KEMPAS hardwood flooring - the good, the bad and anything else?

boxiebabeNovember 19, 2008

I finally found a hardwood floor that I fell in love with the looks of and it would look great in our new kitchen. It's called KEMPAS.

I would appreciate anyone that knows anything about it - share your knowledge please. How durable? Brands to go with, or stay away from, etc.

Thanks in advance,


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Well, the ugly part is the fact that most Kempas is illegally harvested and smuggled into the US. In addition, I have witnessed more Kempas finish failures per capita than any other wood. Kempas is primarily milled and finished in China, usually sealed on all four sides since it is such an instable wood. You will also notice that it has a tendency to split and crack on the ends and "check" or in other words-- the grain opens up on the face. The other flaw with this prefinished floor is that the finish has a tendency to flake off in many of the nightmares I have seen with this specie. I would steer away from it at all cost, unless you are making pallets out of it. The link I listed will give you some insight on the smuggling aspect of this floor.

Here is a link that might be useful: America's free trade for Illegal Lumber.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 11:30AM
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Thank you so much Patrick for sharing information on Kempas hardwood floors. It sounds like I will go back into wanting Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors instead.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 7:12PM
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Yes, thank you for the information on the Kempas.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 9:19AM
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aussiewoodman, would this bad stuff happen, if the Kempas is purchased from Armstrong's Hartco Valenza Division?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 11:33PM
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Lynn, Armstrong is a reputable company that either makes or contracts to have made many different lines of wood flooring. However, Kempas is Kempas. It is a wood that found it's way into the mainstream from market forces. People love the look of the exotic offerings like Brazilian Cherry but it does not fit into all the budgets out there, so manufactures found a relatively similar looking wood and started marketing it as an alternative. The pricing on Kempas is all over the board, depending on where the retailer sources it-- (getting back to my earlier response of the illegal harvesting of the timbers.)The over all performance of the wood is generally in alignment with the pricing for the most part. This wood needs to be very carefully monitored and properly dried upon harvesting, sawing and kiln drying, which in Indonesia and China, this process is sometimes, well, forgotten. Along comes Kempas about 8 years ago and it was less money for a similar look, over the years, the price has crept up to being about the same as the cost of Brazilian Cherry as the demand on the raw material increased. The weird thing about this wood is the structure. When you look at the ends of the boards, it has like a reed shaped construction, compliments of nature. Now of course, you say, all trees have a "reed type structure", but Kempas has vessels that are huge compared to any other wood that is offered for flooring use. It appears that these "reeds", or "vessels" if you will, have a tendency to break apart from each other, probably as a result of the stress created during the drying process, thus creating a void in the wood (from the exaples I have witnessed, this usually starts on the edges of the boards after installation). I assume this happens from the stress of movement once it is installed. In many cases, this splintering along the edges of this wood continues long term.

I would suggest going with Brazilian Cherry or Santos Mahogany floor if this is the type of look you are trying to achieve. Now, I am certain that Armstrong would stand behind the product if you experienced a failure in the floor, but who wants to go through all of the hassle in regards to tear out and replacement if such a high risk of failure exists with this specie?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 2:07PM
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Patrick, thank you so much for your response and sharing your knowledge. I just wrote you an email before I saw your response on this list. Someone on this list sent me pictures of her Kempas floor and it was breathtaking and I was in love.

But I had other questions also since I like BR-111 Brazilian Cherry, BR-111 Santos Mahogany and Mirage Auburn Maple. Do you know anything about the Mirage Lock that comes in oak or maple species and installs without glue over a floating floor? I read they use the same wonderful scratch resistant finish as on their wonderful engineered floors.

Which is better to go with regarding stability and color change and being lighter, Brazilian Cherry or Santos Mahogany. I wish they were the same price.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 2:42AM
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Lynn, I think Santos is harder to come by for manufacturers, and that is the main reason it would cost more.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 6:10AM
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Hi Lynn, Santos Mahogany is a very stable wood and it is also very hard. However, Brazilian Cherry is also regarded for good stability and hardness when used as flooring. Both are going to oxidize from exposure to UV light, or change in color, probably the santos a bit more than the cherry, but this compared change between the two is slight. In a kitchen, there should be no worries about the gradual change in color, since, in most kitchens, there are no peices of furniture or big rugs etc on the floor, so you can expect an even change over time. I do not have any experience with the Mirage lock flooor, but in general, apples to apples, you are better off value-wise and performance wise, going with a solid nail-in product if the subfloor allows. IE.. floating floors are great if you have a concrete subfloor or are going over existing tile and similar cases but go with solid if possible. I agree with Jerry on the cost factor, Santos is not as common in a stand of timber as Brazilian Cherry, so as a commodity in the timber form, it costs more.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Thank you Jerry_T & Patrick for letting me know that Santos Mahogany and Brazilian Cherry are both nice in regards to Janka hardness and stability when used for flooring.

