The Dramatic Beauty and Strength of Tigerwood

Tigerwood Grain

What Is Tigerwood?

Tigerwood is a durable and dramatic exotic wood species known for its dark vein stripes and beautiful deep reddish-orange background.

It’s known by a variety of names including Brazilian koa, Congo wood, African walnut, courbaril, bototo, zorrowood, and muiracatiara. When someone uses the term “tigerwood’’ they may be referring to Coula edulis, a tree species from tropical western Africa, Lovoa trichilioides (also African in origin), or Goncalo alves from South America (primarily Brazil). These are all evergreen varieties that prefer tropical or subtropical growing conditions. Although the color may vary from region to region, these tigerwood trees all feature the same dramatic grain pattern.

Because tigerwood trees can reach heights of more than 80 feet, they’re often found in the top forest canopy. However, they can also be found on lower canopies as well. They have no special soil requirements and their growing popularity has led some countries to restrict exports in order to limit over-cutting.

Tigerwood is very dense and heavy and can have a Janka rating (which measures the hardness and durability of wood) of up to 2160 depending on the growing region. This is 67% harder than red oak which only has a Janka rating of 1210. Because tigerwood is naturally resistant to rot and decay and doesn’t attract mold or fungus growth, it’s popular not only for exterior use but also for furniture, veneers, flooring, and other wood projects as well. It’s dramatic look lends a certain flair to finished products.

Tigerwood responds well to air-drying even though warping and checking can occur under extreme conditions. After it has dried, it’s resistant to both shrinkage and movement. Projects made from tigerwood are dimensionally stable and hold up well.

Tigerwood is known for its beautiful colors — ranging from light orange all the way down to a deep reddish-brown — and striping, which varies from fine lines to bold strokes. It’s highly lustrous surface makes it look almost oily.

Because tigerwood is highly durable and resists denting, it’s often used for flooring. Its dramatic coloring means it’s often graded differently from other hardwood species when used for flooring applications. Tigerwood that has small defects and less striking variations in color is graded as “common.” Tigerwood graded as “clear” has deep black or brown stripes and a deep orange base color with a hint of pink in it.

Durability

Tigerwood FlooringThe Janka hardness test measures a wood’s durability using a small steel ball to determine the amount of force necessary to dent the surface of the wood. Species that can withstand more pressure before denting have a higher Janka rating while softer woods have a lower rating.

Tigerwood’s Janka hardness scale rating of 2160 makes it harder than many other durable wood species. It’s twice as hard as Peruvian Walnut which has a Janka rating of 1080 but just slightly softer than Brazilian Cherry with a hardness scale rating of 2350.

This means tigerwood is highly durable. Its density makes it resistant to water, bugs, and rot. Provided it’s properly maintained, it can last for over 50 years if used in interior locations and over 25 years if used outside. This makes it a great wood for both interior flooring and outside decks.

What is Tigerwood Used For?

Tigerwood is often used for interior flooring, musical instruments, and fine furniture. It’s durability and water-resistant qualities also make it perfect for anything used outdoors including outdoor deck boards, shutters, deck furniture, and boats. You’ll also see it used for decorative items because of its beautiful grain patterns.

Working with Tigerwood

Despite its hardness, tigerwood is considered only moderately difficult to work with, if you have professional hand tools. Because cutting edges may wear down more quickly than with other wood species, carbide tips or bits are recommended. We also recommend drilling prior to using screws or nails on tigerwood.

Because it can be a challenge to sand this hard, exotic wood, we recommend professional preparation when using tigerwood for large applications such as flooring.

Tigerwood can be sealed for increased durability, but it also weathers well naturally, without preservatives. Sunlight changes the color of the wood. Some people have observed the wood getting darker. Others report that it gets lighter.

Moisture Content in Tigerwood

As with all wood species, managing the moisture content of tigerwood is crucial if we want to protect our projects…

Tigerwood is typically dried down to a relatively low moisture content when it’s used for flooring applications. However, as with any species of wood or wood product, it’s essential for the wood to have already reached its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) before it’s used in construction in order to avoid moisture-related problems. This is especially true with exotic species of wood that grow in natural environments very different from where they’ll eventually be used.

Click here to learn more about Orion moisture metersA quality wood moisture meter is the best way to accurately measure the moisture content of wood and monitor its equilibration to the surrounding environment. Our Orion® 930 Dual Depth Pinless Moisture Meter has programmable specific gravity (SG) settings for both standard domestic woods and exotic woods. It can quickly and accurately measure the moisture content in both unfinished raw lumber and finished wood projects.

It can be summed up in just one sentence…

Accurately measuring wood moisture content at every stage during the construction of a project helps you ensure its success.

