Since I’ve been learning about woodworking and sat on my fair share of wooden furniture, I started researching different wood types. As part of my research, I came across teak. I noticed it was more expensive than other woods. So, I looked into why and put together this article to explain what I found.
Teak wood has a good reputation, and many people have heard that it is one of the best woods you can buy. There are many reasons why Teak is good wood and should be expensive. But the current price of it – nearly 3 times that of similar woods, is due to excessive demand in the marketplace.
Properties of what makes this wood so popular need further explaining and more information about how rare it is and what the future projections are for its price. So, read on where I will explain the answers to these questions more.
What is unique about Teak compared to other wood?
Teak is unique compared to other woods because of:
- How it looks and smells. It is beautiful and gets better with time. It also smells like leather, which a lot of people love.
- It’s durability. It is hard and has properties that make it last longer than other woods.
- It’s rare. It gets grown predominantly in South East Asia and only grows in tropical regions. Maybe other countries will start growing it soon.
How teak looks drives the price up
Before I started researching the different types of woods, I didn’t consciously notice the difference between what certain furniture is made of. I noticed that ok, this wood is dark, this wood is light. But, I didn’t know if that was because of the varnish they used or a characteristic of the particular wood.
But, once I learned more about them, I realized that teak does, in fact, look superior and is a lot harder than other types of wood. It has an almost matte look to it, which is very attractive. And over time, as it dries out by being exposed to the elements, it takes on a silver color. That is a unique characteristic of teak.
It’s known durability has increased demand
Teak is renowned for being extremely hard. When measuring the hardness of wood, a Janka test is used. According to Wikipedia, it is a measure of how easily the wood can be dented. Teak comes in at number 86 on the list of hardest woods.
I have included a list of the hardest woods in the world, with the hardest wood at number 1. I also highlighted the more well-known varieties.
- Australian Buloke
- Schinopsis brasiliensis, Quebracho, Barauna, Chamacoco
- Schinopsis balansae, Quebracho Colorado, Red Quebracho
- Lignum vitae, Guayacan, Pockenholz
- Piptadenia Macrocarpa, Curupay, Angico Preto, Brazilian Tiger Mahogany
- Snakewood, Letterhout, Piratinera Guianensis
- Brazilian Olivewood
- Brazilian Ebony
- Ipê, Brazilian Walnut, Handroanthus lapacho
- African Pearwood, Moabi
- Grey Ironbark
- Bolivian Cherry
- Sucupira, Brazilian Chestnut, Tiete Chestnut
- Massaranduba, Brazilian Redwood, Paraju
- Strand Woven Bamboo
- Bloodwood (Brosimum rubescens)
- Red Mahogany, Turpentine
- Live Oak
- Southern Chestnut
- Spotted Gum
- Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba
- Golden Teak
- Guatambú, Kyrandy, Balfourodendron riedelianum
- Santos Mahogany, Bocote, Cabreuva, Honduran Rosewood
- Brazilian Koa
- Osage Orange
- Sydney Blue Gum
- Goncalo Alves, Tigerwood
- Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood
- Afzelia, Doussie, Australian Wormy Chestnut
- Castello boxwood
- African Padauk
- Black Locust
- Highland Beech
- Red Mulberry
- Wenge, Red Pine, Hornbeam
- True Pine, Timborana
- Sapele, Sapelli, Kupa’y
- Sweet Birch
- Hard maple, Sugar Maple
- Caribbean Walnut
- Kentucky coffeetree
- Natural Bamboo (represents one species)
- Australian Cypress
- White Oak
- Tasmanian oak
- Ribbon Gum
- Ash (White)
- American Beech
- Red Oak (Northern)
- Caribbean Heart Pine
- Yellow Birch, Iroko
- Heart pine
- Carapa guianensis, Brazilian Mesquite
- Carbonized Bamboo (represents one species)
You may have noticed Golden teak on this list. But, it is misnamed and is not scientifically a Teak. Also, people don’t mean Golden teak when they say teak in the context of teak wood.
In general, hardwoods are in higher demand than other woods because they are more resistant to insects such as termites that can’t eat into them so easily. And they absorb less water than fewer hardwoods because of how dense they are. When wood absorbs less water, it doesn’t go out of shape easily and makes it last a lot longer.
It takes a long time to grow compared to other woods used for timber
The fast-growing tree that is used for timber in the world is the Empress Splendor tree. And has been featured in the Guinness book of world records. In 10 years, it is mature and fit to be used as timber. Once you cut it down, it will regrow from a stump up to 7 times before it dies.
According to Guaduabamboo.com, most teak trees are grown for 20 to 25 years before they are harvested, which means that a company needs to have a long-term vision and remain in business for long enough to harvest Teak wood.
It is also grown in subtropical and tropical regions susceptible to cyclones that can wipe out an entire crop.
People in subtropical regions wouldn’t necessarily one day decide to grow Teak on their land. It is also not well-known to the point where people would suddenly realize that they should plant some.
Most people are fairly content with the life they lead, and without some help from other people, they wouldn’t be able to connect the dots between planting lots of Teak trees for production and exporting it to regions where it can fetch really high prices.
There are so many moving parts, and expensive equipment required to begin doing it. That it is generally beyond the scope of what most people are willing to do. So, Teak production remains in the hands of those that are currently doing it, and they may expand their operations in the future.
Because it has to get shipped from afar
Teak is grown in tropical regions. Unlike other hardwoods grown in the USA, or Australia such as Maple, Beech, Ash, and Poplar, Teak has to get shipped. This makes it more expensive in the USA, Canada, and the UK. Less so in Australia, because it is much closer.
So the increased shipping costs involved in transporting it adds additional cost to the final product.
