By Abhijit Phadke
Whether it be for furniture or flooring, teak wood has been a preferred solid wood material since many long years. In this article we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of teak wood.
Benefits of using Teak Wood:
1. Aesthetic appeal
Teak wood has a very attractive looking straight grain pattern coupled with a rich golden-brown colour. In addition to this teak wood furniture also feels great to the touch, when compared with the newer engineered wood alternatives such as Particle boards, MDF and even plywood.
There are other hardwoods which are nearly as strong as teak, but it's mainly because of its beauty that teak wood is so popular all over the world.
2. Very Strong
Teak wood is a hardwood obtained from broad leaved deciduous trees, and it is exceptionally strong, not only when compared to softwoods such as Mango wood or Pine wood, but also when compared with most of the other hardwood species of trees.
3. Very Durable
With proper care, teak wood furniture lasts for many long years (in many cases over 100 years). This is the reason why we still find antique teak pieces around. If you wish to buy furniture that will serve you, your children and then your grandchildren, then the best option is to go for teak wood furniture. Compare this longevity with particle board furniture which lasts only 2 to 3 years. This is because particle boards are not as strong and often get damaged while relocating or because of water. Durability can be counted as one of most significant advantage that teak wood offers.
4. Natural resistance to termites and insects.
Teak wood has a natural oil content that resists termites (white ants), fungal stains, and also repels other insects that can destroy wood. Anyone who has ever had termites climbing on walls all over the house, and eating all the expensive wooden furniture before, will readily vouch for how important this benefit is. This termite and insect resisting quality in turn increases the life span of wood, and is the reason why teak wood is superior compared to many other wood species.
5. Heat moderation
Teak wood like all other solid wooden furniture moderates heat. What this means is that it does not become too hot or too cold in the hot summers or the cold winters even when exposed to the elements. Though most people do not explicitly notice this particular quality of wood, it is one of the reasons why people instinctively like the touch and feel of natural wood furniture compared to its plastic or metal counterparts.
6. Resists rot and decay
Teak wood has a very high density, and does not rot or decay easily. This is the reason why it is so durable. Teak wood also has a natural resistance to several alkaline and acidic substances. Hence it does not get spoiled or stained easily.
7. High dimensional stability
Properly seasoned teak wood furniture does not warp or shrink too much. It retains its dimensions and is a stable material. Seasoning of wood involves drying the timber logs obtained from trees, so as to reduce its moisture content. Well-dried wood is not easily affected by climate changes.
Another important advantage of teak wood is that it has a good resistance to moisture and water. Other than its beauty, this is the reason why it is the preferred wood material used in ship-building for making the wooden flooring and decks. Because of its moisture resistance, teak wood is well suited for making indoor furniture as well as high quality garden furniture.
9. Can be hand-carved.
From a carpenter's or artisan's point of view, teak is a fantastic material to work with, because unlike engineered wood products such as Particle boards, MDF or plywood, it can be hand-carved to increase its beauty. Most of the antique teak wood furniture often has interesting design patterns or shapes carved into the wood surface. Teak wood can be also be easily sawn and cut to desired sizes to make customized pieces of teak wood furniture as per client's requirements.
10. Goes well with iron and other metals.
Wood and metal are used a lot in combination. e.g. consider the table-mounted sewing machines of olden days, or the nails that are used in woodworking. Its important that the metals should not corrode or rust because of the wood. Though we cannot see it, woods are constantly reacting to the environmental changes, and balancing their moisture content with the ambient moisture. What this means is that if the atmosphere is dry, the wood gives out moisture. And when such moisture comes in contact with metals it can be the cause of corrosion. Teak wood does not have this disadvantage, and has a good compatibility with iron and other metals.
11. It's heavy.
Teak wood is a very dense wood and has a high weight to volume ratio. This can be considered a beneficial trait, because a very basic rule in woodworking is that the denser and heavier a wood is, the stronger it will be. In addition to this most people have a distinct preference towards heavy and sturdy pieces of furniture, when it comes to buying solid wood furniture.
Of course, one of the downsides of being heavy is that teak wood furniture is quite difficult to move from one place to another.
Disadvantages of Teak wood:
1. Very Expensive
This is the only major drawback of teak wood is that its very costly. The reason for this is the declining natural resources over the years. The demand is as high as ever, but supply has reduced. Other than the natural old-growth teak wood in forests, teak plantations (farms) have also flourished over the past years to try and meet this high demand.
The price of teak wood logs is indicated as a per cubic feet price, and its much higher compared to buying plywood. Add to this the payments required to be made to artisans for making a customized piece, or the commissions that dealers earn in the case of buying ready made teak wood furniture. It all adds up to the costs.
2. Hard to find 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.
3. Woodworking Tools get blunted.
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.
4. Needs care (needs to be polished once in every couple of years)
Compared to decorative laminates over plywood, solid teak wood furniture requires more care and maintainence. It needs to be polished every couple of years to maintain its beauty. My carpenter recommend sanding it with a 180 sand paper, followed by polish. There are different kinds of polish available called lacquer, but the easiest way is perhaps to use Touch Wood polish from Asian Paints thats specifically made for giving shine to wooden surfaces.
To summarize this article, I would say that the advantages of teak wood far outweigh the disadvantages. The only major deterrent is the high cost because of the low availability and high demand. If not for the high cost, even today most of the people would have been gladly buying teak wood instead of the particle boards and plywood, just as their forefathers did in the earlier days.