Once you understand the basic reasons for color changing in wood (as we discussed in Part 1), you’ll be interested to know that not all lumber species change color as much as others. In fact, the chemical composition of some species creates a situation ripe for dramatic color change, making them truly grow more beautiful as time goes by. Some of these species of special interest include Purpleheart, Teak, Mahogany, and Cherry.
A fairly uncommon species, the exotic Purpleheart lives up to its name — at least when it’s freshly milled. Hailing from Central and South America, this exotic species responds to initial oxidation upon milling by turning a deep eggplant color.
However, as its extractives react to UV light, heat, and air, the wood’s color mellows into more of a brown with a subtle hint of purple. If you wish to retain the more dramatic purple hue — or at least slow the color change — you can do so by using a finish that inhibits the penetration of UV rays.
Another exotic species, Teak is renowned for its suitability for marine applications but infamous for its color change. Interestingly, the same characteristic of the Teak tree’s makeup can be credited (or blamed) for both.
The significant amount of extractives (oil and silica, in particular) protects the wood against water penetration but also causes the initial color of the wood to appear streaky and discolored. The initial pallet of purples, greens, and grays will eventually mellow into the honey brown shade for which Teak is well known.
A favorite for furniture makers everywhere, Mahogany appears light pink when it’s first milled. With time and exposure to the elements, it deepens into a reddish brown color; however, not until decades or even centuries of chemical reactions and dirt combine will it become as dark as the Mahogany pieces seen at museums or antique stores. In order to get the look of aged Mahogany, you’ll have to apply a stain.
Like Mahogany, the deep reddish brown color most people associate with Cherry is actually something that occurs over time along with the application of stain, dye, and years of accumulated dirt. Freshly milled Cherry is a light pink color, and the wood naturally deepens into a brown color.
Modern furniture makers often add an overage of dye at the outset, in order to achieve the color customers desire. However, since the color will darken over time, the color may become different from what you expect.
Because of the many influences on color change, a wood floor may appear quite different in parts of your home that are near windows — especially when compared to sections hidden beneath an area rug for long periods of time. While these color changes are unpredictable, that kind of “wild card” is part of the allure of natural lumber.