The popularity of minimalist décor trends borrowed from Asian and Scandinavian ideals have led to the increased use of Teak for interior applications from floors to ceilings — and plenty in between. Some luxury homes even use Teak for exterior door and window trim, as well as decking. Of course, Teak comes with a hefty price tag, as well as very limited availability. One potential answer to this dilemma is in the form of an African species you may not have even heard of, before now: Afromosia.
A strong substitute for Teak, Afromosia hails from West Africa, mostly from the Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. Sometimes referred to as “African Teak,” its honey brown color and similar grain give it an appearance quite resembling the Burmese favorite. As an exterior species, Afromosia is fairly resilient to the elements, thanks to moderate levels of silica similar to what gives Teak its famously water-resistant trait. While Afromosia still isn’t suitable for marine applications, it’s perfect for the uses for which home builders like Teak. Unlike Teak, Afromosia starts out with the golden coloring which Teak exhibits only after UV exposure. Without the need for a waiting period, some might say Afromosia’s appearance is even preferable to that of Teak.
Beyond the surface level, Afromosia stands up to scrutiny. Its hardness and stability make it ideal for applications requiring milling, such as trim and flooring. Since it lacks the oily surface Teak has, it actually takes finishes more easily, as well.
When you add to the above-mentioned bonuses the fact that Afromosia rings up at about half the price of Teak, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the demand for Afromosia is on the rise. With that growth in demand, CITES now lists this beautiful species on its infamous Appendix II. While not yet considered endangered, current harvesting and trade practices are being tightly controlled in order to prevent future endangerment. With proper management, we have high hopes that Afromosia will soon be taken off that list; in the meantime, though, prices are climbing, and lead times are lengthening.
Before builders started seeing Afromosia as a viable alternative to Teak, it wasn’t valuable enough to gain the attention of CITES; while the spike in interest has temporarily resulted in less availability, the future of Afromosia is now quite promising. Before the increased interest, there was little motivation for the species to be managed more carefully, so while the lag may be a bit inconvenient, it’s actually a very good sign of things to come. So even if the prices are too high to make sense for you right now, keep an eye on this excellent species in the future as an affordable and sustainable alternative to Teak.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.