What to Know About Teak Outdoor Furniture

Gloster Curve Dining

Teak is one of the most popular outdoor furniture materials. Prized for its strength, beauty, and durability, it was first utilized in shipping yards where the need to withstand rot and moisture was paramount. 

For years, the popularity of teak wood outdoor furniture led to troublesome deforestation as acre upon acre was cut down. But today, teak crops are strictly controlled to ensure they continue to persevere and thrive. 

Teak is a Hardwood

When it comes to building, wood falls into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods are commonly used to build specialty pieces, like a dining room table. They are produced by deciduous trees — trees with leaves that shed their leaves each year. Popular deciduous trees include:

  • Teak 
  • Oak 
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Walnut

Softwood is typically used in larger projects, such as framing a house. They are produced by coniferous trees (aka evergreen trees) — trees that have scaly leave or needles they keep year-round. Popular evergreen trees include:

  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Spruce
  • Fir
  • Juniper

What Makes Teak Outdoor Furniture Particularly Durable?

Hardwoods, in general, are more durable than their softer sisters. They tend to take longer to grow and are often denser. Such is the case with teak, which can take anywhere from 35 to 50 years to fully mature.

(Some teak plantations will harvest their trees in as little as 5 - 7 years. While this allows the farmers to make money faster and sell their product for less, this does not produce the durable hardwood for which teak is prized.)

In addition to its close grain, teak has an extremely high oil content. This powerful combination of oil and density is what makes teak so resistant to mold, rot, and pests.

Why is the Best Teak Outdoor Furniture Made from Heart Wood?

Not all teak offers the same level of durability, which is why teak is separated into two main categories: ‘heart wood’ and ‘sap wood’.

As the name would suggest, ‘heart wood’ comes from the heart of the teak tree. This is the highest-grade teak and is only found in older, more established trees that have had the opportunity to develop sturdier wood.

‘Sap wood’ comes from the outer ring of established trees and from young teak trees harvested early in their growing cycle. This wood is not as dense and does not have the same high oil content as its heartier (pun intended) sister. While teak furniture made from sap wood can be less expensive, it is also less durable. 

Is Teak Sustainable to Grow?

Teak trees are indigenous to just four countries throughout the world:

  • Burma
  • Laos
  • Thailand
  • India

Unfortunately, excessive and unsustainable logging practices have led to deforestation. Natural teak forests have nearly disappeared in all these countries, with the exception of Burma. Fortunately, teak can thrive in other countries as well, where a tropical climate offers plenty of sunshine. 

Teak plantations can be found in:

  • South and Southeast Asia
  • Africa
  • Latin America

Sustainable teak growing practices mimic Christmas tree farms. Trees are planted, cared for, and harvested systematically. This sustainable and environmentally-friendly approach to growing teak allows teak farmers to maintain a consistent supply, that is constantly being renewed.

How is the Best Wood Identified for Teak Patio Furniture?

High-quality, solid teak is symmetrical in shape. It has limited surface defects, such as knots and scaring. And, it has a very thin layer of sap wood. This rich combination is hard to find in the wild and impossible to cultivate on plantations that harvest their trees early.

It requires careful tending to ensure the trees are not damaged as they grow. And it depends on time, a vital element to developing a dense heart wood.

What Patio Furniture Can You Build with Teak?

Because teak is naturally weather-resistant, it has been used to build nearly everything you would want for your outdoor space. This includes: 

  • Dining tables
  • Adirondack chairs
  • Lounge chairs

In recent years, teak has been incorporated into mixed-material furniture sets. With a combination of fabrics and metals, these mixed-material pieces offer a more modern look with enhanced comfort. 

Stop by our Seattle or Bellevue location to see our selection of teak furniture.