A Definition of Wood
Wood is the solid, fibrous substance found in trees, shrubs and other plants used since prehistoric times for construction, fuel, weapons and other uses. An organic tissue that grows naturally, wood transfers nutrients from the roots and soil to upper parts of the plant, such as the leaves, while also serving a support function, allowing the tree or shrub to grow larger and taller. This abundant resource is mostly used for construction and furniture. Contemporary wood used for both of these functions is typically treated with chemicals to avoid wood rot, wormholes and other problems. Many materials considered "wood" today are in fact engineered substitutes that use wood chips or synthetic fibers as the base, avoiding the issues natural wood brings to the table, such as deterioration in the rain or snow. Wood is cherished for its natural beauty; the color of the wood, growth rings and knots are considered to provide wonderful character.
Beautiful and natural, wood patio furniture offers a pastoral quality rarely found in other outdoor furniture. The most common woods used in garden furniture are Jatobá (referred to as Brazilian Cherry in the United States) and Teak, both hardwoods (see Hardwood vs. Softwoods below) that naturally grow in rainforest settings (Teak originates from South East Asia, while Brazilian Cherry, or Jatobá, hails from South America). All wood patio furniture should be protected and treated periodically to avoid wear and tear; check with the manufacturer or vendor to determine the care it requires. Wooden garden furniture can be left outside in the elements to create an authentic and old appearance. Synthetic options, such as poly-lumber and cast aluminum finished to seem like wood, are modern innovations, offering the look of organic wood without the upkeep and maintenance.
Various plants offer various wood densities, which translates to increased or decreased durability, beauty, softness or strength. Hardwood obviously offers advantages for garden furniture, while softwoods offer a smooth feel and other visual benefits when compared to hardwoods. Which is best for your patio furniture? Depends on your needs, tastes and environment.
Here's a list of softwoods and hardwoods commonly and sometimes used in patio furniture to help in your decision:
A common material used for wood patio furniture is Teak, a tropical hardwood that originated in the rainforests of South East Asia. Historically teak was cultivated by India, Myanmar, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and other South East Asia countries, but currently is cultivated across the globe, from the Americas to Africa. Teak is the common name for Tectona grandis, a deciduous tree that can grow more than 130 feet in height. When mature, teak trees offer beautiful white flowers, while the wood offers a yellow and brown hue. Teak is valued for its ability to resist water and pests such as termites; teak is used for not only for patio furniture, but for sailboats, decks, trim and any other area where exposure to the elements will occur. The natural oils and silica present in natural teak allows the wood to repel water, avoid warping and hold strength. While teak will resist water and moisture, UV exposure can be damaging, causing the wood to fade. Most natural teak furniture (a teak tree is pictured left) is produced in Indonesia from teak harvested from Indonesian or Myanmar plantations. Teak requires special care (see below) when compared to other woods, such as Brazilian Cherry.
What To Look For When Shopping For Teak FurnitureLook for dowel or mortise and tenon construction for the sturdiest teak options. If you do purchase bolted pieces, make sure the hardware is stainless steel or brass.
Good manufacturers and brands to consider when shopping for Teak garden furniture: Royal Teak Collection & Summer Classics
Cleaning Teak Patio Furniture
CLEANING: Any deep sanding of teak is damaging, as well as traditional cleaning solvents, oils or other compounds. These modern cleaners will strip the natural teak-oil and silica out of the wood, shortening the life of the wood. Use mild soap and water with a soft brush to routinely remove dust, chemicals, pollen, salt and dirt. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.
Stains, particularly grease stains, can be difficult to remove; however, left to weather, the stains should eventually disappear. To speed the process along, press an absorbent cloth into the stain and then rub lightly with sandpaper.
Teak furniture requires no special storage during the winter months, but can be covered with patio furniture covers if desired.
NOTE: Maintain the golden color of your teak furniture by applying linseed oil or a commercial teak oil to your furniture once a year.
TIP: Once teak furniture has been allowed to weather, or turn gray, you can restore the original golden color of the wood using a power washer. Set to pressure of 900-1200 psi and maintain a distance of 6-8 feet.
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