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Ebony Flooring and Ebony-Stained Wood 101

September 10, 2020

Beautiful, bold, rare, and quite possibly illegal, real ebony flooring is an eye-catcher that’s often reserved for luxury homes and James Bond villain-esque estates. You might be thinking, hey, wait, I’ve seen plenty of homes with black wood floors—and you’re not wrong! 

Black wood flooring is pretty popular in modern designs thanks to its rich tones and daring contrasts. In fact, of all the wood floor colors to choose from, black wood might be the most distinct. 

However, most of the “ebony” flooring that you’ve ever seen—specifically, black ebony flooring—isn’t real ebony wood at all. Black ebony wood isn’t just hard to find; it’s also pretty impractical.

Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about ebony flooring—including what makes ebony wood floors so hard to find, why ebony-stained hardwood is a better choice, and the best ebony flooring alternatives on the market.

Does Ebony Wood Make Good Flooring?

This is where things get a little complicated. Real ebony flooring is a thing, and people have it in their homes. Unfortunately, just about every species of ebony is endangered and/or protected due to overharvesting. This means that any newly-installed authentic ebony floors you’ve seen were likely sourced illegally (yikes). 

Now, you might have heard of “Brazilian ebony”, which is sometimes used for flooring. It’s also rare, but it’s actually an entirely different species of wood—and it’s more of a dark brown than black. 

So, to keep things relatively simple, we’re only going to focus on authentic, black ebony. 

What Defines Authentic Ebony Wood Flooring?

Black wood floor planks

Simply put, real ebony is rare, strong, and the tones of its wood range from very dark brown to black. 

This might seem weird because you probably wouldn’t think that black wood even occurs naturally. How often—outside of burnt stuff (and bears)—do you see the color black in the wild? 

As unusual as it sounds, it’s real. Authentic ebony heartwood is black—jet black. The problem here is that all or most of the “black” wood you’ve probably ever seen isn’t real ebony. Rather, it’s ebony-stained wood.

How Durable Is Real Ebony?

Real ebony is crazy strong—from a certain point of view. It’s dense; so dense, in fact, that it actually sinks in water. And yet, this density doesn’t seem to help much in terms of scratches and dings (it’s not winning any awards for the best wood flooring for dogs!) 

That might sound tolerable, but the problem is that even though real ebony is prone to scratching, it’s weirdly resistant to cutting—which is important if you want to, you know, actually using it for flooring!

So if you’re debating between the most durable types of wood flooring while trying to find the darkest option, you might want to re-think going with real ebony flooring. 

Is Ebony Wood Expensive? Yes—and Even Harder to Find

Real ebony, because there is such a limited supply, is pricey

This is likely because ebony really only grows in bunches of 2–3 trees in natural forests, and to further complicate things, real ebony is super endangered according to the (and sorry for this mouthful) International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

That’s not to say you can’t find real ebony wood for purchase. You can if you go through the right channels. But it’s way more expensive than most other types of wood, especially in the amount you’d need for flooring. And very few of the best hardwood floor brands sell it for that exact reason.

Plus, because it’s endangered, using real ebony isn’t very environmentally friendly. So if that matters to you (and it should probably matter to all of us), there are a bunch of other eco-friendly flooring options you might consider instead.

Translation: Almost All the Ebony Hardwood Floors You See are Actually Ebony-Stained Floors

Dark wood floor living room

Which brings us back to our original point: almost all “ebony” flooring you see on the market, in homes, and in fancy displays isn’t real ebony. It’s ebony-stained wood, or ebony laminate, or even concrete flooring that looks like wood (yeah, that’s a real thing!). 

The simple fact is, if you truly want black wood flooring, there are so many other ways to get it. And it won’t just be cheaper; it’ll probably look better too. The only advantage to using real ebony flooring is being able to say, “hey look, I’m using real ebony flooring!” 

Ebony-Stained Hardwood vs. Real Ebony Flooring

Given that almost all of the black wood floors you see are actually ebony-stained wood, let’s talk a little bit about how these floors compare to real ebony flooring.

Real Ebony Is Just About Impossible to Work With

As mentioned earlier, real ebony’s awkward durability is kind of a problem. And finding a contractor to work with it is probably going to be hard (and expensive). 

So let’s break down why you might want ebony flooring. First of all, it’s black and gorgeous. And second of all, it’s (again) supposedly durable. 

