Pros & Cons Of Mahogany Flooring

Mahogany Flooring

With a rich, warming reddish-brown appearance, mahogany is one of the all-time classic flooring woods. Learning more about mahogany helps you decide if it is the best wood for your floors.

There are pros and cons to mahogany flooring. The pros are its beauty, hardness, water resistance, insect/rot resistance and ease of maintenance. The cons of mahogany flooring are its confusing name, illegal harvesting, unpredictable color and high cost.

That is the short version of reasons to choose or not to choose mahogany flooring. To learn more about mahogany, read the rest of this article. 

Mahogany Pros

There is a lot to love about mahogany flooring. Weighing the positive elements of mahogany flooring can help you decide if it’s a good choice for you.

Beauty

Sure, beauty is subjective, but almost everyone can agree that mahogany is a beautiful wood. Aged mahogany is a warm, reddish-brown with bronze, honey and black highlights. 

Freshly cured mahogany has a light tan color, then over time, it darkens. Mahogany’s aging process is fun to watch and will give you something to look forward to after installing your floor.

The grain of mahogany is straight and tight, which gives the flooring a consistent appearance. It has some ribbon-like interlocking grains that create the effect of rippling color shifts.

Hardness

Mahogany is hard enough that it resists dings and dents, but not too hard that it can’t be worked with using ordinary tools. It scores 800 to 900lbf on the Janka Hardness scale. 

While it is not the hardest wood available, it does well as a flooring and is easy to nail into. A harder wood could need more labor to install because you would need to pre-drill nail holes.

To get a better idea of the hardness of mahogany, we can compare it to other common flooring woods in the following chart.

Wood TypeJanka Hardness
Genuine Mahogany800-900lbf
Red Oak1290lbf
Maple1450lbf
White Oak1360lbf
White Pine420lbf
Southern Yellow Pine690lbf
American Cherry950lbf
Mesquite2345lbf
Douglas Fir660lbf

Water Resistance

Having good water resistance is important if you want to install your wood flooring in the kitchen, bathroom or humid areas. Mahogany is known to repel water and can be used as flooring in wet environments.

Mahogany is so good at resisting water that it can be used in outdoor applications like deck flooring. It is also a common wood for boat building, one of the toughest environments for any material to survive.

Doesn’t Warp, Cup or Shrink

Once mahogany is sawn and cured, it is unlikely to change shape. If a board changes shape after installation in your flooring, it can pop loose or cause other boards to move out of place.

Some woods might change shape when seasons change. If a humid season comes, wood absorbs water and swells, cups or warps. During a dry season, wood can shrink when moisture leaves.

These problems can be expensive in your flooring. But mahogany doesn’t have this problem, making it a good choice for floors. 

Resistant to Insects and Rot

Mahogany contains a high oil content which fends off insects like termites and mold that causes rot. If you live in an area with insect or rot problems, mahogany is a good option for flooring.

Termites and mold naturally break down wood in the forest; it is part of the forest lifecycle. But this is terrible if it happens to your flooring material. 

Flooring mostly stays dry in a home, but you can’t be too careful. Mahogany gives you peace of mind that your flooring won’t attract insects or rot. 

Easy To Maintain

Sweeping is the only routine maintenance for keeping up the appearance of mahogany. Its darker color makes it show less dirt and debris, so you won’t feel like you are constantly battling to keep it clean.

You can spot clean dirty areas with water and a light soap. Use soft cloths or mops while cleaning mahogany floors.

Avoid harsh cleaners like bleach or anything abrasive. These types of cleaners can damage the finish of any wood flooring. 

Mahogany Cons

With all the good parts of mahogany flooring, there are also some negatives. Knowing what you are getting into helps you make a wise decision about mahogany floors.

Confusing Name

Mahogany has become the colloquial name of several types of tropical hardwoods. This generalization makes it confusing to know exactly what you are buying with mahogany.

Swietenia macrophylla is the scientific name for genuine mahogany, which grows natively from Mexico to Brazil. Swietenia macrophylla has now been planted in tropical regions worldwide for timber.

