I've been talking to a lot of people recently who build Adirondack chairs and other outdoor furniture in their wood shops as small business owners. Mostly they are using 5/4 Western Red Cedar as their feed stock. And of course I'm interested in talking to these folks, because if they are currently building outdoor furniture using other woods, they might want to try the "King of All Durable Woods" - teak.
It's Business: Small business owners know how to use their calculators, and anyone who thinking about possibly switching from Western Red Cedar to Teak to make outdoor furniture has to know it's a good business decision, based primarily on the math. So the question is - can you make more money by using teak, as compared to using cedar? The answer is yes, you can. A whole lot more.
How Many Board Feet? According to this free plan which uses 4/4 (1" thick) stock, the average Adirondack chair contains about 18 board feet of lumber. And checking prices for cedar, it currently costs about $1.50 per board foot, depending on where you are. So the cost for lumber for a Adirondack chair made out of cedar is only about $27. In fact the wood being sold as "5/4" is actually surfaced down so it doesn't actually measure a full 1 and 1/4 inches thick. And, most of the producers buy it by the linear foot instead of by the board foot, which means they are (in fact) paying more than the $1.50 per bf that I'm using in this equation. But anyway, no matter. It just makes the math better for the teak argument.
But Teak Is Expensive! There's no doubt teak is more expensive than cedar, for several good reasons. Quite simply, it's a better wood. It's not that cedar is a "bad" wood for outdoor furniture, but clearly teak is better than cedar. Also, teak does not grow in the United States so it's all imported from somewhere else. Our wholesale price for teak is $5 per board foot, and this is the price we offer to furniture producers, lumber yards, and larger consumers. (Our price is $7 per board foot to retail buyers - smaller consumers who are doing just one single project). So, the lumber to build an Adirondack chair out of teak will cost you $90, or about three times as much as cedar.
Case Closed? Everything else that goes into the chair is the same. It takes the same amount of time and effort to make a chair out of teak, as it does to make one out of cedar. Both chairs use exactly the same hardware, so there's no difference there. There's even a shipping cost to buy the cedar - unless it's growing in your backyard - so that's going to be about the same as well. For these things, there's literally no difference, if you're using either cedar or teak. Just for the sake of discussion, let's put a value of $50 per chair on all those items. So, it costs $77 to make a chair out of cedar, and $140 to make a chair out of teak. Following me so far?
Selling Price: Anyone can do a quick Google search, to find it's easy to buy Adirondack chairs made out of cedar for less than $200 each. I've spoken to some producers who are routinely building and selling them for a little more, but they readily available at the $200 price, so that's the number I'm using for these calculations. Therefore, after you subtract the price of raw materials and labor, each cedar chair produced and sold returns a profit of $123. But now take a look at the selling price for Adirondack chairs made out of teak...
You've Got Google, Right? While cedar Adirondack chairs are common, teak Adirondack chairs are much less common, and the price varies greatly. Some sell for about $500 while others are priced at more than $1,000 each. Just for sake of conversation let's use the lower number for the math. Remember it costs $140 to make the chair for raw materials and labor. If sold for $500 then your net profit is a whopping $360 - or 192% more - than what you make on a cedar chair.
What's Your Break Even Number? Do you think you can sell an Adirondack chair made out of teak for more than one made out of cedar in your market? How much more? Do you know (because, I don't). If you go back to the price of the raw materials, you will break even if you can sell the chair made out of teak for just $63 more than the cedar chair, the difference in the price of the raw wood. If you're selling cedar chairs for $200 - any price above $263 on a teak chair is a pure increase in profit, for the same amount of work. Here's an excellent and current example of a teak Adirondack chair being offered by Benchsmith for $595, each.
Give Teak A Chance You might want to start off with a small amount of teak lumber, enough to make a couple of different chairs and a small table, for instance. Like maybe 50 board feet, which would cost you just $300 plus shipping (and of course the cost would vary, depending on your location). Build the furniture, and put them on display in your shop, or take them with you to a show or crafts fair, and take orders. After that, I bet you'll be calling me for more wood. You can contact me via email at moc.rebmitutkubmit@selas , or via phone at in Panama + 507-396-9320.