Mahogany is extremely sought-after for use in staircases, furniture, wall panelling, musical instruments and even boats, but over-logging in South America has created a shortage, driving up the price. What’s more, extracting the solitary trees from their often remote locations can cause massive environmental damage. 

If your conscience (or wallet) says no to mahogany for your new staircase, consider using sapele instead. Grown mainly in the rainforests of western Africa, these extremely tall, reddish-brown trees look very similar to mahogany, and in fact are from the same extended family. However, although sapele has become much more popular in recent years, it is not under threat, making it a reasonably sustainable and cost-effective substitute.

What's so special about sapele? Well, it's a strong, durable hardwood with a distinctive tight grain, rich colouring and wavy texture, ideal for making furniture, flooring and cabinets as well as stairs. The timber is harder and more stable than mahogany, with a dense structure that is highly resistant to rot and almost completely water-tight - so you can use it outdoors as well as in. And of course if you spill something on the stairs, it's not the end of the world.

Many of our customers choose sapele handrails, or sometimes treads, spindles and newels, to act as a contrast to white-painted stair banisters, and this can look very effective. It also makes a great alternative to highly priced black walnut. If you’re looking for inspiration, browse through our case studies featuring sapele stair parts.

White stairs with dark sapele treads and handrail

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