As a hardwood flooring option, acacia doesn’t receive nearly the amount of attention it should. Durable, affordable, and distinctive, this wood can give any room an air of luxury and character. Better yet, despite its exotic looks, acacia is moderately priced and easy on the environment.
The Pros: Practicality and Unique Beauty
Acacia’s luxurious looks stand up well to foot traffic even with only basic care.
Acacia is unusual in that the pronounced grain of this wood often combines everything from rich, deep brown and auburn red to pale bronze and beige. These colors can all show up within the same plank, giving the wood a variegated appearance. That means no two acacia floors are exactly the same.
An acacia floor’s variety of earthy colors fits in well with rustic decor schemes, but can also help warm up grey, beige or other neutral interiors or add a touch of sophistication to a home office.
Acacia can be left natural or stained. It looks particularly attractive with a hand-scraped finish that gives it a traditional homey warmth and sense of fine craftsmanship.
Acacia floors are so long-wearing it’s not uncommon to find them sold with a 50-year guarantee. Harder than oak, maple, and mahogany, acacia can easily stand up to frequent foot traffic even in a household with active kids and pets. Despite its hardness, acacia still has plenty of resilience, so it’s comfortable underfoot.
Its natural resistance to water and mold growth means it’s unlikely to swell or warp in a humid climate. It’s also fire resistant, improving the safety of your home. That said, like any hardwood, it doesn’t hold up well in standing water, so if you install it in the kitchen or bath, you’ll need to mop up any major spills quickly.
In terms of regular care requirements, acacia is fairly undemanding. To keep it clean, all you’ll need to do is sweep now and then, and damp-mop once a week. No special cleaners are needed. Unlike more delicate wood species, acacia is unlikely to sustain scratches from moderate amounts of dirt and debris.
In fact, its variegated coloring hides dirt so your floor will keep looking good even if you can’t find time to clean as often as you’d like. Depending on the amount of wear your floor sees and the amount of shine you prefer, it could be 10 years or longer before you’ll need to re-finish.
Acacia might look pricey, but it costs less than many exotic hardwoods such as teak, mahogany or rosewood. Factor in the durability and ease of maintenance an acacia floor offers, and you’ve got a flooring material that’s a decidedly cost-effective long-term investment.
Acacia flooring is available in solid, engineered, and laminate forms, giving you several options for meeting your budget. Choosing a machine-scraped over a hand-scraped finish will also bring the cost down. Although not the most common flooring choice, acacia is popular enough that you should have no trouble finding a range of types, colors, and finishes.
Installation isn’t usually difficult, so you won’t have to worry about surprise costs there.
Although considered an exotic hardwood, acacia grows quickly and requires little additional water, fertilizers or pesticides. This makes it a much more environmentally friendly choice for wood flooring than other popular exotic hardwoods. Better yet, because it stands up to wear so well, it can often be salvaged and reused when a house is remodeled or razed. To be sure the acacia flooring you buy is eco-friendly, look for a product certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or a similar organization.
The Cons: Inconsistent Coloring and Design Limitations
Acacia’s coloring doesn’t appeal to everyone, and the lack of long planks only increases the unusual look of floors made with this wood.
In addition to its color variations, acacia often comes with knots and other irregularities. While some feel this adds to the floor’s character, others find it too showy and distracting. Acacia’s striking appearance draws the eye to the floor, which is something you’ll need to consider when designing the room.
Staining the floor can even out the coloring somewhat, particularly if you choose a darker stain. Ultimately, though, if you prefer a floor with subtle, consistent shades, you’ll achieve that better with a material such as maple, walnut, pine or bamboo.
Acacia trees are often more like tall shrubs than typical trees. Because of this, planks made from acacia are shorter than those made from more common hardwoods such as maple and oak.
Acacia flooring planks are usually around 2 feet long and rarely more than 4 feet long. These shorter lengths will give your floor a somewhat different appearance from a floor made with longer planks. The higher number of joints also adds to the irregular look of an acacia floor. On the plus side, shorter planks work well for herringbone, chevron, and basket floor patterns.
When you buy acacia flooring, make sure it’s been properly kiln dried. If this process isn’t done correctly, the planks are at risk of shrinking after installation. This is particularly likely in very dry, desert-climate homes.
Making Your Choice
If you’re looking for a tough, eco-friendly flooring material that will add a unique character to your room, acacia is an excellent choice. While it’s not impervious to damage, it can keep looking good for decades even in a busy household. Its eye-catching coloring doesn’t suit every style of home, though. If you want a floor that quietly blends in with its surroundings, you’ll be happier avoiding acacia.