Although not yet well know in the home improvement world, eucalyptus flooring has a number of advantages over many more popular flooring wood species. It stands up well to foot-traffic and moisture, it’s environmentally sustainable, and it’s so easy to work with you can install the flooring yourself even if you have little home improvement experience.
Pros: Low Cost and Reliable Performance
With its exceptional durability and understated beauty, eucalyptus flooring is well suited to any room in even the busiest of homes.
One of the greatest advantages of eucalyptus flooring is its ability to resist moisture damage. Many common eucalyptus species grow in humid, rainy climates, so their wood is adapted to high moisture levels. In fact, they’re better suited to humid locations than most hardwoods.
This makes eucalyptus an excellent choice if you live in a humid region, such as the Southeast, or you need a floor for a room where moisture is an issue, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or basement.
The eucalyptus genus contains more than 600 species, so there’s a lot of variety in the wood’s appearance. The natural color of eucalyptus ranges from smokey white to deep chocolate brown, although most species are a medium tan similar to white oak. Despite the wood’s hardness, it takes stain well and can be stained in shades ranging from white to nearly ebony.
The relatively fine, straight grain lends the wood a classic elegance, while the subtle color variations and small knotholes add visual interest without calling too much attention to the floor. Eucalyptus strikes a balance between the uniformity of maple and the showiness of acacia, allowing it to fit into both modern and traditional decor schemes.
Durability and Ease of Maintenance
Eucalyptus is hard enough to resist dents, dings, and scratches even in high-traffic commercial settings such as retail showrooms and restaurants. It’s resistance to moisture damage means it’s unlikely to stain as long as you clean up spills as soon as you find them.
To maintain your floor beyond weekly sweeping or vacuuming, occasional damp mopping with a mild cleaner is enough. You won’t need to, and in fact you shouldn’t, wax a eucalyptus floor. Most flooring manufacturers offer at least a 25-year warranty on eucalyptus flooring in residential spaces, but some extend that to 50 years.
A eucalyptus floor’s durability depends in part on how it’s made. Two types of eucalyptus flooring are available – traditional and strand woven. Traditional is made from planks cut out of lumber. While it’s highly durable, it’s still less durable than the strand woven version.
Strand woven eucalyptus flooring is made from strips of eucalyptus compressed under high pressure and heat to fuse the wood fibers into a single plank. This creates flooring that’s harder than many natural hardwoods and often has a more pronounced, complex grain. The process also reduces waste by making use of wood scraps.
Eucalyptus flooring planks are easy to work with, and even relatively inexperienced DIYers can finish installing a floor in a small room within a day. Traditional eucalyptus flooring planks are most often available in tongue and groove form, while strand woven flooring can be found in both tongue and groove form and click and lock form. You can use the floating floor installation method or the nail-down or glue-down method with either form of plank.
Economically speaking, eucalyptus is a highly sensible flooring option. Priced between $5 to $7 per sq. ft., the cost is around half that of most traditional hardwood flooring. The cost is so low not because the wood is low quality, but because the trees are so fast-growing and abundant. Eucalyptus grows at twice the speed of most popular American hardwoods, so supplies are replenished faster.
Because this type of flooring is so easy to install, you won’t need to hire an installer, which reduces your total costs even further. The floor will stay looking good for decades with only basic care, saving you on maintenance and replacement costs.
Eucalyptus is one of Australia’s most iconic trees, and given the country’s on-going bush fire problem, you might assume it’s risky to use what eucalyptus is left for flooring. In reality, eucalyptus is one of the most environmentally sustainable flooring choices around.
Most commercial eucalyptus comes not from Australia, but from Asia and South America. Eucalyptus can thrive even in a dry climate, reducing the crop’s demand for water. The trees reach maturity in 3 to 10 years, depending on the species. Because of this quick growth rate, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) qualifies eucalyptus as a rapidly renewable resource. Such resources decrease stress on the environment and reduce reliance on fossil-fuel products.
In comparison, many popular American hardwoods take 20 to 50 years to mature, meaning harvesting them poses a greater risk of damage to the surrounding environment.
Particularly if you’re looking at low-cost brands, choosing Chinese eucalyptus flooring is often more eco-friendly than sticking with an American hardwood option. Most flooring sold in the U.S., regardless of wood species, is manufactured in China. Waste and carbon output is lower when the flooring is made from eucalyptus grown in China rather than when American hardwood is shipped from the U.S. to China for processing then shipped back to the U.S.
When you shop, look for flooring made from wood that carries Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. An international non-profit organization, the FSC provides certification to forest owners who can prove they meet basic environmental and ethical standards in growing and harvesting their wood.
Cons: Uncommon and Pricier than Some
It takes some effort to find eucalyptus flooring, and it will cost you more than non-hardwood options.
Hard to Find
Compared to long-time flooring favorites such as oak, maple, and pine, eucalyptus is still a little-known option. Chances are, you won’t find it at your local home improvement store, and your search will be even more challenging if you’re looking for a particular color or style.
Most homeowners who choose eucalyptus turn to the internet to find smaller, specialist flooring retailers who offer this wood. While ordering online does mean paying for shipping, it also gives you access to a much wider range of choices.
Not the Cheapest Flooring
If your goal is to maximize your flooring budget and you’re not particularly concerned with what species of wood you buy, eucalyptus might not be your best choice. Bamboo, which averages around $3 to $5 per sq. ft., is around 20 percent cheaper than eucalyptus and offers many similar advantages, such as eco-friendliness, versatility, and ease of installation.
With some searching, you might also find cork flooring that’s cheaper than eucalyptus. If you don’t have your heart set on using natural materials, you can get laminate flooring for even less.
If you’re looking for flooring that’s durable and eco-friendly yet easy on the wallet, eucalyptus should be high on your list. It might take some searching to find the style you want, but once you do, you can enjoy a low-maintenance floor for decades.