We’ll cover the color part further down, but for now, let’s talk about durability. If you need durable floors, you have so many other options—and most of them are better than real ebony. 

If you’re looking for the most durable wood flooring, you have at least half a dozen solid options. Hickory, oak, and mahogany are all solid (forgive the pun) hardwoods and most can be stained black. 

However, if you’re not fully committed to having authentic wood flooring, there are plenty of hardwood floor alternatives too. And again, most or all of them come in black or “dark” varieties. 

What’s the Darkest Hardwood? And What Types of Wood Flooring Can Be Ebony-Stained?

Here’s where your options really start to grow. There are so many different types of wood flooring that can be stained to look like ebony that…well, the real question is what types of wood can’t be ebony-stained. 

Without getting too technical, wood stain basically works by penetrating and clinging to a wood’s fibers. That’s why denser types of wood like walnut tend to be more resistant to staining. But really, you have a ridiculous number of options.

Translation: you don’t have to worry about what the darkest hardwood is—because just about anything can be finished with an ebony stain.

What Are the Advantages of Ebony-Stained Floors?

Well, aside from being cheaper and easier to work with than authentic ebony, black-stained flooring is easier to procure and easier to install. 

For example, if you’re looking for DIY wood floors, you could simply buy and install some jet-black engineered wood. Engineered wood usually comes in click-together floating floor setups, making installation a breeze. And most of the disadvantages of floating floors you may have read about long-leftover myths from decades ago.

Moreover, a basic Google search will show you that it’s super easy to find ebony-stained hardwood floors. Finding real ebony flooring? Not so easy.

All else aside, ebony-stained wood flooring is simply much more practical than authentic ebony wood.

But We Would Also Recommend Ebony Flooring Alternatives Too

Jet black wood hallway

Okay, so there’s a lot of black wood flooring options. But what about wood floor alternatives?

Fake wood flooring might sound negative, but it’s actually pretty great. And there’s absolutely no reason you can’t choose a fake wood floor option that fits your color scheme. 

Plus: as weird as it sounds, fake wood flooring isn’t always “fake” either. Both laminate flooring and engineered hardwood flooring fall into the “fake wood flooring” category, but are actually made of wood!

Here are some of the ebony flooring alternatives we’d recommend:

Ebony Laminate Flooring Can Be Waterproof, Real Ebony Can’t

Laminate flooring is a great option to consider over real ebony flooring. For one, some laminate products are super water-resistant. Mohawk’s RevWood, for instance, comes in varieties that are entirely waterproof!

Ebony, though perhaps more water-resistant than other wood flooring types, doesn’t hold a candle to laminate flooring in terms of utility or cost. Ebony flooring in a kitchen or bathroom doesn’t make sense. Laminate, however, can go just about anywhere.

Ebony Engineered Wood Flooring is Cheaper (and DIY Friendly)

Again, it’s not really fair to say that engineered wood is fake wood per se (it’s made 100% out of wood products). But it’s usually lumped in with other wood alternatives, which is why we’re talking about it here. And yes—there are some engineered wood disadvantages, but its benefits are huge. Why?

Aside from being DIY friendly (which we touched on a moment ago), the cost to install engineered wood floors is way lower than the cost to install solid wood floors—especially when exotic woods (like ebony) are concerned. That’s because engineered wood only uses a thin veneer of solid wood over a plywood core.

Just remember: if you’re hunting for the best engineered wood flooring, we’d recommend that you avoid thin veneers, options that contain VOCs, or softer wood species. But obviously, if you buy from one of the best engineered wood flooring brands, that’s something you won’t need to worry about.

Ebony Vinyl Flooring Can Create a Black Wood Floor Appearance (Plus Tons of Other Benefits)

The best types of vinyl flooring can totally fulfill that you-can-have-it-any-color-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-black vibe, and as usual, there are loads of options! 

Vinyl, which is more or less a type of PVC plastic, offers a lot of benefits. It’s waterproof, it’s absurdly durable, and it can be made to look like just about anything. Ironically, some of those amazing wood floor patterns you’ve drooled over at your friends’ houses are probably made with vinyl!

And on the DIY front, vinyl is arguably some of the easiest flooring to install, which is a far cry from the trouble you’ll have trying to put in real ebony floors. And before you start comparing vinyl to hardwood, know that vinyl can do many things that hardwood can’t—like serve as mudroom flooring.