Though substitutes for mahogany can have excellent qualities, it is nice to know what you are buying. Several other species of exotic hardwood can also be called mahogany, including:

  • Santos Mahogany- Another native of the Americas, this wood species is harder than genuine mahogany.
  • African Mahogany/Khaya- This substitute is considered the closest to genuine mahogany. Khaya is the most abundantly available mahogany alternative in USA timber markets.
  • Sipo mahogany/Utile- A less common substitute. This wood has less dimensional stability than genuine mahogany.

Illegal Logging

The popularity of mahogany has led to its over-harvest in much of its native range. Brazil stopped exporting mahogany in 2001 to help protect it. 

Peru is the world’s largest exporter of mahogany, but it’s believed that more than 80 percent is illegally logged. Illegal logging causes damage to the entire forest.

Mahogany that comes from plantations in Asian countries does not harm forests. In fact, mahogany may be a destructive invasive species in some places, and its removal is good for the forest.

Unpredictable Color

Since mahogany changes color over time, it can be challenging to plan long-term interior design around it. The color of a mahogany floor depends on how much sunlight hits it.

You could develop a patchy floor if one room gets more sunlight or some wood is covered by furniture or rugs. Making sure to rearrange furniture often or sealing mahogany can help it develop a uniform color.

Some people might not like to install mahogany flooring, only to have it darken to a color that they don’t like. You must consider that mahogany can change over time before you install it.

High Cost

Mahogany is not the most expensive exotic hardwood you can use for flooring but it’s pricier than most domestic woods. The fact that mahogany comes from far away and is protected in its native habitat makes it expensive in the USA.

Genuine mahogany could be impossible to find near you. You will need to buy from a specialty wood dealer and then it could require special ordering procedures.

The price of mahogany flooring ranges from $5 to $15 per square foot. You can compare mahogany flooring prices with other options from one online wholesaler in the chart below.

Wood TypeCost Per Square Foot
White Oak$2.49 rustic grade, finished
Red Oak$2.39 rustic grade, finished
Maple$3.05 common grade, unfinished
Brazilian Walnut$6.29 premium grade, finished
Santos Mahogany$6.49 premium grade, finished

Is Mahogany A Good Wood For Flooring?

Mahogany is an excellent wood for flooring. Your choice of flooring depends on your taste. You should compare the appearance of several flooring types before picking the one you want to install.

Beauty and durability are highlights of mahogany that make it suitable for flooring. Mahogany flooring gives your home a timeless look that you will enjoy for many years. 

The problem with mahogany is that its popularity and over-harvest leads to environmental damage. You can avoid causing destruction by educating yourself on sustainably harvested mahogany for your flooring needs.

Are Mahogany Floors In Style?

Mahogany floors give your home a classic look that will never go out of style. Mahogany floors give your home an elegance that can’t be matched by many other flooring options.

The style success of your mahogany wood floor will depend upon the design of the room around it. With its bold, reddish-brown color you have to plan a space that compliments it.

Light blue, blue-grey, and green-blue all work well with mahogany. These colors have a cooling effect which soothes the warming nature of mahogany.

How To Find Sustainably Harvested Mahogany Flooring

If you’ve decided to include mahogany flooring in your home, you want to make sure you aren’t hurting the environment. Finding out where mahogany flooring comes from can help you tell if it is sustainable or not.

Typically, mahogany sourced from Asia is more environmentally friendly than mahogany from South America. Mahogany is not native to Asia, so it only grows where people plant it intending to harvest it. 

In South America, mahogany is a key part of the ecosystem and needs to be protected from over-harvesting.

The only South American mahogany that is sustainable to buy is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Is Mahogany Better Than Oak Flooring?

Oak is one of the most popular woods for flooring because it is abundant and durable. Mahogany and oak are both excellent choices for flooring. 

Oak has a lighter appearance that won’t change much over time. Oak is cheaper, more abundant and can be grown locally in much of the USA, making it easier to purchase than mahogany.

Oak is harder than mahogany but doesn’t have oils that resist water and pests. This could give mahogany the advantage if your flooring is in an area that is exposed to some moisture. 

David

David has been an avid DIYer for years. Recently he's really taken to home security, but he has a lot of experience with all sorts of projects from Plumbing to Electrical and Framing to Tiling.

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