Burmese Versus Plantation Teak

A quick discussion of Asian and South American varieties of wood marketed as "Teak" July 13, 2010

Question
I'm working on a large project that is going to require in excess of 10,000 board feet of teak for both interior and exterior purposes. I've been talking to quite a few teak dealers and have gotten a variety of answers when I ask what differentiates Burmese teak from Plantation teak. The people that sell just plantation material, which seems to come from Central and South America, say it's every bit as weather resistant as Burmese but tends to be lighter in color. The people that sell Burmese say it isn't nearly as durable for exterior applications. There is one dealer that sells what they call "Asian" teak, which is teak, not plantation, apparently, that is from SE Asia, but not Burma. Does anyone have experience using plantation in exterior applications and can speak for its suitability for such?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
They definitely do not look the same. Burmese is darker, very curly/swirly grain, and more oil. Some people prefer one over the other. The plantation has a straighter grain pattern. I would not be concerned in the least about its weather resistance. It does not rot. They used to use teak for boat hulls (not just above the waterline).



From contributor G:
Just some anecdotal evidence from a South American dealer I recently bought some cocobolo from. His business is importing S.A. woods. I asked him the same question, and he claimed that they export it to Burma where it is resold as Burmese teak. Don't know the truth of it, but I wouldn't doubt it.


From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Teak (Tectona grandis) is teak. However, some people grow a wood they call teak but it is not really teak. Plantation teak does sometimes have a different color and may be a bit heavier. The wood is native to SE Asia; it is grown in plantations there and Latin America and a few other places.


From contributor R:
There is definitely a difference between S. American Plantation teak and Burmese teak. Burmese teak is darker, denser, and is considered the very best for exterior use and boat making. You would not build a boat out of plantation teak.

Asian teak is Burmese teak - same thing. Why do they call it different? Itís due to the trade embargo on Burma, the teak cannot be cut in Burma. The teak must be exported to another country (China or Singapore) and cut, and then exported to USA. So many try to avoid the word "Burmese". Reality is, Burmese teak is more expensive because it is rarer than plantation teak. If you are doing an interior job and you are ok with the lighter tones of plantation teak, go with Plantation teak. If you want the richer tones or are using the teak outside, spend the extra bit and get Burmese teak.