what is rubberwood

Rubberwood Furniture: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

If you use woodwork as therapy like me, then it’s time to seek real help. But it also means your search history reeks of wood stain, and you’re thinking about adding some rubberwood furniture. 

Let’s crush the “is rubber wood real wood?” debate before we proceed – rubberwood is real and not engineered wood. Like manufactured wood, however, rubberwood is low cost, but its incredible strength allows it to pass as hardwood. It can be a bit confusing, so many wood hobbyists, like you, still battle with choosing rubberwood for their projects.

Read on as we explore rubberwood furniture, its characteristics, and the pros and cons of using rubberwood for your furniture.

Seriously, What is Rubberwood Furniture?

Rubberwood comes from latex-producing trees native to Asia and is called plantation wood, Asian hardwood, or parawood. 

The process starts after the trees clock nine years. That’s when farmers begin harvesting latex, then the tree slows production and eventually dries out at the ripe age of 30. From here, it is off to the carpenter, who makes it into cool furniture and exports it, rather than the raw wood.

How Will I Know Rubberwood When I See it?

Don’t worry, rubberwood didn’t wait 30 years to hide now. It sports a blonde to medium-tan color that makes it perfect for taking different stains.

It looks a lot like pine and shares many characteristics with maple, except that it has a more porous structure. Rubberwood leans to the coarse side, with its open texture and lovely straight grain.

rubberwood furniture

Pros of Using Rubberwood Furniture

Rubberwood is popular among woodworkers because of its unique benefits. Here are some perks of rubberwood:

Rubberwood is a Sustainable Options For Woodworkers and the Environment 

Nearly 10% of the world’s forests are cut down every year to make farms for fast wood. Basically, we’re cutting more trees than we’re growing, and it is causing soil erosions, landslides, and floods across the globe. Choosing rubberwood helps us manage deforestation because you’ll be using “old” wood that could have been burned.

Rubberwood Has a Reputation For Durability

The rumors aren’t true, and rubberwood isn’t some unnaturally flexible material. It is a pretty durable hardwood and a relative of maple, so its name doesn’t necessarily suggest its strength.

Rubberwood has a hardness of 500 pounds, strength of 9500 psi, and stiffness of 1.3m psi.

Rubberwood Lumber is Generally Affordable

Wood addictions don’t come cheap, so the cost of rubberwood is easily a pro. In its resume, rubberwood is a “by-product”, meaning it sells for less than most wood. Plus, there’s a popular belief that rubberwood isn’t durable, pushing people to buy other options like cherry and maple.

You Can Stain Rubberwood Without a Headache 

Another great perk of rubberwood is its ease of staining. The shiny blonde is perfect alone or with another stain or dye. This part is great for tailoring the rubberwood to your exact taste.

Downsides of Using Rubberwood Furniture

Like other wood-related products, rubberwood has its fair share of pros and cons. But at a time when everyone only discusses the advantages, here are rubber wood furniture disadvantages:

Rubberwood is Prone to Rotting 

Because rubberwood easily absorbs moisture, it has a strong and ever-present tendency to rot. And, it is particularly prone to white fungus, which is fungus-related. White rot is a slow-acting decay that is far more damaging than the more common brown rot.

Rubberwood May Twist and Warp

The moisture content causes it to bend and twist as it dries. While proper seasoning can prevent warping, it is still a concern to many woodworkers

Rubberwood And The Outdoors Don’t Mix

Rubberwood and moisture have a thing going. It is highly absorbent and will rot in no time if left outdoors. So, you’d want to keep your rubberwood indoors and far from high-humidity areas. Its lumber is so bad with moisture that rubberwood floors become slippery, and even cause accidents.

Rubberwood Furniture May Trigger Latex Allergies

Remember how we said rubberwood used to be a latex tree? Sometimes, its furniture contains residual latex that may trigger a reaction in people with a latex allergy. 

That being said, virtually all of the latex sap is milked from the tree long before it becomes rubberwood. But, some people with a severe latex allergy report reactions.

what is rubberwood furniture
Image Source – Canva.com

How Do You Care For Rubberwood Furniture, Then?

Using rubberwood has its ups and down. But, with proper maintenance, rubberwood can serve you well and make excellent furniture.

Here are some tips for maintaining your rubberwood furniture:

  • Cleaning: Cleanup is pretty similar to rubberwood and other types of wood furniture. Make a daily habit of regularly dusting, and an annual habit of wiping with a soap and water solution. If you’ve waxed the rubberwood, use a wax-stripping soap to remove the gunk.
  • Staining: Staining your rubberwood furniture is a good way to renew the surface and improve its appearance. Before staining, use a pre-conditioner to prepare the wood and stain it with a fitting dye. Rubberwood takes dye really well, but I’ll advise you to test your skills on some scrap wood first.
  • Filling gaps: It isn’t uncommon to see cracks and gaps in your rubberwood furniture. In this scenario, make sure you use the right wood filler, and you should be good to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Rubberwood Good for Furniture?

Rubberwood is good for furniture, but it is best suited to low-end woodwork. It has a dense and coarse grain, which isn’t very attractive in artwork or exquisite pieces. But, these attributes make it cheaper and better for large-scale furniture production.

How Does Rubberwood Compare to Other Woods like Oak or Pine?

Another tricky woodwork debate is “rubberwood vs solid wood” Compared to pine, rubberwood and oak are both considered hardwood. 

Oak, which is the hardest, comes in handy in flooring and kitchen cabinets, with rubberwood working the shelves and doors. Pine is more commonly seen in bedroom furniture. So, they all have unique applications.

What Kind of Maintenance Does Rubberwood Furniture Require?

Rubberwood is pretty low-maintenance since it doesn’t demand more care than usual furniture. Regular dusting and an occasional wipe-down will do the trick.

Is Rubberwood Eco-friendly?

Rubberwood is eco-friendly because it is an agricultural byproduct. Since farmers first cultivate it for latex, the remaining rubberwood is sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Check out how Science-WHYS – Shows Is rubberwood furniture a durable and long-lasting option?

The Verdict

Rubberwood can be a dream to work with, but mostly in day-to-day furniture. It is far too slippery to use as flooring, but it also makes incredible drawers. So, the project matters a great deal in choosing rubberwood for furniture.

In my experience with rubberwood, proper maintenance brings a new side to its lumber – add a good stain and we’re going somewhere. Think of rubberwood like those ancient pajamas you have. It is super cozy, and will get the job done, but won’t quite fit in the “pretty” category. 

I’d stick to using rubberwood in my simple woodwork projects. Would you?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

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