Domestic or Exotic: Which Does Your Feet Come Home To?

Domestic or Exotic: Which Does Your Feet Come Home To?The choices you make as a homeowner in trying to upgrade your property can be stressful. You must balance your own desires with considering how an upgrade will affect the value of your home. Ideally, you want to make your space livable while still have it be aesthetically pleasing. How does one achieve that goal? By being an informed consumer. One of the most popular ways to add value and comfort to homes is to add hardwood flooring. But what kind of wood is ideal for your style - domestic or exotic wood?


Domestic wood is lumber that originates from one's country or nearby. For the United States, North American woods are considered domestic species. Domestic species are generally cheaper than their exotic counterparts, because of their availability. North American wood tends to be cut and stained for American preferences, like larger plank sizes and warmer, more consistent stains. Domestic wood is also more reliable because the wood is accustomed to the climate.

Typically, North American domestic woods have a moderate Janka scale, which is how hard the wood is according to how much force is required to embed a steel ball half way into the surface of the wood. High Janka levels make the woods more resistant to scratches, but less pliable and more likely to split if improperly handled. So having a moderate Janka scale makes American domestic woods good choices for residential properties that see a lot of wear, yet the wood is still easily manipulated for interesting construction choices.

Three of some of the most popular domestic woods are listed below.

Red Oak

Red oak is one of the most common wood floors used in America, for a myriad of reasons. The most commonly used species of oak is found primarily in the North-eastern region of the United States, and produces very durable wood. Able to withstand many dents and scratches, red oak wood is also desirable for the versatility it has in design. Not only is the grain of the wood very distinguishable and regular, but red oak is easily stained across the spectrum.


Though maple trees with a variety of species are found all over the northern hemisphere, sugar maple is used most in construction. Maple is another popular wood flooring option and a growing trend is to use it in the place of oak. Maple is a harder wood than oak, due to its close grain, which explains why it is used in high-stress environments like bowling alleys. Because of its smooth texture, maple is appealing for homeowners who want a sleek, soft tone to their wooden floors. However, maple wood is very difficult to stain it to dark colors, because the close grain will not absorb heavy stains. In spite of this, maple is a cost effective, gorgeous material.


People who choose cherry for their hardwood floors do so because of its subtlety. Cherry is a dense hardwood with an understated grain that can create dynamic interest in your room without being too overpowering. The wood itself does not need to be stained, as it already has an impressive natural color that appeals to many homeowners. Domestic cherry, however, is a softer wood than its exotic counterpart, and despite it’s high expense, the panels may dent if stressed.


Exotic species of woods are grown outside of the domestic regions. In North America, exotic species are typically from South America and South Eastern Asia. Exotic species are very popular because they have richer and more varied natural stains and grains. They also have a harder Janka rating that domestic woods, so they are often used as focal points in high traffic rooms like hallways or ballrooms. Because of their density and natural colors, however, most exotic woods will not be stained.

For all their beauty, exotic hardwoods are not always harvested sustainability. In areas without strict harvesting practices, some species have been harvested to or nearly to extinction. One of the most famous cases is the zebra wood, which has a striking grain contrast that was found very appealing. Nowadays, the only way to get zebra wood legally is to obtain scrap wood. Because of this issue, be smart with your purchases of exotic wood and only buy ecologically approved shipments that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

A few of the most popular exotic woods are listed below.


Teak wood is a very well known hardwood, as it is a long lasting wood found in many products. Originating from Burma and Thailand, its longevity and resistance to insects like termites makes it perfect for exposed wood used in outdoor constructions, like lawn chairs or even boats. As a floor, teak performs just as well. Most woods will fluctuate with the humidity, which can cause splitting as wood contracts. Teak, on the other hand, is incredibly stable. However, the key difficulty with using teak is that it is very dense and difficult to cut with average saws.


Jatoba is most known in the United States as Brazilian Cherry, when in fact the wood is not a true cherry at all. Jatoba wood is actually a legume wood. Despite this misconception, however, this is a very popular choice in flooring for its durability and dramatic color. Comparatively, Jatoba is twice as hard as regular oak at a Janka level of 2350. For that reason, however, this wood is more likely to split if incorrectly installed or if put under stressful conditions. Yet the color of this wood alone makes up for any downsides. Jatoba can come in a variety of warm, inviting colors that will only becoming more appealingly, deeper colors as time goes on.


Some people may not even be aware that mahogany is an exotic wood and is actually in fact an endangered wood. Mahogany is a wood from Central America that has a deep brown color that most homeowners find extremely appealing. Its density has a strong resistance to water as well as wear and tear, which makes this wood a great material to use in more active, wetter environments. Mahogany is also less likely to fade when put under light and retains a more timeless color for longer. Heavy maintenance is required to sustain mahogany’s sheen, but if you take the time for this maintenance, the shine will remain for years to come.

Whatever choice you make in your home flooring, make sure you recognize why you made that decision. A home is only as comfortable as the effort you put into it, and whether you are upgrading to add value or to add comfort, making a smart and informed decision will ultimately determine your own satisfaction with your home.

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