To an untrained eye, acacia wood and teak are two very similar types of wood – so similar, that they’re often mistaken for one another.
Acacia wood and teak are both very popular exotic hardwoods used mainly for outdoor furniture items, though they have grown in popularity for kitchen accessories such as trays and charcuterie boards as well.
With how similar they are, it can be tempting to just buy one or the other without giving much thought to which one you’re getting. However, there are differences that will impact the way your wood furniture lasts over time.
So, what’s the difference between acacia wood vs teak? Acacia wood has a darker color, has more grain variety, ranks higher on the Janka scale of hardness, and needs a finishing layer. Teak wood has a lighter golden color, has a straight grain, ranks slightly lower than acacia on the Janka scale, and doesn’t need any finishing.
Let’s dive in and explore each type of wood in depth so you’ll know exactly how each type of wood will affect your woodworking process and the finished product.
Acacia wood comes from a bushy tree grown mainly in the Indian subcontinent, as well as some Asian and African countries.
Since it’s grown in so many countries, there’s a high variety that makes this type of wood easier to get when compared to teak. Acacia is one of the more popular exotic hardwoods because it’s cheap, but still comparable in quality to teak.
Acacia wood is so similar to teak, in fact, that it’s often sold as teak to unsuspecting buyers. If you’re on the market for teak, be sure to read this article in depth to know what to look for in your teak wood to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
Teak wood comes mainly from Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma until 1989. It’s also grown in a few other Southeast Asian countries, but the primary growth and harvest location is Myanmar.
This exotic hardwood is considered the gold standard of wood. It’s a luxury hardwood that can be difficult to find, but certainly worth the trouble.
Originally used for boat building, teak wood is a hard and dense wood with straight grains and a high oil content. This high oil content repels water and insects, making it the perfect wood choice for outdoor projects.
Although there are several advantages to using teak, one main disadvantage is the price. Teak must be matured to achieve best results, and that maturation process takes a long time. It weathers into a nice light grey color.
After waiting years to harvest a wood mainly grown in only one country, you can bet that wood will come with a higher price tag.
Acacia Wood Vs Teak: Main Differences
Although acacia wood and teak are often sold and used interchangeably, there are many differences that really stand out once you see them.
In the sections below, we’ll go over each main difference in acacia wood and teak to help you determine which wood is right for your next project.
When discussing color, the first thing you need to know is the difference between heartwood and sapwood. Each of these parts of the tree will have a different color, and it’s important to know the difference.
Heartwood is the wood at the core of the tree. This would be further into the trunk, away from any water absorption. Sapwood is the outer rings of wood, where the tree soaks in all the water and stores extra food.
In acacia wood, the heartwood is a nice reddish-brown color. This can vary from tree to tree, but you’ll notice a warm brown with red tints in the heartwood of acacia. It’s almost reminiscent of burnt caramel.
The sapwood of acacia, however, is a much lighter color. It’s more of a yellow than brown, even going lighter to appear almost white. The color of acacia wood generally won’t darken or lighten over time. Once you build something with acacia and apply your finishing seal, that color is there to stay.
Teak has a much different color. Rather than the reddish-brown of acacia, the heartwood of a teak tree appears slightly yellow. The color of teak wood also takes on a grey hue over time. Since you don’t need to apply a finishing layer on teak, the wood will naturally react to oxygen and sunlight as the years pass.
After a couple decades of use, you may start to notice that your teak has turned into more of a blend of brown and yellow than it was before, and eventually (around 2 years) it will take on an attractive light grey appearance.
When you place a new board of teak next to a board of acacia taken from the sapwood, the colors look similar. This is where people take advantage of those who don’t know any better and sell them acacia wood for the price of teak.
Apart from the color differences in acacia wood and teak, which are more noticeable when looking at a piece of acacia taken from the heartwood, you will also notice the grain patterns are vastly different.
The great thing about acacia wood is its high variety of grain patterns. You can find acacia wood with straight, curvy, or wavy grain patterns – or even a piece that has all of these patterns on one board!
With the different variations, it’s more visually dynamic and aesthetically pleasing; especially when you’re planning to leave the wood exposed rather than paint over it.
Although teak has a lot of great advantages working for it, the grain isn’t necessarily one of them. Compared to the variations and wavy grain patterns of acacia wood, teak has a very simple, straight grain pattern. The grain in teak is also very tight, creating a much smoother and more uniform look.
This straight, uniform grain pattern is what makes teak a great wood for flooring, if you’re looking to have a polished looking home. But for many people, this straight grain can be considered plain.
The hardness of wood is measured on something called the Janka scale, which uses ratings based on the Janka test of hardness.
The Janka test measures the hardness of the wood by calculating the force required to push a steel ball into a piece of wood at half the ball’s diameter in depth. In general, all you need to know is that the higher the number, the harder the wood. The ratings measure on a scale from 0-4000 overall.
In the density and hardness department, acacia and teak are similar. Acacia does tend to have a lower density due to the lower amount of oils compared to teak, but the hardness is a little higher.
