Teak wood can be hard to find and expensive so the natural tendency is to look for substitutes. Many kinds of wood come close but cannot match the superiority of natural teak wood. One wood that has similar properties in terms of durability and color is Eucalyptus. Teak and eucalyptus are both durable hardwoods used for outdoor furniture, decking, and construction.
Teak, native to Southeast Asia, is highly sought-after for its natural oils and tight grain, making it resistant to rot, insects, and weather. Its golden-brown hue and ability to develop a silvery patina over time make it visually appealing. Eucalyptus, native to Australia, is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to teak, offering similar durability and resistance properties. It has a slightly lighter color and is more affordable.
Although teak is considered the gold standard for outdoor use, eucalyptus provides a budget-friendly and environmentally conscious option without sacrificing quality.
In this post, we’ll compare the properties of Teak and Eucalyptus in detail.
Features of Teak
The teak tree (Tectona grandis) grows in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It enjoys great popularity due to its good looks and high durability, playing a prominent role in outdoor furniture. Due to its high demand, this wood is not readily available. Another plus point of Teak is the natural oil that Teak produces.
The natural oil of Teak makes it somewhat water-resistant and resistant to insects, rot, and decay. Teak takes on polish easily, and the beautiful, natural grain of the wood gets enhanced by applying a suitable finish to it.
Teak is a fairly hardwood with a Janka hardness of 2,330. This makes it solid wood, and in combination with its weather resistance, it becomes suitable for beach and poolside furniture. On the contrary, most of the Teak you get today is likely new and from plantations where it is carefully cultivated.
It is a misconceived notion that old Teak is the only good-quality Teak around. Due to over-exploitation, Teak found its way onto the list of endangered wood species. Fortunately, governments stepped in to monitor its cultivation, logging, and trading. As a result, it is available again today but beware of illegally smuggled Teak.
Summary of Points
- Appearance: Golden or dark brown
- Durability: Highly durable
- Hardness (Janka): 2,330
- Density: 0.65 to 0.98 Kg/M3
- Workability: Fairly easy to work with
- Cost: Prohibitive
Features of Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is primarily from Australia, but you can also find it in various other places across the globe. It grows fairly quickly and is relatively cheaper than most other hardwoods. However, Eucalyptus needs a fair degree of maintenance to protect it from damage through moisture and pests.
Also, you need to take care to cut eucalyptus timber in a particular way to prevent warping and cracking. After processing, you have to treat the wood appropriately. Using a suitable sealant for Eucalyptus can have a life almost as long as Teak for a fraction of the cost.
Eucalyptus is a relatively workable wood for beginners. The wood has a reddish-brown to creamy color that is pleasing to the eye. And, when you apply a suitable finish to it, it can look quite classy. It is quite an easy wood to paint as well.
Planks traditionally sawn from eucalyptus logs that are longitudinal across the log will warp and crack easily. It is due to the inconsistent stresses caused by the internal fibers of the wood. You can overcome this difficulty somewhat by sawing the logs radially.
Radial sawing creates more wastage, and to saw the logs using this method, they need to be at least one meter in circumference. To grow to a suitable size takes about 25 years, less than Teak but still quite a long time to wait for the timber. These are the constraints of using Eucalyptus for making furniture.
Although there are quite a few limitations on using Eucalyptus for furniture, there are places in South America where woodworkers produce a lot of fine furniture using eucalyptus wood.
Summary of Points
- Appearance: Reddish-brown to cream
- Durability: Fairly durable
- Hardness (Janka): 4,000 to 5,000
- Density: 600 Kg/M3
- Workability: Quite easy to work with
- Cost: Cheaper than many other hardwoods
Teak vs. Eucalyptus
Now that we have had a close look at each of these woods let us compare the two to bring out the pros and cons of each type of wood. Both are versatile woods. As a woodworker, this comparison should help you to decide if you have to decide which one to use for a particular project.
Both Teak and Eucalyptus are strong and long-lasting woods and can make good furniture. But when it comes to comparing both, woodworkers prefer Teak over Eucalyptus. Teak has the advantage of a high mineral content which prevents the wood from cracking. The natural oil present in Teak prevents rotting and keeps insects at bay even in high moisture areas.
The above properties give Teak the kind of agelessness that enables it to be passed down for generations. Eucalyptus also contains natural oils that help to prevent insect attack and damage through moisture. However, it is still less durable than Teak, and you may have to replace eucalyptus furniture after 25 years or so.
Maintenance and Care
Other than occasional cleaning for the removal of surface dirt, Teak needs almost no maintenance. You can give teak wood a scrub with soap and water followed by a rinse with clean water.
It would help if you gave Eucalyptus a light sanding once a year to clear the surface of contaminants. Over-sanding might remove the natural silver, weathered look of the wood due to being exposed to the elements.
Use oil meant for Teak and Eucalyptus for prolonging the life of furniture made of these woods. Apply a thin coating of oil with a soft cloth once a year for best results.
Teak is a highly coveted wood because of its high durability, long lifespan, and good looks. These factors have contributed to its over-exploitation and subsequent shortage. The result is that legal Teak is a costly wood that grows in plantations where strict control exists on its cultivation, logging, and sale.
Eucalyptus, on the other hand, is more readily available. Although eucalyptus leaves are the staple diet of koala bears in Australia, there are enough trees to go around to satisfy our furry friends as well as ourselves. Eucalyptus also grows far more rapidly than Teak, and all these factors make Eucalyptus a much cheaper wood than Teak.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the authority that sets the standards for ensuring that forests are protected from over-exploitation. Particularly with Teak, many illegal trading goes on, and Teak and Eucalyptus grow on plantations that the FSC controls to meet the growing demand while preventing deforestation.
The FSC ensures that the timber that you buy in the market comes from plantations that meet the requirements specified by them. The main feature of such plantations is that they replant trees to replenish those they harvest adequately. Always check for the FSC seal while buying lumber.
Finally, we come to the question – which is better, Teak or Eucalyptus. Teak is popular due to its durability and long life, and Eucalyptus is also durable and, if maintained properly, can last quite long, if not as long as Teak.
Ultimately, if you have to choose between Teak vs. Eucalyptus, the first preference would be Teak. But you would have to consider two main factors here – availability and cost. If you cannot procure Teak easily, you can go with Eucalyptus, and similarly, you need a cheaper option or other teak wood alternatives.
Today we also get artificially produced Teak such as FlexiTeek, a great alternative to natural Teak, which we discuss at length in another interesting post. If you are looking for durable wood for your woodworking projects, Teak, Eucalyptus, or any teak wood alternatives will serve you well. With the information in this post, we are sure that you can now get suitable wood for your next woodworking project.