The arrival of summer means BBQs, outdoor living, and patio furniture — and anyone who has shopped for patio furniture has likely come across teak. Teak comes from the Tectona grandis tree, which is native to the tropics, and has been used for centuries in the houses of powerful and wealthy families and during colonial times for shipbuilding.
Due to the length of time it takes for teak trees to mature (about 80 years), the wood is often reclaimed from old buildings and repurposed into new furniture. It’s a popular choice for outdoor sets, but it’s also one of the most expensive options out there. What are the benefits of teak, and is it worth the cost? Let’s dig in.
One of the key benefits of teak is the fact that it contains natural oils and rubber in its grain. And while that’s true with other species, as well, teak maintains these oils even after it’s been cut and processed. This makes it incredibly durable and weather-resistant, which is exactly what you want in outdoor furniture. This weatherproofing means that you don’t need to worry about dry rot, fungi, and parasites — and you don’t need to treat the wood with any additional oils.
Thousand-year-old objects made of untreated teak have been found intact in areas of India, which speaks volumes about the durability and long-lasting nature of the wood. While the cost may be higher up front, you can expect patio furniture made of teak to last a long time. You won’t spend more money replacing a teak set because it’s worn out, which can’t be said for most other materials.
Teak grown on plantations is considered a renewable resource, as it’s carefully managed to ensure a sustainable supply. It’s important to ask where your teak comes from to ensure it isn’t illegally harvested from endangered teak forests (which is common, for example, with Burmese Teak from Myanmar). Look for FSC-certified teak. This provides assurance that the wood comes from well-managed forests and doesn’t contribute to deforestation.
Not all woods lend themselves to being paired with metals — but teak does. In part, it’s about visual appeal. Teak and metal look good together! But it’s mainly about moisture retention, or lack thereof. Most wood species release moisture when the air is dry, which can rust any metal that the wood is in contact with. Teak doesn’t do this, so you can purchase teak and metal furniture without any worry.
Teak furniture ages beautifully, starting with a warm, golden color and eventually fading to a silvery gray patina. It doesn’t require treatment (though you can treat it if you want) and should never be pressure washed. Moss, dirt, and/or surface stains are easily removed with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. If you want your teak to keep it’s golden color, use a teak protector once a year or so. This protector is also a good idea if you’ll be eating a lot of meals on the furniture, as oily foods and products like ketchup can create stains.