It's pretty clear that people prize teak wood above your average length of pine or oak. But why is that, exactly? The answer lies in the natural oils and rubber found within teak.
You'll find an abundance of natural oils and rubber locked right into the tight grain of the wood. All woods contain oils that protect the tree -- think maple sap or tea tree oil. Teak, however, can retain these oils and its rubber even after being felled and processed. Because of this, teak has greater naturally weather-resistant properties than just about any other type of wood. When dried to a proper moisture level -- around 10 percent of its original content -- the oils and rubber weatherproof the wood. The oils also protect the wood from dry rot, which is a common problem in older wooden furniture. What's more, the oils and rubber protect the heart of the wood from invaders like fungi and parasites that can destroy other woods. Protecting wooden furniture from such intruders requires applications of weatherproof oils and treatments; not so with teak.
All of this makes teak a perfect material for outdoor furniture. As it weathers over time, the wood goes from a honey brown color to a slivery gray. Although teak is expensive, you can take the money you would have spent on annual waterproofing and apply it to buying outdoor teak furniture. Since teak is also an extremely durable and strong wood, a teak patio set owner can expect his or her purchase to last for many years. In caves in Western India, objects made from teak more than 2,000 years ago have been found intact -- astonishing for untreated, uncared-for wood [source: Sims]. This also offsets the initial costs of teak, especially once you consider furniture replacement costs.
Some teak wood is better than others, however. One type of teak, called sapwood, doesn't have the same robust properties that teak made from the heart of the tree possesses. Sapwood is named for the outer layer of any tree; the inner layers of the tree are collectively known as the heart. Trees grow outward from the center, so the tree's natural oils are found in more abundance in its heart. This makes teak heart wood more valuable than sapwood, which makes heart teak more expensive. Moreover, a tree has far more sapwood than heart wood, which also accounts for the increased price.
If you decide to take the plunge and spring for well-made teak heart wood furniture with low water content and that's certified to have been sustainably harvested from the PT Perhutani forestry reserve, there's not much you'll have to do -- except sit back and enjoy it. Sure, you're going to pay a high price for your furniture, but you'll likely be satisfied with your purchase over the long haul.
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