Acacia, native to southern Africa, and walnut, from the western hemisphere, are two of the most popular furniture hardwoods. Both are strong and durable.
They are also beautiful, with gorgeous colors and grain patterns. Therefore, many woodworkers are happy with either. But what if you can only pick one?
Acacia Vs Walnut: Which is better? Unfortunately, this is a difficult question; the answer depends on many factors. Nevertheless, the following guide should help you make an informed decision.
Acacia vs Walnut Furniture: Which One is Better?
Both acacia wood and walnut are beautiful, durable hardwoods with many applications. However, acacia wood is more popular among woodworkers and homeowners because of its unique, exotic grain pattern. Moreover, acacia’s lighter color makes it easier to blend into modern decors. And it’s cheaper too!
Let’s kick off with a brief overview of each wood type before we compare the two hardwoods. We’ll focus on the origins, properties, pros/cons, and uses of each wood type. First up, acacia wood.
What’s Acacia Wood?
Acacia mangium, also known as the wattle tree or thorn tree, is a light-brown hardwood tree family native to Africa and Australia.
The trees are fast-growing, reaching maturity in 5-8 years. So, it’s a sustainable hardwood that provides plenty of timber.
Common acacia tree species are Red acacia, Hawaiian Koa, Januree acacia, and acacia melanoxylon, better known as Australian blackwood.
Acacia Wood Properties
Acacia trees were originally used for religious, medicinal, and cultural applications. However, its beautiful and strong lumber later attracted wood and construction workers.
It’s a gorgeous hardwood with a pale yellowish to yellow or rich golden yellow lumber with a few knots that give it a rustic feel. But, more importantly, acacia wood is highly desirable for its resistance to pests, insects, and weather.
Above all, it has a high combustion resistance, explaining its popularity in the construction industry.
Pros and Cons of Acacia Wood
Acacia’s durability, weather resistance, and aesthetic properties can be alluring. However, it helps to understand acacia’s weaknesses too before choosing. Here’s what you need to know;
Acacia Wood Pros
- Scratch resistant
Acacia Wood Cons
- It’s prone to warping
- It darkens with age
- The wood buckles and crumbles if not properly dried
Acacia Wood Uses
The main application of acacia lumber is furniture making. Acacia wood furniture items are adorable, durable, and scratch resistant. Moreover, being an exotic tree, acacia furniture items attract good prices.
Besides furniture, many homeowners love an acacia wood floor. Again, acacia floors are highly durable and resistant to harsh elements. They are also long-lasting.
What is Walnut Wood?
Walnut is also a hardwood tree. However, unlike acacia, it’s native to the western hemisphere, including the US. The eastern black walnut, for instance, is native to the American Midwest, especially Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
The most common types of walnut tree species are black walnut, English walnut, butternut, and Claro walnut.
Walnut Wood Properties
Walnut trees are large trees that grow to 150 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter. Most trees reach full height in 12-15 years but can live for 150+ years. The color of the timber varies depending on the specific species.
For instance, black walnut produces dark chocolate or coffee-colored timber. Meanwhile, English walnut is paler, more like milk chocolate. The grain patterns vary too.
Walnut wood is hard and durable. However, the exact hardness depends on the walnut species. For instance, black walnut scores 1,360 lbf on the Janka scale, but butternut only scores 490 lbf on the same scale.
Walnut Wood Pros and Cons
Woodworkers adore walnut wood, and consumers love it even more. But it also comes with a few downsides. Here’s what you need to know;
Walnut Wood Pros
- Highly available
- Stunning colors
- Highly workable
- Easy to finish
Walnut Wood Cons
- It’s pricey
- It’s photo-reactive
Walnut Timber Uses
Walnut is a favorite in the furniture-making sector. Its dark rich colors make it a darling for classic decors. The durable hardwood also makes stunning cabinets for home and commercial settings. Besides furniture and cabinets, walnut is used for the following;
- Wood veneers
Read also: Walnut vs oak
Acacia Wood vs Walnut Wood: Head-to-Head
Now we know a little about acacia and walnut woods. So, we can compare the two to determine the better option.
