You’ve likely heard about rubberwood. Though not as common as pine and maple, it’s still fairly popular among woodworkers seeking a strong wood on a budget.d Moreover, rubberwood is one of the most sustainable wood types.

So, below we discuss the pros and cons of rubberwood furniture pieces, mainly focusing on why rubberwood may not be the best choice for your next woodworking project. So, let’s jump right in and learn about rubber wood furniture disadvantages.

Rubber Wood Furniture Disadvantages

The main downsides of rubberwood furniture are;

  1. Twisting and warping
  2. Rubberwood is highly perishable
  3. The raw wood causes latex allergy
  4. Rubberwood is not ideal for outdoor furniture
  5. It stains easily

What is Rubberwood?

Rubberwood is a hardwood obtained from the Para rubber tree. Para rubber trees are tropical hardwoods that grow in Africa and Asia. You can also find a few rubber tree plantations in South America.

Rubber trees are best known for producing latex, tapped from the tree’s bark and used to make natural rubber. The latex producing cycle takes six years.

However, unlike most people believe, rubberwood isn’t all about latex. It also produces durable, versatile timber of medium texture used in many applications, including furniture and cabinetry.

Rubberwood furniture pieces are some of the cheapest solid wood furniture. The wood has a 995 rating on the Janka wood hardness scale.

Rubberwood Furniture Pros and Cons

So, is rubberwood worth spending your money on? Are rubberwood furniture valuable? The following are the pros and cons of rubberwood furniture to help you make an informed decision. We’ll start with the disadvantages.

Rubberwood Furniture Disadvantages 

The following are some of the top disadvantages of rubberwood before considering it for your next furniture-making project.

1. Twisting and warping

One of the biggest downsides of rubberwood is that it twists and warps easily. The main reason is because of rubber wood’s high moisture content.

A high moisture content means the timber is highly likely to warp (bend) and twist as the wood dries. However, you can season your rubberwood timber to limit the twisting and warping.

2. It isn’t waterproof

Rubberwood is not the most water-absorbed wood. However, it’s also not among the top waterproof wood types. For instance, you cannot compare the waterproofing qualities of rubberwood and pine; pine is a lot more waterproof.

In addition, rubberwood is prone to seepage problems, especially when the adhesive loosens. So, generally, you need to keep the furniture from high-moisture conditions. Here’s how to waterproof rubberwood.

3. It’s perishable

Unfortunately, rubberwood decays fast. It’s particularly susceptible to white rot caused by a fungus. White rot is slightly slower than brown rot. However, it’s more damaging.

In addition to rotting, rubberwood is also susceptible to fungal and insect stains. Both can lower rubberwood furniture quality.

4. Rubberwood is not ideal for outdoor furniture

Rubberwood’s tendency to absorb moisture makes it ill-suited for outdoor furniture. Otherwise, the risk of rotting increases multifold.

This means you can only use rubberwood for furniture pieces that stay indoors round the clock. Alternatively, you must bring the furniture inside for the night and during the cold seasons.

5. Raw rubberwood causes latex allergy

The natural latex found in rubber trees can trigger allergic reactions if inhaled. Although not everyone is allergic to latex, those who are allergic to latex may experience mild to severe symptoms that may even prove fatal.

Symptoms typically include rashes, hives, skin irritation, a runny nose, and difficulty breathing.

6. Unappealing texture and grain pattern

Rubberwood has one of the most unappealing textures and grain patterns. Although the brown color isn’t too shabby, the coarse open texture and loose grain pattern make rubberwood furniture highly uninspiring.

But the woes don’t end there. The lack of a distinguishable grain pattern means rubberwood doesn’t stain well and takes very long to dry.

7. Stains from the seasoning process

We’ve already mentioned that most woodworkers season rubberwood to increase its durability. Indeed, you also need to clean/wipe rubberwood furniture with certain chemicals to preserve its integrity.

Unfortunately, the seasoning and cleaning chemicals can stain rubberwood furniture. So, some experts recommend cleaning the furniture with warm water instead. But, warm water doesn’t do as good a job as the chemicals.

