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Is It Really Teak Wood? Caveat Emptor! (Part Two)
This article contains a plethora of information and would be difficult to take in all at once. For that reason, I have broken this article into two parts.
“Caveat Emptor” is Latin for “Let the buyer beware”.
We all want to pay as little as possible for the most product we can buy. The challenge we have is to pay enough attention to what it is we are actually purchasing so as not to become let down later when we find out we did not really get what we thought we would be getting.
When it comes to outdoor furniture, Teak wood is still the standard that all other woods are compared to. Because it is in such high demand, consumers want to purchase this best quality product or something even better, for less money. If marketers can help the buyer to perceive they are getting something better for less money the buyer tends to jump on it. And therein lies the problem: Perception.
There is outdoor wood furniture being advertised as teak like, better than teak, or stronger than teak for a fraction of the cost. When you look further into the advertisements, you find the product to be made of woods like Shorea or Eucalyptus. But is this wood as good as or better than teak? Does this wood weather the elements year in and year out like Teak? Do you do very little to maintain it like you do Teak? It sure sounds like it could be worth it, don’t it?
Here is how Wikipedia defines Shorea wood: Shorea is a genus of 360 species of mainly rainforest trees in the family Dipterocarpaceae. They are native to Southeast Asia, from Northern India to Malesia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
There are marketers that are marketing Shorea wood as being closely related cousins to Teak. Teak is Tectona Grandis: It is a genus of tropical hardwood trees in the family Verbenaceae. To say they are closely related is kind of like saying all spruces are evergreens but not all evergreens are spruces. It doesn’t make sense. And because there are more than 360 species of trees that make up Shorea, some being good and some being not so good, which type are you really getting that “good deal” on?
Here are some common names being used by marketers to be “like Teak”, but are really Shorea:
Balau. This is a heavy hardwood. It comes from up to 15 different species of Shorea genus.
Almon. Also known as white luan. This wood comes from up to 5 different species of Shorea genus.
White Meranti. This is a light hardwood. It comes from up to 8 different species of Shorea genus.
Dark Red Meranti. This is also a light hardwood. It comes from up to 11 different species of Shorea genus.
Yellow Meranti. This is also a light hardwood. It comes from up to 5 different species of Shorea genus.
We can go on and on. After all, there are up to 360 different species of Shorea genus to go through. These are beautiful woods that can be used for indoor furniture as well as decorative artifacts, doors, drawers, joints and even outdoor furniture. But let us not be confused: they are not Teak wood. And the fact that marketers are trying to pass them off as Teak tells us squarely: Teak is still the best. Teak is still the wood that all others try to compare to.
There are over 300 species of Eucalyptus genus. This is a very fine wood that has been put to many good uses through the years from windbreaks, to fuel, to building supplies, to food sources in some countries. It is cautioned that this wood needs to be seasoned properly prior to manufacturing otherwise it will split, crack and chip. Since it holds such a heavy volume of water in order to sustain its very fast growth, it is reported to shrink as much as 34% when kiln dried.
In doing research on Eucalyptus, here is what one company had to say: “When finished with a high quality penetrating oil, mixed with the stain of your choice, Eucalyptus takes on a teak-like appearance. To maintain a new look, the buyer will need to occasionally clean and reseal the furniture. This furniture can be painted as well”. Teak once again is being used as the standard.
When you are shopping for outdoor furniture this year, make sure you know what type of wood it is that you are purchasing. Don’t be fooled. Read the fine print. Thinking your purchase is Teak wood because you want the beauty of Teak, the ability for your furniture to weather the elements including termites, beetles, fungus, and wood rot, you could be sorely disappointed. In order to maintain sales volume, manufactures and marketers are offering alternative wood outdoor furniture to the consumers as prices for Teak are steep and supply is limited. Although these listed woods look beautiful and may hold up for a short period of time, they do not have the staying power of Teak wood outdoor furniture.
Knowledge is power. Remember, Caveat Emptor: Let the buyer beware!