Walnut wood is one of the most popular products in the world of custom furniture. It’s a dream for woodworkers as well as their clients.
The reason – walnut’s undeniable qualities! Walnut is prized for its stability, workability, and beauty. Moreover, it’s applicable in many woodworking projects, from flooring to furniture making and cabinetry.
Unfortunately, walnut is one of the most expensive hardwoods in the United States and worldwide. This guide discusses everything you need to know about walnut wood and wood products, focusing on why walnut has recently become so expensive.
Is Walnut Wood Expensive?
Unfortunately, yes. Walnut wood is quite expensive, though it’s not the most expensive wood type on earth. The main reason walnut is pricier than most other hardwoods (and softwoods) is that it’s scarcer and tends to grow slower. Thus, the demand way exceeds the supply. Pine, for instance, is cheap because it’s available in abundance and matures very fast.
What is Walnut Wood?
Walnut wood is lumber obtained from trees of the Juglans genus. It is a beautiful, strong, and versatile wood from a moderate size tree that grows to about 100 feet tall. Walnut tree trunks are about 60 inches in diameter, on average.
Is Walnut a Hardwood or Softwood?
Walnut is a hardwood. Indeed, it’s one of the hardest hardwoods. However, remember hardness doesn’t define whether a wood type is hardwood or softwood.
Instead, the main difference between hardwoods and softwoods is that hardwoods, such as walnut, cherry, and ash, are obtained from dicot trees, usually found in broad-leaved angiosperm forests.
Meanwhile, softwoods, such as pine, are gymnosperm trees.
Advantages of Walnut Wood
Let’s now look at why the demand for walnut wood is so high. Why do woodworkers and their clients adore walnut wood?
- Stunning color: Walnut wood is famous for its rich, brown color, which adds drama to any interior setting. The exact tone varies from light to dark brown depending on the type of walnut. The brown color mainly comes from the heartwood.
- A gorgeous grain pattern: The beautiful grain pattern is another major aesthetic quality of walnut wood. Walnut mainly has a straight grain pattern. However, you may occasionally come across a wavy or curly grain pattern that makes the wood pieces strikingly beautiful.
- Extremely durable: Walnut is one of the most durable hardwoods. It is excellent for everyday applications such as dining sets and accent tables and withstands outdoor conditions. Some studies say walnut pieces can last 150 to 400 years with proper maintenance.
- Resistant to water and mold: Wood types that easily absorb and retain moisture make poor candidates for general woodworking because of the increased risk of warping and rotting. Mold also becomes a problem. Fortunately, walnut resists moisture and water very well.
- Excellent finishing qualities: Finally, walnut is well known for its exceptional finishing qualities. For one, walnut finishes are very smooth. This partly explains why it’s the go-to wood for specialty woodworking items and musical instruments. Additionally, walnut furniture is easy to paint and stain. Here are some of the best finishes for walnut wood.
Main Types of Walnut Wood
There are 21 categories of walnut trees worldwide. However, some of these are so rare that even experienced woodworkers have never seen them. The five main categories common in the US are;
English Walnut Wood
English walnut trees, also known as Juglans regia, are the most common type. As a result, they are sometimes called “common walnut.”
They provide most of the edible walnut fruits sold globally. English walnut trees are characterized by irregular grains, a medium texture, and high insect resistance.
Black Walnut Wood
The black walnut tree, also known as Juglans nigra, is the most popular among woodworkers. In fact, when you hear a woodworker talking about walnut, they’re most likely talking about the American black walnut.
Black walnut trees are premium hardwood characterized by brown heartwoods and high shock resistance. Unfortunately, they aren’t as insect-resistant as the English walnut.
Brazilian Walnut Wood
Brazilian walnut trees mostly grow in South America, especially Brazil. The wood is deep and rich in color, with the heartwoods ranging from reddish-brown to sorts of yellowish olive. Furniture made from Brazilian walnut ooze luxury at first sight.