Check out some Pergo Extreme reviews if you need any more convincing that vinyl can serve as suitable black flooring.

Or, Skip the Wood Look Altogether (or Don’t) with Black Tile

Black tile kitchen

Still haven’t landed on the right option? Then maybe black ebony wood isn’t what you’re looking for at all. Tile is one of the most widely used and versatile flooring options around, and if you’ve done your research on tile vs. laminate floors, you’ll know that it’s durable and waterproof by nature. Some options, like snap-together tile flooring, are also pretty easy to install yourself.

There are so many different types of tile that you’re sure to find something that you fancy. And, if you do want the wood look, there’s literally black wood-look tile. Translation: you can buy tiles that look just like ebony wood floors!

And Of Course, If You’re Dead-Set on “Authentic” Wood, There’s No Shortage of Ebony-Stained Choices

If new-age alternatives aren’t your thing, then you can always stick to tried-and-true wood flooring with an ebony stain. 

Pine flooring, for instance, is known for its beautiful grain and lighter tones. And more importantly, takes stains super well because it’s comparatively soft. Douglas Fir flooring has similar characteristics, though it may not take stains quite as well as pine.

If you’re more intrigued by the idea of having luxury floors than black floors, teak flooring might be an excellent choice. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t stain as easily. But, it is quite beautiful and it’s one of the better options if you want a wood floor bathroom

And if water-resistant wood flooring is your thing and you do want black floors, why not go with a lighter option like white oak that’s stained to look like ebony? That’s right—you can have it all. 

Think about it: if you’re already going to be eating the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, you might as well replace it with something durable!

How Much Do Ebony-Stained Hardwood Floors Cost?

We’ve already established that real ebony costs an arm and a leg, and that virtually anything would be cheaper. Here are some options and the costs associated with each:

Ebony Hardwood Floor Stain: Doing It Yourself

Your wood flooring cost comes down to a few key choices. If you choose to buy a floor and stain the wood yourself, the most definitive price factor is going to be the type of wood you pick. Hardwoods are usually favored over softwoods (because softwoods don’t make very scratch-resistant flooring), but hardwoods are also more expensive.

You can, however, save a bit by choosing domestic hardwoods like oak. After all, buying an expensive exotic wood just to stain it black kind of defeats the purpose. 

The second major factor affecting cost is going to be the price of the stain. Big box store Home Depot sells a quart of black wood stain for anywhere between $9–$36, depending on whether you want an oil-based, water-based, or gel-based stain.

Buying “Black” Hardwood Floors from the Get-Go

Of course, if you don’t want to stain wood yourself (and really, who would?), you can also buy pre-stained black wood floors. Again, the price is going to depend on the types of wood flooring you choose, but there is certainly no shortage of black wood flooring options available.

Are There Any Actual Ebony Flooring Products Out There?

While rare, if you look hard enough you can probably find a place that has real ebony hardwood flooring. After all, there’s a reason it’s endangered. 

But the reality is that finding real ebony to buy is going to be even harder—and maybe less than legal if it’s not properly sourced. 

You’ll Need a Contractor That Will Work With Ebony Flooring

If you do somehow manage to find a source of real ebony, there’s still another problem. Ebony is very tough and the average contractor’s not going to want to work with a type of wood that gnarls their blades four times quicker than most other hardwoods. 

Besides: even if you do find a willing participant, there’s no guarantee the final result will look good.

Conclusion: The Best Ebony Flooring Isn’t Ebony at All

If it wasn’t apparent already, there’s almost no real benefit to choosing real ebony wood flooring. If you want “real” wood, choose black stained oak (or any number of other wood flooring types!). 

And if you only care about the color, go for vinyl, laminate, or any of the other types of flooring we talked about. 

Not only will you save your money and avoid using an endangered species, but it’ll probably look a lot better too!

By this point, we hope we’ve convinced you to choose literally anything but real ebony. So if you’re ready to buy the black floors of your dreams, check out our ‘flooring stores near me’ tool to get started! 

Or, if you’re still mulling your design choices over, check out some other articles here:

About The Author

Christian Southards

Take any subject and there’s a good chance Christian has written about it. From marketing and international relations to wildlife (hobby!) and sports, Christian writes, edits, or helps publish just about everything that’s resigned to written form. His love for home design and remodeling began with his first job working for his uncle’s property management business.

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