Parawood is a well-used, but not well-known wood that is a popular choice for furniture. This type of wood is strong, durable, and sustainable and is used to make home furnishings like tables, chairs, and cabinets.
It sounds like the perfect timber, so you may be wondering why you have never heard of it. Let’s look into why Parawood is so popular and why it might already be in the furniture within your home.
What is Parawood?
Parawood is a hardwood, of medium density that is light in color and produced from the Para Rubber Tree, or Hevea Brasiliensis, if you are interested in the scientific name. It is grown in large numbers in Indonesia and Brazil, but can also be found throughout other areas in Southeast Asia and Central America.
One of the reasons you might be scratching your head wondering why the name of this wood has passed you by, is because it goes by many aliases. It is referred to as Parawood, Malaysian Oak, White Teak, Plantation Hardwood, Para Rubber Tree, and Rubberwood.
It is primarily grown for the white, milk-like liquid it produces, which is collected in little cups, under a tap-like structure that has been gently drilled into the bark. This white, sticky sap is used to create natural latex and rubber, hence the name. The tree only produces this liquid for around 20-25 years, after this point as the new tree needs to be planted. From here a positive relationship begins, as this redundant, over 80ft tree is then harvested for wood, leaving a place for a new tree to be planted, continuing the cycle – neat!
Fun fact, Christopher Columbus helped to bring the Para Rubber Tree to Southeast Asia. He witnessed the Indigenous people of America playing with a ball made from the latex this tree produces and decided he just had to share this with his home country, England. They then transported this to, what were back then, British colonies in Southeast Asia, who now grow the majority of these trees, all thanks to Christopher.
Is Parawood the Same as Rubberwood?
Rubberwood, I’ve heard of that! Well, Parawood is just another way of referring to this timber. It gets its name from the liquid it produces, which is used to create rubber and latex. The varied names for Parawood probably stem from its many uses, and I think add to the mysterious charm, of this hardy wood.
Is Parawood a Hard or Soft Wood?
Parawood is a hardwood, but this actually has nothing to do with how hard it is! Hardwood comes from deciduous trees like Birch, Oak, Mahogany, Maple, which produce seeds, whereas softwood is cultivated from evergreens like pine and spruce.
Parawood is also described as being of medium density, but what does this mean? I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, but all wood has a moisture content, and density is calculated by working out the actual amount of wood in the piece of timber, minus this water weight. Parawood being of medium density basically means it contains a good amount of wood. In comparison, high-density timber is usually heavy, more expensive, and hard to come by.
We’ve established that Parawood is a hardwood, but it is actually also hard, meaning it is very strong, hard-wearing, and long-lasting. This is due to the nature of the timber, which has a solid, compacted structure, and this wood could easily last for over 25 years if you treat it right.
Parawood or rubberwood has a Janka hardness rating of 890 to 960 lbf (4280 N) and density of 37 lb/cuft.
Is Parawood Good for Furniture?
Parawood is an excellent source of timber for furniture due to its properties of strength and versatility. It is unusual to have wood with such light coloring, making it perfect for bright, naturally finished pieces of furniture. It is also easy to paint, finish, and carve into unique shapes, making it an ideal choice for woodworkers and furniture makers.
Personally, I love my Parawood coffee table and chairs which I put on my balcony.
Does Parawood Scratch Easily?
Parawood is perfect for withstanding the hustle and bustle of everyday life, whether that be the knocks and bumps from a growing family or the disruption of moving home. Interestingly, this wood is much tougher than some other timber like pine, which means it is much less likely to scratch. It is a little softer than Oak and is probably best compared to Walnut or Teak in durability.
How Do You Care for Parawood?
A piece of Parawood furniture can last a very long time, but there are ways to ensure it continues to look great and stay strong. Firstly, make sure it is not in direct sunlight, near a heat source, or in an area that is dry, as this will greatly impact the color and health of this wood. Secondly, you should clean it regularly with soap and water, making sure to dry it thoroughly as excess water is the enemy of this wood. It is also important to top-up the finish by applying furniture wax, lacquer, or varnish, which can also help combat any dents in the wood.
Pros and Cons of Parawood
Parawood has many advantages, one being that it is incredibly durable and will last over 25 years if you spend time taking care of it. This wood is also easy to maintain, soft enough to be made into comfortable furnishings, and is a great shock absorber. It is also fire resistant and will not produce toxic fumes if it does smoke, which is a big plus.
One of the most exciting advantages of Parawood is its sustainability credentials. The Para Rubber Tree is cut down once it stops producing the white liquid that is collected for latex and rubber, after which it would usually be burnt. By purchasing Parawood, you are supporting sustainable timber practices, as this waste wood is used to make timber, and promotes more trees to be planted.
Parawood might sound like your new best friend in the world of wood, but there are also some disadvantages to this product. An obvious negative is that this wood is expensive due to its high quality, which is understandable due to all those advantages listed above. It is also known to be quite slippery, susceptible to water damage, and can discolor if abrasive cleaning chemicals are used.
One key thing to consider is that this wood has a high starch content making it the perfect snack for insects or a home for fungi and mold. Therefore, it is important to apply and maintain the correct finish to the wood to prevent rot and damage.
Parawood should not be used outdoors and is best used for indoor furniture. So, what is Parawood or rubberwood used for?
There are many opportunities for using this wood in furniture which includes:
- Bedroom Furniture such as dressers, headboards, and bookcases.
- Kitchen Furniture like cabinets, chairs, and tables
- Miscellaneous housing furniture like coffee tables, rocking chairs, and children’s toys
- House flooring
I hope this guide has introduced you to the wonderful world of Parawood, and you learned some facts about the benefits of this durable and versatile wood.