Sapele Wood – Characteristics and Uses (Price 2023)

Sapele Wood

If you want to find an alternative to genuine mahogany, Sapele wood is a highly prized and durable type of hardwood in the market.

As a long-lasting material for making furniture, Sapele wood is a long-lasting and strong type of hardwood from Africa.

It can also be used for flooring in a luxury building, or making musical instruments.

In the wood industry, based on the quality, application, and specifications of wood, Sapele has different costs from moderate to very expensive prices.

But, the main problem is that the number of Sapele trees are decreasing. So, there are concerns about using this hard and strong wood for ordinary applications.

Sapele tree grows slowly and this makes them less sustainable to be used as a source of timber production for the flooring and furniture industry.

As a buyer, it is important to note that Sapele is a bit denser than mahogany and shows nearly twice the hardness.

But, not all the sapele or mahogany woods have the same density or stability. So, they are available in different grades in the market.

Having a look at the life cycle of the woods, that are being used for flooring or producing other instruments, can help us to evaluate the benefits, shortfalls, and sustainability of sapele wood for woodworking industries.

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Is Sapele wood sustainable?

Over the last years, different companies used life cycle assessment (LCA) as an important factor to choose best woods and create more durable and sustainable products for the wood industry.

The life cycle assessment can give us a better understanding to evaluate the importance of Sapele wood for manufacturing products like musical instruments or furniture.

Due to having carbon offset value, by considering Sapele tree’s carbon sequestration, it is considered as a largely sustainable material.

Research from making to the recycling of the products can help to evaluate each stage of life-cycle, and also to determine its environmental impacts.

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Is Sapele wood sustainable?

Stages of Sapele wood’s life cycle

By using the relevant data, it is easy to examine the stages of Sapele wood’s life cycle.

These 5 stages consist of:

Growing Sapele tree

During the Sapele tree lifespan, carbon sequestration leads to sustainable growth. This tree absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen more than you expect. We’ll talk about its growth later.

Manufacturing woodworking products by Sapele

To turn Sapele wood into furniture and musical instrument, different tools for cutting, carving, or processing are being used.

But, the important note is that in this process, the wood waste is relatively low.

By using fossil-free energy in the process, a significant reduction in the emission of carbon during the manufacturing process can be attained.

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Sapele wood grows in Africa. So, transporting of the products from the growing regions to the final destination costs much more than using domestic wood in the west.

Usage of Sapele wood in the industry

After manufacturing woodworking products with Sapele, the furniture and the musical instruments have a long life. As a strong and luxury wood, Sapele usage in the flooring is also possible.

Usage of Sapele wood in the industry


Finally, we can use the wood at the end of the product’s life cycle. For example, they are a good source of bioenergy.

The story of the wood from the forest to the homes ends here.

But, let’s have a deeper look at its growth and significance:

Where do Sapele trees grow?

This tree comes from the genus Entandrophragma cylindricum.

It grows in Africa. As a very long-living plant and slow-growing tree, it is among tropical species.

Seedling growth

The seedlings of this plant grow slowly from 6 to 16 inches every year. The growth rate can reach 30 inches per year in the first 7 years.

The speed of growth changes by the location and the growing conditions.

Life span

The important note is that this plant can live more than 5 hundred years.

So, it acts as a carbon sink for hundreds of years. This leads to climate crisis mitigation.

The carbon content of dry weight of the sapele tree is as much as 50 percent.

How large Sapele tree can grow?

Even, we mentioned that the speed of growth is slow, Sapele trees can grow large over the course of their life cycle in natural habitats.

So, it can reach to 100 feet, and in some cases more than 150 feet. It can even reach to a height of more than 200 feet.

The Sapele tree diameter

The range of Sapele tree diameter can be from less than 2 feet up to 6 feet.

Sapele tree’s growing countries

As a plant, that is native to tropical regions of Africa, Sapele tree grows in the countries like:

  • Ghana
  • Cameroon
  • Nigeria
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Ivory coast
  • Uganda

Does harvesting Sapele tree disrupts wild life?

