How You Can Tell Real Teak From Fake Teak

For hundreds, maybe close to a thousand years, teak was prized and sought after around the world for two notable reasons.

Reason #1:

Teak is a hard, dense wood, which means it’s strong and durable.

If maintained properly (read our teak care guide), teak furniture could last you for decades, passed from one generation to the next.

Reason #2 (the most important reason):

Oil and silica. 

The older the teak tree, the more oil and silica it contains.

Old teak tree

Young teak trees


I hesitate to call it teak oil—because it has no relation to teak oil you can buy online or in a store, which is nothing more than a concoction of chemicals mixed together. (More on that in my teak buying guide.)

Nonetheless, the “real” oil in the teak tree is what gives teak its well-deserved reputation for being waterproof.

Hence, it has been the wood of choice for shipbuilders the world over.

As for the silica…well, bacteria, mold, mildew and insects hate chewing on silica. And for good reason. It kills them.

With this information in mind, use it to help you determine whether the teak furniture you’re considering buying is really made of teak.

And now I’ll show you how.

But first an important caveat…

Not all teak is exactly alike.

Teak grown in different parts of the world will have different coloring. Some will be brown or caramel in color, others honey-gold.

This is due to the composition of the soil and even the elevation and latitude of the teak forest, or plantation.

The age of the tree will affect its grain pattern.

Some will have long straight grains, others will be wavy, and some will have more knots than not.

Finally, there’s the part of the tree the wood comes from.

The wood at the center, called the heartwood, is commonly called Grade A—and it’s color can vary as well.

Just outside of the heartwood, but not at the perimeter, is Grade B, and is typically a bit darker.

The perimeter of the tree, near the bark, is Grade C wood, and it’s invariably much lighter, both in weight and color. 


Grade A wood is very dense, and has the highest concentration of oil.

The color can vary from brown to honey-gold to wheat and amber.

Its grains are mostly straight and there are virtually no knots in the wood.

Which explains why Grade A teak is by far the most prized grade of teak. Difficult to source, hence very expensive to acquire.

Young, immature teak trees possess little to no Grade A quality teak.


It can be difficult to distinguish Grade B teak from Grade A teak by color alone.

Because Grade B teak can also be brown, honey-gold, wheat or amber—and may even have a muted combination of colors—just like Grade A teak.

Color is also dependent to a certain extent, as I mentioned before, on the geographic region where the tree is grown.

However, Grade B teak does not have the same density or amount of oils as Grade A teak.

Also, not all of its grains will be tight, long and straight.

And, of course, it’ll be less expensive.

Grade B-minus teak will have some Grade C teak mixed in—and that’s where you’ll need to be careful.


Between the Grade B wood and the bark of the tree is Grade C teak, otherwise known as the sapwood.

The color of sapwood can vary from yellow to almost white.

Grade B and C teak

It’s the youngest part of the tree, and its sole function is to distribute ground water to all the tree’s branches.

Therefore, it’s not a dense wood; and because it’s a “water-channel,” it contains no oil.

Which, in turn, makes it a very soft wood.

For more information about grades of teak and the process of how teak must be dried (very important) read our teak buying guide.


4 ways to know if the teak furniture you want to buy is really made of teak

  1. The sniff test.

The oil in teak has a distinct smell—similar to leather.

The more oil in the teak, meaning the higher the grade, the stronger the scent.

  1. The weight test.

Teak is a very dense wood, hence it’s also quite heavy—and hard.

The amount of oil in the teak also contributes to its weight.

Consequently, when moving away from the center, or heartwood, the lighter will be the wood’s weight and hardness.

This explains why Grade C teak is comparatively soft.

Tip: Less than honorable sellers of teak furniture will dye lower grade teak to appear as a higher grade—but the uniformity of color of dyed teak, and its lack of scent and weight should be the tip off.

  1. The water test:

Sprinkle droplets of water on unsealed or untreated Grade A or Grade B teak, and the water will bead. Similar to a what you’ll see on the hood of a freshly waxed car.

In other words, the beaded water should sit on the wood’s surface and not immediately soak in, if at all.

  1. The price test:

The price of teak should be your first indication of whether or not you’re looking at real teak.

Teak is expensive, often very expensive.

If you’re eyeing teak furniture, and it’s surprisingly inexpensive, i.e., cheap—odds are it’s not teak, or it’s mostly sapwood (Grade C) dyed to look like Grade B or C teak.

For a complete understanding of the telltale signs of real teak read our teak buying guide.

1 comment

  • Great information and informative.

    Starr Austin

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