8. Prone to insect attacks (beetles)

Rubberwood attracts many types of insects that can eventually damage your furniture. The insects include beetle borers, termites, and other Coleopteran species, such as longicorns and snout beetles.

In total, more than 100 insect species can attack rubberwood furniture, eating away the wood surfaces and boring holes into the exposed sections of your furniture.

9. Requires special chemical treatment process before the kiln drying process

Finally, you should also think twice about rubberwood furniture because rubberwood lumber requires a long chemical treatment process before kiln drying.

The wood is typically immersed in boron preservatives before kiln drying to diffuse the natural chemicals and control the moisture content. This means you need to buy chemically treated rubberwood or face the consequences.

Rubberwood Advantages 

Despite the many disadvantages, rubberwood comes with several advantages that may tilt the scale if you’re onto a quick project.

Sustainable

Rubberwood is highly sustainable. New rubber trees quickly replace cut plantations to keep the supply circle going.

Cost-effective

Rubberwood lumber is very affordable. For instance, it’s cheaper than competing alternatives, such as ash and maple. Thus, it’s an excellent pick for DIY furniture makers.

Easy to work with

Rubberwood is easy to saw, cut, screw, and finish. You can also refinish rubberwood furniture for increased weather resistance.

Fire resistant

Rubberwood is highly resistant to heat and burning. So, it’s a nice choice for fireside furniture. It also stays cool even in hot conditions.

Makes quality furniture

Finally, rubberwood makes excellent wooden furniture. Solid wood furniture made from rubberwood is strong, lightweight, and highly scratch resistant.

Rubber Wood Furniture Disadvantages Image illustration

Rubber Wood Finishing Tips 

Rubberwood is easy to finish. But it’s best to use paint and oils rather than stains as the lack of grain pattern doesn’t work very well with stains.

  1. Begin by sanding the rubberwood furniture with 120 or 150 grit sandpaper.
  2. Use an acrylic wood primer to prepare the surface for oiling or painting.
  3. Apply at least one coat of eggshell or boiled linseed oil to the surface.

How to Care for Rubberwood Surfaces

Caring for rubberwood furniture shouldn’t be too difficult if the wood is properly treated before use. Follow the tips below;

  1. Once a year, wash the furniture with soap and water. After thoroughly washing the furniture, wipe it dry with a clean, dry cloth.
  2. Once every 2-3 years, strip the old wax coat with a wax-stripping detergent and wax it afresh to brighten up the patina.

Rubberwood vs Common Types of Wood 

So, you’re probably wondering how rubberwood holds up against other popular hardwoods (and softwoods). The following is a brief comparison.

Acacia vs Rubberwood

Acacia janka rating is 2350; therefore, acacia is harder than rubberwood (995 Janka). It is also stronger. Additionally, Acacia wood has a warm and authentic appearance, whereas rubberwood has an artificial and inexpensive feel.

Rubberwood vs Maple

Rubberwood is inferior to maple wood furniture. First, maple is stronger (1450 vs. 995 Janka). Secondly, it’s more durable than rubberwood. Above all, maple wood is more weather and pest resistant than rubber wood.

Birch vs Rubberwood

Birchwood and rubberwood share many similarities. For instance, they share the same color, density, and quality. Additionally, thy are both prone to insect attacks and fungal stains.

However, they also have several differences. For instance, rubberwood is significantly cheaper than birch, whereas birch has a more distinctive and appealing grain pattern.

Rubber wood vs Oak

The main difference between rubberwood and oakwood is color and grain structure. White oak is pale with a slightly greenish cast, while red oak, the more popular species, has a reddish-brown tint.

Rubberwood has a similar coarse texture but a tighter, symmetrical, straight grain. Plus, oak is more expensive than rubber wood because it is a harder wood. also

Rubber wood vs solid wood? 

Finally, the main difference between rubberwood and solid wood is – none! Rubberwood is a solid wood like the teaks, oaks, maples, and acacias of this world.

