Teak vs. HDPE: Which is the Best Material For Your Patio Furniture?
Many people struggle to tell the difference between HDPE lumber and Teak at first glance. But it makes sense since HDPE lumber resembles real wood, visually and in functionality.
Teak is a tropical hardwood native to India, Thailand, Laos, and Burma forests. However, it now grows in more than 30 countries across the tropics. Teak has impressive features that make it one of the most reliable woods for making outdoor furniture.
Real teak is rare– it takes time and effort to grow. So, since supply is limited, but demand is high, teak furniture is a luxury product.
HDPE is High-Density Polyethylene; strong plastic that manufacturers use for construction and furniture-making. Initially, HDPE was used for making packaging products. The material’s characteristics make it favorable for packaging chemicals, food, etc.
Today, manufacturers process it into lumber (poly lumber) for furniture. And not the flimsy generic plastic chairs and tables. HDPE produces beautiful and classy pieces.
Because of the many similarities between Teak and HDPE, many people have trouble picking the ideal material for patio furniture. This guide highlights:
- Key similarities of teak and HDPE
- Individual strengths and weaknesses
With the above, you should come to a well-informed conclusion.
Teak Outdoor Furniture
Teak outdoor furniture is favored in many countries globally. It is primarily due to its appearance and excellent resistance. Teak is one of the few kinds of wood that gives users an easy time regarding maintenance and resistance to the elements and insects.
Teak boasts over 2000 years as a reliable building material. And not just furniture, but boats and naval ships from the 17th century.
An interesting feature of teak furniture is its tone which changes over time. Naturally, teak furniture comes in a warm honey look. With outdoor exposure and aging, the color changes to a silvery gray.
Using teak sealers can stop the process, preserving the warm honey color. But many teak outdoor furniture owners look forward to the graying patina because it is uniquely beautiful and often a measure of true teak.
Teak outdoor furniture is ideal for various applications, including patios, decks, and commercial outdoor spaces. Teak outdoor furniture is a great addition to garden settings. The wood looks lovely against the natural tones of flowers and leaves.
HDPE Outdoor Furniture
Manufacturers make HDPE furniture from plastic lumber boards. Manufacturers like POLYWOOD make their own plastic lumber from recycled HDPE. Milk jugs, egg crates, and detergent bottles undergo a multi-step process to produce solid, colored, and treated lumber that furniture makers cut and assemble into outdoor furniture.
Poly outdoor furniture looks like wood and comes in multiple colors and come with excellent resistance against weather, insects, and other outdoor threats.
What is remarkable about outdoor poly furniture is that it is environmentally friendly. HDPE is 100% recyclable, and most manufacturers use recycled HDPE to make poly lumber for furniture-making. It significantly reduces demand for new plastic manufacturing. The process uses less energy and has less impact on the environment than new manufacturing.
HDPE furniture is ideal for various applications, including decks, patios, and gardens. Its customizability also makes it good for commercial and retail applications. Furthermore, it improves the chances of uniqueness.
In addition, since the material is easy to mold, manufacturers can accomplish unique and intricate designs. End consumers have a better chance of getting a specific design for their unique home with HDPE.
Key Similarities & Differences
Durability and strength
Both teak and HDPE patio furniture offer excellent strength and durability. Both materials have a good strength-to-density ratio making them ideal for outdoor pieces. These items will last through impact pressure and kids jumping on the sofa.
Both materials produce high-quality furniture with excellent visuals. The materials offer an undeniable aesthetic appeal, ideal for various settings. HDPE has the advantage of mimicking other materials in texture and appearance.
Both materials resist consistent sun exposure, rain, wind, and insects. Teak has natural oils to protect it, while HDPE is a synthetic non-porous material. Both can therefore perform well under constant exposure to the elements resulting in no damage.
Teak is rare, so supply is limited, but the demand is high. Therefore, genuine teak outdoor furniture is costly. It is one of the most expensive wood furniture. On the other hand, HDPE outdoor furniture is significantly lower since the raw material is readily available.
Genuine teak furniture comes in a warm honey tone limiting color availability. Of course, painting is an option, but it will need regular repainting with exposure to the elements. Alternatively, HDPE has the advantage of color options since the lumber undergoes coloring. Best of all, the color does not fade.
Both materials provide end users with an easy time in maintenance. However, teak asks for a little more care since it is not 100% waterproof and is a natural material. Neglecting for too long will lead to damage. Plus, you need to put more effort into retaining the brown color.
In comparison, HDPE furniture requires little to no maintenance. The synthetic materials can go for long without cleaning, with no serious consequences.
Teak wood contains rubber and natural oils. These two components improve the water-resistance of the materials. The rubber acts like latex for the wood, preventing excess moisture penetration. It also keeps the wood from drying out. Thus, it retains the natural oils better.
The natural oils, on the other hand, make teak resistant to moisture penetration while giving it a good appearance. It is worth noting that these components do not make teak 100% waterproof; they just prevent excess moisture from seeping in and triggering rot and mold. Still, the teak will need maintenance to prevent permeability.
HDPE is a synthetic material that is impermeable. The non-porous nature of plastic makes it completely resistant to water penetration. It is why manufacturers make liquid containers from HDPE.
