What is Kempas Floor?

Kempas Flooring
Kempas Flooring from Armstrong. © Armstrong

Kempas isn't on the radar screens of most homeowners looking to buy floors. Opinions about are divided, and in this article, we will try to stay as objective as possible on the issue so that you can make the best-informed decision.

What is It?

Kempas is a rather solid type of hardwood originating from Indonesia and Malaysia that is often used for flooring. Its botanical name is Koompassia malaccensis.

How Hard Is It?

Kempas rates 1710 on the Janka hardness scale. This makes it harder than maple, white oak, and ash, but slightly softer than pecan or Brazilian cherry.

Translated, this means that kempas is in the moderately-hard range for hardwood. If this helps you formulate a picture, it is also used for railroad ties and cabinetry. Keep in mind, though, that hardness is not everything. Hard flooring is more difficult to install and, naturally, more expensive.

What Color Is It?

Kempas begins as a reddish- or pinkish-brown and, with finishing, darkens to a deeper red-brown. From a distance, finished kempas looks almost like certain types of ordinary hardwoods, even red oak. Yet upon closer examination, it does prove to have an attractive coarse-grained look with a medium interlocking grain.

Controversial Aspects

Kempas has become trendy lately. Not that trendy by itself is a bad thing, but here are a few downsides to this flooring:

  • Difficult to Work With - Flooring installers report that this wood is hard to cut, hard to nail. In other words, you may have floor installers who hesitate at working with kempas or who may add a surcharge. In fact, it is often recommended that installers pre-bore it before nailing--a time-consuming process.
  • Durability - With a Janka rating of over 1,700 you would think that it would last forever. Yet its durability leaves something to be desired. That's why it is usually heavily treated with preservative. The good side of this is that it takes well to preservatives.
  • Acidity - Kempas has a high level of acidity which can degrade metals.

Price

In terms of cost, kempas is about in line with other types of high-grade hardwood flooring. For solid kempas, you might expect to pay in the range of $9-10 per square foot. For engineered wood kempas flooring, you will pay slightly more, around $10-11 per square foot.

Manufacturers and Retailers

Kempas flooring has entered the mainstream and can be found in the inventories of most major flooring manufacturers and retailers:

  • Armstrong - Armstrong is perhaps the most prominent flooring retailer distributing kempas flooring via its Valenza Collection. Through its participation with Hartco, Armstrong has a kempas engineered flooring that yields to installation better than solid kempas. Shop Direct - Armstrong/Hartco Kempas Flooring
  • Artisan Floors - Artisan is a Chicago-based flooring retailer that mainly does business on-line, but does have a few brick-and-mortar stores in Washington, Oregon, and California. Shop Direct - Artisan Solid Kempas Flooring