You probably know that teak wood is popular in luxury home design. But do you know why this wood variety is considered by many to be the crème de la crème of hardwood flooring?
It’s estimated that half of all naturally growing teak is located in the forests of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). But it’s not the rarity alone that makes teak a top choice for flooring.
On top of being incredibly durable, teak flooring can be laid down without any stain or protective varnish. The oil produced by teak keeps the wood looking great while naturally repelling water and insects.
Unfortunately, quality comes at a price. Teak flooring is one of the priciest hardwood options on the market. It’s also one of the least sustainable.
Here’s what you should know about teak flooring and whether this luxury material is really worth the price:
What Are the Pros of Teak Flooring?
One of the reasons diamonds are so valuable is because of their hardness compared to other gemstones and minerals. Well, you can think of teak as the diamond of hardwoods!
Similar to minerals, wood can be rated using a system called the Janka hardness scale.
Burma teak has a rating of up to 1,155 pounds. Meanwhile, Brazilian teak has a rating of 3,540 pounds.
While teak is extremely durable, it’s important to note that the Janka hardness scale measures impact. Teak flooring can still be scratched without proper care.
Naturally Repels Water and Insects
One of the defining characteristics of teak wood is its high oil content. This oil gives teak many of its great benefits, including being resistant to water and insect damage.
Teak flooring is an excellent choice for a kitchen, bathroom, mudroom (spaces where installing other types of hardwood often isn’t possible!). The tight pores and natural oil content repel moisture in the air and on the wood’s surface.
Plus, bugs hate teak oil! Insects rarely turn to teak wood for food or shelter. That’s one less thing you need to worry about throughout the lifespan of your new flooring.
Doesn’t Require Stain or Varnish
Unlike many other varieties of hardwood, teak flooring can be left completely natural. The wood’s oil offers wonderful color, shine, and protection all on its own.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from applying an oil-based stain or protective varnish to your teak flooring. But many homeowners choose to let the wood’s natural beauty speak for itself.
Solid and Engineered Teak Is Available
Hardwood flooring isn’t cheap. But you can save a good bit of money by opting for engineered wood over solid wood.
Engineered wood flooring features a thin layer of authentic hardwood over a more affordable base layer. Once installed, it looks just like solid wood but without much of the expense.
Teak Wood Doesn’t Splinter
With age, many types of hardwood flooring will start to crack and splinter. This is both unsightly and painful under bare feet.
Teak wood features long, smooth fibers that resist splintering in most conditions. While extreme wear and tear can still damage this flooring, it stands up much better than other popular types of wood.
If you’ve owned hardwood floors before, then you know that wintertime can cause small gaps to emerge between the planks. In the spring, these gaps disappear.
The reason hardwood floors shrink and expand is the changing humidity levels. Although this phenomenon is completely normal, it’s far from desirable.
Teak has greater dimensional stability than oak, maple, mahogany, and walnut. In other words, teak wood stays true to its original size and shape regardless of the air’s moisture level.
What Are the Cons of Teak Flooring?
It Comes With a Hefty Price Tag
Teak is an impressive hardwood variety that comes with tons of benefits. So it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the most expensive types of hardwood on the market.
Teak lumber is also extremely vulnerable to changes in international trade (and the price of high-quality teak reflects this fact). Plus, it’s nearly impossible for the supply of harvested teak wood to keep up with global demand.
If you’re looking to make a long-term investment in your home’s flooring, then teak is definitely worth the price. But this wood species might not be in everyone’s budget.
All Teak Is Not the Same
When people refer to “teak,” they’re normally talking about Burma teak (Tectona grandis). Scientifically speaking, this is the only true teak. It also goes by the name golden teak.
However, the lumber industry labels several other tree species as teak. Some of these wood varieties include Cumaru (“Brazilian teak”), Robinia (“Chinese teak”), and Iroko (“African teak”).
The reason these tree species get grouped in with real teak is that they share many of the same qualities. Some are even stronger and more beautiful than Burma teak!
Teak Wood Isn’t Always Ethical
Like many organic materials, whether or not teak wood is ethical to use for flooring and other projects is under debate.
Because almost all teak comes from Southeast Asia, shipping the wood around the globe is unavoidable. Transportation is a major contributor to pollution and must be accounted for when weighing the pros and cons of teak flooring.
Teak grows very slowly, which means keeping up with commercial demand requires tons of time and resources. When young teak is harvested (because waiting for the trees to fully age is impractical), it must be further processed to match the quality of more mature wood.
Finally, many varieties of wood sold as teak are becoming endangered because of deforestation. While tree farms are working to stop the harvest of natural-grown wood, there is still illegally sourced teak floating around on the market.
Natural Oil Wears Away Over Time
One of teak wood’s biggest selling points is its incredible oil content. But that natural oil won’t stick around forever.
To maintain the durability and sheen of teak flooring, fresh oil must be applied every 2 to 3 years. Without this routine care, the wood will eventually become vulnerable to moisture damage, insects, and mold growth.
Changes Color With Sun Exposure
Along with losing its inherent shine, teak is likely to change color over time. If you’ve fallen in love with the natural honey color of teak wood, keep in mind that you may need to stain your floors in the future to restore the original shade.
The discoloration is primarily caused by sun exposure. Solid teak flooring can be refinished as needed to remove discolored areas.
Teak flooring is undeniably beautiful and built to last. But, at least for those interested in sticking to a budget or designing an environmentally conscious home, there are better varieties of hardwood to consider.
If sourcing ethical teak flooring is possible for you, this material comes with a wide range of great benefits. And while the price tag can be hard to swallow, it comes backed by incomparable durability and a luxurious finish.
Do you think the benefits of teak flooring outweigh the drawbacks? Does where your home materials come from (and how they get to you) play into your purchasing decisions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!