How to Care for and Maintain Tigerwood

Caring for Tigerwood Flooring

Caring for tigerwood flooring is relatively easy. There are just a few things you should keep in mind…

  • Keep it clean. Be sure to vacuum or sweep up any visible dust or dirt.
  • Clean up liquid spills immediately.
  • Use rugs in areas that get a lot of foot traffic.
  • Use felt pads under furniture legs.
  • Keep your pet’s nails short.
  • Avoid rugs with a rubber backing as they can cause the area underneath them to fade.
  • Try to avoid having the sun beat down on the same area of the floor every day.
  • Rearrange your furniture periodically so the floor can change color (i.e., age) consistently.

Caring for Tigerwood Decks

Left on its own, tigerwood will naturally age and take on a beautiful, rustic gray color. Clear sealers will protect your deck boards from dirt and rain. However, they can’t stop the color from fading. If that’s OK with you, then just use a simple, clear sealer.

Select a lighter stain if you want some of the wood’s natural color to show through. Your decking’s location and how much use it gets will determine how often you’ll need to apply a new coat. Obviously, if you start to see fading, it’s time for another application of stain.

Clean your decking regularly with mild soap and water or just water for a quick rinse. Dirt acts as an abrasive and can damage the surface of the wood. Pollen is also a problem because it can lead to mold growth which can then lead to rot. It only takes a few minutes of TLC to preserve your investment.

Tigerwood’s Pros and Cons

Pros

1. Tigerwood is durable

Tigerwood, with a Janka rating of 2160, is harder than many other woods. That makes it good for flooring and decking that gets a lot of heavy use. For example, families with children and dogs.

2. Tigerwood is beautiful and unique

Tigerwood gets its name from the dark, pretty “tiger” stripes of varying thicknesses and its rich reddish-orange base.

3. Tigerwood is water-resistant

Tigerwood’s density and natural oils make it resistant to water. Therefore, it’s a good choice for damp environments like decks and outdoor furniture.

4. Tigerwood is exotic, but not too pricey

Exotic hardwoods can be very expensive. Tigerwood is exotic, durable, and resists moisture, but won’t break your budget.

5. Tigerwood is easy to maintain

Tigerwood is an easy wood to maintain. All you need is a dust mop or vacuum cleaner. For deeper cleaning, mix ¼ cup of mild soap in 2 gallons of water and you’ll be able to wash away dirt without harming the finish. Whatever you do, don’t use a cleaner that’s not designed for exotic hardwoods.

Cons

1. The color of tigerwood will change over time

Tigerwood starts out with high contrast between the various colors. However, over time the lighter colors will slowly darken and this contrast will become less noticeable. You can slow this down by limiting the amount of sunlight the floor gets.

2. Tigerwood grows in rainforests

While tigerwood is not an endangered species there are concerns about over-logging. Some tigerwood-growing countries — including Brazil where most US tigerwood comes from — have placed export restrictions on it to prevent over-cutting.

3. Don’t try this yourself

Tigerwood is hard. Therefore, it’s not going to be a DIY project for many people. You’ll need professional tools such as saws with carbon-tipped blades and carbide bit drills for creating the necessary pre-drilled holes for nails and screws. Tigerwood also isn’t easy to glue because of the natural oils in the wood.

Tigerwood is definitely a show-stealer. It’s warm, striking coloring has the ability to turn any floor into a centerpiece and it’s hard, durable nature makes it perfect for a wide variety of uses including, but not limited to, flooring, decks, and fine furniture.

45 Comments

  1. Judith Klein says:

    Hi Larry!

    I’m renovating an old kitchen in Sydney. And stripped the skirting boards to find a real tiger-like pattern on the wood. I looked it up and suspect it is Tasmanian Tiger Myrtle. But it could be anything – I realised after reading your info.Thanks.

  2. Bryan McCool says:

    How can you bleach this wood to lightin it. I have tried A B bleach but little to no color change

  3. Tony says:

    Can you match tiger wood, if half floor was damaged..??

    • Tony Morgan says:

      Since there are many wood species known as Tigerwood, without knowing the exact species and where it came from, it would be extremely difficult to match a pre-existing floor. You might try contacting a company that specializes in Tigerwood products to see if the flooring can be matched.

  4. Timmy says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for your informative notes on Tiger wood. In the Philippines, woodworkers will call a type of tree Tiger wood, and I’ve always wondered what tree it really is. Recently I saw the inside of the Philippine Tiger wood. The colors of your samples seem to match the colors I’ve seen in the Tiger wood in the Philippines. My question is, do you know if Tiger wood grows in the Philippines?

    Thanks!

