Rubberwood is one of those materials that often get an undeservedly bad rep but are quite great despite it.
For starters – rubberwood is an actual real hardwood and is neither fake nor “rubbery”.
Many people understandably get confused by the name and the low price tag but rubberwood is quite a good choice for furniture in most cases.
So, let’s find out what is rubberwood exactly, what is rubberwood furniture, what are its Pros and Cons, and why you might want to consider it for your home.
What Is Rubberwood Furniture?
Rubberwood is the wood derived from the rubber tree plant – a tree from the maple family Euphorbiaceae. The rubber tree grows mostly in tropical areas, it’s native to South America, and it’s cultivated in plantations in Africa and Asia too.
Interestingly enough, the rubber tree isn’t cultivated for its wood but for the rubber it produces, hence the name. This rubber or latex is produced as a milky liquid that oozes from the tree’s bark.
About 30% of that milky liquid is rubber which allows producers to coagulate and process it into solid rubbers such as car tires, rubber gloves, and various products in the food packaging industry.
What does this mean for your rubberwood furniture, however? Quite a lot of things, in fact:
- The rubber wood itself doesn’t contain actual rubber and is as “real” as any other hardwood.
- Because the rubber tree is cultivated for its milky latex and not for wood, this makes rubber tree lumber a “byproduct” of the industry, hence the much lower price compared to other hardwoods.
- Also thanks to the fact that rubber trees are cultivated for their latex, these plants are grown quite sustainably – they aren’t cut down too soon and they are regularly replanted, making rubberwood very environmentally friendly.
- Because it’s a tropical and sub-tropical plant, the rubber tree can retain a lot of moisture. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to furniture as it can lead to some drawbacks we’ll discuss below.
Overall, however, the wood of the rubber tree is quite suitable for furniture, especially if you know how to take care of it.
Why Isn’t Rubberwood Furniture More Popular if It’s Good?
There are many factors that play into this but some are more significant than others.
The first thing to note is that, as a byproduct of the rubber-producing industry, the wood of the rubber tree simply hadn’t been widely considered for furniture use for many years.
This isn’t because it’s not good enough, furniture producers had simply focused on other types of wood that were more readily mass-produced.
Another factor is actually the low price. Justifiably or not, many people make the intuitive mistake to think that if something is low cost then it isn’t that good.
The furniture industry has exploited that fact for quite some time by promoting other types of wood as “higher quality” and “premium” simply thanks to their higher price tag.
The name of this type of wood also doesn’t do it any favors – when people hear about “rubberwood” they are often inclined to think that this is a fake type of “wood”.
As eco-friendly sustainability becomes more of a factor for many people, however, and as folks become more and more informed, rubberwood has started growing in popularity for furniture compared to other materials.
Rubberwood vs Other Types of Wood
So, is rubberwood a hardwood? You may see some people calling it a softer type of wood and it’s true that rubberwood isn’t as hard as some of the hardest types of wood out there such as Snakewood (3,800 IBF or pounds-force) or Brazilian Olivewood (3,700 IBF).
Yet, rubberwood is very much considered a medium-density hardwood. The pounds-force of Rubberwood is 960 IBF but that’s still more than good enough for furniture.
This means that it’s quite strong and durable overall which is excellent for furniture. Let’s compare it to some other popular types of wood, however.
Rubberwood vs Solid Wood
The most common comparison is between rubberwood and solid woods. The latter is a pretty wide category of woods, however, so making a direct one-to-one comparison isn’t simple.
For example, solid woods include both hardwoods and softwoods, and they can range in hardness anywhere between 67 IBF and 4,390 IBF. So, Rubberwood is harder than many solid woods and softer than others.
Similarly, some solid woods (most softwoods) are even more susceptible to rot, mold, and insect infestation than rubberwood whereas most hardwoods are less susceptible to all of those.
This, in short, means that the wide category of solid woods has more uses than Rubberwood. As many solid woods are more moisture- and rot-resistant, they are good for outdoor furniture while Rubberwood is good for indoor use only.
If you are looking for indoor furniture in particular, however, there’s hardly much reason to pick solid wood over rubberwood.
