As the log bans and export regulation changes in Myanmar continue to confuse the Teak market, there is a strong positive for home builders who use Teak that could make a lot of previously difficult-to-obtain lumber a lot easier to get.
In general, the Teak industry centers around boat builders. These builders have understandably very high standards due to the dollar amount on their products and the extreme conditions that their products are subject to. To satisfy these high quality needs, we the importer must bring in a larger overall volume of Teak.
This leaves material available that is already here, on the ground, and ready to go. The home builder or marine contractor can benefit from this “leftover” Teak.
What’s Wrong With Leftover Teak?
Easy answer? Nothing
The reality is that when our boat builder customers come to the yard to hand pick material (as many of them do), they will have something very specific in mind. Perhaps it is stock for steps, perhaps much longer covering board material. Each part will have specific requirements both in length and width, but also in the desired grain pattern.
For instance, when buying material for a stair tread that will eventually have a bullnose profile, both the face and one edge must show a consistent vertical grain face. A cathedral pattern on the bullnose edge doesn’t look very good, unless perhaps you were able to match the width and the location of the cathedral on every stair tread. That is a task I don’t envy, so the better option is to go with an easy to match vertical grain pattern on every step.
The boat builder will go through a stack of mixed grain or even all quartersawn stock but will only pull perhaps, 1 out of every 10 boards that meet that specification. The rest of that stock is “leftover” and guess what? It is all FEQ Teak that looks fantastic. (thanks to Paul from Teakdecking Systems for that example.)
In other instances, a single pin knot can be the reason a particular Teak board is passed over. Take a look at this pack of FEQ, 8/4×4 Teak:
Looks pretty nice doesn’t? I know I could build a lot of very nice furniture from this lumber. Now look closer.
See that knot hiding in plain sight on the rough sawn face? That may be all that it takes to get a board passed over by a boat builder. The rest of the board is fine, and the knot can be easily cut out, leaving the rest of the board for use. However, this particular knot once cut away would leave a board under 36″ long, and that length may not meet the boat builder’s specification.
It comes down to different needs for different builders, and one boat guy may pick 2 out of 10 boards, whereas the next will pick 6 out of 10. As the importer, we can’t really anticipate much of this, and we just have to make sure we provide plenty of options to consider. All the stuff that is leftover would be well above grade for any other industry.
Lesser Grade Presents an Opportunity Too
The above is just one situation, and let’s be real, some Teak boards will be rejected because they are of a lesser grade. It is rare to expect that an entire shipping container will be filled with top grade Teak. And if so, we paid A LOT more for it and waited a lot longer for it to get filled and leave the port.
Usually, there is a percentage of B grade material in every container. The cost isn’t really all that different, and at most you are looking at 10% cheaper.
I hate to disappoint you, but you probably won’t be getting a price break on the B grade stuff. The fact remains that this wood still has to come from the other side of the world, it faces many regulations and import fees, and because it is a byproduct of buying the more expensive FEQ grades, the prices will be averaged out anyway.
But here is the important part, and I can’t overstate this. This material is already here. It is available for sale right now. You don’t have to wait 10 months for it to ship from Myanmar.
The Domino Effect
Here is the exciting part. We turn away a lot of other material that doesn’t have a market in the U.S.. Personally, I think that’s because U.S. home builders don’t know that Teak is even a viable option. Scant 4/4 and 3/4, narrow pieces around 4″ which can be highly useful for interior trim and paneling. These so called European sizes rarely are brought into North America, because of our irrational need to have only wide and long, perfectly A grade Teak.
Right now, with incredibly high standards driving the majority of the Teak market, the norm is to buy only the best stuff, while the smaller pieces are overlooked; admittedly, we are not utilizing this resource of smaller Teak pieces fully.
In recent years, however, we have seen greater interest in Teak from the home builders, whether they are using Teak as decking, siding, or in windows and doors. Some builders are even using it for interior work. In all of these cases, the demands on the grade and dimensional specifications are much lighter than that of boat builders. This means that we as importers can expand what we buy and make better use of the full gambit of material available to us.
You can expect that we will be taking advantage of some of this increased interest and are already augmenting our large stock of Teak to service this old, yet new customer for Teak.