What Is Rubberwood For Furniture? (Pros, Cons & Cost)
Rubberwood sounds like something that belongs in a funky Looney Tunes cartoon, doesn’t it? Funny as the name sounds, this is a legit type of material that’s used in daily construction. Chances are that you, like most other people, probably haven’t actually heard about it though. It’s still getting popular. So, what is rubberwood?
Rubberwood is wood that is derived from the rubber tree. Rubber trees are grown and used to collect latex from ages nine to 30. Once the tree can no longer be used for latex and rubber sap collection, it’s repurposed by being sold as wood. This wood is known as rubberwood.
Curious about this material? Rubberwood is one of those woods that’s increasingly popular among builders and others. Let’s talk about why this wood is getting so darn popular.
What Exactly Is Rubberwood?
Rubberwood is lumber that is derived from rubber trees that can no longer produce latex sap. The trees grow in Southeast Asia and South America. When they reach past the age of 30, they are harvested and used to produce affordable lumber for the furniture, flooring, and construction industries. So, uh, rubberwood is just wood.
Of course, rubberwood isn’t always called rubberwood. Because many people get a little confused by the moniker, many companies started to call it “parawood” or even “Malaysian Oak” as a way to conceal the fact that it’s made from the rubber plant.
Is Rubberwood Hard?
Rubberwood is considered to be a hardwood, yes. Or rather, rubberwood is considered to have a moderately hard surface, with a texture and density that is similar to most ash and maple woods. This makes it a good pick for furniture, especially if you’re looking for a wood that is more affordable than traditional picks.
What Does Rubberwood Look Like?
This is a great question. Rubberwood has a wide variety of different colors and shades it can be dyed. When you first cut it, it’s a honey yellow. Usually, it turns a deep golden brown with pink flecks when it’s properly treated and exposed to heat. The end result is a “rose gold” type of look that’s very pretty in its own right.
In terms of grain, there is a slight roughness to it that makes rubberwood look extra rugged. This makes it a good choice for people who want something affordable and a little gritty. If you wanted to have a smooth look to your wood, this may be a bad choice for you.
What Is Rubberwood Used For?
Believe it or not, manufacturers are still learning the full versatility of rubberwood. So far, people have become very amenable to using it to create furniture like beds, chairs, dressers, as well as tables. There are a couple of companies that also make wood flooring, molding, and paneling.
Basically, the best way to consider rubberwood’s uses is to ask where you’d use MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and assume it’s best to use rubberwood there. It’s the real wood alternative for MDF.
How Much Does Rubberwood Cost?
Rubberwood is a bargain hunter’s best friend, especially if you are looking to purchase a brand new set of furniture at a fraction of the typical cost of what it would normally cost. It’s anywhere from ⅓ to ⅕ the price of a more “standard” type of wood.
How much you’ll pay will depend on the way it’s been treated and the place that you buy it from. In most cases, it’s a price tag that will be comparable to particle board furniture. However, if you are trying to find a supplier that will give you raw lumber, you usually have to reach out to them to get a price check.
It’s hard to understand why there are so many stores that are super tight-lipped about their rubberwood prices. According to a lot of sources, it has to do with low demand.
The Benefits Of Rubberwood
If you’re looking for a new wood for your next project, rubber might be a good choice. This wood is skyrocketing in popularity because of the many benefits it offers for people who want a unique project choice. Here’s why rubberwood is such a popular material:
- Low Cost. It’s true. Rubberwood has a lower price than traditional wood choices like pine and teak, making it a budget-friendly option. If you are on a budge and don’t want to get particle board, then getting rubberwood is a good choice.
- Durable. When rubberwood is first cut, the truth is that it’s not a durable wood. However, when it’s treated and heated, it becomes a fairly durable wood. It doesn’t scratch easily, has a decent resistance to water due to its latex compound, and also is fungal-resistant.
- Eco-Friendly. Many woods are harvested from forests and endangered areas. This poses a risk for sustainability, not to mention the local wildlife. Rubberwood is farmed on plantations and is deemed a sustainable material.
