October 2018Designer Spotlight: 855 Brannan Apartments Rooftop Community Space
March 19, 2019
Teak is one of our top picks for outdoor furniture, for its durability, versatility, and distinctive character. We get a lot of questions about teak furniture care, but the most frequent might just be “Do I need to stain or finish my teak furniture?”
The short answer is no. The longer answer is, it depends on how you plan to use the furniture.
Because of the wood’s density and naturally high levels of oil, which vary in different parts of the wood and form their own natural barrier, stains and finishes don’t absorb well. Instead they sit on top, creating a streaked or mottled look; areas with lots of oil almost repel the stain, while areas with a lower concentration of oils absorb it only a little better.
A teak chair or table that’s been stained or finished, may also develop faded or peeled spots. This can occur even with a clear top coat (including polyurethane, water-based polyurethane, varnish, shellac, and lacquer) because the oils in the wood prevent any depth of penetration. So if you want to have control over the color and uniformity of the surface, and especially if you want to retain the teak’s original reddish hue, you have to apply those finishes and stains frequently. Just ask boat owners!
There are newly emerging stain and finish technologies that claim to create superdurable teak stains and finishes. We haven’t tested them extensively, so we can’t vouch for how they perform over the long term. For this reason, we don’t recommend them.
For us, teak furniture—whether restaurant furniture, commercial furniture, or for residential use—is the very definition of low-maintenance, requiring only occasional care. If you’ll be using it outdoors, we recommend letting it weather to its natural silver “English garden” patina. You don’t need anything but patience to make this happen; just leave your teak furniture outdoors, uncovered, and notice how the color changes over the course of several months to a year or more.
If you love the look of teak’s natural patina and want to speed up the process, there are some products on the market that can help jog it along. But because the application of these products can cause uneven coloration of the surface (again, it’s all about the oil content in different parts of the wood), we prefer to let nature take its course. So make yourself a cup of tea, kick back in your teak chair or on your teak sofa, and let the wind, weather, and humidity do its job in creating a natural, easy-care look for your teak furniture.