Examining the availability & market challenges affecting Teak
As those familiar with the lumber industry know, most species can be expected to be available in predictable lengths and widths. Other general specs are also true across the board—or a variety of types of boards. When it comes to Teak, however, buyers and lumber dealers alike need to toss their expectations aside. The market for this premium species has created a unique atmosphere that sets Teak apart from all other lumber types.
Because we can only work with the wood supply that is actually available, J. Gibson McIlvain endeavors to understand the situation and educate our customers about Teak availability and other market concerns.
For decades, the price of Teak lumber has been steadily rising. Why? Economic sanctions, export/import complications, and an April 2014 Myanmar government levied ban on timber exports have had a direct impact on pricing. Furthermore, the miles between Asian Teak forests and our lumberyard mean added cost.
Typically, premium quality lumber gleans more than boards that are short, narrow, unstable, or defected; in fact, many imperfect boards never make it to market. However, this is not so with Teak. Unlike almost any other species of lumber, all Teak wood, regardless of board size or defects, is considered valuable and is priced accordingly.
When we receive lumber shipments of other species—domestic or exotic—we know we can expect a certain percentage of short or narrow boards. (“Short” refers to anything shorter than 8 feet.) However, the percentage of shorts which we receive of Teak is typically higher, and the length at which boards are considered shorts for Teak is 6 feet and under.
Despite the above-mentioned market issues, the popularity of Teak continues to rise. Applications are extending beyond marine use, which means quality demands are rising, too. Most builders and customers want wide, long boards of FEQ (First European Quality) Teak with straight, vertical grain—something that makes up a miniscule percentage of the total Teak yield. While such high-quality Teak is certainly available, obtaining it requires purchasing a large volume of this highly prized lumber. In fact, the higher demand for Teak has led to smaller logs, which yield a lower percentage of FEQ Teak.
What does all this mean for you, as a builder? Should you stop recommending and using Teak? Certainly not. However, you need to be aware that the current market and demand means that there’s plenty of Teak that is shorter than 12 inches and narrower than 8 inches.
The higher supply and lower demand for smaller boards can translate into savings for those willing to design projects for these highly available exhibits of premium lumber. When you plan to work with 6-foot-long boards in 6-inch widths, you’ll be promoting less waste and getting more for your money—without skimping on quality, at all.
When you determine to work with the raw materials Nature makes available, you’ll benefit more than just your pocketbook: The Teak market, lumber industry, and Teak forests will reap rewards from your efforts as well.
J Gibson McIlvain is a direct importer of FEQ Teak in the sizes and quality demanded by both the yacht building and the architectural millwork industry. We provide narrow FEQ Teak Strips all the way up to 16/4, wide and long sizes. We can run Teak flooring and Teak mouldings through our high speed moulders. We regularly ship Teak nationwide. Contact us with your order or inquiry today.