When renovating your bathroom, you want to look for a way to make your shower floor stand out. Sure, installing regular white tiles or a pre-fabricated base can be a solution. But why do that when there are dozens of exotic flooring materials you can use instead?
Take teak, for example. This popular material can add character and warmth to your shower while also feeling better on your feet than regular fiberglass or acrylic shower trays. In fact, that’s why so many people prefer teak to similar flooring materials. However, before giving teak a chance, you’ll need to consider its pros and potential cons.
So, read on if you want to learn more about teak shower floors!
What Is a Teak Shower Floor?
As the name suggests, a teak shower floor is made exclusively using teak wood. This special wood comes from the Tectona grandis tree, which is native to Southeast Asia. Due to its many unique properties, such as its high durability, teak is a popular building material in its native area.
When it comes to shower floors, teak is installed using slats of wood assembled into an insert similar to a bamboo mat. However, manufacturers can also turn teak into interlocking deck tiles that you can snap together during installation.
While both options are just as reliable, whichever is best depends on the size and shape of your shower.
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Teak Shower Floor Pros
Thanks to their smooth texture and finish, teak shower floors are perfect for all types of bathrooms, no matter which style you go for. However, their beauty only complements all the other benefits. Let’s take a look at them and find out some of the best reasons why you should consider teak.
Teak Is Very Durable
Teak is an extremely durable wood flooring material. With a Janka Hardness Rating between 1000 and 1155, teak is harder than pecan, oak, and even walnut. Therefore, it is a perfect choice for shower floors.
Additionally, teak has incredible scratch-resistant properties, making it a no-brainer if you own pets. For example, while dog nails tend to wreck most types of wood, teak can handle harsh treatment. So you should definitely consider it for high-traffic areas like your shower.
Teak Looks Gorgeous
Regardless of which home decorator you ask, they’ll all agree that teak looks absolutely gorgeous. With its even grain and deep honey color, the teak’s appearance is unbeatable.
And since it’s available in various designs and finishes, you’ll be able to match your teak shower floor with most types of bathroom furniture. For instance, teak’s natural finish is perfect for rustic styles, while darker hues work best for modern and bold bathrooms.
Teak Is Water-Resistant
Have you ever been on the deck of a yacht or inside a sauna? If the answer is yes, then you’ve most likely encountered teak. That’s because this type of wood contains high levels of natural oils and rubber. As a result, it is naturally water-resistant, making it a default choice for kitchen, mudroom, and bathroom flooring.
Furthermore, due to its water-resistant properties, teak is able to repel mold and mildew. Yes, you’ve read that right — teak, even in its untreated state, won’t become a breeding ground for any type of fungus. And finally, since water doesn’t infiltrate teak, it rarely rots. As a matter of fact, you can leave teak outdoors all year round, even in rain and snow, and it shouldn’t decay for at least 20 years.
Teak Doesn’t Require Stain or Varnish
Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of teak flooring is that you don’t need to stain or varnish it. Actually, teak doesn’t even require sanding. That’s all possible thanks to the teak’s long grain, which prevents it from splintering. And due to its high levels of natural oils, teak features a glossy sheen at all times, even without varnish or stain.
Teak Can Repel Termites
Termites are a serious issue for most households throughout the United States. However, you don’t have to worry about them if you choose teak. The high level of natural oils will repel termites, forcing them to find other food sources and leaving your shower alone.
Teak Is Available in Solid or Engineered Variants
More often than not, hardwood floor brands offer two types of teak products: solid and engineered. That way, customers have more options and can decide if they want to compromise on price, durability, or ease of installation.
It’s important to note that exotic woods like teak tend to be pretty expensive. So engineered teak floors, which contain less teak, are more popular, especially for those with a limited budget for bathroom renovations. And while this type of teak flooring has a few disadvantages, they are minor when compared to all the other advantages.
Teak Can Be Installed in Multiple Ways
Just like most shower flooring materials, teak can be installed in two ways. You can either nail, staple, or glue it to a subfloor. Or, you can float it like snap-together tile flooring.
The former offers a highly-durable solution but tends to be more expensive. In contrast, the latter is both cheaper and faster but has more room for buckling and warping, which are triggered by changing moisture levels and temperature in the room.
Teak Shower Floor Cons
Even though teak shower floors have significant benefits, they are not problem-free. It’s true that these cons will affect people differently depending on their expectations and budget, but it’s vital to acknowledge them in order to make an informed decision.
Teak Is Expensive
Exotic materials, such as teak, typically come with a hefty price tag. That’s because teak is a rare type of wood. Thus, companies can only extract it in limited quantities due to strict regulations. Usually, you’ll end up paying an average of $7 per square foot for teak products such as shower floors.
So you might have to consider more affordable alternatives if you have a tight budget.
Teak Doesn’t Always Come From Ethical Sources
As previously mentioned, teak is a rare resource, and its extraction is highly regulated. But that’s exactly why so many companies are unethically sourcing teak from protected forests and selling it around the world at a discount price.
