As teak hardwood patio furniture has increased in popularity over the last several years, as well as the increased government regulation of the exports of it in Indonesia (one of the leading countries to export teak), the wood has faced a simple supply/demand issue from basic economics. When there is a decreased supply, the price rises. This decreased supply has begun the engineering of teak wood from other sources. This can be a synthetic teak, which is usually grown in Africa or South America or even a knock-off, imitative wood that is not being sold as a genuine wood. Fortunately, the latter circumstance is less common.
Determining If Its Genuine
Teak is a dense hard wood and does not splinter. The sawdust of this wood is soft and has a pleasant aroma. Many say that the smell of it reminds them of a sweet oil, somewhat like a vegetable oil. While some may wonder at the source of the wood’s scent, it is important to remember that it is an oil-rich wood and this is the source of the wood’s scent. Teak that has been painted or stained will not have the rich scent that the natural version will. Painting or staining it can cause a change in the wood, so it’s best to try and keep it all-natural. Throughout the life of the wood, the teak oil moves from the center of the wood (called the heartwood) and after harvest and as the wood ages, the oils migrate from the heartwood to the outer layers of the wood. This process allows teak to weather well, resist rot, insects and fungus.
Teak is also water resistant (which is one of the main reasons that it is widely used in ships, yachts, and boats) and when water comes in contact with the wood, it beads. This beading is a tell-tale way to test suspicious teak. Water on genuine teak beads and remains in a tight droplet shape, while water on other woods will have loose edges.
What is Synthetic Teak?
In an effort to provide the qualities of teak and make teak patio furniture, decks, etc. more affordable, some manufacturers have begun to create a wood that is a composite of several types of wood. This furniture can be attractive, but is usually not genuine. Lately, the price for the synthetic teak is nearing the levels of teak due to the intensive manufacturing process required to attempt to come near the quality that Mother Nature has already delivered.
South American or African teak
Teak grows in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia and requires from forty to sixty years to yield good quality wood. Over the last several decades, growers in the rain forests of South America and Africa have attempted to plant teak plantations in similar climates. The genetic make-up of this tree is not quite the same as the Tectona grandis (the good stuff). The wood harvested in Africa or South America may be attractive and durable, but is not the same as the high-quality stuff grown in Southeast Asia, so be sure to inquire about the origin of the wood before buying.