Facts About Burma Teak

Teak is the world's most valuable and versatile hardwood. The rare beauty of teak, its rich golden brown luster, decorative grain and unique properties of strength and resistance to wear have made it the best wood for marine use.

Teak has been prized by the shipbuilding industry for centuries. Teak has been used on aircraft carriers, tall-mast graceful clipper ships, cruise ships, refined yachts, dinghies as well as rugged workboats. Exterior teak decks are valued because teak is the only wood that withstands the harsh effects of sea water and broiling sun and does not split, crack or warp.

The decks of the Titanic were covered with teak and the wood is as good today as the fateful night in 1912, when she sank. Sunken logs recovered from the Rangoon River in Burma, under water for more than 150 years, were as durable as the day the tree was felled.

Teak is ideal In boat interiors where there is high humidity, for doors, hatches and cabinetry because it does not warp, twist or expand which could make opening doors and drawers impossible. Unlike most woods, teak does not crack when in contact with water because of natural oils and remains stable even under months in the hot sun or submersed in ocean waters.

Teak develops a unique non-skid property underfoot, even when wet due to a high silica (sand) content giving traction when walking on a wet teak deck. Teak needs no paint or varnish and over time will develop a silver gray patina. Snow storms, monsoon rains, tropical heat and even scorching desert conditions do not diminish the strength of teak. Teak has natural resins called techno quinines that repel termites, marine borers and resist rot.

Teak is a precious resource and only four countries in the world have natural teak forests; Burma, Thailand, Laos and India. Thailand once had 35 million acres of natural teak forests but has now been reduced to a few thousand acres. Felling of teak trees in Thailand has been banned since 1982 and forests are tightly controlled. Teak is probably the best-protected commercial species in the world. Elephants are still being used extensively to extract teak because of their low impact upon the environment. Burma (renamed Myanmar) now exports 80% of the world's natural teak supply.

Teak is not a tropical rainforest species and grows sparsely in mixed deciduous forests. In its natural environment there are only 1 to 5 trees per acre in the best growing areas. Burma established plantations in 1856 with some very farsighted foresters who saw the need to treasure trees for future generations. Teak seeds from Burma have been used to start plantations in Africa and Central America.

Teak from other regions of the world cannot match true Burma Teak. Varying climatic conditions, topography, soil type, drainage, elevation, rainfall, length of dry season and professional management result in vast differences in quality, hardness, texture and coloration. While plantation wood is suitable for parquet flooring, garden furniture and other small moldings, it is generally not suitable for marine use.

Due to the high price many yacht builders have tried to replace teak with oak, ash, maple, mahogany or cherry. Others have tried to promote substitutes species such as Iroko or Afromosia as "African Teak". These woods may be suitable for various applications but only Burma Teak is indispensable on a boat. Burma Teak is truly a gift of nature for the marine industry.