    • Tony Morgan says:

      I am unaware of any Tigerwood grown in the Philippines, the majority of commercial Tigerwood comes from South America (primarily Brazil).

  5. Linda Robson says:

    I find that my tiger wood floors are very prone to denting and yet I had it installed because of it’s hardness. I’m disappointed.

    • Tony Morgan says:

      The Janka hardness (a test that measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear) varies greatly for the different species known as Tigerwood. For example, Lovoa trichilioides measures about 940, while Goncalo Alves can have a hardness of up to 2160 (red oak is typically around 1120).

      Since Tigerwood is a generic name for multiple species, knowing which Tigerwood species you are having installed can make a world of difference when it comes to denting and wear resistance.

  6. Mark Lozito says:

    Hi,
    We are installing Tigerwood rainsiding in an atrium. The longest lengths being 12’. What precautions should we take when butting the the inside corners. We would like a seamless look but living in Phoenix wonder about the expansion and contraction. Installing in 60 degrees but can reach up to 120. Any suggestions?

    Thanks

    Mark

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Hi Mark,

      The answer depends on the relative humidity that may change, such as from season to season. If this is a controlled environment that can be kept at constant humidity, then you can get away with butting the pieces together.

      What concerns me is the wide swing in temperature. This usually means quite a change in humidity as well.

      I would leave space in this situation just in case.

  7. Jo says:

    Hi there, our flooring is only two years old. I’ve babied this flooring but it has what looks like water marks all over it. I’m beside myself. The floors look great for the first day after cleaning but the marks return and it looks terrible. Almost like the finish has been damaged. The only think i can think of was that my mop head had somethinh on it. It litterly happened over night. Is there anything I can apply to it to bring back its original luster.

  8. charmaine says:

    Larry I have arcadia tiger wood floor. My house was just flooded. Part of the wood needs to be replaced. Do I have to pull up all the flooring in the house? I’m worrying about it all matching.

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Hi Charmaine,

      Since you mentioned a flood all the flooring will need to be removed and the sub-floor examined.
      If you had an appliance leak, then only part of the floor would need to be replaced/examined.
      Mold is a concern if all of the moisture isn’t removed.

  9. Diana says:

    I am installing tiger wood on my deck do I need to preserve this wood due to exterior conditions. I live in the Upstate of SC ?

  10. Chris says:

    Larry,

    I am installing albino rhino tigerwood. What is the best type of sealer that will not darken the colors of the wood. Also, is it necessary to even seal this? This will be placed through out the main floor.

  11. Jodi Low says:

    Hi Larry, we have had tiger wood in our garage for 3 weeks prior to starting an interior flooring project. We laid 6 planks and then decided to measure moisture content. Our sub floor is 8 and the tiger wood ranges from 13 to 21%. After discovering this we brought as much into the house as possible. The moisture content is barely changing. Do you know how long we can expect it to take? We are keeping the house (new construction) at about 70 degrees. How do I calculate EMC? I need to know when my wood has reached it.

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Hi Jodi,

      My first concern is that you have the right setting/correction factor for Tigerwood for your moisture meter.
      If you are using one of ours, the SG setting is .85.

      Second, we have a free APP called “WoodH2O”. It can be downloaded for either an iPhone or Android.
      This APP has a function that will give you the EMC.

  12. Stuart Scheckner says:

    Hello Larry,
    I have an engineered tigerwood floor. Still, after 5 years, it still has a wood odor especially strong at 80 degrees. The first month after installation, I had a severe reaction to the outgassing even though I was told there were no VOC’s. I am chemically sensitive and I do not know what to do as I feel it is adversely affecting my health. I am keeping the temperature in the house lower but it is still somehow outgassing. I would very much appreciate your advice.
    Thank you,

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Hi Stuart,

      If you are certain the outgassing is coming from the Tigerwood, perhaps a layer of some type of sealer or lacquer will do the trick. This should seal in the emissions.

  13. Charlene says:

    Larry I have an old rocking chair that is tiger wood. I have to refinish it. What do I use to treat it?

  14. Larry Markham says:

    Hi Larry,

    We recently purchased a new home in Omaha with tiger wood throughout the main level. We have a humidifier set to 35% – is there a recommended humidity range specific to tiger wood? Thanks Larry!

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Larry,

      There isn’t a special humidity level for tiger wood that I know of.
      You will want to keep the same percent humidity level when the floor was installed.
      In other words, if the flooring was equilibrated to 40% humidity when installed, you will want to keep the same humidity level. This will keep the tiger wood from shrinking or swelling.

  15. Cheryl Rasko Ferris says:

    Larry,
    Can you lay tiger flooring over radiant floor heating. It is the hot water radiant in concrete. Would like to use this flooring but are getting mixed responses on this.

