All About Teak

Posted by My Teak Shower Bench on 5/24/2016

Teak Patio Furniture

teak-patio-furnitureWhen decorating an outdoor area, there is more to consider than when furnishing the living areas of your house. Few materials can withstand adverse conditions such as prolonged sunlight, unexpected rain, inches of snow, pelting hail, corrosive tree sap, nesting insects, and swift winds. You will not want to choose furniture that could be ruined the first time you forget to bring it in.

Attractiveness is also another factor. Sure, it would be easy to throw out some fold out benches and chairs, but the point is lost on someone who takes pride in their landscaping. Entertaining guests should be comfortable and add to the atmosphere. Patio furniture is an important part of our lives even though many treat it as an afterthought. Take some time to reflect on where you want to have your morning coffee, Sunday barbeques, or evening nightcap. Certain patio furnishings will be well suited to your lifestyle while others won't make the cut.


Plastic is not an environmentally friendly material nor does it have a high end look. It works as a placeholder or stepping stone to a better outdoor set, but is not really considered a permanent option. It will remain relatively weatherproof until it becomes brittle and cracks. The best thing about plastic furniture is that you won't be sad to see it go.


Teak is praised as the number one wood option for outdoor furniture due to its hardy qualities. It works for chairs, tables, and patio sofas. You won't have to worry about dragging it out from the rain. The high oil and rubber content protects itself from insects and water. If taken care of well, it will last for many lifetimes.


There are various metals to choose from but generally, owning this type of outdoor furniture will be a battle against rust. If you choose wrought iron be prepared to put those muscles to work as it is heavy and not easily moved. Aluminum is a lighter option but can be prone to chips and dents.


Unfinished natural wicker is meant for indoor use only. Finished and synthetic wicker are more appropriate options. This type of furniture is water and sun proof but rapidly accumulates dirt between the woven fibers. It must be cleaned regularly and dried thoroughly to avoid mold and mildew growth.

Mid-Century Design on Television

retro-woman-carIn popular culture, the mid-century aesthetic has increased in favorability over recent years. To see a recreation of this era in all its glory, look to the television series Mad Men. The set showcases clothing, furniture, and cars all specific to the time period. Altogether, it adds up to quite a distinctive look. The storyline chronicles the misadventures of lead advertising executive, Don Draper, as well as those of the women around him who lacked the equal rights men were entitled to.

The second season of American Horror Story is a mid-century period piece set in 1964. It is primarily shot in a mental institution but also features middle-class architecture and furniture design from that decade. The Masters of Sex series stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan on the Showtime network. The production design strives toward Scandinavian minimalism with an old fashioned touch. Most of the pieces were found through Ebay and Etsy, where everyday shoppers hunt for beloved and restored vintage treasures.

Alternatives to Teak Furniture


Eucalyptus is another tropical wood. It is considered a more budget-friendly alternative to teak, but it does come at a cost. It has less mineral content than teak, so it is more prone to warping. You can expect eucalyptus furniture to last about twenty-five years at the most, which is considerably less than teak. Furniture made from eucalyptus should be sanded yearly.


Shorea is another wood that is sold as an affordable alternative to teak. It comes from trees that grow in rainforest conditions. It has a tight grain but does not hold up as well when exposed to fluctuating weather patterns.


Bamboo is beautiful, renewable, and widely abundant, but it is higher maintenance than teak and more prone to permanent damage. To prevent drying out, bamboo requires regular oiling. It is vulnerable to sun and water damage, so it fails to work as either an outdoor or bathroom furniture option. If you do choose to use it outdoors, keep it under a covered area at all times.

The Origin of Teak

Teak trees, known as Tectona grandis, are native to the Philippines, Myanmar, India, and Thailand. They are also planted and harvested in Africa, Central, and South America. This valuable timber is not grown on the coast, but instead flourishes inland. Because teak does well in humidity, it has been a part of some ancient architectural structures for thousands of years. In these regions, it is commonly used in house building, flooring and window framing. Myanmar, Indonesia, India, and Thailand rank highest in the world's current production and exportation of teakwood.