Unfortunately, unethical sourcing has a negative impact on the environment as it leads to habitat destruction and severe deforestation. As a consequence, governments might regulate the industry even more, which can increase the price of teak products.
As a result, you need to make sure that the products you purchase are made using legal teak. You can do that by relying on reputable suppliers and checking the label to see if the Forest Stewardship Council has approved the product. Remember that supporting unethical sourcing will destroy more forests and habitats.
Teak’s Shine Can Get Dull
Over time, teak will lose a percentage of its oils, dulling its natural shine. To slow down or even prevent the process, you can apply oil to your shower floor once every two years. While teak oil is an effective way to maintain your floor’s appearance, some homeowners don’t want to spend time and money on their shower floor.
Teak Requires Maintenance
If you want to keep your teak shower floor in good condition, you’ll need to polish and oil it. Additionally, you’ll have to clean it on a daily basis to avoid stains caused by chemical products like shampoo.
However, cleaning a teak shower floor is not as simple as wiping down a tile shower. In fact, you’ll have to use special cleaning agents, as traditional bathroom cleaners are too harsh for the wood.
Want to learn more about teak maintenance before you make a choice? Here is the standard procedure that you’ll have to follow:
- Scrub your teak floor using water and a small amount of cleaning agent.
- Once dry, follow the steps on your teak oil polish. Usually, you’ll need to rub in the oil and let it sit for a while.
- After the oil infiltrates the wood, use circular motions to polish the teak floor. That will supplement the natural oils and maintain the appearance and condition of your floor.
Alternatives to Teak
Although teak is usually preferable, a few other wood shower floor options can work just as well. These woods are not only water-resistant and durable but will replicate the exotic effect of teak.
The first alternative, shorea, comes from the Southeast Asian rainforests. This tropical hardwood has a similar hardness, heft, and density to teak. It also has high oil content, making it resistant to rot and insect infestation.
One of the unique features of shorea is that once it’s cut, it exhibits a light golden hue, which you can maintain using varnish. If you don’t treat the wood, the color will gradually fade and turn into a silvery gray shade reminiscent of old teak.
While its properties are similar to teak, shorea is much more affordable. That’s thanks to a history of stricter regulations that have preserved Southeast Asia’s shorea stockpile. However, the demand for this alternative to teak is constantly increasing, so there’s a big chance that shorea will get more expensive as the reserves deplete. But for now, shorea remains a durable, good-looking, and cheaper option that you should definitely consider checking out.
Iroko is a tough hardwood from West Africa that people commonly refer to as African teak or poor man’s teak. Its properties are almost identical to teak’s, including its hardness, strength, and water resistance. However, iroko is not as flexible as teak, and since it is a mineral-heavy wood, you’ll need special tools to cut it properly.
Another differentiating factor is the way iroko looks. More specifically, it has wavy grain, brown heartwood, and paler sapwood. But using finish, you can add a high shine to iroko, which will emphasize its warm golden brown hue.
Just like shorea, iroko’s biggest benefit is its availability. Since it can grow up to 150 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter, a single iroko tree is able to provide generous quantities of lumber for harvesting. As a result, its price is pretty low, usually around one-third that of teak.
Known as the Brazilian walnut, ipe is one of the many types of wood that’s sold as ironwood. What makes ipe stand out amongst all the different hardwood varieties is its incredible durability. Actually, Ipe is three times harder than cedar and can sink in water due to its high density. It can also withstand scratches and intense usage.
Thanks to its natural oils, ipe is resistant to rot, insects, and decay, so it’s perfect for wet environments. And that’s exactly why parts of the Coney Island boardwalk are made from ipe wood. In addition to that, Ipe is also flame resistant to a similar extent as steel and concrete. As a matter of fact, it stays cool to the touch even during intense heat.
However, there are a few disadvantages that can offset some of those impressive benefits. For starters, ipe’s excessive oiliness makes it hard to paint the wood, and the extreme hardness can limit design options. And lastly, South American sources of ipe are not fully sustainable, meaning that once supply falls, the price will increase considerably.
If replicating the teak’s looks or durability is not your priority, there are two more familiar options that you can go for:
- Cedar is a water-resistant tree that people use for outdoor applications like decking, fencing, and siding. It has a pleasant appearance and aroma, which will turn a regular shower into a relaxing experience. Yet, it is a softer wood, meaning that it isn’t nearly as durable as teak.
- Bamboo looks similar to teak but is much less expensive. Though it is lightweight and stain-resistant, it is also susceptible to moisture and mold. However, many consider Bamboo’s environmentally friendly sourcing process as its saving grace.
The Verdict: Should You Consider Teak Shower Floors?
Teak is a durable and gorgeous material that makes for an ideal shower floor. Its versatility allows for multiple installation options, so you can choose one that fits your vision. While it does require quite a bit of maintenance, it’s definitely worth it, especially if you want to add an exotic touch to your bathroom. And if teak exceeds your budget, there are other more affordable alternatives, like cedar, ipe, and iroko, that can emulate the same effect.