If you prefer furniture made from real wood resources instead of engineered wood, then several materials are available in today’s market. One of the most unique options is rubberwood. This material comes directly from the trees which produce latex, essential in the formation of natural rubber products.
These rubber trees, sometimes called “parawood,” offer a hardwood-like finish for your solid wood furniture needs. Most rubberwood furniture comes from materials sourced from Brazil or Asia, as these are the primary centers of latex products. When the tree reaches about 30 years of age, it no longer produces the materials for rubber, so the wood is harvested to create additional products.
Rubberwood is solid, used for veneer, and can be used for engineered products such as fiberboard or particleboard. If you’re interested in using this product for your solid wood furniture, then here are the pros and cons of using rubberwood as your primary source of materials.
List of the Pros of Rubberwood Furniture
1. Rubberwood is very easy to work with when building furniture.
The wood from the rubber tree is extremely easy to work with when making furniture. It is well-suited for builders who prefer to work by hand, while those using power tools see benefits with this material too. Most of the lumber receives a stain or finish to produce consistent results, making it an ideal source for various interior needs. It even accepts paint well.
2. The materials are stable to use.
Rubberwood offers durability which is similar to hardwoods from a furniture-building perspective. It provides a stable profile for all uses once the materials are seasoned correctly, allowing you to create chairs, tables, and other items that can one day become heirloom pieces. It holds a ranking of 988 on the Janka wood hardness scale, which puts in the middle of the pack for lumber resources. It’s harder than American Cherry, but a little softer than teak. That means you’ll receive between 15 to 25 years of good wear with the furniture before you begin seeing usage issues with it.
3. Caring for rubberwood is a straightforward process.
You use the same processes to clean rubberwood furniture as you would with any other solid wood item. You should wash it in a simple soap and water solution at least once per year, then dry it carefully using a clean cloth. Avoid standing water on your furniture at all times as this will destroy the finish applied to it. The dull patina of the rubberwood brightens with furniture or past wax when applied. Just remember to strip the waxes occasionally as they yellow over time and collect household debris.
When you care for rubberwood products carefully, they should last for at least 20 years – if not more.
4. Rubberwood is a sustainable product when used correctly.
The use of rubberwood for furniture is a sustainable industry when the trees are planted and harvested appropriately. Each plantation plants trees for rubber collection, then the timber harvest occurs once the tree reaches the end of its production cycle. As the wood collection happens, new rubber trees replace the older ones, creating a pattern of production for the plantation owner.
There is the added benefit of stopping the trees from rotting, which would release more carbon into the atmosphere than the activities of harvesting produce.
5. The grain of rubberwood is simplified.
You’ll find that rubberwood furniture offers fewer grain marks compared to other hardwoods within a similar rating. There are random brown streaks through each board unlike consistent grain patterns found in other pieces. This look is due to the heating process required to give the lumber its strength. When rubberwood is in the kiln, the drying process shrinks the wood as it seasons it, creating a look which is closer to teak than it is to something like maple.
6. There are cost advantages to consider with rubberwood.
Rubberwood is one of the cheapest solid wood furniture options you’ll find on the market today. Although the wood isn’t resistant to disease or mold, it does still look a bit like oak. If you shop for “golden oak” furniture, some of those items are likely rubberwood. You’ll find 5-piece dining sets made with this wood through retailers like Wayfair for less than $450 when other hardwood options might cost three times that amount. Even when accounting for import costs if you bring in the wood yourself, there are few lumber options with this hardness that are available at this price.
7. Rubberwood is naturally stain-resistant.
Although there can sometimes be issues with damage or aesthetic consistency when using rubberwood, the product is naturally stain-resistant. Compared to other hardwoods in a bare state, it offers greater resilience for the busy home. The product is also uniquely soft to the touch, which creates a comfortable feeling when using the product. These features make it the perfect timber option for furniture that is used in living areas, playrooms, and bedrooms.
8. It resists fire and burns naturally.
The wood from the rubber tree is naturally resistant to burning, even if marks are left on the surface if something hot touches it. Discoloration occurs because the wood seeks to protect itself long after it goes through the seasoning process. If you or someone in your family smokes, you’ll notice less overall burn damage from the activity when compared to other solid wood furniture items. The wood is also non-toxic, so you don’t need to worry about fumes from the furniture if there is a fire.
9. Rubberwood furniture offers an excellent shock absorption feature.
Rubberwood is often used in gymnasiums and similar structures because it absorbs shocks better than other wood products. Impacts are reduced when using this lumber, offering cushioning and comfort even when the raw wood is turned into furniture. This advantage may provide support for seniors and those with physical vulnerabilities because its support decreases stress when used. That may promote better movement over time for individuals, leading to a higher quality of life.
List of the Cons of Rubberwood Furniture
1. The structure of rubberwood changes when it dries.
If you cut lumber from rubberwood trees to create furniture, you’ll find that the seasoning process is not friendly to this wood. As the material dries, it tends to twist and warp because of the high moisture content it contains. You can only use seasoned wood for building thanks to this issue, which increases the consumer cost of the product over time. Most rubberwood requires at least six months to dry correctly, with older trees sometimes needing a year or more before the wood is useful for making furniture.