White Walnut Wood
Butternut trees are also known as white walnut trees because they have pale gray backs related to the black walnut tree. The trees grow to about 60 feet and are characterized by dark green leaves arranged like leaflets.
Bastogne walnuts are the densest of all walnuts and often display a green hue and broken fiddle-back figure. Thus, the color contrast with English and Claro walnuts is evident.
Bastogne walnut woods are characterized by stunning patterns and excellent workability (including gluing and staining).
You may also come across other walnut wood types, including the Peruvian Walnut, Claro walnut, American walnut, hind’s black walnut, eastern black walnut, and Japanese walnut.
Is Walnut Wood Expensive?
Unfortunately, yes. Walnut timber is more expensive than most other hardwoods, including mahogany, cherry, maple, and oak. It’s also more expensive than most softwoods.
The following is everything you need to know about the cost of walnut lumber.
What is the Cost of Walnut Wood?
The average cost of the American black walnut wood is about $9 for S4S lumber. S4S means “surface-on-four-sides” that’s already prepped, planned, and primed for use “out of the box.”
However, the actual costs vary widely depending on the type of walnut, size of lumber, and many other factors, including the location and seller.
Generally, walnut costs about $9.15/foot for a prepped 4×4. General prices for other dimensions (S4S) are as follows;
- 5×4 = $9.40/foot
- 8×4 = $10.50/foot
- 12×4 = $11.25/foot
However, figured walnut (steamed) typically costs more. A 4×4 piece will set you back around $15 per foot.
Non-prepped lumber is generally cheaper. For instance, 4×4 non-prepped walnut costs about $5.25/foot, while 8×4 costs around $6.25. it’s also worth noting that some walnut species are slightly more expensive. For instance, Mayan Walnut costs $10/foot, while Peruvian walnuts cost $11/foot.
How Do Walnut Prices Compare with Other Top Wood Types?
The price differences vary widely from one wood type to the next. The following is a brief comparison of general walnut wood prices against other top hardwoods (only S4S lumber) at a local lumber yard.
- Walnut vs. red oak: 4×4 red oak costs $3.30/foot. Therefore, walnut is more expensive than red oak.
- Walnut vs. white oak: Walnut is way more expensive than quartersawn white oak. 4×4 white oak costs $7.50/foot.
- Walnut vs. pink ivory: Pink ivory prices start at around $6/foot for 2x2s and up to $20/foot for 4x4s, thus more expensive than walnut wood.
- Walnut vs. maple: Maple (soft maple and hard maple) prices start from $5.25/foot for 4×4 lumber pieces. So, walnut is more expensive than maple.
- Walnut vs. mahogany: Exotic African mahogany wood pieces cost $6/foot for prepped 4x4s. However, genuine mahogany costs as much as $10.90/foot.
- Walnut vs. cherry wood: Cherry generally costs $4.05/foot, though curly cherry prices can reach $8.70/foot.
- Walnut vs. African blackwood: A 12-foot 4×4 African blackwood piece costs about $274, translating to about $22.83/foot.
Is Black Walnut Expensive?
Yes, black walnut lumber prices are fairly high. The average price of unprepped black walnut wood is $5.25/foot for a 4×4. Meanwhile, quartersawn black walnut costs $7.5/foot.
The prices are even higher when the wood is prepped. For example, Live-edge black walnut slabs (14 to 20 inches) cost $9 per foot, while wider slabs cost as much as $12/foot.
How Much Does a Walnut Slab Cost?
The average price of a walnut slab is $3 to $10 per board foot. Therefore, an eight-foot-long 2-inch-thick walnut slab that is 22 inches wide priced at $10/foot costs $290, including tax.
Meanwhile, an eight-foot-long 2-inch slab that’s 16 inches wide will set you back $160, including taxes.
How Much is a Board of Black Walnut Worth?
The going stumpage rate for quality black walnut is around $0.8 to $2.00 per board foot for sawlogs (used to make lumber). Veneers, used to make fine face veneer for architectural paneling and furniture, among others, will cost you even more money, typically starting from $3 to $10 per board foot.
