Learn about finishes, weathering, care and that age-old oil debate to get the teak furnishings that suit you best
Teak has long been a top choice for outdoor furnishings, due to its buttery gold color and durability. Its high content of naturally occurring rubber and oils serves as Mother Nature’s weatherproofing, protecting against water, rot and insects, ensuring that your furnishings will last year after year.
But as perfect as teak is for outdoor areas, you should still go through the purchasing process armed with information. Here are five things to consider before taking the plunge with teak.
- PriceThe same things that make teak so desirable also help drive up the price, making it most suitable for spaces you’re planning to use for years to come. So if you move around a lot or are the kind of person who likes to constantly redecorate, it might not be the best option.
- SustainabilityMost Burmese teak comes with good karma as it does not grow naturally in Indonesia.
These days it’s much easier to find teak grown on plantations that practice sustainable harvesting.
- Finishes and WeatheringThere are three general options for teak finishes: natural/unfinished, sealed and preweathered.When exposed to the elements, teak naturally turns a silvery gray over time. You can see this starting to happen to the furniture shown here, especially on the arms. If you like this look, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy your teak furnishings; they’ll begin to gray within a few months.
Tip: Buy all your unfinished teak furnishings at the same time to ensure they’ll end up the same color.
Buying preweathered teak is another great option if you like the silvery look. The advantage of going this route is that the color you start with is the color it will stay, making it easier to choose fabrics and accent pieces.
If you’d like to keep your furnishings looking golden brown, sealing can help slow down the weathering process. But sealants can also wear down, so ask your vendor about maintenance before purchasing.
- To Oil or Not to OilSome vendors recommend oiling teak as a preservative to help maintain its color. The downside: Oiling can promote mold and mildew. When deciding whether or not to oil, consider where the furniture is placed. If it’s in a covered or enclosed area in constant shade, the sun won’t fade it as quickly. Indoor teak furnishings often won’t fade at all.
But placed in full sun, teak will weather. So you’ll have to weigh the risk of mold versus your desired visual effect. If you do decide to oil, you’ll need to do it once or twice a year to preserve the color. All oils are not created equal, so ask the vendor for specific product recommendations.
- CleaningTeak furniture needs to be cleaned at least once a year to remove dirt, dust and stains. This is something you can do yourself with a diluted household cleanser and a bristle brush. Ask your vendor which detergent you should use based on the finish you’ve chosen.
Eventually someone is going to spill red wine or drip salad dressing on your furniture. In those cases be prepared to use a special teak cleanser to remove the stain. In extreme cases — and also in the case of a nasty scratch — mild sanding may be needed. But again, ask the manufacturer before working on the blemish.