Teak wood comes from the teak tree, and it is botanically known as Tectona grandis. This is a very popular and in-demand wood type that has a natural weather-resistance to it. This makes it an excellent material for garden or patio furniture and for outdoor projects. Different types of teak wood are also very commonly used for interior decor, including countertops, flooring, and paneling.
There are quite a few types of teak wood available, including faux ones. So, knowing which ones are popular and which ones aren’t can help you get a high-quality product. Teak by BiERLOS a.k.a. Photörhead.ch / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Teak Tree
The teak tree falls into the laminae botanical family, and it’s a sturdy tropical hardwood that is native to southeastern and south Asia. It’s common to find it growing in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. You can find teak plantations in these regions and in any region where the growing conditions mimic this environment.
The color of the heartwood on this type of teak wood is a medium or golden brown, and the sapwood is very light brown. However, there is very little sapwood on the teak tree as a general rule. You’ll get a very straight grain with an unfinished wood surface, and the natural oils give it a slightly greasy feel.
The flowers on various types of teak wood come in very dense clusters that feature a lot of whtie, small, and very fragrant blooms. They will emerge at the end of the branches during the spring months. They add a nice attractive look to the teak tree.
Types of teak wood come from the fastest growing tropical hardwoods there are. These trees can easily live over 100 years, and they can get up to 130 feet tall at full maturity. The trees have very narrow and long trunks. The branches will start to emerge roughly halfway up the trunk, and they’ll extend out far from the main trunk. They form very robust crowns that give you excellent shade.
This is a deciduous tree, and this means that they have leaves that will slowly change colors during the autumn months before falling away as the colder weather approaches. The leaves come back in the early spring months when it starts to warm up again. The leaves are larger, and they can easily get up to 17 inches long. They feature an elliptic or ovate shape, and they have a papery texture with a downy underside. You’ll see a very deep green coloring.
Generally speaking, types of teak wood get propagated from seed. Before you plant the teak seeds, you soak them in water for up to 12 hours. The seeds will germinate within 15 to 30 days, and the seed is a darker gray and black. They’re medium-sized at 1.2 to 1.7 cm.
Botanical History of Teak Trees
In 1782, Carl Linnaeus the Younger described types of teak wood in Supplementum Planetarium. In 1975, Harold Norman Moldenke described four types of teak wood in Phytologia, his journal. Each type varied slightly, and the four he talked about include:
- Grandis f. Canescens: The undersides of the leaves had a very dense coating of hair “cranescent)
- Grandis f. Pilosula: It had varying looks for the leaves
- Grandis f. Punctata: The underside of the leaves had larger veins with hair densely packed in
- Grandis f. Tomentella: The underside of the leaf had yellow tomentose hair
General Information on Teak Wood
|Availability:||Readily available in Asian regions|
|Durability:||Extremely durable – used in boat making and for outdoor applications|
|Finishing:||Excellent finishing properties|
|Found In:||Latin American and Southeast Asia|
|Tree Height:||100 feet to 130 feet at full maturity|
|Uses:||Outdoor/indoor furniture, flooring, cutting boards, and boat decks|
|Wood Coloring:||Golden or medium brown that darkens with age|
|Workability:||Easy to cut and shape with great workability properties|
How to Classify Types of Teak Wood
There are several different types of teak wood available, and there are actually so many varieties that people can easily get overwhelmed when they look for materials for their hardwood flooring or wood furniture.
You can easily find Burmese teak, Indonesian teak, Asian teak, African teak, Chinese teak, Golden teak, Philippines teak, South American teak, Thailand teak, plantation teak, Malaysian teak, Indian teak, and many more.
Many types of common wood on the market can mimic the appearance of teak wood with the grain and coloring. The only real type of teak wood is one that has the botanical name of tectona grandis, better known as Burmese teak wood. For example, golden types of teak wood look like real teak, but the botanical name is black locust wood or robinia wood.
Growth Habit and Region
Real types of teak wood come from South Asia in old-growth forests. The teak wood that comes from plantation forests is teak plantation wood. This is the one that is getting very popular because natural teak wood is rare with a limited availability.
