If you’ve been out in the market looking for wood that you can use for your furniture, you may have come across something called rubberwood. It’s a low-cost hardwood that some say is good for furniture, but how good is it, and what are the things you can expect from it?
Rubberwood is good for furniture because it has the same density as maple or ash. It’s an even better option for some because it’s easier to work with than other types we use for furniture. Aside from this, rubberwood is also a much cheaper option that doesn’t compromise quality.
Although it’s a more preferred wood type for furniture, there are still a few things that you need to know about it. We’ll discuss the most significant pros and cons of using rubberwood for furniture in great detail. Stick around to figure out whether it will be useful for your woodworks.
What Is Rubberwood?
The most common questions that we often hear from people are: is rubberwood an actual wood? And, is it really made out of rubber?
Rubberwood is from trees that produce latex—commonly known as rubber. These trees produce latex from 9 years until 30 years, or until it reaches full maturity. After extraction, they’ll harvest the tree for the furniture industry, which is also one of the most popular wood types for various woodworks.
We also refer to rubberwood as parawood or Malaysian oak. However, it’s very different than oak, which has more density than rubberwood. You can’t use rubberwood straight from the tree because it still needs to go through proper treatment and seasoning to make it suitable for furniture. Many prefer to use this wood due to its low price and durability compared to other timber sources.
Pros of Using Rubberwood for Furniture
Rubber is everywhere, and we need to take down the tree once it reaches full maturity, creating an ample supply of this wood. Just like any commodity, supply will always have a direct impact on its price. Aside from this, here are other advantages that make it a preferred choice for woodworks:
It Does Not Scratch Easily
Rubberwood is a hardwood that belongs to the maple family. It has a Janka hardness rating of 995, making it moderately strong and won’t scratch easily. Its hardness is comparable to ash, maple, teak, and walnut, making it one of the cheapest and scratch-resistant woods that we commonly use for furniture.
If you were to compare the price of the same pieces—one that uses rubberwood and the other using another wood with the same density, you’d have to spend at least three times more.
It Has Good Durability
Contrary to what many believe, rubberwood isn’t flexible. This misconception stems from the characteristic of the latex it produces. The truth is it’s a sturdy wood that is suitable for any furniture. It has a dense grain character responsible for making it a very stable construction material.
As mentioned, it has a hardness comparable to teak and walnut. Still, another factor that makes it more durable is the environment where it grows. Rubber trees grow in humid tropical areas, making it naturally resistant to fungus and bacteria. Unlike other wood that requires extra care, rubberwood will do well in various conditions.
It Is More Affordable
You may have already picked it up by now—rubberwood is one of the most affordable woods that you can use for furniture. Rubber is a common material that we find in almost anything that we use, and you can only get it from trees. After 30 years, growers cut it down to make way for new trees. That’s why there’s an ample supply of rubberwood, making it one of the best sources of low-cost furniture.
Unfortunately, this low cost is also associated with low quality. The only reason why it doesn’t cost as much is that rubberwood is a product of re-using something that we’re already going to throw away. It’s an eco-friendly and budget-friendly option that you can use for furniture.
It Does Not Require Too Much Caring
Rubberwood is very durable and doesn’t cost as much as other wood that we use for woodworks. Another reason why many prefer to use it is that it doesn’t require special care. Some wood that we use for furniture needs constant treatment and cleaning to stay fresh and presentable, not with rubberwood.
What you need to care for rubberwood is a simple soap and water solution once a year. Wash it thoroughly, then dry it with a clean cloth. If you’re using wax to keep it shiny, be sure to remove it occasionally because it’s a way for furniture to collect household debris.
Cons of Using Rubberwood for Furniture
Despite the many advantages that you can get from using rubberwood for furniture, it’s still far from being the best wood that you can use. There are huge disadvantages that you may want to consider before you use it. One of these is the cost of importing it from other countries, particularly from South East Asia and South America.
Below are some of the other disadvantages you’ll have to deal with if you decide to use rubberwood.
It Lacks Personality
One common reason why people don’t like using rubberwood is its lack of personality. It’s durable and affordable, but you may not want to use it to build high-end furniture. Usually, you want to showcase the wood patterns—something that you won’t get from rubberwood.
It’s another factor that fueled the perception that rubberwood is of low quality. Aside from the name, it’s rare for anyone to see an exquisite piece of furniture made of rubberwood.
It Is Susceptible to Damages
Despite its moderate hardness, it’s still far from being the best option that you can use for furniture. Rubberwood is highly susceptible to impact damages. It’s also prone to damage and discoloration when exposed to direct sunlight or when placed in areas with hot or dry climates.
Over time, rubberwood furniture will suffer from dents, and you need to have enough experience to know how you can treat it with heat and steam. It’s easy to clean, but maintaining its condition requires more time and attention, especially when fixing dents caused by impact.
It Is a Heavily Treated Wood
You can’t use raw rubberwood and expect to get all the advantages from it. In fact, it may not be as strong if you use it for furniture without proper treatment and seasoning. So, despite being an eco-friendly alternative, it still goes through heavy treatments to be usable as hardwood. If you want to build furniture that uses fewer chemicals and goes through less seasoning processes, it would be best to look for another hardwood.
It Is Fragile to Chemical Cleaners
Rubberwood is naturally stain-resistant, but there will come a time when you need to clean some stain off of it. When it happens, you can’t expect it to work well with chemical cleaners.
After the seasoning process, rubberwood will be very fragile to chemicals. Using standard cleaning detergents alone is enough to cause permanent damage to its surface. The only option you have to clean rubberwood is with the help of soap and water.
Rubberwood is suitable for furniture because it doesn’t scratch easily, has good durability, and costs much less than other wood types. These are the reasons why most ready-made furniture that you can buy use rubberwood.
Unfortunately, it’s not the best that you can get, especially if you’re looking for high-end furniture. Aside from this, it’s also susceptible to various damages caused by heavy impact, hot or dry climates, and even chemical cleaners.