The ultimate green building material, lumber is truly the best building product when it comes to the environment. Of course, its beauty and longevity are excellent qualities, as well. Thanks to grading standards and generally common lengths and widths, it’s often easy to get exactly what you need. However, some species (such as Walnut) are graded differently because of how the trees grow, and some species come in only certain sizes, for the same reason.
When it comes to Teak, though, the limited lengths and widths available aren’t due to natural limitations, but to the market.
Climbing Prices, Smaller Sizes
Factors such as distance and economic sanctions have come into play, causing the Teak price-per-board-foot to steadily climb for decades. With most species, we see a great difference in prices between premium quality lumber and short, narrow, unstable, or defective boards; in fact, for most wood species, the latter may not make it to the market, at all.
With Teak, the scenario is quite different: Every single inch of the tree is considered as valuable as the next, and all of it gets shipped from Asia. While shipping containers of any lumber species typically contain a portion of short and narrow boards, containers of Teak will usually include a much higher percentage of such boards.
To intensify the differences, the typical “short” board in the lumber industry is anything shorter than 8 feet; for Teak, only boards shorter than 6 feet are considered short.
Increasing Demand, Shorter Boards
Just as Teak’s market has expanded beyond its traditional use in the boat building industry, everyone has decided that only FEQ Teak with straight, vertical grain, is suitable for any application. Of course, such premium Teak makes up just a very small percentage of a typical yield.
In order to attain the required amount of perfect Teak — especially in long and wide sizes — a higher volume of Teak must be purchased from the lumber mill. Even with the low percentage of FEQ Teak in each shipment, the market value of the logs continues to grow. The down side is that as the best portion of the tree is being cut to make longer and wider boards, the rest of the boards are becoming shorter and shorter.
Growing Inventories, Limited Opportunity
The best thing builders can do to improve the Teak market is to realize what’s available and utilize it. There are plenty of Teak boards that are shorter than the often-requested 12-foot boards which are 8 inches and wider. While the larger sizes are sold at an even higher premium, all Teak comes with a hefty price tag. However, for those who can design specifications with Teak’s shorter sizes in view, there are plenty of boards under 6 feet long and 6 inches wide to go around.
Less waste overall will lead to a healthier future market for Teak and to a healthier ecosystem, as a whole.