by Gardenside, Ltd.
one works with a product such as teak, which has a long-standing
reputation for enduring qualities, it is easy to assume that others are
familiar with the many reasons for its high rating in the outdoor
furniture business. But unless you are in some way involved in the
timber industry or another profession which requires technical
knowledge of the quality of various woods, you probably don't know
everything there is to know about teak. If you are looking for garden
furniture, there are some interesting facts about teak and its use in
the outdoor furniture market that will help you choose what type of
furniture to specify.
most important characteristic of teak is its durability in all weather
conditions. Teak is an extremely dense, grained hardwood that resists
rot, warping, shrinking and swelling. Its high natural oil content
continually preserves the wood so it can be left outdoors for decades.
durable is teak when left outdoors? It is said that the first outdoor
teak benches were actually made of decking from old sailing ships. The
decking on these ships was in such good condition when the ships were
about to be scrapped, the wood was recycled and remade into outdoor
furniture. Public parks all over England are furnished with teak
benches, some of which are nearly a century old.
in the United States, teak benches can be found in the tropical gardens
of hotels in Hawaii. Tables and chairs made of teak provide
maintenance-free outdoor dining for skiers in Colorado resorts, and
teak steamer chairs can be found from the coast of Maine to the Arizona
furniture is very smooth to the touch and does not splinter. Teak even
smells good -- it has a faint, pleasant aromatic smell. Not only does
teak have a warm appearance, but it also stays very neutral in
temperature compared to plastic or metal furniture when exposed to the
heat of the sun or cold winter days.
also is one of the few materials that actually beautifies with age. The
silvery gray patina that develops over time gives teak outdoor
furniture a richness and stately appearance. The slow, natural
weathering of teak results in outdoor furniture that blends in
naturally to become part of its environment.
untreated teak furniture is used indoors (as in restaurants, office
lobbies, shopping centers, etc.), the wood grain evens in tone, taking
on a very rich, golden brown color.
teak, Tectona grandis, cannot grow in rain forests. It is a hardwood,
deciduous tree growing in the dry, hilly terrains of Southeast Asia.
Fortunately, strong efforts have been made in the past decade to assure
carefully controlled, sustainable-yield sources of teak from Southeast
Asia. The teak outdoor furniture sold in the United States comes from
tree farms, rather than natural forests.
is also important to note that the manufacturing of wood products, such
as teak outdoor furniture, is very energy-efficient when compared to
the energy required to produce aluminum or plastic. Wood comes to us as
a finished product from trees, whereas plastics, aluminum and many
other materials must be manufactured before being made into furniture.
For example, in order to obtain the "raw material" for plastic
furniture, factories must be built to manufacture the synthetic resins
needed to produce plastic. Resins are produced by heating various
chemical compounds, and then processed again to produce plastic
an effort to conserve energy and resources, some conscientious teak
furniture manufacturers use the small scraps of teak (normally
discarded) as fuel for the boilers. This heats the kilns to dry the
teak before furniture manufacturing begins. More integrated
wood-product plants salvage larger scraps to make other wood products
such as parquet flooring.
what about our landfills? We can find plenty of old plastic, metal, and
aluminum furniture that hasn't been properly recycled, but furniture
made of wood is not a problem. Teak outdoor furniture is simply so
durable and usually so timeless in style that it is used for
generations. And, if and when it ever is discarded, no harm is done to
the environment by returning untreated wood to the earth.
furniture made of teak is usually very classic and simple in design.
The natural appearance of teak wood lends itself to uncomplicated
designs that subtly blend in with the surrounding architecture and
landscape. The stateliness of teak furniture works equally well on the
terraces of traditional country inns or in the lobbies of the most
the past 10 years, as designers and architects have become more
acquainted with the versatility and durability of teak outdoor
furniture, the range of available styles has grown. Along with the
classic designs, more streamlined, contemporary designs have reached
the market. While it is always good to have a broad range of styles to
choose from, it is important to avoid styles so modern that they appear
to be interior furniture brought outdoors.
choosing teak outdoor furniture, look for styles that will enhance, but
not overpower, the landscape or setting for which it is chosen.
Attention should be paid to the scale of the surroundings. For example,
vast, estate-like buildings require benches and dining groupings quite
substantial in dimension and weight. In contrast, smaller, more
delicate architecture needs lighter-weight furniture
teak pieces have no sharp edges or angles—armrests, seat slats, back
rests and back slats should be chamfered and sanded to round out
angles. Similarly, all edges and corners of tables should be rounded.
And although many outdoor tables have traditionally been designed with
pedestal-type bases, outdoor dining is meant to be informal and
relaxing. Stretching out one's legs underneath a table with a pedestal
base is impossible—look for a simple base that allows plenty of legroom.
number of back slats on a backrest can make a big difference in
comfort—the closer the spacing, the better. Also, the front edge of
benches and chairs should have an extra horizontal seat slat that
prevents the vertical front rail from cutting into the back of legs.
This requires additional material and workmanship, and is an important
aspect to consider when comparing seating options.
(but not all) outdoor teak furniture is manufactured with mortise and
tenon joinery that provides extremely sturdy finished pieces and
tight-fitting joints. The precision of the workmanship varies from
manufacturer to manufacturer—joints should fit tightly together with no
gaps whatsoever. Be wary of furniture patched with wood putty to hide
defects in workmanship, as well as furniture that must be glued
together—it will not withstand prolonged outdoor use. The use of dowels
to secure the mortise and tenon joinery not only adds to the strength
of the construction, but also allows for a perfect finished look with
no visible hardware. Dowels should be made of teak to blend in with the
quality of the fine sanding on the finished furniture is one of the
most important details. This is where one can separate mass-produced
pieces from handcrafted ones. Teak garden furniture should be extremely
smooth to the touch, with no rough edges whatsoever.
Value of Teak
years, teak has had the reputation of being costly, and from some
sources it still is. However, competition in the market has brought
prices down to more reasonable levels. Today, teak is one of the best
values available in outdoor furniture. Be sure to consider design
details, workmanship and comfort when comparing prices, and before
specifying, to be sure you are getting the value you expect. Don't
assume the quality is better if you pay more.
the next decade, we will continue to see more and more wood used in
outdoor settings as plastic and other materials are phased out. Teak
has always been, and will continue to be, a highly prized material for
outdoor furniture because of its beauty and durability.