9 Disadvantages Of Sapele Wood

Ever marvel at the rich hue of Sapele wood and consider it for your next project? But wait – are you aware of its downsides? Let’s unveil the lesser-known challenges of this popular wood. Curious? Read on!

Disadvantages of Sapele Wood

Sapele wood is a golden to dark reddish color hardwood that originated from West Africa.

Currently, it is popular among woodwork to make musical instruments, furniture, floorings, plywood wood carvings, and many other woodworking projects.

As a woodworker, I was curious to know the drawbacks of Sapele wood since I already knew its benefits from experience.

So, I went for the experts and collected lots of info about the cons of Sapele wood and I’ve added issues I faced with it as well.

Here are the disadvantages of Sapele wood,

  1. Sapele wood is difficult to work
  2. Sapele wood is sensitive to temperature variations
  3. Heavy
  4. Prone to cracks
  5. Need regular maintenance
  6. Sapele wood is expensive
  7. Interlocked grain structure
  8. Sapele wood is noisy
  9. Poor sustainability

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    In this article, I’ll explore each of the above disadvantages of Sapele wood in detail to know everything about the wood.

    Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    Disadvantages of Sapele Wood
    Disadvantages of Sapele Wood

    First of all, let’s have a look at the advantages of Sapele wood in brief,

    Advantages Of Sapele Wood

    • Sapele wood is Fire resistant
    • Beautiful golden brown rich wood tone
    • Attractive appearance
    • Water-resistant
    • High-density wood
    • Sapele wood has high durability
    • High dimensional stability
    • High strength

    As you can see Sapele wood is filled with lots of benefits. That’s why it has become so much popular in the woodworking world.

    Did you know fact about Sapele Wood
    Did you know fact about Sapele Wood

    So, let’s head into the most important topic about the disadvantages of Sapele wood in detail.

    Disadvantages Of Sapele Wood

    1. Sapele Wood Is Difficult to Work

    Sapele wood is a high-density hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,410 lbf (6,280 N) which is significantly harder than many other kinds of wood.

    Because of being so dense and hard, Sapele wood is difficult to work with.

    Your woodworking tools need to be well-sharpened to work with Sapele wood. otherwise, the wood will crack and split so easily.

    If you’re a beginner in woodworking, better not to use Sapele wood for woodworking projects because nailing, screwing, cutting, and sanding are so difficult with Sapele wood.

    Janka hardness is the standard method of measuring the hardness of a particular wood upon wear and shear.

    High wear and shear resistance mean that particular wood has a high Janka hardness rating.

    Sapele wood is difficult to work with both machine and hand tools. Planning, gouging, and routing are difficult because of their grain structure. The wood tends to tear easily during operation.

    Plus, Sapele wood interacts directly with iron and causes wood discoloration. It has to blunt effect on cutters.

    Because of being so difficult to work, Sapele wood operations are done manually since it tears apart easily with machine tools.

    Plus, machine blades, toolsets, and edges will blunt pretty quickly during cutting because Sapele wood destroys their sharp edges.

    You have to sharpen woodworking tools frequently when working with Sapele wood to get the outcome you want without making any mistakes.

    Especially in wood carving projects when taking sharp edges and corners.

    Sapele wood floor
    Sapele wood floor

    2. Sensitive To Temperature Variations

    Sapele wood is sensitive and changes upon temperature changes. When the environmental temperature is high, Sapele wood fibers will expand and the wood will shrink under low-temperature levels.

    The wood cannot hold wipe temperature variations.

    Because of this high sensitivity towards environmental temperature levels, Sapele wood cracks and split easily under extreme temperature levels.

    Therefore, better not to use Sapele wood for outdoor woodworking projects if you live in an area that changes temperature drastically every single day.

    Sapele wood furniture breaks and loses its dimensional stability with very hot day temperatures and extremely cold night temperatures.

    Plus, Sapele wood expands under humid weather conditions.

    The moisture will penetrate easily into the wood from outside and make the wood vessels expand. This may cause Sapele wood to rot.

    Therefore, better to apply a good oil finish or stain on wood before placing Sapele wood furniture outdoors to protect against outdoor elements.

    Otherwise, Sapele wood furniture cannot tolerate temperature fluctuations.

    Tip for working with Sapele Wood
    Tip for working with Sapele Wood

    3. Sapele Wood Is Heavy

    Sapele wood is extremely dense and heavy.

    Therefore, moving Sapele woodworks and furniture can be so difficult to move and even the furniture may get easily damaged because of being so brittle.

    Always use moving tools to change the placement of Sapele wood furniture. Being so heavy is a big downgrade of Sapele wood for people that change their location frequently.

    Sapele wood is heavier than Mahogany and 16% harder than red oak.

    Plus, Sapele wood is difficult to handle due to its high weight.

    Woodworking and wood carving with Sapele wood is difficult especially when it comes to large projects.

    This is why Sapele wood is most popular for small woodworking and furniture-making projects.

