When it comes to furniture products, oak, walnut, and cedar frequently make up the top players that dominate the scene.
However, there’s one other wood option that will work just as well while still being friendly on your tools: rubberwood!
This titan from the South American and Asian regions has steadily grown in popularity over the years.
Rubberwood is an eco-friendly material renowned for its light color that luxuriously darkens with age. Don’t be surprised to see it used in all types of furniture today!
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Like every type of wood, rubberwood also has its drawbacks.
So before you go out and splurge on rubberwood furniture, it’s important to first understand the ins and outs of this material. Today, we’ll discuss all things rubberwood, including:
- Ups and downs when using rubberwood
- Tips for the best rubberwood finish
- Keeping your rubberwood surface looking its very best.
Let’s get started!
Here are a few Rubber Wood Furniture Disadvantages
We’ll start with the cons first: Although rubberwood is slowly becoming one of the best materials of choice for furniture, there are certain downsides you need to be aware of before going all in!
Perishability of Rubberwood
Rubberwood’s perishability is one of the first things you need to be aware of.
Unlike solid wood furniture made from other hardwoods like oak or mahogany, rubberwood items unfortunately have a shorter lifespan.
Since this wood originated from rubber trees, it needs a thorough seasoning process first to achieve the best characteristics possible. If this isn’t done correctly, the furniture is at a greater risk of premature perishability.
And if that’s not enough, rubberwood also won’t like it when it’s exposed to excessive moisture or fluctuating temperatures.
This finicky material will quickly show more prominent signs of wear and tear years before furniture made from more durable wood starts breaking down!
Issues of Warping and Twisting
As we’ve already mentioned, rubberwood is a relatively delicate material. Mere changes in its environment can cause a variety of complications.
For example, in areas with high humidity or severe temperature changes, rubberwood can easily warp or twist.
This change in the wood’s shape not only ruins its aesthetic appeal but also leads to potential structural issues. If so, you may have to send it for repairs or replacements which can be costly in the long run.
Dreaming of a timeless garden furniture set made of rubberwood? Think again.
Unfortunately, these dreams shatter quickly as the material simply isn’t built to face nature.
Whether that’s rain, sun, or snow, you can expect rubberwood furniture to buckle under the elements!
Over time, this constant exposure will cause your wood to crack, fade, and even rot. This makes it a less ideal choice for outdoor furniture.
Latex Allergy Concerns
As its name suggests, rubberwood has something to do with rubber. In fact, the wood itself naturally contains latex! This can pose significant concerns for people who suffer from latex allergies.
When people with latex allergies come in contact with the material, they can expect symptoms ranging from skin irritation to a runny nose, and even more severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock!
If you really like the aesthetic appeal of rubberwood, make sure to diligently check that no one in your household is allergic to latex.
Rubberwood’s grain structure is one of its most dramatic and captivating aspects. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not everyone will share your taste.
To some, rubberwood looks unattractive compared to traditional furniture options such as maple or teak.
It doesn’t help that the wood’s texture and appearance can be inconsistent, leading to furniture sets that vary slightly in terms of looks.
Of course, this is a matter of personal preference – but it’s good to be aware of when considering a potential purchase!
Seasoning rubberwood is a non-negotiable if you want the best quality wood without the potentially offensive odors. However, the process itself can sometimes leave brown stains behind!
The bad news is that these aren’t just smudges on the surface. They can (and often do) penetrate deeper into the wood.
As time wears on, these stains become more prominent and can easily diminish the wood’s appearance.
And if you have rubberwood sitting under direct sunlight, don’t be surprised if stains show up soon!
It’s not just us humans who are fascinated by rubberwood. Beetles, borers, termites, and other wood-loving pests are captivated by it too!
These pests love to make a snack out of rubberwood, and if you don’t act fast enough, they will quickly lay waste to your precious furniture.
Not only will this destroy your furniture’s appearance, but it’ll also ruin the wood’s internal structure.
The result? A shorter lifespan!
Chemical Treatment Needs
Other than a thorough seasoning process, rubberwood also needs chemical treatments to get it on par with other wood materials.
These treatments include a kiln-drying process before rubberwood is even ready to be transformed into furniture.
What’s more, these treatments are a true non-negotiable. They’re vital to enhance the wood’s otherwise poor durability and protect it from insect infestation.
So if you’re more interested in having a chemical-free home, you might want to look into other types of wood.
Structural Changes When Dried
Kiln-drying, a standard process for preparing rubberwood for furniture making, can seriously alter the wood’s internal structure.
