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  • What is Rubberwood? Guide to Its Uses, Pros and Cons

    by Destiny de Guzman May 17, 2024 6 min read

    Rubberwood is a hardwood sourced from Pará rubber trees as a byproduct of rubber harvesting and is commonly used for making furniture. Harvesting rubberwood is an environmentally friendly process that facilitates the growth of new trees that can produce rubber. Its combination of cost-effectiveness, durability, and environmental-friendliness make it an appealing option to both manufacturers and consumers for manufacturing furniture.

    What is Rubberwood?

    Real Rubberwood Plantation
    Source: Hardik Sapkota

    Rubberwood, otherwise known as parawood, is harvested from the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Once these trees stop producing enough latex/rubber, usually after about 25-30 years, they are cut down for rubberwood, making room for new trees to grow. This process makes rubberwood a sustainable and eco-friendly choice for furniture making.

    The dense grain and minimal shrinkage of rubberwood also make it ideal for durable furniture. Here a great article on the rubberwood treatment process for converting an expired rubber-producing tree into wood for furniture and other industry use.

    Is Rubberwood Real Wood?

    Rubberwood vs MDF
    Notice rubberwood's natural grains vs. MDF's fibrous core

    Rubberwood is, indeed, real wood with a light-colored medium-density tropical vibe. Most people have the misconception that rubberwood is somehow “fake” or is engineered wood like particle board — this is not true. Rubberwood is also not MDF, which is itself denser and more durable than particle board. Therefore, any furniture made from rubberwood can be considered real wood furniture.

    When you see larger furniture made of rubberwood (such as a desk or dining table), you may notice many parallel lines across a single wood piece. It almost looks as if there are multiple pieces fused together. This is called a finger-joint board, which glues and interlocks multiple solid, smaller lumber parts into a larger single piece along zig-zag "finger" joints. This is necessary when rubberwood trees are not wide enough to create a single large slab. The result is a single, structurally sound lumbar piece that is more resistant to warping. Finger-joint boards are common not only for rubberwood, but also for pine and other wood types.

    Uses of Rubberwood


    Thanks to its durability, aesthetic appeal, and sustainability, rubberwood has become a popular material for making indoor furniture. They look particularly great with a lacquer finish to give it that sleek shine. The most common furniture types that use rubberwood are:

    • Dining Tables and Chairs: Rubberwood's durability as a medium-density hardwood and weight support make it great for making dining furniture. It is particular popular in Scandinavian furniture styles. Their lighter natural hue also offer furniture makers a lot of flexibility in finishing it with various color tones.
    • Cabinets and Shelving: Similarly, the material's durability makes it suitable for storage solutions as these must support weight for long-term shelving storage.
    • Bed Frames: Rubberwood's hardness and consistency makes it ideal for bed frames as it has a straight grain and is not prone to warping and cracking.
    • Kitchen Tools: Beyond furniture, rubberwood is also a great material for crafting wooden kitchen tools like cutting boards, knife blocks, and trays, among others.

    Pros and Cons of Rubberwood

    There are several advantages to using rubberwood for your home. For those who are environmentally-conscious, rubberwood is a sustainable source of wood since it's harvested from latex-producing trees that are no longer productive, utilizing what would otherwise be waste. It's also affordable given its durability, making it a cost-effective option compared to many traditional hardwoods.

    However, there are some disadvantages to using rubberwood as well. Because rubberwood is a medium-density wood, it cannot match higher-density wood types such as oak in terms of hardness. Additionally, because the para tree from which rubberwood is harvested is often not as large, it is impossible to get a single slab that is large enough for table tops without finger-joining.

    Take a look at our detailed analysis of its pros and cons:

    Aspect

    Pros

    Cons

    Sustainability

    Rubberwood is an eco-friendly option, repurposing trees that have already served a purpose in rubber production. This reduces waste and promotes sustainable forestry practices.

    It tends to decay easily so it's required to have some chemical treatments to preserve it, which might be a turn-off for some.

    Durability

    Its dense grain structure makes rubberwood highly resistant to wear and tear, ensuring that furniture pieces last for years.

    It might not match premium and more expensive hardwood such as oak which can last for decades.

    Affordability

    Compared to traditional hardwoods, rubberwood is more cost-effective, making high-quality furniture accessible at lower prices.

    It doesn't have a disadvantage when it comes to cost. It's the most affordable hardwood out there.

    Versatility

    With its light natural color and smooth grain, rubberwood can be easily adapted to a wide range of finishes and styles indoors.

    Because it is very moisture-absorbent, rubberwood can deteriorate more quickly when placed outdoors. Rubberwood furniture is best used indoors.