Tectona grandis has fragrant white flowers and a hairy lower trunk. Each tree grows tall, producing large amounts of wood. The Dutch, who colonized Indonesia, were responsible for bringing its great uses to the rest of the world. Teak that is used for the production of goods is sustainably sourced. Most of it comes from renewable forests in Indonesia. The government certifies this teak to ensure it comes from environmentally friendly suppliers. When shopping for teak, focus on grade A, which comes from the center of the tree. It contains the fewest knots and the most oils to guarantee the longest product lifespan.

Although a little-known fact, due to its relation to the mint family, teak also has medicinal qualities that were used by past indigenous populations and those of today. The roots, bark, seeds, and flowers all have healing properties. Teak can help with hair growth, skin disorders, the production of urine, elimination of bronchitis, liver congestion, parasites, inflammation, diabetes, and intestinal discomfort. It is made into teas, pastes, and concentrated oils. The leaves and bark are also used to create yellow and red tinted brown dyes for textiles.

Teak for Ships and Boats


Teakwood's waterproof nature has proven it dependable throughout history. It is commonly used for boat decks and exteriors. It was even used extensively on the Titanic. When discussing alternatives, comparable woods cannot be found. The strength of teak is so great that it can damage even steel covered ships in the event of an unfortunate collision.

The hardness of wood is traditionally measured by the Janka hardness tests. A wood researcher from Austria by the name of Gabriel Janka developed this system in 1906. A 0.444 inch steel ball is inserted exactly halfway into the wood being measured. The test measures the amount of force needed to accomplish this. If possible, the testing will be done on heartwood, or the dead center wood of a tree that is the hardest part. A higher number on the scale means better scratch resistance.

The wrong choice of wood will warp, deteriorate, and allow water to penetrate the surface of the boat. This can lead to expensive repairs while putting lives in danger. Microorganisms found in water and on land will accelerate this breakdown. These are bacteria, viruses, and fungi that emit enzymes that decompose wood. Fortunately, teak has inherent antimicrobial characteristics. Because trees in their habitat have to protect themselves from predators in their environment, they evolve compounds that protect them from a wide variety of microbes. The deoxylapachol in teak breaks down cell walls in fungus.

A wood with a large presence of knots is immediately unsuitable for boat building. These areas lack the necessary malleability to create the round shape of a hull. The wood from teak trees is knot-free, instead boasting a desirable smoothness. There are alternative wood options on the market for boat building but each has a weakness that can be beat by teak.


Ash is a light white-gray wood that is grown in the eastern United States. It is used mostly for sports equipment and flooring. Part of the olive family, ash makes up about four percent of commercially available hardwood in the US. For smaller boats, it can also be used to manufacture oars. Unlike teak, ash requires surface treatment before being exposed to a marine environment.


Iroko is sometimes called African teak, although it is not related in any way. Many people are allergic to Iroko and find it difficult to work with. It tends to splinter and can be highly irritating to human skin. When working with Iroko, the dust has been linked to lung disease and cancers. Iroko also demands additional finishing techniques, most commonly with a varnish.

Lignum Vitae

Lignum Vitae is comparable to teak in its oil content and ability to repel insects. Unfortunately, trade is restricted due to its classification as endangered. It is also one of the heaviest woods making it extremely expensive. This dark wood also has properties that cause skin irritation.


Due to past overharvesting, true mahogany is hard to find. It doesn't do well when farmed leading to sustainability issues. African mahogany has an attractive sheen but can adversely react to iron hardware. It is not a true mahogany as it belongs to the cedar family. Honduran mahogany is denser with a tighter grain and redder color. Even so, this wood will still rot and is not one of the best options for boat building.

The History of Mid-Century Modern

Creative Commons Samara John E Christian House LoungeMid-century modern design refers to the period between 1933-1967, during the middle of the 20th century. More specifically, it focuses on the mid fifties to early sixties. It encompasses architecture, interior design, graphic design, and product innovation, like furniture. In America, this style was influenced by the international Bauhaus movement. This movement is also referred to as Scandinavian or Danish design. It can best be seen in Californian architecture today. The houses were characterized by flat roofs and angular corners. These homes were long, narrow, had open floor plans and low ceilings.

