DISADVANTAGES OF RUBBERWOOD
One manufacturer of college chairs, YourCustomChair.com, builds its chairs of rubber wood from the Para rubber tree. Rubber wood furniture is often marketed as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional hardwoods. The company promotes rubberwood (genus Hevea) as “Malaysian Oak”. While this type of wood is economical, it is important to know more about this species of wood to determine if a purchase of rubber wood furniture is right for you.
FREQUENT QUESTIONS ABOUT RUBBERWOOD
What is rubber tree wood? Is rubberwood real wood? Is rubber wood toxic?
The rubber tree is found in Africa, Asia, and South America is the source of rubberwood, a type of hardwood. While rubber trees are primarily known for the production of latex, the primary component of natural rubber, it is important to keep in mind that this wood can cause severe latex allergies for some people. Although rubber trees can live 100 years, these trees are typically harvested for lumber and rubberwood furniture after approximately six years of the typical latex-producing cycle. Although rubber wood is softer, it is used as a low-cost alternative to American hardwoods like Maple, Cherry, and Oak. Contrary to popular belief, rubber wood does not solely produce latex. Its low cost and high density, with an 890-995 Janka rating on its hardness scale makes it a popular choice for rubberwood furniture, wood frames, chopping blocks, and other items.
POROUS NATURE & MOISTURE
Despite the kiln-drying process undergone by rubberwood prior to being transformed into wood furniture and other products, it still retains its porous nature. The process serves to shrink the pores, creating a dense grain that is able to absorb water while also promoting hydroplaning. As a result, rubberwood furniture may become slippery when wet, making certain items such as chairs hazardous to use. Additionally, prolonged exposure to moisture or storage in high-humidity conditions can cause the wood to expand, potentially compromising its structure and rendering it unusable.
Rubberwood exhibits average water absorption properties and does not possess superior waterproof qualities compared to other wood types. For example, it cannot match the waterproofing characteristics of pine, which has a higher level of waterproofing. If you also use rubberwood for furniture, you may experience seepage problems, particularly when the adhesive holding the wood together begins to deteriorate.
To minimize the risk of moisture damage, we advise keeping rubberwood furniture products in low-humidity environments. It is worth noting that rubberwood has a relatively short lifespan, making it susceptible to decay. Aside from rotting, it is also at risk of fungal and insect staining. Both types of stains can significantly reduce the quality of rubberwood furniture.
Rubberwood is vulnerable to insect infestations, with over 100 species capable of causing damage. These insects, including termites, beetle borers, and various Coleopteran species like snout beetles and longicorns, can eat away the surface of the wood and bore holes into exposed sections of wood furniture.
DECAY AND IS RUBBERWOOD TOXIC?
Moreover, one type of decay it is particularly prone to is white rot, caused by a fungus. Although white rot progresses at a slower pace than brown rot, it results in more extensive damage. In addition to insect infestations, rubberwood is susceptible to fungal insect attack that limited its use in the past. However, in the 1980’s, the development of chemical treatment processes allowed the wood to be more widely used for furniture making and frames. Today, rubberwood is generally treated soon after sawing by pressurized immersion in a boron preservative solution to diffuse the chemicals. Then, the treated wood is kiln-dried to reduce its moisture content.
WARPING, SEASONING, & CHEMICAL REACTIONS
One of the significant rubberwood furniture disadvantages to consider is its tendency to warp and twist due to its high moisture content. As the wood dries, the high moisture content makes it more susceptible to bending and twisting. In order to use rubberwood for furniture construction, it is necessary to properly season the rubberwood lumber because when rubber wood dries, it changes its form. This process can be challenging due to the high moisture content present in the wood. As a result, it may warp or twist as the wood dries, leading to the need for seasoned wood. The time required to properly season rubber wood can range from six months to over a year, depending on the age of the tree. This prolonged seasoning process can lead to increased costs for the consumer. Finally, it’s important to consider the extensive pre-chemical treatment process that rubberwood lumber undergoes prior to kiln drying. Many ask “Is rubberwood toxic?” The chemicals used in treating rubber trees may not be safe.
It is important to acknowledge that exposure to natural latex found in rubber trees can result in allergic reactions for some individuals with a latex allergy. Those with a latex allergy may experience symptoms including rashes, skin irritation, hives, difficulty breathing, and a runny nose, which, in severe cases, could prove fatal. It is crucial for those with a latex allergy to be aware of this potential risk and take necessary precautions.
Rubberwood is known for having a rough texture and a lackluster grain pattern, which can detract from the overall aesthetic appeal of the furniture. Additionally, the lack of a distinguishable grain pattern often results in poor staining and a prolonged drying time.
Rubberwood is known for its ease of finishing. However, it is recommended to utilize oils and paint instead of stains, as the absence of distinct grain patterns may not result in optimal results when using stains.
Rubberwood may last from 20-40 years, depending on the environment of the furniture. Rubberwood can darken with age due to exposure to light and air. Over time, the color of rubber wood can change from its light blonde or tan color to a darker brown or reddish hue. It is important to avoid exposing the rubber wood furniture to heat sources and direct sunlight, as this can cause discoloration over time. Spills from liquids like alcohol and water must also be promptly cleaned to prevent damage to the finish.
Although rubberwood is considered relatively strong, the wood furniture made from this lumber is prone to damage and must be properly treated. Prolonged exposure to excessive heat, dry conditions, sunlight, and moisture can have adverse effects on rubber wood furniture. It is necessary to season rubberwood to enhance its durability, but the process may have adverse effects. The use of chemicals for cleaning and preserving the furniture may lead to staining, and although warm water can be used instead, it is not as effective.
In order to support both the versatile timber and latex industries, estate owners expand their operations and clear vast areas of virgin rainforest, leading to a reduction in biodiversity, particularly in regions such as Brazil. It is crucial for those with a latex allergy to be aware of this potential risk and take necessary precautions. The chemicals used in treating rubber trees may not be as safe.
RUBBERWOOD COMPARED TO MAPLE
In comparison to maple wood, rubber wood is considered to be of lower quality. Firstly, maple wood has a higher strength rating (1450 vs. 890-995 Janka rating), making Maple more robust and scratch resistant. Secondly, Maple is known for its greater durability compared to rubber wood. Most notably, Maple wood is better able to withstand both weather elements and insect infestations compared to rubberwood.