    Rubberwood vs. Solid Wood

    Different solid woods sorted by density
    Popular solid softwoods and hardwoods sorted by lowest (top-left) to highest (bottom-right) density

    As a medium-density hardwood, rubberwood is a solid wood material that is great for making durable furniture. On the other hand, it still lags behind higher-density solid woods such as oak and maple, which are both tougher and more resistant to deterioration.

    Here's a better look at rubberwood vs other solid wood types:

    Aspect

    Rubberwood

    Other Solid Woods

    Durability

    It's durable enough for furniture making and it's resistant to normal wear and tear and can last for years.

    Hardwoods like oak are more durable and perfect for heirloom. Softwoods such as pine will be less durable than rubberwood.

    Cost

    Typically less expensive amongst the hardwoods due to its status as a byproduct of rubber harvesting.

    Solid hardwoods such as mahogany, oak, and maple can be expensive. Solid softwood will be cheaper.

    Environmental Impact

    More eco-friendly as it makes use of trees that would otherwise be discarded after latex production.

    Varies; depending on the sourcing practices. Hardwoods can be less sustainable if not properly managed.

    Aesthetic

    Light, uniform grain that is easily adaptable to stains and finishes, suitable for contemporary designs.

    Wide range in appearance, from the fine grains of maple to the rich textures of walnut, offering more natural beauty and uniqueness.

    Maintenance

    Easy to maintain; similar care to other hardwoods, requiring occasional polishing to prevent drying out.

    Depends on the type of wood; some require more frequent sealing and protection, especially if used outdoors or in moist environments.

    Rubberwood vs. Oak

    Big Live Edge Oak Wood Slabs 
    Source: Hardwoods Group

    Given the popularity of rubberwood and oak furniture, it is worth comparing the two directly to provide a more detailed analysis.

    Oak is a hardwood known for its strength, durability, and distinctive grain patterns. It's a traditional choice for high-quality furniture and flooring, offering a timeless appeal. However, oak furniture can be more expensive due to the slow growth rate of oak trees, making it less accessible for all budgets. Meanwhile, rubberwood is a more sustainable and more affordable choice for furniture.

    Aspect

    Rubberwood

    Oak

    Durability

    Rubberwood is highly durable, but it is slightly less durable compared to oak.

    Oak is extremely durable and is often used for heirloom-quality furniture.

    Cost

    Rubberwood is more affordable and offers a cost-effective option for furniture.

    Oak is typically more expensive due to its high durability and popularity.

    Environmental Impact

    Rubberwood has a lower environmental impact as it repurposes trees that were initially grown for latex production. 

    Oak has a higher environmental impact because of its slower growth rate, which affects resource sustainability.  

    Aesthetic

    Rubberwood has a lighter color and features a smooth grain, making it versatile for various decor styles.

    Oak features rich grains that vary from light to dark shades, offering a distinct aesthetic. Oak trees can also grow massive, so you can get a giant single live edge slab. 

    Maintenance

    Rubberwood is easy to maintain with simple care routines and doesn't require frequent upkeep. 

    Oak requires regular maintenance to prevent the wood from drying out and cracking, ensuring its longevity and appearance. 

    Can You Stain Rubberwood?

    Rubberwood can be stained to match your home's decor whether you're deciding on the colors of your new furniture or refinishing your existing furniture or kitchen tools. It's normally light blonde to medium tan so if you prefer darker colors, you can stain rubberwood by using proper techniques and conditioner to make a perfect finish. Most people really like the natural tone of rubberwood though, so a clear lacquer finish is often enough.

    Rubberwood: In Conclusion

    Deciding if rubberwood is the right choice for your furniture involves weighing its benefits against your specific needs and preferences. This versatile and sustainable material could be an excellent fit for many, but consider several factors to ensure it aligns with what you want and what you need:

    • Sustainability Goals: If eco-friendliness and sustainability are top priorities, rubberwood's environmental credentials are appealing.
    • Budget Constraints: Rubberwood's affordability makes it an attractive option for those seeking great quality on a budget.
    • Aesthetic Preferences: Consider whether rubberwood's light color and smooth grain match your desired aesthetic.
    • Durability Requirements: Evaluate the level of durability you need, especially in high-traffic areas or for heavy-use furniture.

    Additionally, rubberwood may not be the best choice for outdoor use without proper treatment and protection. It's well-suited for indoor furniture such as dining tables, chairs, and bedroom sets. 

    Buy Rubberwood products at Froy

    All in all, rubberwood offers a balanced mix of sustainability, affordability, and versatility. It's an eco-friendly alternative to traditional options like oak and maple, making it an excellent option for environmentally-conscious shoppers and those seeking value. If you prioritize both eco-friendly materials and budget-friendly choices, consider shopping for rubberwood furniture at FROY.

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