One of the most notable mid-century architects is Frank Lloyd Wright. He has been called the father of mid-century modern architecture, but there have been many other significant contributors as well. His vision was geared toward merging man-made structures with the organic environment they reside in. One of his notable works, Samara in West Lafayette, Indiana, is a curated masterpiece of original artifacts from the time period. Today, this house is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Mid-century furniture integrated both natural and artificial materials, and used a variety of shapes to add interest. The pieces focused on unexpected geometry and feature surprisingly delightful curves and colors. Today most of our coffee tables and chairs are square or rectangular. Back then, chairs had circular seats. Tables were crafted in oval shapes. Teak was one of the top choices to use in furniture design at the time.

Charles and Ray Eames designed teak chairs for the Herman Miller furniture company. These vintage works of art and function are highly sought after today by collectors and everyday homeowners. Although comfortable chairs were made from teak exclusively, they sometimes featured leather or other fabric cushions to add a layer of luxury. Other popular items, like rich teak coffee tables, are often objects that will draw an understated living room together. Sets of matching teak end tables were common in order to tie the furniture together.


Trending Today

Interior design is seeing a resurgence in mid-century modern decor. This time it is being mixed with more contemporary pieces. A full on retro look would look too out of place. Real woods, like teak, are more highly valued and desired when faced with the abundance of particle board options available. There are replicas of fifties designs available, but they lack the authenticity that many homeowners are looking for. White walls work when paired with teak furniture because it allows the carefully selected materials to take center stage. You can opt for more interesting wall paint, such as dark teal, while limiting other fabrics in the room.

Shopping for Teak

The best place to find teak furniture for the lowest price is online. Not only that but the selection available of both new and used designs is substantially higher. You will want to have different strategies, however, depending on what you are looking for. Online auction marketplaces that revolve around a community of users will have top picks for antique and vintage finds. You can price compare between sellers right from your living room. These small stores are often curated with amazing pieces for sale by amateur and professional enthusiasts. When searching for specific but rare decor, you can get it from anywhere in the world from someone who has done the thrift hunt for you. In addition to furniture, you will be able to find mid-century accessories and art to accent the teakwood investments pieces.

mid-century-clockThis approach works for furniture that will be strictly indoors and exposed only to climate controlled environments. For items that will endure more wear and tear, like heavy usage or water submersion, you will want to buy new. Make sure that the teak has been sustainably sourced. Teak forests that have been cut down and abandoned are subject to erosion. This ruins the lives of many species who live there. Maintenance is a determining factor in how long your teak will last and you want to make sure it's been done right from the get go.

Due to the desirability of teak, many retailers market inferior wood products by including teak in the name or description. Sometimes it means that teak oil has been applied to the wood, not that it is made of teak. Other times, a wood, like Shorea, will be advertised as being related to teak when it, in fact is not.

The Benefits of Teak

teak-diningOriginating from South Asia, Teak is grown in renewable forests that allow it to be harvested sustainably for the manufacture of high-quality products around the world. When looking to upgrade the design, efficiency, and durability of your furniture, teak should be considered. When you think of how it is used for boat decks and even ship exteriors, you can be sure that it is strong enough to hold up to a daily shower or regular use in your yard.

Teak is desirable not only because of the attractive and dynamic hues of the wood. It has tight wood grain that keeps water from penetrating and causing problems. Teakwood produces its own oil to keep it hydrated and protecting it from pests. Other wood alternatives like bamboo and eucalyptus need to have oil externally applied by the owner to prevent dryness and breakage.

When taking into account that teak furniture can last many lifetimes, the price is worth it. Mid-century modern furniture made from teak is fashionable now and can be incorporated along with other contemporary design styles. Teak bathroom upgrades add tranquility, safety and reduction of pesky mildew. Best of all, you only have to rinse it down after each use. Your family members and guests will praise your choice in adding teak products to the comfort of their lives.