On the Janka scale, acacia maintains a rating of around 1700-2300. This can vary depending on the acacia tree, but is a good average scale if you’re looking for an estimate of the hardness.
Teak has a rating of 1050-1150 on the Janka scale. With a much tighter average, teak is much more consistent when it comes to the hardness you’ll get with each piece of wood.
Both hardwoods are dense and have a good hardness to create a sturdy, stable structure. Acacia is a little easier to work with for carving, whereas the high amount of oils in teak can ruin many chisel blades if you’re not using high quality tools.
If you’re looking at a piece of teak wood and wondering if it’s the real deal, or if someone’s trying to pull one over on you and sell you a piece of acacia, simply lean in and take a whiff.
Teak has a very distinctive smell that you can recognize right away. This can be a barrier against using teak for people who are sensitive to smells, but it is helpful in identifying authentic teak wood.
Acacia, on the other hand, only has a pungent smell when it’s first cut. If the acacia has been sitting for a while, it likely won’t have nearly as strong of a scent as teak.
This isn’t to say that you wouldn’t be able to smell acacia at all. Surely, if you press your nose to the wood and inhale, you’ll be able to catch the scent. But teak will be much more immediately recognizable.
5. Ease Of Use
Both acacia wood and teak are great hardwoods to work with. They have different strengths, but are both great for many projects.
Acacia wood is exceptionally easy to use. It has a smooth finish that makes it nice to put together. It also tends to take a stain better, allowing for more stain to be soaked into the wood grain in a smooth and even application.
You do have to use a finishing layer on acacia when you’re done, but this is a small price to pay for significantly cheaper lumber that’s easy to use with a beautiful color and grain.
Teak is also fantastic to work with, mainly for the simple fact that it requires no finish thanks to the rich natural oils of the wood.
When you’re spending hours cutting, measuring, sanding, and assembling a woodworking project, not having to add a finish at the end can be a huge relief.
When it comes to overall durability over time, teak is the clear winner.
The natural high saturation of oils in teak is one of its shining qualities because it makes it resistant to moisture. You can put a patio furniture set made of teak wood outside, and it won’t develop fungus or deteriorate with the weather.
Like we mentioned above, you don’t even need a finishing seal or varnish layer on top of teak wood. Those oils are so thick and water resistant that they do fine protecting the wood naturally.
Even if you use teak for a kitchen accessory like a cutting board or a charcuterie board, the oil will stand up over time. You can use it over and over, rinsing it after every use, and it still won’t need to be oiled over time.
The tight grain of teak wood also makes it resistant to insects and termites. This is another huge advantage to using teak for outdoor projects. Build yourself a deck out of teak wood, and you have a sturdy deck for life!
Acacia is also durable, even though it doesn’t have the oils of teak that make it such a prized type of wood.
The density and hardness of acacia makes it especially durable over time. Once you put a finishing layer on top of the wood, it’s every bit as good for standing up to moisture and pests as teak.
With so many great natural advantages to teak, it’s a shame that this is one of the most expensive woods on the market.
Thanks to the small amount of teak wood that’s grown and harvested, creating a low availability, the price for this wood is through the roof. Not only is it hard to obtain, but the price is also driven up thanks to the amazing benefits of the natural oils found in teak wood.
On average, teak wood can run anywhere between $25-45 per board foot. The range is wide due to ongoing lumber shortage issues and inflation, but you can expect to pay a pretty penny for teak wood.
In contrast, acacia wood runs an average price of $3-8 per board foot. Compared to teak wood, that’s a steal! Acacia wood is much more readily available, with several countries growing and harvesting acacia trees. This abundance of products makes for a much cheaper price tag.
Best Projects For Acacia Wood
Although not as versatile for outdoor use, acacia wood is a favorite for many indoor home improvement, furniture, and kitchen projects.
A popular project for acacia wood is flooring. If you’re looking to install hardwood floors for a cheaper price, acacia wood is a solid option. The high density, overall durability, and beautiful natural grain make it a no brainer for flooring.
Acacia wood is also often used for cabinetry, such as kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Some specialty projects often done with acacia wood include canoes, gunstocks, bowls, and musical instruments. Acacia wood can be used for patio furniture, but keep in mind that you’ll have to have a strong finish on top.
Another great project for acacia wood is a bed frame. For something that takes a lot of wood but needs to be durable, acacia wood is a great choice.
Best Projects For Teak Wood
Teak wood is most often used for outdoor patio furniture. Although acacia is sometimes substituted due to the high cost of teak wood, it’s worth it to invest in teak wood for the longevity and natural resistance to outdoor elements such as precipitation and pests.
Another great project for teak wood is a cutting board or charcuterie board. With the richness of the natural oils, your teak wood cutting board will last much longer than other woods and won’t need maintenance in consistent oiling.
Teak can often be a better choice for kitchen cabinets compared to acacia because of that lack of maintenance requirement, but price can be a barrier for that.
Generally, if you want to pay for teak but get the most bang for your buck, use it for outdoor projects: windows, swimming pool edges, garden or patio furniture, or even a nice backyard deck.
Up Next: The Best Soft Woods To Carve