Hardwood floors are trending, and their immense popularity is second only to carpet, so it makes sense that you’ve decided to import exotic hardwood flooring. The market for exotic hardwood floors reached $3.64 billion in 2016 and has been steadily increasing over the years—with good reason. With such a variety of colors, textures, patterns, and finishes, there’s a wood floor for every style. Many consumers agree nothing compares to the look of real, exotic hardwood floors.
Before your import will be allowed through U.S. ports of entry, you will need to get a timber products import permit, a phytosanitary certificate, and an import declaration form to prove that your shipment is compliant with government regulations. Additionally, there are other details to consider before attempting to import exotic hardwood flooring into the U.S.
If you’re looking to import some exotic hardwood floors into the USA for commercial sale, there are a few things you’re going to need to know first.
If you are importing wood to be processed into planks, it is important to make sure that the wood you are importing is sustainably sourced so you don’t face complications with ethical and environmental laws. When finding a supplier, make sure you ask specific questions about where the trees were harvested, how they were harvested, and who is in charge of regulations in the area. Because many exotic hardwoods come from, in, or around rainforests, you need to make sure that the wood you are importing is not a product of deforestation. You need to protect yourself and your business from illicit suppliers, for the sake of your reputation and safety.
If you are importing finished planks, you should still ask those questions, but you should also inquire about their quality check process. You want to make sure that the planks you are importing are high quality, with no imperfections or signs of rot.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is in charge of making sure imported wood is compliant with phytosanitary regulations. Being “phytosanitary” means that the imported product is free from any bugs or diseases that could spread and harm other plants once it crosses through the American port of entry. APHIS requires that all wood being imported must be treated to decrease moisture, and eliminate the threat of pests, disease, rot, and mold. Wood can be treated in one of three ways:
Once the wood has been treated, you must acquire a Timber and Timber Products Import Permit to send with the shipment. In order to get this permit, you have to submit the PPQ Form 585 to the APHIS Permit Services address printed on the form. Make sure you do this in advance, since it takes roughly 30 days to receive the permit.
Prior to shipment, you will need to submit a Bill of Lading (BOL) to the customs agent at the intended port of entry. A Bill of Lading is a sort of receipt of the items being shipping, including the number, quality, and condition of the items.
After your exotic wood floor import reaches the port of entry, you will also need to acquire a Phytosanitary Certification. You can achieve this by getting the imported wood inspected by an official, either at the port or an inspection facility. If your wood floor panels are compliant, you will be issued a certifying PPQ Form 577.
The Lacey Act was amended in 2008, in an effort to prevent the trafficking of illegally acquired wildlife, plants, and plant products. Exotic wood is especially notorious for being sourced unethically or illegally. In order to comply with these guidelines, you must file an import declaration on your shipment upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry. You can do this one of two ways: with a paper form, or an online form.
The international agreement known as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) regulates the import of any species of plant that is deemed endangered or at risk. All plants regulated by this convention fall into three categories of protection:
If the wood planks you are intending to import fit into one of these categories, you will need additional certification to get through the port of entry. CITES requires that you provide the certificate of origin, an import permit, and proof that the wood was not harvested illegally. You will also need to ensure that the port of entry you will be shipping to is certified to handle CITES labeled species.
All wood flooring coming into the USA must be labeled with a Harmonized Tariff Code, and a concise description of the product being shipping, including the scientific name of the tree the wood is from, as well as how the wood was treated prior to shipping. Hardwood floors are categorized in chapter 44 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.
In addition to all that regulatory compliance paperwork, you’re also going to need to apply for a customs bond, also known as an import bond or surety bond. A customs bond is like an insurance contract between the importer or broker, the CBP, and the surety company. It ensures that all legal procedures are followed, and all duties and taxes are paid in full upon the successful arrival of shipments. There are two types of customs bonds available:
The Janka Hardness Scale is the industry standard method for testing and classifying the hardness of a particular wood. This is important because if the wood is too soft, it could be easily scratched by furniture or pets. Flooring doesn’t need to be made out of the hardest wood, but it should be durable enough to withstand normal wear-and-tear.
The process of determining how durable the wood is consists of taking a 0.444-inch metal ball, and measuring the amount of force required to embed the ball halfway into a wood sample. The sample must be at least 2” x 2” x 6”. There should be no imperfections or knots in the sample, and it should ideally be tested at 12% moisture content. In America, the score a type of wood earns corresponds to the pounds per square inch (PSI) that is required to embed the ball.
In spite of individually tested scores, it is important to remember that natural materials are not perfectly consistent, so some variation should be expected.
Hardwood flooring sales are on the rise, and they are projected to continue growing steadily in the coming years. But what is it about hardwood floors that make people choose this option over other alternatives?
Authentic, exotic wood floors can add character to any room. Often, exotic wood is sturdy and beautiful, featuring natural grains and knots that you won’t find in imitations like laminate or vinyl floors. With an array of vibrant options, it’s clear why imported exotic wood floors are such a popular choice. Depending on the choice of wood and finish, they can have a modern appeal, a log cabin look, a subtle and modest feel, or anything else to fit an individual’s personality and lifestyle.
Arguably the biggest benefit of natural hardwood floors is the versatility of it. If the color fades or goes out of style, the old finish can be sanded off and a new one can be applied. Many types of wood used in flooring take up finishes or stains well, so they offer up a wide range of colors and shades to pick from.
Although it is well known that hardwood floors can be dented or scratched, it is actually more difficult to do than you would think. In fact, hardwood is one of the most durable and forgiving floors to have installed. Scratched or dented hardwood can be sanded and refinished, or sometimes even just buffed. Ruined carpet and tile have to be replaced completely.
Hardwood floors are ideal for people with allergies since it doesn’t hold onto dust and dirt like carpet or other flooring products do. Even tile can gather dust between the tiles and in the grout over time, causing decreased air quality and a dirty appearance. Hardwood floors are also easy to clean since they just need to be swept every now and then. Any spills are easy to clean up, so it’s perfect for households with kids or pets.
Many of the wood species that people know and love today come from outside the U.S. Here are some examples:
There is a lot to consider when importing exotic hardwood floor planks for commercial sale, and a lot of paperwork to handle. With so much room for error, it can seem like a daunting undertaking. If you want a stress free experience while importing this highly regulated commodity, you should consider enlisting the help of one of our licensed customs brokers. Customs brokers are experts on importing and can make sure everything is submitted correctly and quickly. They can assist you in getting a customs bond and a bill of lading, and ensure that your shipment is in complete compliance with all requirements outlined by the CBP.
Are you looking to import exotic hardwood flooring for your business? Our knowledgeable staff here at USA Customs Clearance can assist you with any questions you may have about importing or the supply chain process. Click on the chat at the bottom right side of your screen to instantly connect with one of our representatives!