- Beauty. Most people who see rubberwood that’s been prepped for sale will tell you that it’s a very pretty wood, even when it doesn’t have a tinted finish.
- Easy To Use. Rubberwood is easy to saw, sand, grind, and shape. If you’re not a fan of the rough-textured surface, it’s easy enough to smooth it over. This makes it a decent wood for intermediate and beginner users, especially if you have a project that you are machining wood for.
What Are The Best Types Of Furniture To Be Made Out Of Rubberwood?
Rubberwood is one of those materials that is best suited for a small set of furniture pieces. The best uses will be for furniture that you know will not come into contact with a lot of moisture. So something along the lines of bedroom furniture, cabinetry, bedside tables, and shelving units would make the most sense here.
The Problems With Rubberwood
While rubberwood is a popular sustainable material, it’s not perfect. Not by a long shot, really. There are still some issues that rubberwood has worth noting. The most pressing include:
- Versatility. While rubberwood is mold and water-resistant, it’s still not a good choice for outdoor use. It’s prone to termite infestation as well as discoloration. If you need wood that works for an extremely wide range of indoor and outdoor projects, you should not choose rubberwood.
- Distribution. Here’s the thing: rubberwood is still not a common wood to find. It may take a while to get some on the market, depending on where you live.
- Durability. Remember when we said that rubberwood isn’t durable when it’s first sawed? It’s true. You have to treat your rubberwood and dry it in order to be able to use it as furniture wood. Moreover, if you need very dense, rugged woods, you may need to choose something like teak instead.
- Reputation. Because rubberwood is a discount wood, a lot of people don’t really know what to expect from it. It does have a (fairly undeserved) reputation for being less durable than other woods. If you want to get good resale from your furniture, you might want to reconsider rubberwood.
- Toxicity. Rubberwood, in and of itself, is not toxic. The chemicals that are used to treat it, on the other hand, can be. If you are worried about cancer or other issues, now would be a good time to learn about sourcing rubberwood with health in mind.
Can Rubberwood Trigger An Allergic Reaction?
As years pass, more and more individuals are diagnosed with a latex allergy. This diagnosis, as it turns out, can pose a serious risk for people who want to save money via rubberwood furniture.
While the latex allergy most people will experience is not going to be as harsh as what they may experience wearing rubber gloves, it still can happen. People have experienced rashes and difficulty breathing due to severe latex allergies sparked by rubberwood.
How Do You Buy Non-Toxic Rubberwood?
The easiest way to make sure that your rubberwood is non-toxic is to ask the sales rep what the growing and processing standards are. Many firms are now using rubberwood as a way to make sustainable furniture. These firms also make a point of using non-toxic, natural ingredients to process the wood.
Why Can Rubberwood Be Toxic?
Rubberwood, in and of itself, is not the source of toxicity. Heck, even the wood stains you use aren’t the cause for concern that many people have. Rather, it has something to do with the fact that rubberwood attracts a lot of pests such as termites and carpenter ants. It also happens to be a magnet for many molds and fungi.
In order to combat the problem of pests, manufacturers have to treat the wood with chemicals that make the wood less attractive to pests. This can include toxic ingredients like the following:
- Copper Oxine
When Is Using Rubberwood A Bad Idea?
Rubberwood is clearly not for everything. The fact that it is sensitive to water to the point that it can turn into a mold-riddled mess is a big issue, and one of the primary reasons why it’s not as popular as other sustainable options. This means that you should never try to use this wood when making outdoor furniture, since it will probably not last a year outside.
Other important types of furniture to avoid making with this wood include shower benches for walk-in showers, poolside furniture, sauna furniture, and kitchen furniture. Oddly enough, there are companies that make rubberwood countertops. However, we are not going to suggest it unless it’s been heavily vetted and covered with a protective resin coating.
Rubberwood vs. Other Materials
Now that we have a better idea of what rubberwood does and can offer, it’s time to see how it stacks up against other materials. After all, it’s good to know where it stands in terms of quality.
