hardwood Brazilian cherry is available, as well.
02 of 09
Brazilian cherry laminate looks fantastic from a distance, even though it is not actual wood, but rather a plastic laminate. And it costs just a few dollars per square foot. To enjoy further savings, you can avoid the high installation charges of professional installers and install Brazilian cherry laminate yourself.
The downside is that the Brazilian cherry appearance is the result of a convincing photographic rendition applied to a fiberboard core. And like all laminate flooring, it doesn't feel as solid underfoot as actual wood.
03 of 09
Engineered Brazilian Cherry
A floor made of engineered Brazilian cherry is a nice compromise between the laminate and the solid hardwood versions.
In an engineered wood floor, a thin veneer of real wood is applied to a layer (or multiple layers) of dimensionally stable plywood-type material. These products are not only less expensive, but more ecologically responsible, since less actual rainforest hardwood is used. Engineered wood products are also friendlier to DIY installation than solid hardwood.
04 of 09
There are several advantages to buying your Brazilian cherry floor prefinished:
- They can include up to seven coats of aluminum oxide-based finish, with one or two top wear layers, saving you considerable time on staining and finishing.
- Finishing occurs off-site in a factory, not in your home. So there is no smell or mess.
- There is no waiting for the finish to cure—you can walk on it right away.
One downside of buying it prefinished flooring is that it is more susceptible to damage during the installation process. Unfinished flooring can also be damaged, but it can be remedied during the finishing process.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Save Cost With Bellawood
Bellawood is the Lumber Liquidators house brand, offering several forms of Brazilian cherry. Although the quality of this economy brand is uneven, even when extra waste is factored in, Bellawood offers the most affordable hardwood flooring available.
06 of 09
07 of 09
The "hand-scraped flooring" trend has migrated to Brazilian cherry, too. As you can probably guess, no hands do the actual scraping. For this large residential flooring market, the hardwood flooring is machine-textured to reproduce the shallow grooves seen in antique hand-scraped floors. In this example, the inset clearly shows the type of ridges typically found in hand-scraped flooring.
08 of 09
While Brazilian cherry sounds exotic, the prices really are not all that exotic. In the last decade or so, the Amazon hardwood market has exploded, sending mass quantities of flooring to the US, Europe, Canada, and China at prices that keep inching lower. Typical prices per square foot:
- Engineered wood: $6.20 per square foot
- Prefinished: $5.50 per square foot
- Unfinished: $4.75 to $5.00 per square foot
- Laminate look-alike: $2.00 per square foot
Prices fluctuate, but this gives you a general idea of ranges and differences. Laminate will always be the cheapest type, with engineered wood barely nosing out solid hardwood for the distinction of being the most expensive.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Naturally, you can also find vinyl flooring duplicating Brazilian cherry hardwood. Vinyl is already available that mimics marble, slate, granite, distressed wood, hand-scraped wood, and reclaimed wood—is it any surprise that you can also find Brazilian cherry vinyl?
Also, read more about wood parquet flooring pros and cons.