Anyone who works with lumber realizes that as an organic material, wood movement and coloring can be a little tricky. Teak is no exception; in fact, its unique characteristics make its color variation significant. While all lumber species undergo color change over time, Teak experiences a particularly drastic transformation from when it’s freshly planed to once it’s been oxidized and exposed to sunlight.
The Problem with Freshly Milled Teak
Unlike the consistent, golden appearance for which Teak is well known, freshly milled Teak can appear blotchy and inconsistent, with colors ranging from black to yellow and including shades of green and blue. There’s some honey brown mixed in there somewhere, but it’s often overshadowed by the more drastic hues you’re not expecting to see. As you might imagine, the customer who encounters such unusual colors on their newly installed deck can easily become frustrated and confused instead of overjoyed. In our instant gratification society, simply telling customers to wait because they’ll eventually see that golden color they love might not go over very well. For starters, you can educate your customers about the nature of Teak color change.
The Cause of Teak Color Change
The streaky or blotchy appearance of freshly milled Teak isn’t due to uneven drying or poor quality control; it’s simply part of the deal when it comes to Teak. In fact, upon experimentation with various kiln schedules, it seems the secret to alleviating discoloration of Teak isn’t tied to time or temperature used for kiln-drying; instead, it’s simply a matter of time. The streaky or blotchy appearance will lessen with oxidation alone, but the color will darken only with exposure to light. Sometimes, the fading process can take up to 3 months; however, you should see a marked difference in just a few weeks. The reason is connected to the chemical nature of Teak and other species such as Afromosia, which has similarly high amounts of light-sensitive pigment.
The Waiting Period Before Installing Teak
While there’s really nothing you can do to eliminate the color inconsistency of freshly milled Teak, there are some things you can do to avoid exposing your customers to less-than-beautiful Teak. First, you can eliminate customer shock by allowing for some time — a week or two, perhaps — before installation during which you can allow the Teak lumber to be exposed to sunlight. (That same time period can also function as an acclimatization period, which can allow for wood movement.) Second, you can expedite the color-change process by choosing a particularly sunny setting for your Teak lumber during that time. While you can certainly let your customer know that the color of their Teak boat or deck or trim will continue to mellow over time, you can at least avoid a strong negative reaction to your work.