Whether it's a small patio or a sprawling backyard, wood furniture is the perfect addition to any outdoor area. Sure, there are other options like iron and aluminum, but nothing beats the natural beauty and scent of wood. The only problem is its durability; some woods will not last a week of sun, rain and moisture. Teak wood, however, can stand up to all kinds of weather and even outlast weatherproof metals and plastics. When properly treated, teak furniture can last up to 75 years – as long as the average human life span.
A Brief History:
The Chinese were the first to discover the value of teak, using it extensively for shipbuilding in the Middle Ages. Their British contemporaries, looking for a cheaper alternative to oak, soon began importing teak from all over Asia to build their naval fleets. As much as 1,000 tons of the wood was used for the Queen Mary alone, and the British soon began building teak plantations to prevent depletion.
Locals would salvage teak from retired ships and build them into chairs, beds, and tables. Indians began crafting teak wall treatments and ornaments, and communities in Indonesia and Thailand were building entire teak houses (the world's largest teak building still exists in Thailand). Today, teak remains the wood of choice for ocean-going vessels, but its use has also spread out to flooring, construction, and furniture.
Teak ranges from yellow-brown to dark golden brown, with a smooth, beautiful grain. Untreated teak turns a silvery gray with age; wood treatments can help preserve the natural color. It has a slippery feel to it, which comes from the natural oils responsible for its extreme weather resistance. These oils act as a built-in repellent, making it imperfect to fungi, rotting, termites, and harsh chemicals. As such, teak needs virtually no maintenance, usually just an oil application about once a year.
Most of today's teak is imported from Indonesia, where they are grown in plantations. Old-growth teak comes from wild-grown trees and has a richer, warmer color, but its use is now heavily regulated. Old colonial buildings in Indonesia have yielded valuable teak pieces believed to be over 100 years old.
Teak is used wherever weather or water resistance is necessary. Floors, doors, windows, and railings are some of the more common applications. Teak also makes excellent boat and deck flooring, because it does not get slippery or rot from saltwater. The silica (sand) content is just enough to provide trafficking, so it does not get coarse when it dries. Cheaper varieties, just a bit pricier than red oak, are commonly used for ornamental pieces.
Buying Teak Furniture:
Teak furniture can be expensive, so the last thing you need is to find out it does not fit in. Measure your available space before buying, and be sure to leave some room for people to pass. Contemporary pieces tend to favor style over comfort, so always try before you buy. Do not be misled by tags like "teak oiled" and "teak veneer" – these are usually substandard woods treated with teak oil or made to resemble teak. They may do for indoor furniture, but will not last more than a few years in the open.
Teak is easily one of the best woods for indoor and outdoor use. Nothing speaks comfort and luxury better than a teak chaise lounge on your patio or a garden set in your backyard. It does not come cheap, but genuine teak definitely offers the best value for your money.