However, for the ordinary person, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between the varieties of teak wood. However, we’ve picked out the 15 most popular types of teak wood for you. So, the next time you’re in the market for this wood, you’ll be able to spot the differences without a problem.
15 Types of Teak Wood – Name and Grade
There are several types of teak wood available, but some are much more popular and readily-available than others. Depending on the scope of your project, certain types of teak wood may make more sense over others. IMG_1332 by Venture Minimalists / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
1. African Teak
This is a type of teak wood that you’ll find labeled as African Teak in the store. However, the tree it originates from isn’t actually related to the teak tree. Instead, you’ll get wood from the Iroko tree, and this is a hardwood species that you find growing on Africa’s west coast.
The wood that you get from this tree doesn’t look like actual teak wood visually because there are no knots in the grain. However, the qualities between the two are comparable because it has excellent water-resistance and it’s very durable. Iroko is commonly used to substitute actual types of teak wood when it comes to producing flooring, outdoor furniture, decking, or in ship building.
2. African Plantation Teak
The types of teak wood grown on African plantations are specifically selected to help meet the demand for teak wood. The trees aren’t native to this part of the world, and this can have an impact on the quality because the climate conditions aren’t perfect for these trees to thrive here.
Generally speaking, you can harvest this type of teak wood after 15 years, but this isn’t enough time for the teak oils to develop properly. This is one of the biggest reasons why African plantation teak wood isn’t nearly as high-quality as native types of teak wood. It hasn’t had time to develop fully or gain the weather-resistance that is so important to this wood type.
Also, it’s less durable than Indonesian or Burmese teak wood. You’ll find it used in much smaller applications like veneer since it still manages to be a heavy-duty wood type. It also comes with a more pale coloring than the higher-quality teak has, and it has a much wider grain.
3. Bojonegoro Teak
Native to Indonesia, this type of teak wood is one of the highest-quality options produced on the current market. It’s a regency in Indonesia, in East Java. You’ll get a very pretty golden brown coloring with a straight grain structure, but it can have some slight waviness to it.
This type of teak wood has a history of timber smuggling. There was a lot of violence between the timner smugglers and the local law enforcement agents in this region. The situation is much better today and more controlled, but illegal logging practices involving this type of teak wood still occur.
4. Brazilian Teak Wood
The real name you may hear this type of teak wood called cumaru or ipe wood. This isn’t a genuine teak wood, but it’s a Brazilian hardwood that is native to South America. It’s very stable, hard, durable, and water-resistant, and it has a much higher natural oil content to make it resistant to pests and worms. The grain arrangement is drastically different from what you’d get with real types of teak wood. Also, the coloring on this wood won’t be that pretty golden brown but a reddish brown.
5. Burmese Teak
Burmese types of teak wood gets the name because it’s grown in Myanmar, and this is the country that was once called Burma. This is widely believed to be the most durable and best teak wood available, and this is why it’s also the most expensive. The teak trees will get roughly 50 years old and around 130 feet high before they get cut down and harvested.
The coloring on the heartwood of this type of teak wood is a golden brown, and it’ll get darker and deeper as it ages. The grain is very even and straight, but it can also have a very light wavy effect. You’ll get a higher concentration of natural oils with this type of teak wood, and this makes the wood very resistant to weather damage and moisture. You find this wood used to make outdoor furniture, flooring, veneer, and shipbuilding.
This is the highest-quality type of teak wood you can get for your projects, so it makes sense that it has a hefty price tag attached. 160417-5200-0789.jpg by Lee Hoffman / CC BY 2.0
6. Chinese Teak
This is another type of teak wood that doesn’t actually come from a real teak tree. It comes from Robinia trees instead, and this is better known as the black locust tree. The wood from these trees is very hard to tell apart from real teak wood because the grain pattern and coloring are very similar. It also has very similar weather-resistant qualities while being much less expensive. If you want to keep your budget low, this is a solid choice over real types of teak wood.
7. Dahat Teak
This type of teak wood is native to Myanmar. The exact number of Dahat teak species around isn’t known. However, this is still an endangered species, so the wood is very rare and expensive. The trees will get up to 26 feet high at a maximum, and the trunk is only 27 inches at most.