I live on a slab so the sub-floor is concrete. I can add a plywood sub-floor but then the floor will be raised so doors will have to be shaved down to accommodate the raised floor. I am so tempted to get a sub-floor and go with a solid but I also fear that due to the preserved wetlands that my townhouse was built on, maybe this is not a good idea?

I brought home boxes of three Bruce woods for color and for width length from Lowe's last night. Lowe's did not sell boxes of the BR-111 wood planks to bring home. The Bruce wood does not click together as tightly as the BR-111 5 foot long samples I have here. Both have similar finishes on top. The Bruce splinters and is no made as well so that is why it is cheaper.

But in the light today, I really like the Brazilian Cherry in both my home office and in my family room. The planks are 3.5" and that is a nice width for my rooms.

The Caramel Oak is a nice warm color but the 3" width is a bit skinnier than I like and I am not sure I love the Rotary Peel Oak look that reminds me of my old floor. I only brought this home for color since Mullican sells a Locking Floating floor that has a caramel oak in a 3.5" wide and a 5" wide that looked nice.

The Gunstock Oak is about the color of the Brazilian Cherry in terms of darkness but some of the BC boards are lighter. I do not like how all the boards are the same length except for 2 starter boards and I do not like not having any variation in the color. I love the 5" width in my family room but in my home office with so much furniture and the long hall type of area due to the file cabinets all along one side of the room and the desk and more cabinets in the middle of the floor, I think I like the 3.5" width better than the 5" width. I may need a few more days to make that decision.

But I see that a light, medium or darker wood looks nice in my three rooms so whichever I want is OK.

I wish the BC would stay this color. That is my only fear that is will get much darker since the boards are as dark as the ones I had here as samples and put outside in the sunlight for a few days. I thought they would come lighter and darken to this rich beautiful color. I have so much furniture in my home office that I will not be able to move around so if I got something like BC, one day when I sell my home, there will be many lighter spots under the furniture.

I didn't seem to like any of the maples samples at the store for lack of grain but on the Mirage sight, I love the floor with the Mirage Maple Auburn color that has some variation in the color between the boards.

I love the Brazilian Cherry's unique fine grain that differs from boards without being so busy like the Rotary Peel Oak.

If I could go with a solid wood, I would go with a Rift Sawn Oak stained a medium Color I think. But for now I want a prefinished wood plank since I do not wan to leave my home with my small dogs to wait for finishing of the hardwood floors.

I wish the Kempas would be more of a stable wood since I really love the look the best.

I also love the Pradoo floors I saw at a client's friend's home but they were solid and the two places that sell the engineered version have the product priced much more than the Brazilian Cherry so I am not sure if it is worth the difference. How does Pradoo Wood compare with Brazilian Cherry and Santos Mahogany?

Maybe I should wait until I have time to move all these cabinets, make sure the slab is level, seal the slab and then get an engineered floor glued down. Or will floating be OK to avoid the extra expense despite all the heavy file cabinets on top of the floor? I know I am a pain but I still am so confused what to do since so many installers giving me estimates confused me. I would have used the first one and not looked around if he did not change his mind on having to seal the floor and on the 2 day down time becoming a week to do the three rooms. The sealing the floor added $2,000 additional cost plus more down time.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 2:51PM
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Lynn, you should investigate Tauari (Brazilian Oak). It retains the look of newly laid Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry).

Here is a link that might be useful: Tauari

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 7:01AM
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Jerry, thanks for the link and the information about Tauri. BR-111 has it only in their thinner with hardly any real wood veneer on top 5/16" engineered hardwood floors. It is much lighter than the Brazilian Cherry that I had right out of the box that I used to see how it would look on my floors. I do like the grain and the color but I need to find a reputable flooring place that has this wood in engineered format. I have two samples of it in the Hartco Valenza collection and it was very light tan with no red in it despite what the sites said.

