Sometimes when we order lumber, we forget something: lumber isn’t made to order. While it can often be cut to various lengths and widths, different species of lumber have limitations. One such species is Teak. The main issue relating to Teak that makes this lumber species more limited in size availability is that the market for Teak is controlled by a complicated web of economic sanctions that prohibit lumber suppliers from purchasing Teak directly from its source in Myanmar. Because of the superiority of Burmese Teak though, it remains a popular option, despite climbing prices and decreasing availability.
Percentage Game with Teak
All lumber shipments come with a certain percentage of narrow, short, or defective boards. A shipment of Teak is no different, except for the fact that a much higher percentage of such lesser-quality boards comes with each shipment — and “short” refers only to boards that are 6 feet long or shorter, rather than the typical definition of “short” as referring to boards under 8 feet in length.
Because of Teak’s lower availability combined with its high demand, it’s not just the premium quality boards that demand a high price tag; you can expect to pay a pretty penny for even unstable or otherwise defective and exceptionally short and narrow boards. With most species, such boards would never make it to a lumber supplier.
Heightened Demand for Teak
Once used almost exclusively for marine applications, Teak is now used beyond the boat building industry. Despite a lower level of quality that’s actually needed in other industries, everyone wants FEQ Teak with straight, vertical grain. Of course, a very small percentage of a Teak shipment ends up meeting that criteria. And sourcing it will necessarily include a high percentage of lower-quality lumber as a by-product, further increasing your price per board foot. When you consider the general preference of the U.S. market for long, wide boards, the situation gets even more extreme. As the percentage of FEQ Teak in each log continues to shrink, the market value of Teak logs continues to grow.
Considerations for Buying Teak
As you read about these challenges facing Teak, you might be wondering if we’re trying to get you to stop buying Teak — but that’s not at all what we’re suggesting! We’re simply inviting you to consider the challenges involved in sourcing Teak and realize that there’s plenty of Teak available that’s not extra-long and wide. In fact, the market preference for such boards is bringing in plenty of Teak that doesn’t meet those specifications.
As long as you’re willing to consider shorter, narrower boards and design projects accordingly, you’ll be able to utilize the Teak that’s available. Value engineering is just plain smart — and when it comes to Teak, this practice may actually allow you to use a premium lumber species that wouldn’t otherwise be affordable for you.