8. Indonesian Teak
Better known as Asian teak, this type of wood gets produced from trees native to Indonesia, and this is in Southeast Asia. The growing conditions in this location are ideal for types of teak wood trees because it gets frequent rainfall with humid and hot planting zones. As a result, the soil is extremely fertile, and it has a high volcanic material content that helps produce excellent teak wood. This teak wood is thought to be second to only Burmese teak.
The trees get harvested when they’re around 100 feet tall and 30 years old. The wood produced by these trees is a very light golden brown, and it has a slightly gray hue. The grain is also slightly wider than Burmese types of teak wood.
9. Indian Teak
Teak trees do grow in India, so the types of teak wood you get from this region is very similar to the high-quality Burmese teak. Teak trees grow best in older forests in India, and they’re extremely valuable since the wood is such a high quality that it fetches a higher price when you sell it.
It is a very rich brown color, and it comes packed with natural oils to give it a very lustrous look while ensuring that it’s weather-resistant. This wood was in such high demand that it led to the overexploitation of teak forests. As a direct result, this type of teak wood is no longer available on the international market.
10. Philippine Teak
This teak is another endangered type of teak wood that is very similar to Dahat Teak. It grows in the Philippines, as the name suggests. Even though it’s endangered, it’s still possible to get furniture made out of this wood due to illegal logging practices. You want to be wary of buying this furniture as you can promote illegal activity that can actually lead to criminal prosecution.
11. South American Plantation Teak
The types of teak wood here, just like what you’d find on African plantations, grow in highly controlled conditions to get this wood. South American plantation teak is very hard to tell apart from African plantation teak wood. It has a very similar oil level that is lower, a similar pale brown coloring, and a wide grain. It’s not as durable as some of the higher-quality options on the market, but it offers a solid strength level.
12. Thai Teak
As the name suggests, this type of teak wood comes from Thailand, and the growing conditions are ideal here. As a direct result, this is another extremely high quality teak wood, and it even beats Burmese teak when it comes to quality. However, the forests here have a history of being overexploited, and the trees are now on the endangered species list. It’s illegal to lot teak trees in Thailand, or you won’t find it legally available on the local or international markets.
Classification by Grade
The various types of teak wood also vary by grade. The grading of this wood and which category your choice falls into will depend on how durable it is when you create furniture with it.
13. Grade A Teak
The highest quality type of teak wood you can get is Grade A. The timber in this grade only comes from the very center of the log, or the heartwood. The tree also has to be fully mature, and it comes with a very uniform and pretty golden brown coloring. It has a glossy surface, close grains, and it’s oily to the touch.
This teak wood offers an extremely high quantity of natural oils that make it very resistant to the outdoor elements like wind or rain. They help shield the wood from harsh weather conditions while repelling insects, like cedar wood does. It’s only a fifth to one-quarter of an entire log, so it’s very expensive.
14. Grade B Teak
The type of teak wood you get from this category comes from the outer heartwood, and it makes up roughly one-fourth to one-third of a log. This reduces the price a little over what you’d pay for Grade A. It also has a lighter coloring, and the grains are uneven with less of a shine on the wood. It offers a very small amount of oil, and it won’t do as well in extreme weather conditions. You’ll have to stain it to seal it.
15. Grade C Teak
This is a lower quality type of teak wood, but it’s still higher quality than most other wood types. You get this timber from the sapood or outer portions of the mature logs on immature trees. It has virtually no natural oils, and the color is very uneven.
It’s a soft type of wood that you can easily damage. Since it doesn’t come with natural protective oils, it doesn’t work for outdoor furniture. It’s also so low quality that you can’t use it indoors. It’s nowhere near the beauty or durability of Grade A types of teak wood, and this is why it’s so inexpensive. It has a very short lifespan, even with protective treatments.
