Teak vs Bamboo


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Two of the most popular types of wood you will find for decorative and structural purposes are teak wood and bamboo. Although they are very different from each other, teak vs. bamboo have many features and benefits.

Teak originates from the mint family and you will find it growing in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Bamboo also grows in Southeast Asia as well as South Asia. In reality, bamboo is not a wood but a type of grass.

Both teak and bamboo make some of the best types of flooring that you are ever likely to come across. However, the method of processing each type varies widely from the other. In this post, we take a closer look at the differences between teak vs. bamboo.

Teak vs. Bamboo: General

heathlands with trees as part of a wood

The major difference between teak and bamboo is that teak is wood whereas bamboo is grass. The botanical name for the teak wood that we use for lumber is Tectona grandis. Bamboo that we use for flooring and construction purposes mainly comes from the species Phyllostachys edulis.

fresh bamboo plants

Both these materials find wide use as flooring, whereas teak is more versatile. You will find all sorts of furniture, cabinets, relief carvings, sculptures made from teak. Teak is an extremely strong and durable variety of wood and plays a prominent role as a building material.

Although we do find bamboo used in other areas other than flooring, its usage is not as much as teak.

Teak vs. Bamboo: Flooring

The variety of bamboo that gets processed into lumber is “Moso” bamboo that comes from China. It grows into large, hollow canes and can have diameters between four to eight inches. Initially, the canes are woody in appearance but have an extremely fibrous core.

The processing of the canes is an elaborate procedure, wherein we soak them in water, chemically treated and molded into boards. We then use these boards for bamboo flooring.

Teak, on the other hand, needs no special processing except to cut it into planks of the desired sizes. We then sand down the planks and install them side-by-side as flooring.

Although bamboo flooring comes with an already finished surface, we generally apply a finish to teak flooring after installing it.

Teak vs. Bamboo: Durability

One of the governing factors that define durability is mechanical strength and resistance to rot. The tried and tested method of testing wood for mechanical strength is through a test called the “Janka” hardness test.

The Janka hardness test involves compressing a steel ball halfway into the surface of the wood. We then measure the force taken to make the required impression on the wood and allot it a number which we call the Janka hardness number.

Natural teak isn’t very hard and has a Janka hardness of about 1,000. Bamboo on the other hand shows a Janka hardness for between 1,700 to 4,600, rendering it harder than teak.

Teak vs. Bamboo: Sustainability

Teak and bamboo both grow on plantations, but with different durations for harvesting. Bamboo has an extremely fast rate of growth. It can grow as fast as three feet per day. It can be ready for harvesting in as little as six months from the germination of the plant.

Teak on the other hand takes 25 to 30 years for a tree to grow to full size and between 25 to 50 years for the timber to be truly ready for harvesting.

But we should not be too carried away by the green nature of bamboo usage. There is a considerable amount of energy consumed in processing and compressing the fibers. Then again, the glue that bonds the strands are not always environmentally friendly. Some manufacturers use formaldehyde which is a toxic substance and a known carcinogen.

Teak vs. Bamboo: Uses

View over the bow over a large motor yacht

Although teak is soft and expensive to be extensively used for flooring, it makes good decking material. The reason is that it has a natural resistance to moisture and rot. But teak enjoys the widest popularity to make furniture, particularly outdoor furniture. Of course, we also use it widely for exterior and interior woodwork.

Wooden ethnic bamboo furniture

You can find wooden furniture made of bamboo, but you will not get the resilience and durability that you get from teak. Here is the downside of bamboo against teak wood. Once processed bamboo starts to deteriorate, it is not reversible. Teak however can be restored with regular maintenance and can last for decades.

Teak vs. Bamboo: Main Differences

You can find several differences between teak wood and bamboo. Listed below are the main differences that come to mind:

Growth and Species

Bamboo grows in over 1,200 different species. It holds the record of having the maximum number of species of all the existing types of wood. In contrast, teak only has three major types out of which Tectona Grandis enjoys the widest popularity. We should also keep in mind that teak qualifies as a tree, but bamboo is classified as grass.

Eco-Friendly Properties

Nowadays it’s important to use eco-friendly products in the projects we take up. Until some time ago, teak was not considered to be eco-friendly due to the way trees had to be cut to produce it. But thanks to the efforts of certain governments, today teak is cultivated in a more controlled manner.

In the case of bamboo, it is entirely different. The rapid rate of growth of bamboo makes it easy to replace after cutting. Bamboo regenerates from cut stalks without even having to replant it. So, bamboo is an eco-friendly option.

Physical Properties

Teak is natural solid wood and exhibits extreme durability and toughness. Bamboo on the other hand comes from laminated wood, which makes it vulnerable to damage through water and extreme climatic conditions.

You can use teak to make a variety of load-bearing structures the way you cannot do with bamboo. But when it comes to handling and transportation, bamboo wins hands-down thanks to its lightweight properties.

Maintenance

Both teak and bamboo are rather easy to maintain. You can do it without making too much effort. But you have to follow different frequencies and maintenance procedures for each one.

You will only need to clean and maintain teak every three to six months and up to even once a year, depending on the grade of teak. The maintenance is not too complicated. You can get away by washing it in soapy water and applying oil once the wood becomes dry.

Bamboo however needs to have bamboo sealer applied to it several times a year to maintain its waterproof properties and keep insects at bay.

Cost Considerations

Here is where the huge disparity occurs between teak wood and bamboo. Bamboo is by far the cheapest of the two – at least half the price of teak wood. However, you also need to consider the durability factor.

Bamboo is the lesser durable of the two. You may find that you still end up spending more as bamboo will have to be replaced more frequently.

Conclusion

Given a choice, which would you choose, teak or bamboo? Many factors go into deciding on which material to go in for. Teak has an ageless quality that bamboo will never be able to match. It also exhibits maximum resistance to weather and insect attack thanks to the natural oils it contains.

Bamboo however will give you a budget choice. If you have a limited budget but you still want something that looks good in your projects, you could use bamboo with satisfactory results.

Whatever the result you are looking for, you can complete some great-looking projects using either of these two materials.

Happy Woodworking!