Teak versus Balau: A Patio Furniture Question

Teak is generally considered to be the “exotic” import for high quality casual furniture, and for good reason.  Teak should last a lifetime; it withstands the elements, and looks like a million bucks.  Teak offers the warmth and beauty that you expect when making a buying decision for something that will be around for decades. 


The popularity of Teak soared in the 1900’s and as a result the slow growth forests and rainforests have become depleted.  This only served to skyrocket the price of Teak.  Smart agrarians and businessmen, who had built a market for teak products, decided to “farm” Teak in a responsible program to replant and consider this valuable wood as a crop.  Commonly referred to as Plantation grown Teak, the problem of over harvesting the slow growth tree was solved.  As good farmers, they developed hybrid forms of the tree to speed up the growth cycle and improve the yield. 


Unfortunately, as the growth cycle sped up, some of the properties so highly revered were diminished.  The rich tropical oils that protected the wood from the elements and took years to grow, were reduced.  As a result, Plantation Teak is not the same product as some of the other varieties of Teak such as Clear Burmese Teak that was considered among the finest of all Teak.


Over the past ten years a new (new to the U.S.) tropical hardwood has appeared on the scene and is growing in popularity.    Balau, which is grown in the same Pacific-Asia region is rated by the Timber Council as stronger and more durable than Teak.  Balau is a slow growth tree that offers the rich tropical oils that Teak used to possess.  With the lesson that they learned with Teak, Balau is a responsibly managed specie of wood.  Here’s the real beauty of Balau…it looks like Teak and costs a fraction of what Teak costs.  So, it’s stronger, more durable, looks like Teak and costs less.  So what’s the drawback?  Not many manufacturers are using Balau yet because it’s harder to machine, wears out their saw blades faster, requires more time in the kiln drying process and it isn’t “Teak”, which is what their market has been for years.


“A number of stores sell furniture made out of so-called teak-like woods: pine, iroko or nyatoh, which are less expensive but also don’t last as long.  Yet one alternative – Balau – actually holds its own,” says Susie Coelho, a lifestyle expert and host of Home and Garden Television’s Outer Spaces.


Melbourne, Florida is home to one of the larger wholesalers in the U.S. for Balau casual furniture.  They will sell direct to the public at or below wholesale and probably have the most extensive product line of Balau casual furniture in the U.S.  You can preview their products at www.AvonleaGardens.com.  If you would like to call them for more information, they can be reached at 800-238-0604.


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