Acacia vs Walnut: Color and Wood Grain
Acacia is a pale yellow to rich gold hardwood, though a few species are light brown with yellow or golden highlights. It has a straight grain pattern with a medium to coarse texture.
However, it’s also known for occasional knots and streaks that give it a rustic feel. Meanwhile, fresh walnut timber is a stunning chocolate brown hardwood, with some species darker than others.
The sapwood is lighter, typically pale cream or almost white. However, kiln drying unifies the colors for a more homogenous board. It’s s straight-grained wood with a sumptuous, naturally fine texture.
Winner: Walnut wood
Walnut vs Acacia: Hardness & Density
Wood hardness is measured on the Janka scale and determines the wood’s resistance to dents. Expectedly, woods at the higher end of the Janka scale are more resistant to wear and tear, while those at the other extreme are prone to denting.
Unsurprisingly, acacia is harder than walnut wood. Acacia wood has an average Janka rating of 1701 lbf compared to walnut’s 1010 lbf.
Similarly, acacia planks are denser than walnut planks. For instance, kiln-dried acacia wood weighs 16kg/m3, while similar quality walnut lumber weighs 13kg/m3.
Winner: Acacia wood
Walnut vs Acacia: Durability
Many people confuse hardness with durability. Though related, they’re slightly different. Hardness strictly measures the wood’s resistance to dents or impact.
Meanwhile, durability accounts for overall resilience and measures how long a wooden board can last unprotected on the ground. Again, acacia wood comes out on top.
It’s extremely hard and highly resistant to fungi and weather elements. Indeed, a few experts say acacia furniture can last 40+ years outdoors without treatment or protection. Walnut is durable, too. But it only lasts 25+ years outdoors.
Winner: Acacia wood
Water and Rot Resistance
Most wooden items are occasionally exposed to humid, damp, or rainy conditions. Meanwhile, outdoor furniture, birdhouses, and deck floors are constantly exposed to rainy weather.
Therefore, you must find water and rot-resistant woods for such applications. So, which is the better choice, acacia or walnut wood?
Acacia wins! The hardy tree is choke-full of rot-resistant natural oils, allowing it to repel rot-causing fungi for many years. The same oils also repel water, preventing splitting or cracking even when acacia items come in contact with water.
Unfortunately, the edges of walnut doors and furniture chip, splinter, and chip easily when subjected to excessively moist conditions.
Winner: Acacia wood
Insect and Pest Resistance
It’s natural to be worried about pests and insects when choosing lumber for your next woodworking project. Fortunately, both acacia and walnut woods are resistant to pests and insects. However, acacia has a higher insect and pest resistance.
Acacia is often compared to cypress, mahogany, and eucalyptus, some of the most pest-resistant hardwoods. Meanwhile, walnut requires treatment to overcome termite, aphid, and coding moth attacks.
Winner: Acacia wood
Workability and Finishing
The workability of wood plays a pivotal role in shaping planks into desired items like furniture. In this aspect, walnut stands out as the clear victor. Its softer nature makes cutting and nailing a breeze.
Moreover, walnut boasts a fine grain and lacks knots, enhancing its manageability during handling. In contrast, acacia requires sharper tools for cutting and a more concerted nailing effort. Additionally, when it comes to staining acacia, it’s important to note that walnut takes the lead over acacia in terms of ease of finishing.
However, there is a notable advantage for acacia—it offers greater flexibility in selecting staining colors due to its lighter hue. Apart from this, walnut wood outshines acacia in sanding ease, smooth staining application, and rapid post-stain drying, culminating in a refined and glossy finish.
Winner: Walnut wood
Care and Maintenance
It’s easier to care for acacia wood than walnut wood. For instance, to care for an acacia floor, clean it with natural soap and shield it from direct water or sunlight.
However, avoid detergent-based soaps containing ammonia or silicone that can break down acacia wood surfaces.
