What is Teak Wood?

You’re shopping for outdoor furniture and a stunning set made from teak has caught your eye. The wood is a deep shade of amber
— so gorgeous— but will it stay that way? Many people worry about the resilience of teak, but there are many reasons why it is the wood of choice among outdoor furniture manufacturers.

You’ve probably noticed that the highest-quality benches, tables, chairs, stools, and hammock stands are usually made with teak, but why is this so? Grown throughout Asia and in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, among other countries, the teak tree has remarkable self-preserving properties. The oil embedded in its wood is resistant to environmental damage, insect infestation, and water. That’s why, throughout time, seafarers have used teak for their ships and boats. Today, you’ll often see teak seating and shelving built into the most expensive yachts and sailing vessels. That’s because there’s no wood better suited for the outdoors.

Sailing aside, the allure of teak for modern consumers is that it’s beautiful and long-lasting. Buy a table and chairs made from teak and you could be passing it down to your grandchildren someday! Even so, teak requires some attention from you in order to retain its golden glow. Without that attention, your teak will fade into a shade of silver-gray. Some don’t mind this transformation (and many people actually love the trans formative look), which doesn’t affect the integrity of the wood, but you can prevent it with a few simple steps.

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Caring for Teak

Teak wood is a natural substance that falls victim to free radicals in the atmosphere. This means that, like anything natural, it ages and loses its lustrous golden color over time. You’ll begin to notice the discoloration within a few weeks, so it’s important to begin the care routine right away if you want to preserve the warm tone. 

Start with a trip to the hardware store, where you’ll find a variety of oils and sealants designed for wood. Don’t fall for products called “teak oil,” which usually aren’t the tree’s natural oil but instead a mix of linseed oil and various chemical solvents. This type of mixture looks great when first applied, but it quickly dries up and leaves you once again with untreated furniture. You can apply it every few weeks but you run the risk of creating a hard surface layer that can cause chips and cracks. Plus, you might experience something even worse — the oil-treated surface can entrap mildew and fungus, leading to black spots and splotches on your furniture. This result can occur not only with teak oil, but with any kind of oil, such as tung oil or mineral oil. Another disadvantage of teak oil is that it’s highly flammable.

You should use oil for wood furniture only when the piece will be kept inside. Since that’s usually not the case with teak wood furniture, look instead for products labeled “teak sealer.” You’ll find various brands online and in hardware stores and, although it’s not always as inexpensive as oil, the price is worth the long-lasting results.

Using Teak Sealer

With a water base, teak sealer works by creating a protective layer on the teak that retains the wood’s natural oils. Since the sealant is thin, you don’t need a large quantity and might be able to complete your sealing project with a small can. To apply the sealant, you can use rags (cover your hands with gloves) or a special spraying mechanism that is sometimes sold in the same section. Set your furniture outside on a canvas or tarp and make sure to protect your lungs with a respirator or face mask. You might place a fan nearby because the sealant could have a strong odor.

Before applying the sealant, wipe down your furniture to remove debris and spider webs. Some people even use a special product for cleaning teak furniture, but it’s not necessary to do so unless your pieces are very dirty. If your furniture has been sitting out for a while and has already acquired the gray patina, you can use a sanding machine or wire brush to bring out the color beneath. You can also apply a teak brightener, sold in hardware stores, to restore more color. After sanding, make sure to brush away the residue and clean the wood with a damp rag.

It’s best to apply the sealant on a dry sunny day. Spread your supplies on a towel or tarp and keep valuables out of the way. Using your rags or the sprayer, work quickly, applying the sealant to dry furniture in a thin coat that covers all areas (including the bottom). It’s important to follow the instructions on the label of the sealant — you may have to allow time for drying between each layer. Once your sealant is on and dry, however, you should be able to enjoy the beautiful gold hues of the teak for about a year. Unlike oil, teak sealer is enduring and doesn’t stop working right away. If you get into the habit of applying the sealant every ten months or so, your furniture will retain its color for a long time.

Shopping for Teak

outdoor teak bench

Even though teak requires yearly maintenance, many feel that the durability and beauty of the wood makes the trouble more than worth it. When shopping for teak, make sure you are buying the real thing and not oak, pine, or resin with faux finishes. Read the product description and take a close look at the way the furniture is constructed. With careful selection from a reputable vendor like Bellacor, you’ll likely fall in love with your teak furniture once it arrives. Get your porch and patio ready by browsing our catalog for outdoor cushions and decor for your tables and other areas. Candles, lanterns, and accent pieces like vases, plants, and other items from our collection will make it quick and easy to transform your outdoor living space into a favorite spot for family fun or an afternoon break with a book and bowl of ice cream.

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