Rubberwood vs. Bamboo
Both rubberwood and bamboo are known for being affordable, eco-friendly, and easy to work with. However, there is a major difference aside from their appearances. Bamboo is far less durable than rubberwood is, and it’s generally considered to be a composite/softwood. This makes rubberwood the more durable option.
Rubberwood vs. Pine
Trying to compare pine to rubberwood is very difficult. Pinewood is a softwood that is very widely available and can be used for both indoor and outdoor use. Rubberwood is specifically for indoor use in most situations and has a slightly more limited range of projects it can be used in. Pine is also pricier than rubberwood, which means that you pay extra for that versatility.
Winner: Neither. It’s apples to oranges.
Rubberwood vs. Oak
There are a lot of differences between these two woods. Oak has a more teak-like look, while rubberwood has a more uniform appearance. In terms of hardness, oak is the more durable of the two. However, oak bends in steam while rubberwood is highly water-resistant. If you want a wood that is more water-resistant, go for rubberwood. If you need wood that is very solid, stick to oak.
Winner: Rubberwood for water, oak for versatility.
Rubberwood vs. Teak
Teak and rubberwood both have exotic appearances that people love, but that’s where similarities end. Teak is a great choice for outdoor use and for shower stool use. Rubberwood doesn’t fare well in outdoor settings and isn’t as strong as teak tends to be. Teak is known for being exceptionally pricey, while rubberwood is famous for being affordable.
Winner: Rubberwood for indoor, teak for outdoor.
Caring For Rubberwood
It’s pretty clear that buying rubberwood is a great idea for many people, especially those of us who are on a dimestore budget but still want the better things in life. If you want to get furniture made from this wood, you need to know how to care for it properly. These tips below will help you keep your furniture looking fab.
- Do not leave rubberwood outside for long periods of time. The outdoors is too harsh a place for rubberwood, and prolonged exposure to wood will cause the chemicals that helped make the wood resilient leach out. This, in turn, turns the wood into a pest-prone, mold-prone mess.
- When cleaning it, use a mixture of gentle soap and water. Dish soap is fine. Make sure to pat the furniture dry with a towel, and don’t let the soapy water soak into the wood.
- Try to avoid scratching it. While rubberwood is still pretty strong as far as being scratchproof, it’s still not a good idea to try to deal with it as if it is a titanium countertop. A single scratch can wreck the treatment that was there for your wood’s protection.
- Use wood wax to make sure that you lock out water. Since rubberwood is very sensitive to water, this is the best way to make sure that you extend the life of any rubberwood you might want to keep. Even home use can require a little waxing from time to time.
- Whenever possible, avoid putting watery and wet things on this type of wood. For example, if you have a soda can from a cooler, it’ll “sweat.” That sweat is a bad thing for the rubberwood, so if you have to have drinks on your table, make sure to use a coaster to help absorb the moisture.
Is rubberwood easy to stain?
When compared to other woods such as teak, rubberwood is capable of taking wood stains incredibly well. If you want to stain your rubberwood furniture, it’s possible to do that pretty well. You can expect to have a seamless, elegant look from virtually any rubberwood furniture that has been treated with a stain.
Of course, quality is also a matter to consider. High quality stains will always get you better result than stains that are lower in quality.
Why is lumber becoming so expensive?
Many of the hidden costs of lumber sourcing, including things like planting the trees, harvesting them, and transporting the lumber, are starting to cost more. Between the gas for the transport and the import fees, you might have noticed a higher price tag last time you hit up your local lumber yard.
It’s also worth noting that many types of lumber are starting to become increasingly scarce. To avoid “scarcity premiums,” you should look into buying sustainable wood.
What is the strongest wood in the world?
The strongest wood in the world is Australian buloke, which has a hardness rating of over 5,000 IBF. Chances are that you will never see this uniquely powerful tree in wood stores, though. It’s rather rare, and also happens to be notoriously difficult to work with. If you want a hardwood that works well with most tools, it’s better to stick to teak or mahogany.
Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.
More by Ossiana Tepfenhart