Have you ever purchased wooden furniture only to have it unusable within a year or two because of dirt, mildew or rotten wood? If so, you may want to take a closer look at teak outdoor furniture. Whether it’s for your home, garden, patio or deck, teak wood is the #1 choice for outdoor patio and garden furniture.
Teak (Tectona grandis) is known for its beauty, strength and durability and is found to be grown mostly in India and Indonesia on large plantations. Teak trees can grow very tall to 150 feet and have rough, reddish green leaves. Teak wood also contains rubber and silica that resist water, mold and mildew allowing you to leave teak furniture outdoors all year round. The trees sap has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that make teak known for its resistance to disease and termites. Natural oils found in both the heartwood and the semi heartwood, make it extremely resilient to moisture and will not rot for many years with virtually no care whatsoever.
Because of the high cost associated with teak, you need to know and understand 2 very important key factors regarding teak wood before you invest your hard earned money on any piece of teak furniture.
#1 The 3 Grades of Teak Wood
#2 Moisture Content and Moisture Levels in Teak Wood
Those 2 factors may not seem to be all that important but I can assure you they are. Once you understand why this is relevant you can then purchase teak furniture with confidence so that you, your family and friends can enjoy your investment for many years to come.
Three Grades of Teak
True Grade “A” teak is the mature heartwood, very dense, almost always completely free of knots, tightly grained and rich in natural oils. This grade of teak makes up only 20% to 25% of a mature log which is a very small percentage of the timber making it rare, hard to find and in high demand. You will find this Grade of teak to be the most expensive. When Grade A teak is new it has a rich golden honey brown color and as it ages it will turn to a handsome silvery gray patina color that many people love because of it’s natural state.
Grade “B” teak is the semi-mature outer heartwood, the color is lighter and occasional streaks of black and some small knots are acceptable for this grade which is why it is much more affordable when using it to manufacture outdoor furniture.
Grade “C” teak is referred to as sapwood and is the outer section of the tree. Sapwood is very soft, can be easily damaged and has large almost white color variations. Because of its lack of quality, virtually no protective oils, it is extremely cheap to purchase and in some cases it is simply tossed out and not used at all because of it’s low quality.
Teak Furniture ~ Moisture Content Levels
Although Grade A teak is a good measure of quality, it is not always the case. You may have Grade A teak with high moisture levels which is just as bad as Grade C.
Ultimately, the process to produce high quality teak is in the drying process. This is very important. The least amount of water in the wood, the better its quality. Keep in mind Teak wood should be dried to a maximum level of 12% however, the recommended level of 8% is of the highest quality. If the wood is not dried to these levels, the beautiful teak furniture you purchased, for what you thought would be a lifetime, will most likely warp, split and over time become rendered useless.
The correct method of drying teak furniture is in kiln ovens at a set amount of time and temperature. Kiln ovens are not only an expensive piece of equipment but they are expensive to operate. The size of these ovens take up a lot of space and are time consuming to operate.
The problems begin when the majority of factories in Indonesia do not have the proper equipment because either they cannot afford the ovens or they do not have the space for them. These factories owners will actually air dry the furniture instead of using kiln ovens before shipping to the United States or the UK. It almost goes without saying, teak furniture dried in this fashion is not quality teak, at all.
The few factory owners who actually own kiln ovens are not using the recommended time allowed to properly dry the teak furniture due to the high cost involved in running the machines. Since it cost more money to dry teak from 16% to 8% than it is to dry it from 22% to 16% they will try to dry the teak quickly, cutting the time in half by removing the teak before reaching the maximum requirement or even at 22% or higher and proceed with making the garden, pool and patio furniture you may unknowingly buy.
At this rate you no longer have the qualities that make up Grade A or Grade B teak wood and you are better off not purchasing this type of teak at all. Buyer Beware!
Teak Furniture ~ Asking the Right Questions
I hope this information helps you to better understand what to look for when shopping for outdoor patio furniture. Be sure to ask questions before making a purchase. Most retailers will advertise the type of Grade but not always the moisture content. It’s up to you to ask at what level is the moisture content.
Don’t be fooled if a retailer tells you he doesn’t know what the moisture content levels are in his teak furniture. He knows exactly what levels of moisture he has in the furniture he supplies and should not hesitate to share that information with you.
And don’t believe it if they tell you Grade does not matter or that no one sells real Grade A teak anyway. If they cannot give you a straight answer you may want to keep shopping until you find an ethical retailer.
Teak Furniture ~ Proper Care and Maintenance
Proper care for the finish of your teak furniture depends on your preference. If you like the silvery gray patina color, as many people do, then you don’t have to do anything. However, if you would like to keep the rich golden honey brown color it is recommended to treat your teak outdoor furniture with a little teak oil 1 or 2 times per year to maintain its natural luster.
Contrary to the many claims that you do not need to do anything at all, teak outdoor furniture, especially dining furniture should not be left outdoors all year round in the harsh weather and not expect some consequences. When the teak dining set you plan to use on a regular basis accumulates dirt, stains, scratches, wear and tear it can make the best teak furniture set look worn just after a short period of time. Do yourself and your teak patio furniture a favor and cover it with a good breathable furniture cover in the winter. You’ll be glad you did!