I had wanted Amendoim since there is less of a color change and it is lighter than Brazilian Cherry until I found out I will not know how many knots will be in the planks I get and without seeing an Amendoim floor in person, I would not want to take a chance since I like as little knots as possible.

Jerry, thanks for your time and caring about my floors.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 1:12AM
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While this is an old thread, I've had Kempas in most of my house for the past 12 years and I live near the beach, where my house is subjected to high levels of humidity. I wonder if aussieman is feeding a line of BS to fight illegal Kempas tree harvesting in China & Indochina. My Kempas has never exhibited any of the signs of distress or failure purported by aussieman. After 12 years of constant use and many, many people, kids, and pets walking, tramping, running on my floors, the Kempas flooring still looks beautiful and doesn't have any finish failure. I still get compliments on this flooring after 12 years of daily, hard usage.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 3:11AM
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Kempas is beautiful top quality wood flooring, my 3000 sq ft new ranch has one its fantastic, i sell veneer cherry, oak and maple from my woods, sold new homes and built them for 20 years, nothing wrong with buying kempas, cutting our trees is all good huh ? these guys can buy american wood cheaper so they try to tell you kempas isnt the way to go ! Not ! total BS, my floor makes the maple and oak and cherry look like low grade ! be careful who you listen to peeps !

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 3:09PM
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Agreeing with the last two posters to this older thread about Kempas wood. I installed Kempas over 2 years ago and the floors still look as good as the day I put them down. They are beautiful and have stood up well. I had not one issue with them during installation, nor any issues since.
Hopefully the original poster and subsequent information seekers did not follow the original "advice" as they would clearly have been incorrectly steered away from floors that are beautiful and obviously the look they originally wanted.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 8:56AM
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Kempas was my first favorite and I still love the wood and feel I would have been very happpy with it since the color was what I wanted but I bought the Brazilian Cherry instead after reading this post.

I like the Brazilian Cherry but I would have been happier with the grain and coloring of the Kempas. Anyone with pictures of their floors?

Hopefully the illegal harvesting will stop so that this wood can be bought and sold with pride.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 10:23AM
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Regardless, the end user needs to know where these exotics come from and what damage is done to ancient forest ecosystems when they are harvested. We're not talking about tree farms here. These are unique ecosystems that are being destroyed at an alarming rate, and once they are gone...they are gone for good.

Certification helps somewhat, but with certification comes increased cost for that legally sourced lumber and it consequently makes poaching a lucrative venture. Buyers want the cheapest raw material they can get to produce the products they make and remain competitive. The poacher gives them that.

Whether or not a wood has been sourced legally or not is the big question. Enforcing the United States Lacey Act to address US corporation violations would help reduce our demand for rainforest timber. The EU needs to do its part also.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 11:22AM
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Thanks glennsfc for educating us.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 11:20PM
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Jerry, please help with this. I've purchased the Kempas from a store and when I picked them up my I saw something like stained reddish color to it so I sanded it and saw that the wood original color is not "light pink to reddish or brown color" like I have searched. I also used pylyerethane on the sanded part to see if the color would change to pink or red or something. It's not changing, it's still a natural wood color, which is pale white. I went back to the store and asked and they said that it's Malasian Rosewood, it's not pink or red. That's not consistant with my research. My question is: First, am I being scammed? Second, if I am not being scammed, the box said it's Kempas, then why would they stained the wood to red color, which is the color I like, and why the wood is not pink or red? Please help with this!!! Thank you very much!!!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:02PM
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I too fell in love with Kempas hardwood over Brazilian Cherry. Bruce flooring provided the Kempus which is ranked very close to Brazilian Cherry in terms of hardness, quality, and durabiity. I have not experienced any problems with installation or wear and tear, and it was installed in 2005. Kempas hardwood offers character to any room; it makes a room come alive while show casing your furnishings.

I recommend you check CONSUMER REPORTS for their unbiased opinion of the various hardwood options. Further I also suggest you find a reputable installer-regardless of the flooring you select! Good luck!!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 7:19AM
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Sabuwoman, do you have pictures since I actually preferred the Kempas grain and coloring over the Brazilian Cherry but chose Brazilian Cherry after reading about the bad about Kempas. I would love to see pictures. What width did you choose and it is engineered or solid Kempas. Glad you are happy!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 10:01PM
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