How Much is a Black Walnut Tree Worth?
Black walnut trees attract premium prices and have since the 1700s. Bruce Thompson, author of Black Walnut for Profit, estimates that a mature stand of black walnut trees is worth $100,000 per acre in timber value alone. However, some studies show that you may pay up to $20,000 for a single tree.
A single log (top in a pile) can cost up to $200 per piece, while second-in-the-pile logs often cost around $175 per piece. This applies to premium veneer-quality logs.
Why is Walnut so Expensive?
Walnut is so expensive because it is highly-sought wood in limited supply. The high demand is due to walnut’s natural qualities. Its strength, durability, and aesthetic characteristics make it a darling among woodworkers and customers.
Unfortunately, walnut trees are a bit rarer for two reasons. First, the trees only grow in a few selected regions worldwide. Secondly, the few walnuts in existence take a very long time, typically over 50 years, to mature.
Why are Black Walnuts so Expensive?
Black walnuts are expensive for the same reasons other walnut varieties are expensive. It’s a rare tree in high demand but short supply. Also, note that black walnut ranks as one of the most in-demand walnut species.
What is Walnut Wood Used For?
Walnut lumber is used in many applications, including building, infrastructure, and furniture making. Generally, the black walnut is popular in cabinet making and paneling.
Meanwhile, Brazilian varieties (three times harder than black walnut) are common in hardwood flooring. English walnut lumber is common in veneers and small wood projects.
Walnut Hardness (Janka Test)
Walnut wood is rated 1010 Janka. For comparison, cherry is 995 Janka, hard maple is rated 1,450 Janka, and red oak comes in at 1,290 Janka.
However, the Brazilian walnut is way harder than the average walnut species. It’s rated a staggering 3,684 Janka, making it one of the hardest woods on earth.
The colors found in walnut wood vary the walnut variety and the part of the tree from which you got the wood. For instance, the sapwood, i.e., the outermost part of the wood, is a pale yellow to gray in most walnut varieties.
It may even be rich white in some varieties. Meanwhile, the heartwood, i.e., the inner part of the trunk, is known for color significant color contrasts.
Most hearts are dark chocolate brown to light brown, with a few trees even popping up with grays, reddish and dark streaks. A purple heart is also not too uncommon.
The best part is that walnut wood pieces don’t darken quickly. The walnut color darkens slowly, unlike oak and maple furniture that become darker over a few years. In fact, some walnut varieties lighten over time, developing a warm honey color as it ages.
Is walnut the best wood?
A few people say so. However, it depends on the qualities you’re looking for in wood. That said, though, walnut is one of the best types of wood around. It is hard, durable, easy to work, and resistant to damage. It’s also highly water and rot-resistant.
Is Walnut wood good for furniture?
Yes, walnut is good for furniture. In fact, walnut is one of the most desired woods for high-end furniture. Its natural qualities, including strength and durability, make it the perfect choice for cabinets and dining sets.
Is walnut good for hardwood floors?
Yes, walnut is one of the best woods for hardwood flooring. It is stylish and often associated with large, expansive spaces due to the rich dark tone. More importantly, walnut floors are extremely durable. Brazilian walnut flooring can last a lifetime with good maintenance.
What is more expensive? Walnut or Oak?
Walnut is more expensive than both red and white oak. Whereas red oak costs around $3.3/foot and red oak $7.5/foot, a 4×4 walnut lumber will set you back $9.0/foot. However, you can always save money by opting for red oak, which is almost as good.
So, is walnut wood expensive? Yes, walnut wood is fairly expensive compared to other hardwoods, and for a good reason. For one, it possesses extreme strength (Brazilian walnut is over 3600 Janka) and is very durable (walnut wood furniture can last a lifetime).
Additionally, the straight grain pattern (sometimes with a hint of wavy) and colorful heartwood, often with soft purple undertones, is irresistible for most people.
Therefore, you should strongly consider it if you can find a few pieces at your local lumber yard.