Cutting down Sapele trees in natural habitats can have several adverse effect on the life of wild animals. Why?

Because, they grow in African rainforests. So, they are a shelter for wild animals.

For example, rare monkey species use them as a natural habitat for themselves.

Another interesting point that is very important is that African rainforests store more carbon than that of the amazon rainforests and sapele plays an important role in this process.

Why is sapele tree on the IUCN red list?

The population of this plant is far less than before and is decreased over the past years. So, it is considered as a vulnerable tree in the IUCN list.

Is Sapele wood cheap?

Figured lumber produced from the plant is expensive. Comparing to other products, the veneer and quilted sapele is also very expensive.

But, regular lumber or plainsawn can be bought by a moderate price in the market.

Is sapele wood better than oak?

In terms of resistance to indentation, sapele is equal to English oak. Also, the bending strength of sapele and oak seems to be similar.

Furthermore, sapele tree and English oak are also similar in:

  • Resistance to shock loads
  • Stiffness
  • Bending strength

But, if we compare it to American mahogany, sapele wood is much harder. It is also harder than African mahogany.

Another important note in that, in the manufacturing process, sapele tree machines well. The only problem is the interlocked grain that causes several issues with chipping.

Do all mahogany and sapele species are the same?

No, different species have different characteristics and behave differently. For example, the color and the stability of products are not the same.

But, both of them are commonly known as reddish-brown woods in the market.

Can I buy sapele wood?

It is a commercially exported wood which can be found in west Africa. By having s moderate price, it is a good substitute for Honduran mahogany.

It is commonly distributed in veneer and lumber. You can also buy thin dimensional lumber in market.

But, as we mentioned earlier, sapele exploitation can lead to its rarity in future.

Is mahogany cheaper than sapele?

By comparing the price range, you can understand that mahogany woods are more expensive than sapele.

From which country does sapele come from?

It grows in many parts of central and western Africa. From Uganda to sierra Leone and from Angola to the south of the continent, the tree grows in natural habitats.

In some countries, its height can reach up to 200 feet and the diameter of tree can become as large as 7 feet.

So, it can grow to become one of the biggest canopy trees in African forests.

What is the price of sapele lumber?

Detailed pricing of the sapele lumbers are available in online shops.

As an example, the price of a FAS grade lumber with a thickness of 5/4 in around 10 dollars per BF.

sapele wood price

Is sapele a rare wood in the global market?

No, different woods have different usage and application.

Today, agarwood is the rarest and most expensive wood in the world with a price of 10 thousand dollars per kg. It has unique properties and is known as the “wood of the gods”.

It has a dark and fragrant wood that is used as perfume and incense.

Why is sapele suitable for furniture?

By taking screws, nails, and glues, it is a versatile wood. Sapele also can be used for construction by making high-end woodworking objects for indoor and outdoor of the buildings.

In west, sapele is used for manufacturing decorative furniture and wooden parts of musical instruments.

Is sapele and utile the same?

No, but they are similar. Utile is a very large plant that grows larger than sapele.

Utile has a lower density than sapele wood and this makes it a good candidate for the industry as a more stable wood.

Is sapele good for guitars?

It has similarities with mahogany. So, as a red wood, it can produce a warm and rich tone.

What is the color of sapele?

The sapwood of the tree is whitish or yellow. But, when you freshly cut the tree, the heartwood of sapele is pinkish. Then, it turns dark and becomes reddish and brown.

Does sapele rot in wet area?

When they are exposed to water and moisture, all types of woods in the market may rot.

But, sapele is known as a resistant wood toward water damage and rot.

Final thought

Sapele is a hard and durable wood that is important for the wood industry. But, it’s important for the wild and rainforests as well. So, we need to care about its exploitation.

Here, we discussed about sapele and its application, growth, and life cycle.

We hope the information provided in this article be useful for you.

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