Wood Teak Outdoor Patio Furniture
There are several different types of wood that outdoor patio furniture may be made from. You will want to know not only the type of wood, but if possible, the country of origin. There are soft woods and hard woods, woods that are painted, lacquered, sealed, or oiled.
When considering wood outdoor furniture, know the location the furniture will be in. Will it be exposed to rain, sun, snow, or salty air? Would you like to apply a custom finish or paint it yourself? Some wood furniture is available unfinished and you can paint it as you like. Furniture with a finish already applied may need to be sanded and/or primed before you would be able to refinish it. Of course you may leave unfinished wood unfinished, and allow it to weather naturally. Teak furniture, for example, is best appreciated unfinished but treated with linseed oil at regular intervals to preserve it.
Soft woods generally come from trees that bear needles. These include pine species, cedar, cypress, and redwood. Hard woods generally come from broadleaf trees. Common examples are oak, cherry, teak, and jarrah.
Teak is the strongest wood in the world. It is quite resistant to UV, pest, and moisture damage. There is much discussion about the country of origin for teak wood. If you are concerned about this, you will need to do your best to verify what you’re told through the manufacturer. Sales people may not know or may be misinformed, and could be lead to agree with what you hope to be true.
Teak wood is graded A, B, or C. The grade represents its quality and often age. A grade is the center cut of a tree, excluding the very center, that is at least 40 years old. The center cut accounts for 30-40% of the diameter of the tree. A grade teak is has a grain that is tight and even, a warm color tone, and no knots. It’s naturally a bit oily. It will patina to a silvery-gray color without becoming weak. Teak trees in Indonesia are routinely milled at 40 years old and are typically of the preferred species tectona grandis. If the wood is sourced from Indonesia, there is a chance it is A grade.
B grade teak is considerably of lower quality but is still made into outdoor patio furniture. It may come from 40 year old trees, but from the outside of the tree, rather than the center. B grade features color variations, knots, twisted grain, and less dense grain. You may see tan or dark patches, and gray and black veins. Rather than being oily, this wood tends to be powdery or ashy, and finishes are absorbed poorly and inconsistently. Sometimes the grain is so open in areas that fillers need to be used. These fillers are fairly obvious and my pop out over time. While the variation of the wood may look interesting, the quality of wood for use in patio furniture, balanced with the price you’ll pay for it being teak, makes B grade a poor choice for outdoor patio furniture.
C and D grade teak is considerably lower quality young wood, and is typically reserved for very small decorative items. Buyer beware, as low grades of teak can be and are made into furniture.
Reclaimed teak is becoming popular. It is not proper to classify reclaimed teak as grade A even if it was originally sourced as grade A when new.
Teak outdoor patio furniture may be marketed as “handmade” and assumed to be superior to machine made. In the case of teak, the opposite is true. You want to seek out machine made teak furniture. Machines are essential to milling uniform and consistent dimensions, planning correctly, and creating the joinery necessary for solid construction. Machines also test the moisture content and use computerized kilns to achieve the optimal measurement for manufacturing.
- Christopher Amos