How to Import Exotic Hardwood Flooring

June 18, 2019
Julia Hecht
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.

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.

Documents Required to Import Exotic Hardwood Flooring

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.

Sustainability

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.

APHIS

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:

  • Heat Treatment (HT): This is the primary method for treating wood coming into the United States. The process involves placing the wood inside a closed chamber and heating the wood’s core temperature to 133 degrees Fahrenheit, for at least 30 consecutive minutes. Usually, though, this process takes several hours from start to finish.

 

  • Air Dried: This process involves spacing the lumber apart and leaving it to dry in the sun for a certain amount of time, until the wood gets to around 30% moisture content. This usually takes between a few weeks to a few months. The wood can then be left in the air-dried state, but it may not inherently comply with all regulations.

 

  • Kiln Dried (KD): This process differs from HT processing in the sense that it deals with water content, instead of heat. The process is usually kick-started with lumber that has already had an opportunity to air dry for some time. This cuts down on costs, since running a kiln can be expensive. Since this takes time, processors can opt to simply place wood directly into the kiln if they are willing to pay the extra costs of running the kiln the whole time.

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.

Lacey Act Declarations Form

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 know how to import exotic hardwood flooringunethically 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.

  • Paper Form: If you want to file it on paper, you will need to fill out the PPQ Form 505, and follow the instructions closely. Make a copy of the form to show to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) when you get to the point of entry, but keep the original reserved for the USDA. Once you get the entry number for your shipment, write it at the top of the original form and mail it to the address supplied at the bottom of the last page.
  • Electronic Form: There are two ways of completing the form online. The first way is with the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) through the Customs Entry System. This is the traditional way of submitting the form, but a new way has recently been implemented to make the process easier. The Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS) saves time and energy, since it allows importers or brokers to save templates of things they frequently import, find information quickly, or even auto-populate forms from XML format. It is not intended to replace the traditional ABI method, but it is an option available for those that need it.

CITES

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:

  • Appendix I: This section covers trees that are threatened with extinction, and must be highly regulated to make sure that the harvest and trade of this material is sustainable.
  • Appendix II: This section covers trees that are deemed to be “at risk,” but not necessarily endangered. These are highly regulated, but not quite to the degree that those in Appendix I are.
  • Appendix III: This section covers trees that are not necessarily at risk or endangered, but have been requested to be regulated by a specific country in an effort to preserve it.

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.

Tariffs

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.

Customs Bond

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:

  • Single Entry Bond: You should consider a single entry bond if you intend to import only a few times a year. You need to reapply for each new shipment you make, and each one is only good for a specific port of entry that you determine ahead of time. These bonds are ideal if you are working with low-cost shipments. The cost of a single entry bond is no less than the total value of the goods being imported.
  • Continuous Bond: You should consider a continuous bond if you intend to import many times over the course of a year. Your imports are not constrained to a single port of entry, and you are not limited in the number of times you can import. If your shipment is a high-value shipment, worth more than $2,500, you will require this type of bond regardless of how often you intend to import. The cost of a continuous bond is 10% of the duties, taxes, and fees associated with the value of the import, paid over a twelve-month period.

The Janka Hardness Scale

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.

Benefits of Importing Exotic Hardwood Flooringbenefits of importing exotic hardwood flooring

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?

Authenticity

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.

Versatility

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.

Durability

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.

Cleanliness

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.

Popular Types of Exotic Hardwood Floorspopular types of exotic hardwood floors

Many of the wood species that people know and love today come from outside the U.S. Here are some examples:

  • Australian Cypress: This is a light colored wood with dark knots throughout. It is popular because of its character, durability, and resistance to sunlight. Its Janka Hardness rating is 1375, and it is native to Australia.
  • Bamboo: This type of floor is often categorized as hardwood, but is actually a type of grass. It appears light and sandy-colored and has a specific grain pattern characteristic of the nodes on bamboo shoots. Because all bamboo planks are engineered, its Janka Hardness rating varies dramatically based on how, when, and where it is manufactured. It is native to Southeast Asia.
  • Brazilian Cherry: This wood is highly photosensitive, meaning it changes over time as it is exposed to sunlight. It goes from medium tan to a deep reddish-brown. It is known for being durable and a unique grain pattern. Its Janka Hardness rating is 2350, and it is native to Central America, and South America, and the Caribbean.
  • Brazilian Oak: This type of wood highlights medium-tan to gold shades, and it is known for being resistant to insects and moisture. The grain is subtle and straight and tends not to have dark knots. Its Janka Hardness rating is 1650, and it is native to Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and several other places.
  • Ipe: Also known as Brazilian Walnut, this wood ranges between medium and dark brown and has a uniquely swirling grain pattern. Because it is so hard, it is ideal for a household with dogs. Its Janka Hardness rating is 3680, and it is native to Southern Brazil.
  • Purpleheart: This wood is characterized by a range of radiant reddish-purple hues and a dark wavy grain. Over time, it fades to a rich brown color, but the purple can be preserved if the floor is treated with the correct finish. Its Janka Hardness rating is 2090, and it is native to the tropical rainforests in Central and South America.
  • Santos Mahogany: This wood is high contrast, featuring a range of golds, browns, and reds in its interlocking straight grain. Its Janka Hardness rating is 2200, and it is native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
  • Teak: This wood is popular for outdoor decks, given its water and rot resistance. It is a versatile wood, that has a range of rich colors and grains. Its Janka Hardness rating is 1070, and it is native to South and Southeast Asia.
  • Tiete Chestnut: This wood comes in a variety of colors, from dark reddish-brown to medium gold, though it can have streaks that are almost white. It is valued for its extremely low photosensitivity. Its Janka Hardness rating is 3417, and it is native to Brazil.
  • Tigerwood: This floor is distinct and immediately recognizable. It features light tan to orange colors with dark stripes along with the straight grain pattern, giving it the appearance of tiger stripes. Its Janka Hardness rating is 1850, and it is native to Brazil.
  • Timborana: This is a distinct wood that typically displays vibrant yellow-orange to medium brown colors. Its Janka Hardness rating is 1550, and it is native to South America.

Connect with a Customs Broker Todayconnect with a customs broker today

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.

Utilize USA Customs Clearance for Importing Help

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!

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