Iron woods: Structural woods such as bengkirai (trade name for Shorea Laevis, a South-East Asian species) and merbau (also native to South-East Asia), a medium brown coloured wood with reddish/orange highlights with a course grain, are better suited to outdoor use, since they are maintenance-free and can last up to 50 years. These woods are also known as ‘iron woods’: They can sink in water! Both bengkirai and merbau are popular woods, especially in Denmark, where most bridges, fences and decking are made of this. Poolside decking and sauna bath floors are constructed exclusively from merbau, while bengkirai is the choice when constructing decks and restaurants where sun and rain damage is negligible.
Protective coatings: These include linseed oil, polymer coatings and melamine. Linseed oil is used to maintain cricket bats and works very well with wooden furniture as well. Teak oil is the best, but since it is not widely available, linseed oil is the next best option, and a tried and tested one at that. You need to add a UV stabilizer to the coating, or it will not last very long. Without the UV stabilizer, the coating tends to be ‘eaten away’ by the sun, and in time will expose the wood to the elements. To apply the coating, first sand the wood using fine emery of grade 200 to 240. The coating can then be either brush-applied or sprayed on.
Termite control: Furniture made of bamboo or coconut wood is prone to moisture. And if kept on sand or mud, it will attract termites. Move the furniture to either a concrete or a stone floor—even a raised platform will do. Use a pesticide called Chlorpiriphos to keep termites at bay: You can either inject it into the openings made by the termites or brush-apply it on to the wood surface. Coconut-wood needs to be left to soak in the pesticide for a few minutes.
Weathering: Hard woods such as teak resist weather much better than rubberwood and you should keep this in mind while purchasing furniture or the flooring.
Indoor woods: Treatment of this is best left to the furniture oils available in the market. Johnson Wax and Sara Lee have excellent products, which not only get rid of mildew and fungus, but also leave the wood fragrant.
C Cane furniture: This is not weather-proof and should not be exposed to moisture. Take a look at Bayer’s elegant synthetic cane called Hularo. Stretched on a teak, or metal frame, it is very durable and can weather rain and sun for up to 25-30 years without any maintenance.
C Caution: Chlorpiriphos is highly toxic. Follow all directions on the package and do not take any chances with exposure-contamination. Also ensure that you wear elbow-length rubber gloves of good quality. Keep your nose covered with the help of a thick cotton cloth and your eyes covered by clear glasses. Wash all body parts exposed to the pesticide with soap and running water once you are done. If you experience any discomfort, consult a doctor.