    4. Sapele Wood Is Prone to Cracks

    Sapele wood changes upon temperature variations and it has interlocked grain structure which makes it so difficult to cut.

    Therefore, Sapele wood is susceptible to cracks and scratches.

    Usually, Sapele wood tends to crack when drying because of the evaporation of moisture.

    When the moisture evaporates from wood, it tends to shrink at an irregular rate.

    Uneven shrinkages make Sapele wood weak. This makes the bonds between wood fibers weak and causes wood to crack.

    Cracked Sapele wood can be bonded using products like JB weld.

    On the other hand, you can prevent Sapele wood from cracking by applying an oil finish that contract and expand along with the temperature variations and wood movements without peeling or cracking.

    Linseed oil and teak oil both have this elastic capability.

    Here’re possible ways to stop Sapele wood from cracking,

    • Apply sealant
    • Apply stabilizer
    • Apply salt paste
    • Apply oil finish
    Sapele wood kitchen cabinet
    Sapele wood kitchen cabinet

    5. Sapele Wood Needs Regular Maintenance

    Sapele wood needs regular maintenance because of its physical properties. Dust and dirt dull the Sapele wood surface and decrease its golden color sheen.

    Without proper maintenance, Sapele wood will get an unpleasant appearance and lose its natural protection against environmental elements such as moisture.

    Sapele wood furniture needs to be finished so well with a sealer or stain. Otherwise, it will lose its natural water repel ability over time and wood will start to rot.

    Eliminate dust, dirt, grease, and other unwanted stains on Sapele wood by soaking lint-free tack cloth in soapy water and wiping it down along the entire surface.

    The cloth will absorb dust and dirt quite easily and prevent Sapele wood from accumulating dust and dirt.

    When Sapele wood gets dust and dirt on the surface and dries, it will start to tack.

    To keep Sapele wood furniture and woodworks clean, wipe down the entire surface frequently using rags.

    Avoid using silicon or ammonia-based cleaning products since they make Sapele wood too dry and crack the wood.

    Finishing Sapele wood with an oil finish like Danish oil is great to increase its durability and keep the wood fresh as new for so long without getting contaminated by environmental elements.

    Oil finishes protect the wood from water damage and UV light and prevent the wood from rotting, cracking, and discoloring over time and prevent the growth of molds as well.

    But you need to pay close attention to reapplying wood finish at least once per year with regular maintenance to keep the Sapele woodwork for so long with fewer issues.

    Sapele wood patio furniture
    Sapele wood patio furniture

    6. Sapele Wood Is Expensive

    Sapele wood costs more than most other hardwoods with almost the same characteristic features since it is rare to find.

    Sapele trees are hard to find even in Africa but currently, they’re being recovered and their price will be decreased in near future.

    Even though Sapele wood is expensive, it is worth the price due to the excellent features like being water resistant and fire resistant.

    Plus, it can produce really good visual effects that add a unique look to your home or garden.

    The price-to-quality ratio of Sapele wood is extremely good.

    Regular quartersawn and plain sawn wood is averagely priced but the veneer and figured lumber of Sapele wood is so expensive.

    Tip for working with Sapele
    Tip for working with Sapele

    7. Interlocked Grain Structure Of Sapele Wood

    Because of having an interlocked grain structure, working with Sapele wood can be extremely difficult since it tends to tear and split so easily compared to many other kinds of wood.

    Therefore, working with hand tools can be difficult and your toolset needs to be so sharp to prevent Sapele wood from chipping.

    Working with Sapele wood can be slow and problems may occur during operations due to its interlocked grain structure.

    It is formed with the growth of the Sapele tree.

    As a woodworker, I don’t like to work with interlocked grain woods since they are blunt woodworking tools, and making curves and complex shapes can be extremely difficult.

    Plus, staining and finishing Sapele wood can be difficult since applying along the direction of the wood grain is not an easy task due to the interlocked structure.

    Finishing and staining mistakes may happen and lead to a blotchy surface.

    Sapele wood dining table
    Sapele wood dining table

    8. Sapele Wood Is Noisy

    Sapele wood is commonly used for wood flooring. But it can be noisy when walking across.

    This can be annoying especially if you are new to Sapele wood. but eventually, you’ll get used to it.

    In order to make the wood less noisy, nailing and fitting need to be done perfectly with no loose wood joints and poorly assembled floor bars.

    9. Poor Sustainability

    Sapele wood is rare to find due to the mass cutting down of trees for commercial purposes.

    This affects the environment so badly and the prices of Sapele wood have also gone up.

    To have more sustainability, currently Sapele trees and planting and spread the population.

    Until Sapele wood reaches a good level of population, people tend to use alternatives like Mahogany.  

    New rules and regulations have been established to recover Sapele wood species back to normal.

    Sapele wood cupboard
    Sapele wood cupboard

    That’s its folks! Now you know what are the disadvantages of Sapele wood. most of the above disadvantages can be easily solved by applying a good finisher or sealer over Sapele wood furniture or woodwork to increase their durability.

