Burmese Teak vs. Plantation Teak

Teak tree

Teak tree

While the most recent issues regarding sourcing Burmese Teak may be good news for home builders, the constantly volatile lumber regulations on Myanmar certainly has lovers of Teak concerned.

J. Gibson McIlvain continues to source only authentic Burmese Teak, rather than Plantation Teak. We believe that the Burmese variety displays the superior coloring and vertical grain which we know the marine industry requires.

At the same time, though, we truly believe in educating ourselves and our customers about lumber and the industry. We are also open to change and continue to learn and grow ourselves. So just because we aren’t currently open to sourcing Plantation Teak doesn’t mean we never will.

Three year old plantation Teak in Panama

Three year old plantation Teak in Panama

Excessive Knots & Inconsistent Coloring

To date, we have visited several Teak plantations and have examined the quality of the Teak wood which they produce. We have found the coloring to be quite inconsistent.

It seems that this problem is due to the rapid growth rate and lack of a forest canopy, which tends to result in the formation of a higher percentage of lower branches than Teak trees typically produce in natural forests.

Even though the branches on Teak plantations are typically pruned regularly, the resulting pin knots interrupt the flow of the grain and create water traps. These issues, of course, reduce the weather resistant properties of Teak, making Plantation Teak unsuitable for marine applications.

Pile of Teak logs

Pile of Teak logs

Different Soil Chemistry

In addition to the issues created by the plantation situation, in general, the location of the plantations create another issue. While the trees are still genuine Teak, the soil chemistry in the areas of the plantations has a very different soil chemistry than that which is found in Myanmar.

This difference translates into a lower percentage of silica. Since the typically high silica content of Teak is what makes it repel water, the soil chemistry leads to a less resilient board.

The climate variations found on the Teak plantations produce a less consistent board, when it comes to coloring and grain, as well.

FEQ Teak boards

FEQ Teak boards

Addressing Sustainability

Since our customers are looking for consistent coloring, straight and clear grain, and weather resistance, we currently believe that Burmese Teak is our only true option when it comes to quality Teak wood for marine applications.

While we’re mindful of the sustainability issues that drive the movement toward Plantation Teak, we believe that properly managing the existing natural Teak forests is a better long-term solution. We ensure that the mills from which we buy Teak (as well as any other species) use sustainable practices. In addition, stringent governmental regulations disallow irresponsible harvesting, anyway.

We’re committed to continuing to provide our customers with top-notch Teak that’s responsibly and legally harvested. If someday that means Plantation Teak is an option, so be it. But for now, we truly believe that Burmese Teak is our only option, so we will continue to try to source as much as possible and monitor the quality to meet the needs of our valued customers.

Dried lumber grading at J Gibson McIlvain Lumber Company

Dried lumber grading at J Gibson McIlvain Lumber Company

J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.

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