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Teak Wood Characteristics: Total Guide to Teak Hardwood in 2021

Amongst hardwood species, teak wood has unique characteristics that make it the ideal choice for marine environments and outdoor use. In addition to being the preferred wood for boat making, it is often used for decking, veneer, and it is great for sculpting. Teak is found more scarcely in applications than that of native hardwood species and comes at a higher price-point because of its unique characteristics and functional qualities. 

Learn everything you need to know about teak hardwood for applications around your home. Find out what attributes are unique to teak and how it compares to other species in terms of color, grain, and density. And, discover what it is about the teak tree that makes it an ideal hardwood species for a multitude of woodworking projects. 

The Characteristics of Teak Wood: Everything You Need to Know

Teak wood is native to the tropical mountains of Southeast Asia. Its natural environment is hot, humid, and rank with every type of environmental pest you can imagine. And, these harsh and trying conditions are responsible for teak’s strongest attribute: resilience. 

Nature has evolved teak trees to produce a high content of oil and wax within the sapwood and heartwood. These natural oils keep the wood free from rot and pests, which is why teak is the go-to hardwood for high-quality outdoor furniture. When teak trees are harvested for the sawmill, the wood retains its natural water and pest-resistant qualities for life. 

The price of teak is on the rise due to dwindling supply in nature and causing people to seek out sustainable alternatives like bamboo wood. But, the higher-price of teak is also due to the wood’s aesthetic qualities. It is one of the most attractive wood species to use in woodworking, with colorations in the wood that change over time.

The Color, Color-Changing Qualities, and Grain Pattern of Teak

The color of teak covers a wide range, and the wood displays coloration patterns, unlike most other hardwoods. The color of most other hardwood species is predictable and linearly changes over time. Teak wood, however, goes through a three-phase color cycle that is unique amongst hardwoods. 

After it is cut, the wood has a dark and uneven color tone, which gradually reveals bands of mineral streaks. The wood settles into a color most indicative of the species, having a golden hue that can even take on the shade of dark honey. The wood retains this coloration for some time but eventually settles into a lighter greyish yellow color with exposure to sunlight. 

The grain structure of teak is densely packed and straight. Though, teak may occasionally exhibit abnormalities and divergences from the usual structure. It is not uncommon for teak to exhibit a wavy or interlocking grain pattern, as well. 

The Strength and Durability of Teak

When it comes to the strength of hardwood, a test is performed to determine how much pressure is required to fully embed a steel ball into a piece of wood. The result yields a Janka rating to express the strength of the wood species tested. For example, sugar maple is among the strongest hardwood species, with a Janka rating between 1,350 and 1,450, while pine wood is one of the softest with a Janka rating of only around 400. 

Teak wood comes in somewhere in-between the polar extremes, but still on the stronger side. When put to the Janka test, teak has a rating of between 1,100 to 1,200. Compared to other hardwood species, this places teak right around the same hardness as walnut and birch hardwood. 

The Outdoor Qualities of Teak

If you are interested in a hardwood that stands up to the elements, teak is ideal. As mentioned, teak produces natural oils and wax that protect against water, pests, and moisture. For this reason, teak is highly recommended for outdoor furniture and decking. 

But, left untreated, even teak will eventually decay and rot. Exposure to oxygen and ultraviolet rays from the sun causes a chemical reaction in the woods’ natural oils that will weather the wood over time and produce a greyish yellow color. All you have to do to keep your outdoor teak furniture or decking strong and beautiful for decades is apply a protective wood finish to the wood on an annual basis. 

Teak is also a popular choice for high-quality cabinetry and countertops in the kitchen or bathroom. The wood’s resilient qualities are just as beneficial indoors as they are outdoors, and it will retain its indicative golden brown honey hue for years to come. Talk to a Myers Cabinets associate about choosing teak wood for your custom kitchen cabinets.