Teak is a hardwood that has the benefit of being easy to work with, in addition to its structural strength and durability. Because of those qualities, woodworkers have been making teak furniture for centuries. Teak wood grows in countries that have tropical rainforests, such as India, Thailand and Malaysia.
Since the Middle Ages, teak wood has been prized as material in the shipbuilding industry because the wood has the unique qualities of not rotting or accumulating rust even when joined with metal. Due to its high oil content, the wood is water repellent, which also makes it resistant to insect infestation. Early furniture makers recognized these weatherproof advantages when British sailing ships were decommissioned but the teak was still salvageable.
In the 1800s during the Victorian era, furniture makers experimented with the idea of creating teak furniture for outdoor use — and that is one of the primary markets for it even today. Teak park benches still in use in some European cities date back 100 years.
Today's teak furniture market is driven by consumers who know and appreciate the qualities and longevity of teak. In addition to its reputation for durability, this furniture is known for its rich warm color and satiny smooth surface. Patio furniture is a prime example, but teak is also fashioned into outdoor decking, indoor tables and chairs, and executive office furniture.
Many owners of outdoor teak furniture prefer to let the wood age and weather as it turns a mellow gray tone, but others would rather retain the original color by applying annual coats of teak oil. While this treatment is not necessary to protect the wood, the process is not difficult and many hold that the application of oil extends the life of the furniture. If you do decide to oil your teak, remember to apply the oil before the color begins to fade — and always apply it on clean surfaces or else the trapped dirt may cause your furniture to turn black.
If you are in the market for furniture, you may be surprised to find out that teak is quite expensive. But, if you are tired of replacing your patio furniture every year or so, the purchase may actually save you money over the years.