You can only compare solid wood with manufactured wood products such as plywood, Oriented Standard Board (OSB), and chipboard or compare one solid wood with another.

FAQs

Is rubberwood good quality

Yes, rubberwood is one of the finest wood types for furniture making. One of the best qualities of rubberwood is that it doesn’t scratch easily. Rubberwood furniture also doesn’t dent easily. More importantly, rubberwood is rated 995 Janka, making a moderately-strong wood.

Is rubberwood good for furniture? 

Yes, rubber wood is an excellent pick for making wooden furniture. It is strong and scratch-resistant. Moreover, rubberwood has the same density as ash and maple wood and is even denser than some popular hardwoods. So, it’s a great pick for furniture.

Is rubberwood real wood?

Yes, rubber wood is real wood. There’s a common misconception that rubberwood is elastic and therefore not comparable to real solid wood. Rubberwood is a light-colored medium-density tropical hardwood obtained from the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It’s typically found in rubber plantations in South America, Asia, and Africa.

Is rubber wood a hardwood?

Yes, rubberwood is hardwood. The rubber tree is a fast-growing medium-to-tall deciduous tree that has evolved to withstand months of drought and cold stresses. Like many other hardwood trees, it has large, thick, and typically oblong leaves that grow to 30 inches (12 inches). The leaves are shed annually during the mid-dry season.

Is rubber wood durable?

Yes. Contrary to what many people believe, rubberwood is not a flexible tree. It is a highly durable wood from the maple family. It has a strength rating of 9500 psi, a stiffness of 1.3 million psi, and a hardness of 500 pounds. Only durable hardwood species can boast these ratings.

What is hevea wood? 

Hevea Wood (Hevea brasiliensis) is the other name for rubberwood. You may also come across the names such as plantation hardwood, Malaysian oak, or para wood. All these names refer to the family of rubber trees. It is low-density hardwood and native to Brazil but extensively cultivated in Asia.

Does rubberwood scratch easily

No, rubberwood doesn’t scratch easily. Rubberwood is strong, with a Janka hardness rating of 980 lbs., making it harder than some coniferous species. So, it highly resists scratching and denting. It has approximately the same hardness as walnut and teak, though it is softer than oak.

Is rubberwood sustainable? 

Generally, yes. Rubberwood is an environmentally friendly wood type with a low price. However, issues related to its sustainable supply have become a little worrying lately as the total area of rubber plantations has steadily declined over the years. The main reason is that planters claim profits have reduced, forcing them to shift to oil palm cultivation.

What is parawood furniture?

Parawood is another name for rubberwood, plantation hardwood, or Malaysian oak. The name is most common in Malaysia, where rubberwood plantations are also called plantation hardwood or Malaysian oaks. However, parawood is also popular in Indonesia and Central America on rubber plantations.

Is rubberwood toxic?

Rubberwood, in and of itself, is non-toxic. So, if you’ve heard conspiracy theories about rubberwood causing cancer, it doesn’t. In fact, even rubberwood smoke is non-toxic. So, you don’t have to worry about getting cancer from the smoke. But the chemicals that are used to treat it aren’t as safe. Similarly, rubberwood latex can trigger severe allergies.

What is Asian rubberwood?

Asian rubberwood merely refers to rubberwood originating from Asia. They’re also called rubber trees, parawood, Asian hardwood, plantation hardwood, or Hevea brasiliensis. Though native to Brazil, rubberwood trees grow on large plantations throughout Asia, maturing after about nine years.

Common Rubberwood furniture problems?

The main downside of rubberwood furniture is perishability. Although strong and fairly durable, rubberwood perishes a little too fast under high-moisture conditions. So, you can’t use it for outdoor furniture and can’t leave any rubberwood furniture outside for the night. Of course, rubberwood lumber is also highly-treated with chemicals, thus not completely safe for everyone.

Summary

Rubberwood furniture is beautiful, durable, and low-maintenance. Annual cleaning with soap and warm water is often more than enough.

Unfortunately, rubberwood is also easily perishable and prone to pest attacks. So, you must be extra careful with the furniture.

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