Last Friday, Speedy and I went to the opening of Vincent Padilla’s “No Time Like The Past” at Galerie Anna at SM Megamall. We had coffee afterwards and since we weren’t in a hurry to drive home (trying to avoid the rush hour), we browsed a furniture store called Linden Teak. I love teak furniture mainly because teak wood is weather resistant. Outdoor teak furniture can take the beating of the rain and the heat of the tropical summer sun and the wood won’t warp nor crack. Maintenance is almost non-existent — all the teak needs is a little teak oil every few months.
So, we browsed the store. The saleslady was very accommodating and informative. She demonstrated how a set of picnic table and benches convert into a park-style bench with a back rest. A day bed becomes a double bed. A platform step ladder magically transforms into a chair. There were planks of teakwood for staircases too. The designs are what I can best describe as spare, linear and streamlined. No frills. More classical than the Komodo (which we also love) pieces but in terms of versatility and usability, Linden’s furniture are state of the art.
And then, the saleslady said the magic word — termite-resistant. I mean, most hardwoods are termite-resistant but combine the termite resistant quality with the weather resistant quality and that’s win-win whichever way you look at it.
But me being me, of course I did not just take the saleslady’s word for it. Sales people will say just about anything to earn a commission, so, I’m always wary. But, to be fair, the Linden saleslady (so sorry I didn’t catch her name) wasn’t only accommodating, she knew what she was talking about too. I did a little research and, yes, teak wood is indeed termite-resistant.
Teak is Tectona grandis, native to Southeast Asia
Native to Southeast Asia, it dates back as early as 7th Century Siam (now Thailand), where it was used to construct and decorate royal residences, religious buildings, and trade ships. Other cultures began using teak wood for shipbuilding in the Middle Ages, and its buoyancy, water resistance, durability and anti-fungal properties make it an ideal material for marine construction to this day. [History of Teak, Amegawood]
Myanmar (formerly, Burma) is currently the top producer of teak wood.
Teak is weather and pest resistant
You’ll find an abundance of natural oils and rubber locked right into the tight grain of the wood. All woods contain oils that protect the tree — think maple sap or tea tree oil. Teak, however, can retain these oils and its rubber even after being felled and processed. Because of this, teak has greater naturally weather-resistant properties than just about any other type of wood. When dried to a proper moisture level — around 10 percent of its original content — the oils and rubber weatherproof the wood. The oils also protect the wood from dry rot, which is a common problem in older wooden furniture. What’s more, the oils and rubber protect the heart of the wood from invaders like fungi and parasites that can destroy other woods. Protecting wooden furniture from such intruders requires applications of weatherproof oils and treatments; not so with teak.
A caveat, however, from Wood Database:
…Teak is also resistant to termites, though it is only moderately resistant to marine borers and powder post beetles.
The changing colors of teak wood
Teak is light brown to golden brown. However, as it ages, it turns silvery-gray. I couldn’t find any information to explain the color transformation.
“Conflict” teak and “plantation” teak
If you’ve heard the term “conflict diamond”, it has its counterpart in the teak industry. Burmese teak may be reputedly the best in the world but its importation is banned in some countries, including the U.S., as a trade sanction for the bad human rights record of the military-controlled Myanmar government. Some say the ban is mere window-dressing because Burmese teak is simply brought to other countries like China where the wood is processed into timber, and the U.S. imports the timber from wherever it was processed.
As with any heavily harvested resource, there are concerns about the diminishing teak forests. To address this concern and to still be able to enjoy the benefits of teak furniture without necessarily financing the military government of Myanmar, albeit indirectly, there is an option — plantation teak. “Plantation” teak is simply cultivated teak for ecological or commercial purposes, or both. There are claims that it isn’t as good as the “old” teak from natural forests; others say it isn’t true.
Questions to ask when buying teak furniture
Speedy and I both know that when the time comes to buy new furniture for our “retirement”, we will choose teak. But before buying it might be prudent to ask where the teak came from. We certainly do not want to finance, even indirectly, a government with terrible human rights violations record. But it’s not a good idea either to pay so much for furniture made from “plantation” teak if it is indeed true that it is second rate. More research on the alleged difference in quality between old teak and plantation teak is definitely in order.