Sun & Heat
Teak is surprisingly good at withstanding sun exposure. It regulates its own temperature letting the furniture stay cool with consistent sun exposure.
Untreated teak goes through natural aging with regular sun exposure. If you do not like the color, you will need to treat the wood regularly to keep its brown color.
HDPE is resistant to sun exposure and heat. Manufacturers treat HDPE lumber with UV-resistant elements, which help prevent sun damage from exposure.
Similarly, coloring does not sit on the surface but is deeply embedded in the grain. Unlike paint, it will not crack and peel with sun exposure. It is also worth noting that poly outdoor furniture does not get hot with sun exposure making it safe and comfortable to use on hot days.
Flexibility & Durability
Teak contains high levels of oil and rubber, making it durable and flexible. The durability of teak is founded on the high silica content, which gives it excellent strength. Teak outdoor furniture is resistant to rotting, mildew, mold, and other outdoor affiliations.
The rubber content makes it flexible and thus resistant to impact and pressure. Teak outdoor furniture can withstand kids jumping on the couches or holding heavy objects. Some teak outdoor furniture owners have kept their pieces for over 70 years.
HDPE is one of the strongest and most flexible materials. Poly outdoor furniture has a remarkable strength-to-density ratio and thus does not break or crack under impact, pressure, or weight.
Manufacturers love HDPE because of its tensile strength and extremely high melting point. Most warranties for HDPE furniture are 20 years or more, and the pieces can last a lifetime beyond that.
Teak is a warm honey color, with little range between darker and lighter shades. With enough sun exposure, it develops a gray-silver patina which many like. Unfortunately, this is the range of color choices for teak outdoor furniture. End consumers who want teak furniture beyond these shades must paint and keep up with repainting since it is not permanent.
Poly furniture has the advantage of colors. Manufacturers color HDPE (and use UV-resistant elements) when making poly lumber. Often, end consumers can purchase poly outdoor furniture in any shade or hue, depending on needs. And the color runs deep to prevent fading and chipping.
Maintenance & Care
Teak requires less maintenance and care than other woods. But end consumers must take care of teak outdoor furniture as neglect could lower lifespan. Those who wish to keep the natural color of teak furniture must treat the wood every 6 months.
Similarly, you must immediately clean oil, chemical, water, and food spills to prevent staining. End consumers can do cleaning routines 1 to 6 times a year depending on use, weather, and exposure.
HDPE outdoor furniture requires little to no maintenance. Some end consumers go a whole year without cleaning their HDPE furniture pieces with no consequences. Experts advise scrubbing the furniture once or twice yearly with no further maintenance requirements.
The majority of teak comes from areas like Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, which is a disadvantage considering that the major markets are in North America, Europe, and South America. Exporting the material leads to a high carbon footprint, bad for the environment.
Similarly, because demand is high, some growers cut the teak before it matures since it takes a long time to grow. But with premature cutting comes the need to kiln dry the wood to make it usable. This process takes up a lot of energy.
HDPE, on the other hand, is eco-friendly. Many manufacturers use recycled plastic to make furniture. Recycled HDPE furniture is eco-friendly since it comes from recycled items and is endlessly recyclable.
Using recycled plastic reduces the demand for new plastic manufacturing. In addition, the recycling process uses much less energy than what is needed to make new plastic or produce steel from iron ore. Furthermore, HDPE does not give off harmful fumes to the environment.
Teak is a great wood with many advantages. It is also limited in supply but high in demand, making genuine teak outdoor furniture pricey.
On the other hand, HDPE furniture is less pricey. It is good to note that recycled HDPE outdoor furniture retails the same as non-recycled plastic furniture since the recycling process is costly. But it still offers good value for money.
Teak outdoor furniture is sought after for its resistance to various weather conditions. Even in winter, teak outdoor furniture performs well and will bounce back. However, it is only advisable to leave it in an open space during winter in areas with little snow. Otherwise, you must cover it.
HDPE is synthetic and impermeable. Therefore, winter elements do not affect outdoor poly furniture. What’s more, it can withstand several inches of snow without sustaining damage, growing mold, or rotting.
Teak offers good workability. Additionally, teak glues and finishes well, but manufacturers may need to wipe it down with a solvent to reduce natural oils before gluing. But note, teak has the tendency to blunt cutting edges
Manufacturers have an easy time with HDPE furniture because it provides easy workability. The best thing about HDPE is that it undergoes molding to make the lumber, so manufacturers can create various shapes, sizes, and thicknesses as needed.
Teak Or HDPE?
Based on key factors like price, weather resistance, maintenance needs, and eco-friendliness, HDPE is the ideal material for patio furniture. Poly outdoor furniture offers the best value for money, has little maintenance requirements, and can withstand any weather without protection.
With the highest levels of carbon emission recorded in 2021, there is a great need to turn to products that reduce the environmental impact. While recycled HDPE furniture is not the single solution to eco threats, it is a step in the right direction.
Furniture store owners should take advantage of teak’s growing popularity to provide the market with unique and well-built poly furniture. We make these pieces to customized specifications and can be your partner as you branch into the industry. Contact us to learn more about our recycled HDPE furniture and how you can become our partner.