When thinking about purchasing outdoor furniture, consider teak for its timeless style, unrivaled durability, sustainable materials, natural beauty and incomparable value. Teak is a deciduous hardwood tree indigenous to the dry, hilly terrains of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Teak is extremely dense-grained and highly resistant to rot, warping, shrinkage and swelling. Its high natural oil content acts as a natural preservative so that the wood can be left outdoors for decades. Teak ages gracefully into a refined silvery-grey patina that can be restored to its original warm honey color.
Be Selective When Choosing Teak
1) Ensure the teak you purchase is harvested from plantations that use sustainable-yield practices and that the product is heartwood with a mix of straight and free grain. “One side clear” teak has minimal “live” knots and no dead knots or sap lines.
2) Research the assembly of the furniture and opt for old-fashioned mortise and tenon construction with dowel inserts - a simple, strong 90 degree wood joinery technique that has been used for thousands of years.
3) Insist on kiln-dried wood that is dried to 15% or less moisture content before manufacture. When teak has dried thoroughly, it can withstand the temperature and humidity shifts anywhere in the world withought swelling or cracking.
4) Teak is categorized as either handmade, semi-machine made, or fully machine made. When it comes to teak, choose machine-made. Handmade teak furniture is made with hand tools and results in furniture with “character” and “unique detailing.” These chairs are the cheapest ones you can buy since labor is relatively inexpensive in Indonesia. Precisely-made machined teak furniture is made using power tools in a factory. Cuts and bores are more precise than by hand and pieces are ultimately fitted by hand. Two chairs from a fully-machine factory will be indistinguishable.
When new, teak has a subtle sheen from the naturally occuring oils that are found in the wood. With time, use and the elements this surface will wear away exposing the grey, weathered patina teak lovers are accustomed to. Whether you want to regain that original sheen, clean your teak’s perfect patina or create a new and lasting finish, there are a myriad of options of how to care for your favorite pieces.
Whether allowed to weather naturally or have been sealed or oiled, all teak will require periodic cleanings to remove dirt, debris, moss and/or mildew.
1) Choose a dry day and move furniture into the shade. Gather a nylon brush and bucket with warm water and a few drops of non-detergent soap. A homemade solution of one part bleach to two parts water may be used if you see signs of mold or mildew.
2) Gently brush furniture with soap and water until pieces are clean. For better cleaning or stubborn stains use a cleanser specifically formulated for use on teak.
3) Rinse well with water and let air dry completely.
To Oil or Not to Oil
Untreated teak will develop a soft grey patina over time and does not impact the longevity of the furniture. If you prefer a warm, rich brown effect the answer is to use a teak oil or teak protector. Be aware that when oiling teak you are creating an envoronment where moisture may become trapped between the wood and the oil potentially creating a haven for mildew that can lead to black spots or blemishes on the wood. If you choose to apply oil or teak protector, take care to apply the product evenly and thinly allowing the oil to completely absorb into the wood and come to a dry finish before exposing the pieces back into the elements.
Sealing Teak Furniture
For a more permanent solution to teak care and maintenance, you may choose to seal your furniture. Sealing teak is not recommended for pieces that have previously been oiled. Rather, this method is appropriate to preserve the natural look found in untreated, natural teak pieces despite exposure to the elements. Sealing your unoiled teak is completed in the same manner as oiling; that is to first thoroughly clean and apply sealer using clean brushes. We recommend Teak Shield for tabletop food stains. Forming a physical barrier to the elements, the sealer will prevent the greying and discoloration of teak wood for several seasons and may be reapplied, as necessary, to maintain a preferred look.