Rubberwood vs Pine Wood
Pine wood is a type of softwood as well as a solid wood. There are different types of it too as various pines grow in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Overall, pine wood is pale in color, lightweight, and easy to work with. This has made it popular for various applications.
Pines also grow pretty fast which makes using pine wood less environmentally impactful compared to other types of wood. Rubberwood is still considered much more eco-friendly, however.
Both types of wood can also be used for flooring but rubberwood is recommended for higher-traffic areas as it is harder. Neither pine wood nor rubberwood is recommended for outdoor furniture and fixtures.
Overall, rubberwood is much harder than pinewood but both can be used for furniture. Rubberwood is more sustainable from an environmental standpoint but pine wood can be more affordable if you live in areas where it’s harvested and processed.
That said, the price of pine wood can be higher than that of rubberwood if you live in the South as the transportation costs of pine wood can be quite significant.
Also Read: Is Acacia Wood Good for Furniture?
Rubberwood Furniture Pros and Cons
To figure out whether rubber wood furniture is good or bad, let’s go over some of the Pros and Cons of this type of wood.
Rubber Wood Furniture Advantages
So, is rubberwood good quality? Overall – very much so. Here are the 7 reasons why:
- With a hardness of up to 960 IBF, stiffness of about 1.3 million PSI (pounds per square inch), and strength of around 9,500 PSI, rubberwood has impressive durability.
- When processed properly, rubberwood has very low shrinkage and cracking which is ideal for furniture.
- With a nice light tan color, rubberwood not only looks great on its own but also takes stains and finishes very nicely which is also great for furniture.
- As the byproduct of a whole other industry, rubberwood is much more affordable than most other types of wood, even when factoring in the transportation costs. Only a few types of wood can be more affordable if they are mass-produced near you and don’t require much transportation.
- Rubberwood is incredibly sustainable because it’s dual-purpose and isn’t cut down only for its lumber. Plus, because it’s also used for rubber, rubber trees tend to be planted as soon as possible after felling.
- This type of wood is also very easy to work with.
- Rubberwood resists burning better than many other drier types of wood which can be great for a lot of homeowners.
Rubber Wood Furniture Disadvantages
No type of wood is perfect, so, here are some things to watch out for too:
- Rubberwood is unfortunately very susceptible to insect attacks, fungal staining, and rotting. That’s because it is very moisture-absorbant unlike many of the hardwoods grown in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Because of all of the above, rubberwood usually requires chemical treatments to become less perishable. That’s why many people are wondering “Is rubberwood toxic?” – it isn’t, but the chemical processing is still a turn-off for some.
- Once it’s seasoned, rubberwood becomes quite sturdy and durable. While drying it’s still very flexible, however, and can be prone to twisting and warping.
- The trace latex leftovers in rubberwood can trigger some people’s allergies.
- Rubberwood furniture is not recommended for outdoor use because of how susceptible to rot, fungi, and insects it is. Even indoors it should be kept safe from such issues.
Is Rubberwood Right For You?
We ended up with a fairly similar number of Pros and Cons above but that doesn’t mean that rubberwood is “So-so” or 50/50. It just means that – like any other type of wood – rubberwood is better for some people and situations than it is for others.
So, should you go for rubberwood furniture over other types of wood?
If you’re looking for indoor furniture and cabinets exclusively, if you know your rubberwood furniture will be safe from moisture, mold, and insects indoors, and if you don’t have a latex allergy, then this type of wood can be a great and affordable option for you.
If any of the above factors don’t apply, if you want something darker and harder, or if you’re just looking for the prestige associated with other types of wood, then you’ll likely want to skip rubberwood for your furniture.
Rubberwood furniture, cabinets, and even flooring can be affordable, durable, and very effective for most homes. Rubberwood is also very eco-friendly. They should be maintained properly, however, and they aren’t to be used outdoors.
Still, if you have any misgivings about this wood’s name, hardness, or origin, however – don’t worry. Rubberwood is very much “real wood”, it’s not made of rubber, and its affordability isn’t a symptom that there’s anything wrong with it – there isn’t.