Grades & Properties of Wood Flooring —
Brazilian Ebony (Gombera)
Other Common Names and Related Species:
Brazil and throughout continental tropical America.
Janka Hardness: 3692
Brazilian Ebony is at the top of the Janka scale, surpassing even Brazilian Walnut.
Grades of Brazilian Ebony Flooring:
Clear grade Brazilian Ebony flooring is color-sorted for a rich consistent deep reddish brown color. Brazilian Ebony is a dark-colored wood and is most popular in the Clear grade. Gombera gets its nickname ("Brazilian Ebony") from its resemblance in color to African Ebony, to which it is not related. Only the heartwood of the tree is used in the Clear grade. Brazilian Ebony is browner in color than Brazilian Walnut and Brazilian Teak. Rustic Eco grade is usually the only other grade available. With Rustic grade Brazilian Ebony flooring, color ranges dramatically from deep brown and black to tans, whites, and greens.
Brazilian Ebony Flooring Dimension Specifications:
All Brazilian Ebony flooring is milled in South America because it is more cost-effective to ship finished material than raw lumber. Lengths of the Brazilian Ebony flooring bundles are 7 feet so they can easily fit into 8-foot-wide steel shipping containers. All pre-milled products are tongue-&-groove and end-matched (tongue-&-grooved on the ends of the boards). Moisture content ranges from 6% to 8% for quick acclimation. The average length of the flooring pieces is usually about 3 feet and ranges from 1 to 7 feet. Almost all imported flooring that is found is in 7-foot bundles, with widths available from 2¼″ to 5″. If a long or wide plank floor is desired, raw lumber must be obtained and the flooring must be milled here in the United States. Typically, the lengths can develop up to 12 feet. However, the cost can be double that of the pre-milled stock because of waste and labor costs in the United States. Also, raw lumber is relatively expensive because it is taxed more heavily than finished products to support local economies in South America. In addition, Gombera lumber is extremely rare in any quantity.
Brazilian Ebony is rare prefinished or unfinished in solid form for nail-down applications on a wood subfloor and in engineered form with a veneer top layer for application over concrete. Brazilian Ebony is an uncommon species in comparison with Brazilian Cherry and Brazilian Teak. There is a moderate amount of Gombera in South America, and it is not endangered. However, less logging, stricter regulations, the decking market, and a slower American economy have limited commodities and caused slightly higher prices of this product in this country.
Finished Floor Appearance:
A Clear grade floor will have an even, dark reddish brown appearance. Oil-based finishes allow Brazilian Ebony to age to a deep brown color. Lacquer or de-waxed shellac should be first applied to help preserve the distinctive brownish red color of the wood and will help with drying time. Water-based finishes will preserve the natural color longer but may appear milky in appearance because of Gombera's dark color. Rustic Brazilian Ebony will have extreme color variations of deep red, brown, and yellow tones.
Flooring Durability and Stability:
Brazilian Ebony flooring is very durable and resists denting and traffic wear quite well. It is much harder than North American floors because of its density but can swell with moisture if not acclimated properly. Brazilian Walnut flooring is very heavy, weighing about 4 pounds per square foot.
Workability of Brazilian Ebony Flooring:
Being extremely hard and tough, Brazilian Ebony works with considerable difficulty with both hand and power tools. When installing the flooring, it is best to use a manual nailer. Staples and pneumatic nailers tend to split the wood. It holds screws well, and it glues, stains, and polishes to a very attractive finish. It can be somewhat difficult to sand with flooring equipment because of its hardness. Professional sanding and finishing is recommended. This wood is very resistant to decay and insects; these resistant properties may contribute to a possible allergic response to the dust. To avoid a possible allergic reaction to the material, wear a dust mask and long-sleeve shirt when working with Brazilian Ebony.
Principal Uses of Brazilian Ebony Flooring:
Brazilian Ebony flooring is used in high-end residential and commercial applications for a dramatically elegant floor. It is also used for color-contrasting borders and medallions.