On the other hand, you must wipe spills off walnut floors immediately to prevent soaking and discoloration. Also, you must use special vacuuming machines and mops to avoid scratching the floor.
Winner: Acacia wood
Strangely, acacia wood is more affordable than walnut wood. You may believe the opposite, given that acacia is stronger, more durable, and an exotic wood species.
However, some walnut wood species are twice as expensive as acacia, thanks mainly to walnut wood’s rich colors.
The average price of acacia wood is $8.99 to $9.99/board foot in the US, with natural boards being the cheapest, followed by high-character and premium boards. Meanwhile, walnut wood costs $11.99 to $20.99/board foot.
Acacia and walnut woods are used in many applications. For instance, acacia is primarily used to make furniture and flooring.
Acacia wood furniture and floors are beautiful, durable, and long-lasting. Besides furniture, it’s used for making canoes, construction support beams, carvings, bowls, and decorative purposes.
Similarly, walnut wood is primarily used for furniture making. The beautiful, chocolate-brown wood makes premium furniture for enchanting interiors.
In addition, its smooth texture and minimal shrinkage properties are highly valuable qualities for premium cabinetry projects. Besides furniture and cabinets, walnut makes beautiful bowls, floors, carvings, and wood veneers.
See also: Acacia or birch butcher block?
Acacia vs Walnut Wood Items Comparison
You may wonder how acacia and walnut woods compare when making certain items. The following is a snapshot of their suitability to common applications;
Acacia vs Walnut Cutting Boards
Walnut and acacia make great cutting boards and butcher blocks. However, walnut edges the contest for a few reasons. First, it’s a gorgeous hardwood with excellent water resistance when sealed. They are recommended than using pine for cutting boards.
Additionally, properly finished walnut wood is very durable. That said, acacia cutting boards are more water and rot-resistant and last longer.
Also, using cedar wood for a cutting board adds nature’s touch, distinctive aroma, and durability to your kitchen workspace.
Acacia vs Walnut Furniture
It isn’t easy to pick a winner here. Acacia makes better outdoor furniture as it’s more resistant to pests, inspects, rot, and weather.
However, walnut makes better indoor furniture as it’s more beautiful and easier to shape. So, consider the project type when choosing. For instance, use walnut for a dining table and acacia for a garden bench.
Acacia Flooring vs Walnut Hardwood Floor
Again, picking between walnut and acacia wood for hardwood flooring is difficult as they suit different projects. Acacia is a light-colored wood with knots and streaks.
So it works best for rustic decors. Meanwhile, walnut wood’s chocolate-brown color better suits traditional decors and office settings. That said, acacia hardwood floors are more durable.
Next read: teak vs walnut wood
What wood is similar to acacia?
Acacia wood is most similar to walnut wood. Indeed, it’s called Asian walnut in some eastern countries. However, if you’re concerned about physical properties other than aesthetics, eucalyptus and Shorea wood are the most comparable to acacia. The main difference is that acacia has a lower density and natural oil content.
Wood that looks like walnut?
Red gum, acacia, alder, poplar, mahogany, and oak trees are the closest walnut look-alikes. Red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is the near-perfect replacement, followed by acacia and mahogany. However, stained cherry wood or maple gives you almost the same look.
Next, read on the difference between teak and acacia wood.
Acacia vs Walnut Wood: Verdict
It’s evident from the head-to-head comparison that acacia comes out on top if you must pick between it and walnut wood.
Though walnut is a premium wood with a higher price tag, acacia is stronger, more durable, and more resistant to dents and weather elements. It also requires less maintenance.
When to Use Acacia Wood
Acacia wood is best suited to demanding applications where durability and resistance to weather and wear are critical. Therefore, it’s perfect for outdoor chairs for elderly and garden benches. It’s also great for bowls and cutting boards.
When to Use Walnut Wood
Walnut wood is best suited for premium woodworking applications that guarantee a high level of maintenance. So, it’s perfect for premium cabinets and high-end home and office furniture and flooring.