    Is Sapele Water Resistant?

    Yes, Sapele wood is significantly resistant to water compared to other wood types. But under extreme moisture conditions, water particles may go inside the wood can cause it to rot.

    Therefore, proper finishing must be 100% waterproof for any Sapele wood furniture and woodwork.

    Sapele wood is resistant to rot and water damage due to the extremely dense, interlocked grain structure, moisture is so hard to penetrate through the fiber vessels of Sapele wood.

    Because of having good water resistance Sapele wood can be used for outdoor woodworking projects as well.

    Even though Sapele wood is not waterproof it has good weather resistance to compete against environmental elements.

    Dos and Dont's when using Sapele wood
    Dos and Dont’s when using Sapele wood

    What Is Sapele Wood Used For?

    Popular uses of Sapele wood are as follows,

    • Flooring
    • Furniture making
    • Paneling
    • Patio furniture making
    • Musical instruments
    • Skirting boards
    • Doors
    • Moldings
    • Boxes and crates

    As you can see Sapele wood can be used pretty much for anything due to its excellent characteristic features.

    Does Sapele Wood Darken Over Time?

    Yes, Sapele wood gets darkened over time. the color of Sapele wood turns from golden brown to rich dark brown color with less red in it.

    People who love rich glorious looks love this feature but people who love the natural color of Sapele hate this and they try to bring back its previous color by treating the wood.

    But wood darkening is a natural process except wood gets exposed to the sunlight.

    Therefore, you’ll have to admit that that’s the natural behavior of Sapele wood and it can be so pleasant as well.

    How to fix Sapele wood disadvantages
    How to fix Sapele wood disadvantages

    Is Sapele Good for Outdoor Furniture?

    Yes, Sapele wood is good for outdoor furniture, given its durability, water resistance, and aesthetic appeal.

    However, its temperature sensitivity, maintenance requirements, and current sustainability issues are factors that potential buyers need to weigh.

    By addressing these concerns effectively, homeowners can enjoy the elegance and durability of Sapele wood in their outdoor spaces, witnessing its color evolution while ensuring it stands the test of time and elements.

    Alternative Woods For Sapele Wood

    If you have chosen to go for some alternatives apart from working with Sapele wood.

    Here are some best alternative woods for Sapele wood with almost similar or greater qualities than Sapele wood,

    • Mahogany
    • Oak
    • Maple
    • Rosewood
    • Teak wood

    Read to know, Sapele vs Mahogany: Which Is Better?

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about Sapele wood.


    Why is Sapele Wood Hard to Work With?

    Sapele wood’s high density and interlocked grain structure make it challenging to cut, shape, and finish, requiring well-maintained and sharp tools for effective woodworking.

    How Does Sapele Wood React to Temperature Changes?

    Sapele is sensitive to temperature fluctuations; it expands in heat and contracts in cold, which can lead to cracks or splits, especially in outdoor furniture exposed to varying weather conditions.

    Is Sapele Wood Heavy?

    Yes, Sapele wood is known for its substantial weight due to its high density, making the transportation and handling of the furniture made from it a bit challenging.

    How Often Does Sapele Wood Require Maintenance?

    Outdoor Sapele wood furniture requires regular maintenance, including cleaning and the application of finishes or sealants yearly, to maintain its appearance and durability.

    Why is Sapele Wood Expensive?

    The rarity of Sapele wood, attributed to extensive cutting and current scarcity, has led to its increased cost, though it offers a unique aesthetic and functional appeal.

    Can Sapele Wood Crack Easily?

    Yes, due to its sensitivity to temperature changes and an interlocked grain structure, Sapele wood can be prone to cracking, especially if not adequately treated or maintained.

    Is Sapele Wood Sustainable?

    Currently, there are sustainability concerns due to overharvesting; however, measures are being put in place to plant more Sapele trees and restore its population.

    Does Sapele Wood Produce Noise in Flooring?

    Sapele wood flooring can be noisy when walked upon, but ensuring proper installation and fit can mitigate the noise levels to an extent.

    How Does Sapele Wood Change Over Time?

    Sapele wood’s color tends to darken over time, transforming from a golden brown to a richer, dark brown, which is a natural process influenced by age and exposure.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Disadvantages of Sapele Wood

    In this article, I’ve deeply explored 9 popular disadvantages of Sapele wood in detail and how you can minimize those drawbacks and use Sapele wood for any type of woodworking project with ease.

    Disadvantages of Sapele wood are difficult to work, sensitive to temperature variations, heavy wood, prone to cracks, need regular maintenance, expensive, interlocked grain structure, being noisy, and poor sustainability.

    Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions about Sapele wood.

    Hope you have gained good knowledge about the disadvantages of Sapele wood with its uses.

    Try Sapele wood for your next woodworking project and try to gain maximum from its benefits by reducing its cons. Happy woodworking!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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