Caring For Types of Teak Wood
If you have outdoor furniture made out of types of teak wood or teak flooring, there are several things that you have to know about keeping this wood looking its best. hatchSeamsSanded by Ben Eriksen / CC BY-NC 2.0
Even though it’s a very resilient type of wood, there are things you can do to make it last much longer. They include:
- Add a Coat of Varnish – The natural oils in these types of teak wood will prevent rot. However, it can turn a gray color when you expose it to direct sunlight. You can preserve the pretty coloring on the teak wood by coating it with a spar or marine varnish. This helps to deflect ultraviolet rays from the sun that work to break down the top layer of the wood, resulting in the gray hue. Conventional polyurethane varnishes don’t have UV protection, so they won’t work.
- Add Teak Oil – Another way to protect your furniture is to coat it with teak oil. It’s a highly penetrating mix of tung oil and varnish.
- Clean Periodically – It’s very easy for mold to build up on outdoor woodwork like furniture, so you’ll want to clean it periodically. You can power wash the furniture or use the following to clean it:
- Bleach – Add a cup of bleach with a scoop of your preferred laundry detergent in a gallon of warm water and scrub.
- Vinegar – Add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water and scrub.
Popular Uses of Teak Wood
Furniture made out of types of teak wood is very expensive. The durability is also why it’s so popular in a huge range of applications, even if a lot of the things aren’t real teak wood. People use it for:
To build a solid boat, wood stability and waterproofing are a must. A boat will stay in direct contact with salt water for a long time. This is why teak wood proves to be a good choice, and it has a long history of use in shipbuilding. It also has a very low shrinkage ratio. This means that it won’t change a lot with exposure to sunlight or water.
A deck has to be able to withstand continuous moisture and bad weather exposure, no matter where you live. In this situation, it’s important to have waterproof and durable wood as the main building material. Teak wood offers all of these characteristics that a durable deck requires. Even though no wood is 100% waterproof, types of teak wood are very suitable and more durable than other hardwoods.
Outdoor and Indoor Furniture
Teak wood is very popular throughout Asia and North America for wooden furniture. The higher oil content makes it a solid pick for outdoor furniture, and the tight grain and high tensile strength are also benefits. It can withstand bad weather and stay durable for years with very low maintenance needs. The texture and grain pattern are also very important when it comes to furniture, and you’ll get a very pretty dark appearance with a straight grain.
Teak is popular for decorative veneers and plywood. It is more expensive than traditional plywood, but it works well for marine applications. Decorative veneers are popular in office spaces, living rooms, spas, and gyms. Companies use 100% natural Burma Teak wood to make teak plywood.
How to Use Teak Oil On Outdoor Furniture
Teak oil is a specific type of finishing oil you put on wooden furniture. It will help revive the color on the wood’s surface while lending a rich, warm look. It usually contains tung oil, mineral oil, and linseed oil. However, it doesn’t have any oil from the actual teak tree.
If the weather is nice, you’ll most likely spend more time with your outdoor furniture. So, maintaining it is essential. Teak wood needs regular maintenance and care, and you can apply it to any wood. To apply it, you:
Step 1: Pick Out a Good Teak Oil
There are dozens of teak oils available on the current market, but they’re not all suitable for your furniture. Always make sure to pick out a product that is meant to work on wooden furniture.
Step 2: Use Teak Cleaner Before You Apply the Teak Oil
You want to use a teak cleaner before you apply the teak oil. The furniture can have layers of dust and moss on them that needs to be cleaned. You can also rough sand it and find sand to remove these layers. If there isn’t a lot of dust, you can use a soft bristle brush. Use your teak cleaner to clean the dust correctly. The goal is to make the surface smooth and clean before you go to the next step.
Step 3: Apply the Teak Oil
Once you finish cleaning the furniture, you want to leave it for a few hours to dry. You can apply the teak oil once it’s 100% dry, and you can do so by using a brush or rag used for oil-based products. Work very carefully, and make sure you get into all of the corners and cracks. You’ll want a double coat, and space out the coats 30 minutes apart.
We’ve outlined 15 pretty types of teak wood and what you can use it for. You can now go and shop for types of teak wood without worrying that you get the wrong kind for your upcoming project. If you get it right, you will have furniture that lasts for years and looks wonderful.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.