Over the past 12 years I have spoken to hundreds of teak furniture owners and worked on thousands of pieces of teak furniture. I decided to write this little buyer's guide to help people make informed decisions while shopping for new or used teak furniture. These are my opinions, nothing more. You are more than welcome to contact me if you have a differing opinion you would like to share or if you just have a comment or suggestion.
I will start off with a brief summary of what I am about to say for those of you who don't feel like reading the entire thing.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind while Shopping for Teak Furniture
Well built teak furniture will last forever and in today's world of disposable everything it should be easy to appreciate something that you won't have to replace anytime soon.
My first piece of advice is to buy the best teak furniture that you can afford because you will probably have it for a long time.
Buying teak furniture online is always risky. Unless you really know what to look for it is very difficult to judge the quality of materials and construction based on a picture. What you see is not always what you get. If you have a problem with the furniture you will have to deal with shipping it back to wherever it came from and the customer service is not always the greatest.
If you insist on buying online, I would at least make sure you are buying from an American company. I don't think an overseas company will provide adequate customer service if there is a problem.
I'm sure there are others, but the two online teak dealers that I recommend are Madbury Road and Paradise Teak.
These two companies have proven to me that they have integrity and if there is a problem they will make it right.
TEAK FURNITURE DEALERS
Outside of the internet you have two choices.
1. You can buy your teak furniture from a shop that specializes in outdoor furniture.
2. You can buy it from a shop that also sells hardware, glassware, silverware, plasticware, knobs and hinges for kitchen cabinets, lumber, and a catalog full of other things.
The shop that specializes in outdoor furniture will sell you high quality furniture.
The shop that sells everything will sell you, well, anything.
Terra Patio has shops all over the bay area. They sell very nice furniture and have great customer service. If I was looking for outdoor furniture I would buy it at Terra Patio.
Tom's Outdoor Furniturein Redwood City has a great selection of teak furniture.
McGill Patio in Los Gatos is a nice little shop with very high quality furniture. I think they have a shop in San Jose also. The Los Gatos shop has some of the nicest furniture I've ever seen. The lady who runs the shop is super nice and knows a lot about teak. I learn something every time I go in the shop.
THE WORST TEAK FURNITURE I HAVE EVER SEEN CAME FROM......
.... Restoration Hardware. I do not like to single out a particular company in a negative way but they charge top dollar for their furniture and they know it is garbage so I don't feel bad about exposing this fact. Almost every piece of teak furniture I have seen from this company is very low quality. The one thing I can say in their defense is that they have a good return policy and they will refund your money if you don't like the furniture.
Often, the poor quality of the furniture is disguised by a finish, usually a very thin paint. Hidden underneath the finish you are likely to find very poor quality teak held together with questionable construction techniques. This brings me to my next point.....
FINISHED OR UNFINISHED???
The most important thing to know is that the best (new) teak furniture is always sold without any type of finish on it.
Teak furniture that is sold with a finish on it is always hiding something. Always. The finish might be hiding flaws or bad construction techniques or very poor quality materials - sometimes all of the above.
Sometimes the furniture is imported into the U.S. with a mystery finish already applied. It looks great in the dealer's showroom but these types of finish are usually not suitable for outdoor use and they soon fail. Removing these finishes can be extremely difficult.
Just remember, the best teak furniture is ALWAYS sold unfinished.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Teak outdoor furniture should be built with thick, solid pieces of teak. The thicker the better. The furniture should not have any fancy or frilly pieces that do not serve a purpose. Outdoor furniture needs to be tough and durable.
It does not have to be boring. It just has to be functional.
I am not a big fan of folding chairs. They have moving parts and extra hardware which tends to loosen itself and sometimes disappear. I think a lot of people buy them with the intention of folding them up and storing them for the winter. The problem is, even when they are folded they are still awkward and bulky so they offer no real advantages and they end up sitting outside all winter anyway.
Stackable chairs are far better than folding chairs because they do not have moving parts. Stackable chairs are easy to store and they take up less space than folding chairs. I'm a big fan of stackable chairs.
Teak outdoor furniture will require some sort of annual maintenance. It can be as simple as a good cleaning (don't pressure wash it) or you might choose to have it re-sealed every year. The degree of maintenance depends on how particular you are about the furniture and the amount of exposure it gets.
Cheap cushions will not last more than two or three years.
Expensive cushions should last much longer.
The thing about cushions is they get dirty. Stains can be difficult to remove. If your cushions will be underneath a messy tree, you might be better off buying cheaper cushions and just replacing them more often.
Try to find cushions that have zippers. The zipper allows you to remove the cover and wash it in a washing machine.
Proceed with caution.
Covers can be a good investment if used properly. Never cover the furniture when it is wet and do not allow water to pool up in, on, or under the covers.
It can be tempting to buy one cover that fits over a dining table and the chairs, but these covers always have a low spot that collects water and that low spot is always right on top of the table.
Anytime you cover the furniture you put the furniture at risk of becoming moldy.
Cheap covers that don't breathe will create mold.
Good covers that breathe and have ventilation are less likely to create mold but, again, it is always a possibility. Never cover furniture that is already wet.
Remove cushions before covering the furniture. Store the cushions inside in a dry environment. If your basement smells musty, don't store your cushions there.
USED TEAK FURNITURE
You can get some great deals on used teak furniture if you keep your eyes open. Most of the furniture you'll see on craigslist is overpriced but not all of it. The value of used teak furniture is set by the market. It is only worth what someone is willing to pay. If the seller is not realistic about the price then the furniture will not sell. Only you can decide what something is worth to you.
The first thing you want to do is make sure the furniture is actually teak. There are other types of wood that, from a distance, can look a lot like weathered teak. Jarrah, or Australian Eucalyptus is a very hard wood that is used to make outdoor furniture and is often mistaken for teak.
Unlike new teak furniture, most used furniture will be wearing some sort of finish. That's ok, as long as it is an appropriate finishing material.
Stay away from anything that is glossy.
Inspect each piece very carefully.
Look for cracks that have been repaired. If they were repaired well you probably won't even see them. If the repair is obvious or ugly, that's fine, as long as you know what you are buying.
Make sure the hardware is original and it is all the same.
If the furniture is wobbly and loose you might be able to make it sturdy again by carefully tightening the hardware. Always use the proper sized tools to tighten the hardware.
Check the heads of the screws to make sure they are not chewed up from someone using the wrong size screwdriver. Most of the screws and hardware should be brass, which is fairly soft. Screw heads get beat up pretty easily. If the seller says the furniture is only a year old but all the screw heads are chewed up, you might not be getting the truth from the seller.
If you find some used teak furniture that appears to have been neglected and is being sold very cheap, you may have found yourself a great bargain. Teak furniture can almost always be restored. Just because it is discolored and covered with mold or moss does not mean it is garbage. If the price is right you can probably have it restored and still get a great deal.
I hope you found this helpful.
If you have any questions about buying teak furniture you can use the form on the "contact Patrick" page. I will do the best I can to answer your questions.
Teak Furniture Buyer's Guide