This can result in inconsistencies in the wood’s density, which can affect the furniture’s durability and overall appearance.
The Transformative Nature of Drying on Rubberwood
Once it’s dried, rubberwood also experiences all sorts of structural changes that have a huge effect on its durability and aesthetic appeal.
The drying process, although very important, can cause the wood to shrink and affect its overall density.
This isn’t something you’ll immediately notice, but the effects of drying will impact the wood’s longevity and resistance to wear and tear (in contrast to other traditional hardwoods).
Vulnerability to Wear and Tear
Another major shortcoming of rubberwood is its vulnerability to damage and dents.
In general, it’s a softer wood compared to hardwood relatives so it’s easy to scratch the material or deform it. If you have a household filled with happy children and pets, this effect will be even more apparent.
The Environmental Question: Rubberwood Plantation Practices
Rubberwood is a byproduct of the rubber industry. Although you can expect the rubberwood supply to be sustainable overall, you should also know that not all plantations observe eco-friendly practices.
Deforestation is almost always required for rubber plantations, causing massive environmental consequences and a loss of biodiversity. Ethically speaking, it might be better to go with other types of wood in the long run.
The Complexities of DIY Rubberwood Import
Even if you decide rubberwood is the way to go, importing raw rubberwood for DIY projects or furniture-making isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Overall, there’s a complex process that requires import regulations and proper treatment and drying. As you can probably imagine, self-importing rubberwood is a challenging thing to do!
A Slippery Surface: Rubberwood’s Moisture Challenge
Rubberwood can become very slippery when wet, posing a potential hazard.
As such, this wood is less suitable in areas prone to spills or moisture like kitchens or bathrooms.
When dealing with this material, it’s important to promptly clean up any spills to prevent accidents and maintain the wood’s integrity.
Chemical Sensitivities: Cleaning Rubberwood Safely
This wood’s unique composition makes it particularly sensitive to certain chemical agents or cleaners. That’s why using harsh chemicals can damage the surface, leading to discoloration or weaker woodwork.
When cleaning, go for mild, wood-friendly substances, and always test any cleaning agent on a hidden area first.
Size Matters: Rubberwood’s Limitations in Crafting Large Furniture
Because of its structural properties, rubberwood isn’t really the best choice if you’re going for massive projects or larger furniture pieces.
Again, rubberwood is vulnerable to warping, and the (almost certain) potential for structural damage after the wood has dried can compromise bigger items.
Rubberwood shines best when used for smaller furniture or decorative pieces that don’t need to support a lot of weight.
The Hidden Costs of DIY Rubberwood Projects
While rubberwood furniture might be cost-effective in stores, sourcing raw rubberwood for DIY projects can be pricey.
With costs popping up when importing, treating, and drying the wood (not to mention its specific working requirements), rubberwood is certainly a more expensive choice for DIY enthusiasts.
Advantages of Rubberwood Furniture
Of course, rubberwood isn’t all doom and gloom. There are a plethora of reasons why it’s such a popular choice when it comes to furniture. Let’s check them out!
Sustainability: A Green Choice from South America to Asia
As mentioned earlier, rubberwood is a popular choice among eco-conscious consumers as it’s generally a byproduct of rubber plantations in South America and Asia. The wood is sourced from rubber trees that have completed their latex production cycle.
Rather than discarding the trees, they’re turned into logs that can be repurposed.
This reduces the overall environmental footprint while also offering an affordable option compared to traditional hardwoods.
Natural Fire Resistance: A Solid Choice for Safety
One key advantage of rubberwood is its surprising natural resistance to fire. This adds an additional layer of safety, making rubberwood an excellent home choice. If nothing else, at least it’ll protect your furniture to a certain degree in any encounter with flames!
Ease of Workability
The reason why rubberwood is popular for all types of woodwork comes down to its properties.
The wood is easy to cut, shape, and form, and it’s versatile enough to allow for intricate designs using power tools.
If you want to challenge yourself when creating high-quality ornate furniture, rubberwood won’t let you down.
Furthermore, the wood’s light color (when kept out of the sun) and consistent grain pattern can polish up very nicely – enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the furniture.
Quality Furniture Production
Often compared to maple wood and teak wood in terms of durability, rubberwood can sometimes outlast the two in the test of time. Rubberwood packs a dense grain structure which adds to its longevity.
The wood’s light blond color allows it to fit into a wide range of design styles, so you don’t need to worry about the wood sticking out like a sore thumb.
As long as you take proper care of the furniture such as by using a damp cloth for cleaning, you’ll be giving it a good shot at a longer lifespan.