    • Jason Spangler says:

      Cheryl:

      Thanks for the question. This is a better question posed to the specific flooring manufacturer you will be using for your floor. In general, I have heard of many different species being used over radiant heat without issue. Good luck.

  16. Hi Larry,
    My husband and I are building a house in upstate NY. The temps range from minus 20 Fahrenheit in the winters and about 100 F in the summers. We are using Tigerwood decking as an accent to the siding we are putting up. Do you have any information on how Tigerwood ages and the best species to use for this?
    Best, Samantha

    • Larry Loffer says:

      Hi Samantha,

      Solid Tigerwood is an expensive exotic hardwood that is normally used indoors, in a temperature controlled environment, for flooring or furniture. There are engineered Tigerwood products that are designed for siding. Just make sure that it is rated for your extreme temperatures.

  17. John Blackmar says:

    Hi Larry,

    I am looking at Tigerwood vs composite material for a deck project. This new deck project is only steps from the ocean. It will be exposed to salt spray and during a big storm it will get hit with salt water. Do you see a problem with that?

    Sincerely,
    John

    • Tony Morgan says:

      Tigerwood decking is naturally resistant to rot and decay and usually has a 25-year plus life span. This makes it a great choice for decking. Saltwater or spray should not have much impact on the life of the deck. However, over time, the salt environment will probably have an effect on the look of the deck and it will show weathering unless it is stained and also cleaned on a regular basis. Oil-based deck stains with a UV inhibitor are the best choice for slowing the weathering process.

  18. Scott Jarmer says:

    Hello,

    I am currently looking for samples of Tigerwood to use for knife handles. How could I go about finding a source of this tigerwood? Would there be an installer that deal in this that i could get some of the unused cuttings from?

  19. Pamela Everette says:

    We have a tigerwood floor on our front porch. It was gray. We cleaned and then used sander preparing the wood for a protective water shield. Using the sander caused several dents in the floor. Do you have a suggestion on how to fill those, etc.

    Thanks you.

    Pam Everette

    • Jason Spangler says:

      Pamela:

      Thanks for the question. When you say “dent” I am going to assume you mean areas where the sander got away from you and sanded too much wood. This tends to be a common issue if you aren’t intimately familiar with sanding equipment and the sanding process. In this situation, most would say the best way to help this is to blend the affected area, or sand it so its not so drastic and noticeable. Depending on the situation, this may also be an option https://www.hunker.com/13415140/how-to-repair-a-deck-with-wood-filler

  20. Nancy says:

    We had a tiger wood deck installed last year and they put varnish on it which is now peeling.
    What’s the best way to clean it off and refinish the wood?

    • Jason Spangler says:

      Nancy:

      Thanks for the questions. Sometimes, depending on how loose the varnish is, you can just power wash, but in other cases, you may have to sand. I would find the product you are going to use to refinish the deck and consult them for proper preparation in order to use their product effectively.

  21. Gene Sapp says:

    We are planning to put tiger wood for ceiling underneath front porch and lanai in a new construction home
    Will this work and if so do I need to seal it? I live in southern Georgia where we have hot summers and sometimes cold winters. It won’t have direct sunlight
    Thanks for your help
    Gene

    • Jason Spangler says:

      Gene:

      Thanks for the questions. It looks like Tigerwood is lauded as being very dimensionally stable which is what you are most concerned about in this application. This being said, I would still consult a local professional to verify this and get there opinion prior to proceeding. Good luck.

  22. Margaret Wade says:

    I put area rugs on newly laid tigerwood floors 4 years ago before they darkened. How do I now darken them to match? Can they be stained or refinished somehow?

    • Jason Spangler says:

      Margaret:

      Thanks for the question. Depending on how bad the situation is you may be able to rotate the rugs to other areas of the house, allowing the lighter areas to be exposed to the UV. Doing this may darken the wood helping to blend the variations. You may also be able to sand and refinish depending on how deep the discoloration penetrates the wood. Contact a qualified sand and finish professional in your area. Good luck.

  23. Sharron Keeney says:

    I have engineered Bruce Tigerood installed in our house. We have a dog that has left some deep scratches on portions of the floors. We have area rugs in three of the rooms so their is just some deep scratches around the edges that the rugs did not cover and the stairs going up to the second level. Can anything be done to just repair the deep scratches without doing al the floors? The areas covered are in pristine shape.
    Thanks
    Sharron

  24. Kristin says:

    I will be making a dining room table out of Goncalo Alves. I know I am suppose to wipe the wood down with a solvent before gluing, but do I also need to do this before finishing?

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