Teak and beech are types of hardwood used in varying applications in construction, furniture and musical instruments. Teak is a tropical wood that is less available than beech, which grows in temperate climates and is considered to be of lower quality than teak. Teak and beech are used for different purposes, though some uses overlap.
Geography and Availability
Teak grows naturally in Asia and Central America, while beech grows primarily in the northeastern United States and Canada. Beech is more available than teak due to overharvesting of that tropical wood. Because teak is considered a higher quality wood and is becoming more scarce, it is significantly more expensive than beech.
Beech is a heavy, strong, medium-to-hard wood that is elastic and resistant to shock, but it's not as durable as some other hardwoods, including teak. Beech sapwood, or the wood nearest the bark, is pale in color, while the heartwood is reddish-brown. The differences in color can make appealing contrasts when used in flooring. Beech has a fine, tight grain and large medullary rays, which are rays that extend vertically through the tree perpendicular to the growth rings.
Teak is also heavy, but actually is not as hard as beech. It is very durable, however, making it a sought-after wood for fine applications. Like beech, teak has contrasting colors, with its sapwood generally white to light yellow, and its heartwood dark yellow to dark brown. The wood usually has a straight grain and a coarse, uneven texture, without the noticeable medullary rays of beech.
In addition to its other qualities, beech wood polishes well and is stain-resistant. It's also relatively inexpensive. Beech characteristics makes the wood suitable for furniture with curved parts such as chairs, and for frames, toys and floors. Teak, in contrast, is known for its resistance to decay and to insect invasions. This makes teak a perfect match for quality outdoor furniture and decking. While boat manufacturers have increasingly relied on synthetic materials, teak was the historical material of choice, and is still used in some marine applications today. Manufacturers of fine furniture also use teak.