2. It damages easily compared to other types of wood.
Although rubberwood is relatively strong on the Janka wood hardness scale, furniture products made with this lumber are highly susceptible to damage. You cannot leave the furniture in a location where temperatures are excessively hot or dry. Placing an item next to a heat register, or even a space heater, is a recipe for disaster. Direct sunlight will discolor the surface of the wood over time. If you place a hot pan, pot, or cup on the surface of rubberwood, it will often develop white rings.
You must also quickly remove water or alcohol spills from this furniture to prevent its finish from being damaged.
3. Dents occur on rubberwood furniture frequently.
The hardness of rubberwood is moderate, so any impacts create the potential for dents, even in solid wood furniture. Surface dents happen all the time. If only the finish suffers harm from an event, adding more finish can often repair the issue. Make sure that you test your finish before applying it.
If the wood suffers dent damage, you can usually repair them with some heat and steam. Take a hot iron and a towel, covering the dent with the items. Hold it there for about a minute. The rubberwood swells in that environment, allowing the dent to disappear.
4. You might not be able to use it with a latex allergy.
If you are allergic to natural latex products, then there is a good chance that you won’t be able to use rubberwood furniture. Although this issue doesn’t impact everyone, reactions may appear on your skin after using the furniture. People with severe reactions to latex should avoid using rubberwood furniture at all times, even when the product is sealed, to reduce their risks of an anaphylaxis reaction to the wood product.
5. Rubberwood is chemically treated to prevent impurities.
The rubberwood tree grows best in humid tropical locations. These regions often struggle with insect infestations and fungal growth. The wood products taken from the harvested trees go through a chemical treatment process to kill off potential hazards before going through the kiln for seasoning.
The kiln usually diffuses the chemicals without exposing the wood to further harm. If you prefer to use natural wood furniture which doesn’t use harsh chemicals during the processing or preparation steps, then you’ll want to find a hardwood other than rubberwood to use.
6. Most rubberwood plantations don’t use eco-friendly practices.
Many of the rubber tree plantations which produce wood for furniture making create adverse environmental impacts instead of positive ones. Because two industries are supported by the estate (timber and latex), owners expand their footprint to grow more trees. When this occurs in Brazil, virgin rainforests are eliminated in favor of the rubber trees, reducing the biodiversity in the region.
There are irrigation, water use, and chemical introduction issues to consider with rubber plantation expansion too, which can sometimes increase problems with localized erosion.
7. You must import raw rubberwood to construct your own furniture.
Rubberwood furniture is available through most fine retailers. You can order it directly from Pottery Barn, Overstock, and Amazon if you wish. When you want to make your own furniture, however, most people will need to import the product. That could mean an import license would be necessary to bring the lumber in for use. Working with an importer specializing in wood products is required at the very least. Those added difficulties reduce the cost savings achieved with this product, which is why you don’t find it available in markets like Europe or North America very often.
8. Rubberwood does become slippery when wet.
Even though rubberwood is kiln-seasoned before it is turned into furniture (and other products), that doesn’t change the porous nature of the product. It shrinks the pores to create a dense grain that absorbs some water while creating a surface which encourages hydroplaning. When rubberwood furniture becomes wet, it also gets slick. That can make some products, like chairs, dangerous to use for some consumers. You’ll also find that continued water exposure, or storage in a high humidity environment, may cause the product to swell, disrupting the structure of the wood to the point it can no longer be used.
9. You cannot use chemical cleaners with rubberwood furniture.
Rubberwood can resist some stains, but it offers a fragile outlook when exposed to chemicals after the seasoning process. Standard household detergents and abrasive cleaning products leave stains behind with parawood. It may even cause permanent damage in some circumstances. Your best option is to clean the wood with soap and warm water, then quickly drying the moisture away. Grease or polishing oils sometimes work, but it must be wiped up immediately to prevent negative aesthetics from forming.
10. It doesn’t work well on its own for large case goods.
You will find that most of your rubberwood furniture options involve smaller items. Large case goods are rarely supportive enough because of the lightweight nature of this wood unless it is pressure treated or formed into some type of particle board. Tables, chests, and dressers which are made from rubberwood could be a combination of materials instead. You can find whole items, including cabinetry, made from this product, but it is typically smaller items which are promoted with this lumber product.
11. It is still more expensive than other types of wood.
If you want solid wood furniture, then rubberwood does offer a cost-effective option to consider. You’ll find, however, that it isn’t the cheapest wood product on the market today. Purchasing locally-grown oak or pine will usually be more affordable, especially for DIY furniture makers, because there are no import or tariff costs associated with the product. You may discover that some hardwoods are even cheaper in some geographic locations, including maple and walnut. Before selecting rubberwood, price out each option to ensure you’re receiving the best possible deal.
These rubberwood furniture pros and cons offer some definitive advantages when you want a distinctive look for your home. Shop for timber that is grown sustainably for best results to limit the impact of your purchase on the environment. Even with eco-friendly furniture options, you’ll discover that chemical applications still apply to keep the wood safe and follow import/export rules, so if you have concerns in this area or have a latex allergy, different solid wood furniture options are better suited for your needs.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.