No More Wobbly Dining Tables
Although rubberwood may warp when it comes into contact with moisture, it can actually maintain its shape relatively well.
All types of wood will eventually warp and lose their original shape, but rubberwood has a level of stability that can be hard to find elsewhere.
So, if you’re sick and tired of those wobbly dining tables and chairs – swap them for rubberwood!
Maintaining rubberwood surfaces is as easy as one, two, three! A quick wipe with a damp cotton cloth removes dust buildup and keeps it looking pristine.
When properly post-processed, rubberwood has prime resistance against insects. This reduces the need for ongoing chemical treatments, making rubberwood an environmentally friendly option that’s also low maintenance.
Excellent Shock Absorption
Rubberwood’s natural elasticity gives it much-needed shock absorption characteristics.
Whether that’s from household foot traffic or accidental knocks, rubberwood can withstand the daily wear and tear of a modern home!
This resilience helps rubberwood to maintain its pleasing appearance even in the long term.
Tips for Finishing Rubberwood
While rubberwood may not be as aesthetically pleasing as traditional wood (to some), it can still look great with the correct finishing techniques. If you want to know how to best apply a finish to your rubberwood, check these steps out:
- Stripping old finishes. Start by removing any existing finish. If the rubberwood already has a lacquer finish, sanding is generally enough.
However, if you want a more robust finish like varnish or paint, you’ll need to use a natural paint stripper
- Sanding. For this step, you’ll ned a variety of sandpaper to smoothen out the wood. Start with 120-grit sandpaper, then use 150-grit, and finish with 220-grit for a smooth surface
- Bleaching (Optional). Rubberwood can darken over time. To prevent this, use a chlorine-based bleach to lighten the wood. An example that’ll work perfectly well here is pool bleach
- Conditioning before staining. Applying a wood conditioner can help the stain absorb properly into the rubber wood
- Staining. Choosing a water-based stain is the best option. Apply it uniformly and wipe off any excess before it dries
- Finishing. A lacquer finish is recommended for rubberwood. Using an aerosol spray can for application will make this process quick and effective
Maintaining Rubberwood Surfaces
To ensure the longevity of your rubberwood furniture, these maintenance guidelines will come in handy:
- Regular cleaning. Wipe your furniture using a cloth dampened with a mild soap solution to remove dust and prevent build-up. Dry thoroughly afterward
- Avoid sunlight. Rubberwood hates the sun! Prevent fading by keeping your furniture out of direct sunlight
- Promptly address spills. Wipe away moisture immediately to prevent staining or warping
- Annual polishing. Once a year, polishing your rubberwood furniture can rejuvenate its appearance and keep it protected from the environment.
How long does rubberwood last?
With proper care, rubberwood furniture can last up to 20 years. That’s why it’s important to keep it in tip-top shape so you can enjoy it for many years to come.
Is rubberwood low quality?
Despite its shortcomings, it’s inaccurate to say that rubberwood is low quality. As you’ve learned in this article, rubberwood is a decent hardwood with medium density. It just needs a bit more prep and care than other materials, but it returns the favor with its durability.
Does rubberwood darken with age?
Yes, rubberwood can darken slightly over time – an effect made worse when the wood is exposed to UV rays (such as from the sun). If you’re not interested in that vintage, rustic look on your furniture, keep your rubberwood away from direct sunlight.
Is rubberwood real wood?
Absolutely! Rubberwood comes from the Pará rubber tree, making it genuine wood. It isn’t made from shreds of wood compressed together; instead, rubberwood is sourced from recycled rubber trees that are nearing the end of their latex production cycle. Don’t worry, rubberwood is the real deal!
Is rubberwood considered hardwood?
Yes, although it isn’t as hard as your traditional oaks and mahogany. Rubberwood is actually classified as a medium-density hardwood, so it doesn’t pack the same impressive qualities that its hardwood brethren possess. However, for decorative purposes and furniture that won’t bear much weight, rubberwood is extremely reliable.
Is rubberwood toxic?
Rubberwood itself is non-toxic. However, as it contains latex, this can naturally create significant concerns for those with latex allergies. If you’re interested in using hardwood in your home, make sure to check first whether everyone’s immune systems are okay with it.
Rubberwood, most commonly sourced from South America, offers an affordable and eco-friendly alternative in the furniture market. Although it doesn’t boast the durability and resilience of the elements of other hardwoods, its versatility and cheap price tag make it a popular choice.
It can be especially attractive for those seeking sustainability and cost-effectiveness. By properly understanding its care requirements, this alternative wood can be perfect for any home!