Mahogany and teak are two exotic hardwoods. Teak is generally thought of as more exclusive than mahogany, and the price reflects it. Mahogany is more all-purpose than teak, with broader availability and distribution. Teak has the distinct advantage of moisture-resistance, making it more appropriate than mahogany for outdoor use.
Wide Spread Mahogany
The bulk of the mahogany lumber used commercially originates from Central and South America. Mahogany species are widespread, and so similar in appearance and application that they have become grouped together and marketed generically as genuine mahogany -- or in some instances, Honduran mahogany.
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African and Asian Substitutes
Two other types of mahogany, that are sometimes marketed separately from genuine mahogany, include African and Philippine mahogany. African mahogany is more exclusive and slightly harder than genuine mahogany. Philippine mahogany is less expensive, softer, lacks the color, has a coarse texture, and is more difficult to work with than genuine. Philippine mahogany is sometimes referred to as luann, and is frequently utilized as an affordable a plywood product.
Teak is widely grown and imported from plantations in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Teak is also grouped together with other varieties and referred to generically. Burmese teak, however, is specifically made from natural grown trees, as opposed to plantation-grown trees grown in other tropical regions.
- Reddish, orange, or pinkish tint.
- Consistently straight with fine grain patterns.
- Coarse texture.
- Half the cost, or less, of teak.
- Moderate to low insect and rot resistance.
- Light brown to gold in color and darkens with age
- Irregular grain patterns, often flame-like, fine
- Oily texture
- Not considered as aesthetically pleasing as mahogany
- One of the most decay-resistant hardwoods available
Durability and Density
The Janka scale ranks wood for density. Genuine mahogany has a hardness rating of 900, making it slightly softer than teak, which has a rating of 1,070. The differences in hardness are, for the most part, insignificant. For the sake of comparison, red oak ranks 1,290 on the Janka scale.
Trim and Molding
Mahogany is better suited for long, straight pieces of molding and trim than teak, specifically because it's straight, fine grained, resistant to warps and twists, and less expensive.
Teak furniture is considered more exclusive than mahogany. Mahogany, with it's coarse texture, is harder to maintain as furniture. Teak, with it's closed-pore, oily texture, is considered more water resistant, and overall more durable than mahogany.
Teak is far more durable for any type of exterior furniture, trim, decking or anywhere moisture or weather resistance comes into play. Mahogany is not typically recommended for any type of exterior use, but can be used when properly maintained with sealer. Exterior applications made with teak require far less maintenance.
Teak is easy to maintain, with only an oil-based sealant if desired, or it can be left natural without anything at all. Mahogany typically requires lacquer, varnish or other film-forming top coat to protect it.
If you have a staircase, stair railing, or want to build an exclusive project by hand, teak should be at the top of the list. If you want a beautiful, all-purpose, material you can afford, choose mahogany.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.