Teak Wood: Characteristics and Uses

teak wood

Teak wood

Teak (Tectona grandis) is a tropical hardwood species that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. Originally found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and south East Asian plantations, it now also grows in Africa and the Caribbean.

Characteristics of teak wood

Appearance: It has small white fragrant flowers and thin leaves. It is also known as Burmese Teak and is known to grow about 30 m-40 m high. It sheds its leaves annually in the dry season and often lives to be 100 years old. It is known for its strength to withstand all kinds of adverse climate because it can bend but not break when faced with harsh winds.

Grain/Texture: Teak has a straight grain, though it can also be wavy. Its texture is coarse and uneven and it has a medium or less natural sheen. Teak has a high content of natural oils that gives its raw, unfinished surfaces a fairly oily feel.

Rot Resistance: Teak is highly resistant to decay and its heartwood is very durable. It is also termite-resistant and is moderately resistant to marine borers and powder post beetles. This tree contains a resin which has highly water-resistant oil in its heartwood. This oil protects the wood from insects, bacteria and decay. It is resistant to all kinds of weather, making it ideal for exterior and interior furniture.

Ease of working: Teak contains an abundance of silica which blunts cutting edges. Apart from its natural oils, teak also adheres well and finishes equally well. Teak is also elastic and has solid fibre that facilitate carpentry.

Odor: Its scent is like leather when freshly milled.

Allergies/Toxicity: Teak is a good sensitizer. Common reactions to it include irritation in the eye, skin and breathing, and rash, pink eye, asthma-like symptoms, nausea and difficulties with vision.

Pricing/Availability: Though its grown worldwide, teak wood is very expensive.

Uses: It is used to build boats and ships, veneer, carvings, furniture, turnings, exterior construction and small objects.

Advantages of teak wood

  • Highly durable: Teak is highly durable and lasts for over 100 years.
  • It maintains a mean temperature in all seasons: By doing this, this wood remains cool to touch as compared to metal or plastic.
  • Does not shrink or warp: Teak wood that’s seasoned well does not shrink or warp but retains its dimensions. This wood remains unaffected by climatic changes.
  • Can be hand-carved: For a carpenter, teak is amazing material to work with as it can be fashioned just as one wants. It can also be sawn and cut to any size desired to make furniture or for any other needs.
  • Works well with metals: In dry weather, wood often gives out moisture which comes into contact with metals and corrodes it. But this is not the case with teak wood, which works well with iron and other kinds of metals.
  • It’s heavy: Teak is very dense and has a high ratio of weight to volume. A good thumb rule of woodworking states that the denser and heavier a wood, the stronger it is. Teak is therefore a very hard wood.

Disadvantages of teak wood

  • Very expensive: Teak wood is expensive because its demand keeps increasing but its supply has diminished. Teak is sold in per cubic feet and its rate is much higher than other woods. Besides, artisans’ costs and dealers’ commissions make this wood very expensive to buy.
  • Difficult to source high-quality wood: High quality and genuine teak wood is hard to identify for customers since it requires some knowledge and experience about woods. Perhaps the easiest way to fix this issue is to get suggestions and help from a trusted and reliable source.
  • Being hard, woodworking tools become blunt: Teak is a hard material. From a carpenters point of view it presents a minor problem since the woodworking tools become blunt and need to be sharpened while working on the wood.
  • Needs constant care: Teak wood needs to be polished regularly. It requires more maintenance than plywood and laminates. It must be sanded and polished.

Maintenance of your teak furniture

Teak is highly durable; therefore it requires little or no maintenance, rendering it the perfect material for outdoor or indoor furniture. Either it is sold as finely sanded wood or as treated with teak oil.

Teak naturally weathers to a silver-gray tone, which people love. However, there are people who prefer to go with its original golden honey tone. This look can be achieved by following a few easy steps.

To leave teak furniture with its natural look to weather over time:

  • Wipe your furniture with a soft cloth to take off its natural oils and dust.
  • Clean any spills by washing the furniture if it has spillage. Use a mild detergent and rinse with plain water.
  • To remove stains, sand stained parts of the furniture with sandpaper. 

To maintain its natural color:

  • Use a damp cloth to wipe furniture and remove all dust.
  • Dilute equal quantities of teak or tung oil with mineral spirits and wipe the furniture clean. Ensure you keep the finish intact.
  • To remove heavy stains, sand the stained part of the furniture with sandpaper and reapply oil there to safeguard the wood.

Here’s how you can clean your teak furniture and keep it looking its best for years to come:

By cleaning your teak furniture regularly, mildew will not build up and it will not fade. You can give it a wash with warm water and a gentle soap, or bleach or vinegar mild soap and water. Use a soft plastic brush to prevent scratches and any other kind of damage to the surface of the wood.

For stubborn stains, use a teak cleaner. Begin by using mild cleaning solution, but if it doesn’t work, move on to something stronger.

It’s a pleasure to own teak furniture for the durability, style, elegance and stature it occupies. Besides, a good one-time investment in this hardwood is forever as it will never wilt or warp under extremes of weather.

Author: John Clax

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