Underpinning everything else when it comes to home renovation projects, choosing a hardwood floor is the most important decision you’ll have to make.

With so many different species to choose from, not to mention their incredibly diverse price range, this very basic decision can prove to be quite a burden to the already stressed and busy homeowner.

With affordable oak and bamboo flooring taking over the market today, people often focus on one of these types of hardwood, failing to realise that there are many other wood species available.

Here at Martin Allen, dealing with hardwood every day, we believe it is important our clients know more wood species we offer.

That’s why we’ve created a short series of articles that will introduce our former, current and future customers to the three most popular wood species available today – mahogany, oak and walnut.

True Mahogany

Mahogany is a straight grained timber of three different wood species belonging to the genus Swietenia – Honduran, West Indian and Swietenia humilis mahogany.

Honduran mahogany is the most widespread of the three species, spreading from Mexico to Southern Amazonia in Brazil.

True mahogany timber ranges from a light reddish brown to an intense chocolate hue and is one of the hardest and most durable timbers you can find.

Yet, all these types of mahogany are considered endangered species and are illegal to harvest. Most of the timber labelled mahogany in use today actually belongs to an entirely different genus of trees.

Santos Mahogany

What most people in the industry refer to when using the term mahogany is Santos Mahogany – a type of hardwood belonging to the Myroxylon genus. Native to South America, and most widespread in El Salvador, these Balsam trees as they’re often called are an affordable and sustainable alternative to true mahogany.

Apart from the unique reddish brown colour, Santos Mahogany bears no further resemblance to its genuine counterpart. Santos Mahogany is a hard and dense wood and often features fine, tight and interlocked grains.

The hardness and density of the wood might make it a bit harder to work with, requiring sharp tools and a special approach to glueing.

But, those very characteristics are what makes mahogany one of the toughest, most durable hardwood species available.

The hot, humid climate mahogany trees grow in makes the harvested timber much less prone to shrinkage and movement. One of the main drawbacks of hardwood flooring, in general, is the wood’s natural tendency to react to temperature changes. Continually shrinking and expanding can cause the boards to bend, split and even crack.

Thanks to mahogany being a diffuse-porous tree, meaning that it forms vessels of roughly the same radial diameter throughout the growing season, the timber doesn’t succumb to the changes in temperature or moisture.

But, you should always keep in mind that no matter how hard and durable a hardwood is, failing to maintain it properly will almost result in permanent damages to your floor.

Map of El Salvado

Mahogany Flooring

Along with almost every species of hardwood we offer, mahogany is also available in the two most common types of floorboards – solid and engineered hardwood.

As their name suggests, solid floorboards are boards that consist entirely of a solid piece of hardwood. Some of the main benefits of solid wood floorboards over other types of boards are their durability and longevity. Being comprised of a single, solid piece of hardwood, solid floorboards can be sanded and refinished as many times as necessary. Solid hardwood tends to move a bit, which can cause microscopic cracks on their surface and can often succumb to damage from scratches and dents. Having the floor sanded and refinished with a fresh coat of lacquer or oil will breathe new life into it without the need to redo the entire floor.

Solid wood also tends to darken with time. While this can pose a problem with certain types of hardwood and light finishes, it’s one of the main reasons why mahogany remains so popular. The natural reddish hue of the hardwood will darken over time, the colour slowly deepening and the grains becoming less pronounced until it reaches a sophisticated dark brown with auburn hues.

Engineered wood floorboards, on the other hand, is a composite material, meaning it’s made from several constituent materials with varying properties.

But, unlike other types of composite materials, engineered wood boards are made from genuine hardwood. Multiple layers of thin mahogany boards are glued together, every layer positioned at a 90-degree angle to one below it. The topmost layer of the hardwood is the thickest, and also the layer where the natural colour and grain of the hardwood are visible.

While we won’t argue with the elegance and timelessness that come with solid hardwood floorboards, the benefits of engineered boards often surpass them – even when it comes to an exotic species such as mahogany.

All the incredible characteristics of mahogany are perfected and enhanced when made in the shape of engineered boards.

The wood’s natural hardness and density become even more pronounced, and its resistance to heat and moisture is enhanced due to the many layers the board is made from. That makes engineered mahogany boards suitable for use in non-traditional rooms such as basements, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, pantries, etc.

The process of installing solid mahogany boards can be time-consuming. The wood’s hardness and density might make it difficult to cut and saw, requiring both special tools and skills.

With engineered boards, the installing process is smooth and straightforward, as the floorboards come fitted with joints and are installed by interlocking them.

Mahogany flooring

Sustainability of Mahogany 

One of the biggest problems woodworking and flooring professionals face is the sustainability of the timber we use.

As the exotic hardwood flooring is considered to be the crown jewel of every luxury home, many of these once abundant species have now become endangered.

Being illegal to harvest from the wild, mahogany plantations are now widespread throughout the southern hemisphere.

But, as many of those plantations are located in the developing world, a combination of a lack of resources and a lack of education often leads to unsustainable and harmful deforestations.

To avoid getting your mahogany floor from these sources, there are a few things you need to look out for.

First, always leave everything, hardwood related to the professionals, especially when it comes to exotic flooring.

If you’re not sure where to turn, give us a call at 01162 165 107, and we’ll handle all your hardwood flooring woes, from giving you an on-site quote to cleaning up after everything’s been installed.

Getting your wood from a safe and reliable source is easier when you leave it to our flooring experts.

Another thing you should look out for when choosing mahogany is the price.

If it’s suspiciously cheap for an exotic hardwood species, it’s most probably because it came from a rather suspicious supplier.

However, a pricey floor doesn’t necessarily equal a high-quality floor, and there are lots of quality, durable options available in the middle of the price range.

It’s also worth knowing that both FSC® and PEFC™ offer extensive databases containing all the suppliers and producers carrying their sustainability certificates.

If you have any doubts about the origin of your mahogany, a quick search through one of these lists will answer any questions you might have.

Our Conclusion

While true mahogany might be too rare and exotic even for the most luxurious residency, it doesn’t mean you should compromise on the look and feel you want for your home.

What we refer to mahogany is an incredible wood species – beautiful, elegant, timeless, durable.

Whether you choose a traditional solid floorboard or go with the more technologically advanced engineered one – installing mahogany hardwood flooring means investing in a future with both style and grace.