It gets used a lot in expensive yachts and boats
Boating and yachts as an industry is one where people are willing to spend a lot of money. And most people with a lot of disposable income buy them. Teak is considered one of the best woods and a premium product to use on high-end yachts’ decks and interior. For this reason, it commands a high price on the wood market. Because producers know people are willing to spend more to get it. This drives the price of teak up—especially producers who specialize in teak for the yachting industry.
It is not necessarily the best wood for boating or yachting. But, it is accepted as one of the best options. In reality, though, other woods would be just as good. But, because there isn’t as big a market for them yet, people don’t really know about them.
Since teak is easier to get and more convenient, it also makes it more expensive. Because people are willing to pay for the convenience and speed with which they can acquire it. This is more so when people have a lot of disposable income and can afford to spend a lot of extra to get it.
Is Teak worth the price?
Regarding creating furniture such as tables and chairs, Escapeartist.com recommends Shorea as a similar alternative to Teak. It has almost the same properties. But it is less well known.
Which means that you can pick it up for a much lower price. Some authors have claimed that you want a hardwood with high oil content because it deters bugs. But, I have yet to find a source or study which confirms this fact.
Please let me know if you know of any data or studies on this. And I will update this article,
The deck on yachts Teak does look excellent. But it has a few drawbacks. When you scrub it down, it will lose a thin layer on the surface. Yachting World reports that some decks can lose 1 mm of thickness a year. Over 5 years, that’s half a centimeter (almost a quarter-inch).
In my opinion, Teak has a good reputation. And, although it is an exceptional wood because of its hardness, it has become common knowledge to the point that it has driven the price of it above what would be considered reasonable.
And you can get a similar quality wood that will perform and look the same for much cheaper.
To get an accurate comparison between Teak and other hardwoods of similar quality, I will first explain the measuring unit.
BF is the standard measurement for wood and stands for board feet. So, if you wanted three feet of the board, for example, you would say 3 board feet. But, it comes in different thicknesses, which are measured in quarters of an inch.
Generally, you will see the measurement of 4/4 or 8/4. Although it is written like this, 4/4 is 1 inch, and 8/4 is 1.5 inches respectively.
Hearne Hardwoods sells teak for $32 per board foot (BF) at 4/4 (1 inch) thickness. And Woodworkers Source sells it for about the same price, only a dollar more.
Ipe, which is very similar to Teak, is only $10 per BF Advantagelumber.com. It is still about twice as expensive as other hardwoods they sell. But, it is still one third the cost of Teak.
Another hardwood similar to Teak is Iroko. It sells for about the same as Ipe, at $10 per BF. Give or take a dollar depending on who you buy it from.
It is my opinion that Teak is overpriced because of how well known it is. You can get the same quality wood as Teak by buying Ipe or Iroko for 1/3 of the Teak cost.
So, unless you are building something where a customer specifically asks for Teak, I would recommend getting a cheaper alternative. Although it is cheaper to buy it is the same quality.
Will Teak become more expensive in the future?
Although planting and harvesting teak does give you a good return, you may be wondering if the price of teak will increase in the future. Setting aside the known financial phenomenon of inflation where prices of everything gradually rise over time. My opinion is that the price of teak will not go up in the future. For the following reasons:
- I think that people’s perception of teak is irrational
- There are alternatives that are very similar, and much cheaper
Teak is currently overpriced
The current demand for Teak is high. But, that is because of reasons which don’t make sense. The price has been over-inflated because of irrational thinking by buyers. Because it is 3 times the price of other similar woods, buyers will look for cheaper alternatives, lowering the demand for Teak, which will slowly bring its price back to normal.
There are alternatives that are very similar, and much cheaper
Savvy woodworkers and furniture makers will likely come into the furniture market and develop some marketing that appeals to customers who want to buy teak. For example, they could say ‘everything you love about Teak but at half the price.’ A message like this will really appeal to certain customers, and the sellers of non-Teak furniture will still make lots of money.
How long does teak last?
Teak furniture lasts on average about 75 to 100 years, according to Homeedit.com. But, if you leave it outside exposed to the elements, it will begin to split and weather sooner than indoor furniture. But, if you have indoor teak furniture, it will last longer than the teak that is used:
- On a boat
- On the exterior of a house
- Or, as outdoor furniture
When you leave it outside you, don’t need to add varnish to it. Or, inside for that matter. You can if you wish, as it will change the look of it slightly and add a pleasant fragrance.
Does Teak need to be sealed?
According to Signaturehardware.com, Teak has a high oil content and secretes oils naturally. So, you don’t need to add any additional oils or varnish to seal it and protect it from the elements.
It is, however, water-resistant, but not waterproof. So, when water does get on it in the form of rain, snow, and hail, it will change its appearance over time. And cause it to crack earlier than if the furniture is kept dry.
Teak wood has many properties which consumers love. But, at the moment, it appears that Teak is overpriced due to lots of demand. The perception is that Teak is unique, and other woods aren’t as good. But, in reality, there are many kinds of wood that have the same properties as Teak. However, they are less well known.
Alternatives to teak such as Shorea and Ipo are easily obtainable at 1/3 the price of Teak. They are similar in hardness, attractiveness and last as long as Teak. I think that once consumers become aware of the alternatives, the price of Teak will come down.
- Guaduabamboo.com: Guadua Bamboo vs Teak Plantations
- Escapeartist.com: Comparing Teak To Alternative Hardwoods
- Yachtingworld.com: Teak alternatives: 4 options for decking that doesn’t cost the earth
- Woodworkerssource.com: Teak 4/4 Lumber Random Widths, Random Lengths
- Advantagelumber.com: Exotic Hardwoods
- Homedit.com: How To Care For Teak Furniture So It Lasts For Generations