Creating "WOW" with Sustainable Reclaimed Teak Tiles

I love helping people who have vision , a commitment to the design process and  an ecological sensibility because the end results of their efforts always inspires me. This week a great couple I worked with in South Carolina blew me away with the final results of their innovative use of our reclaimed teak tiles. The kitchen and bar area they created is a stunning contrast of colors and materials that blend so harmoniously, I was immediately compelled to share.

From the inception of our conversation, the hope and intent was to use the teak mosaic tiles as a kitchen back splash. The hope was to use a warmer element and preferably one that had an eco friendly form of sustainability. The concern though was the feasibility of the material for a back splash and how to preserve it so it would always look stunning. So the first issue we discussed was the durability of teak.

Teak is one tough wood species. It is much harder or denser than most woods and definitely very durable. In fact, most wood trim and decks you see on the exterior of a boat is teak. To help understand the durability of wood, you can measure the hardness of it ( this is relative for flooring as well and good to know if you want to choose a wood floor that last) by using a test called the Janka hardness test . Essentially, Janka  measure the woods resistance to denting and wear.  They do this by using a mechanism  to load up PSI ( pounds per square inch) into a device that blast a 11.28mm (.444 in) stainless steel ball into the wood species being tested. Whatever PSI it takes to push the ball into the wood by half the ball's diameter is the Janka rank. For instance, Pine is a soft wood and has a rank of 420 ( 420 PSI did the trick to make the dent). Oak is 1360 and teak is 3220. So teak is a really hard wood. In fact, when you go up the scale to woods as dense as Ipe ( Iron wood) like we use in our wood deck tiles, the ranking jumps to 3684. At that rank, this wood is so dense it has the same fire classification as concrete and steel( Class A). So as far a durability, the teak is amazing and will last longer than any of us will live.

Next was the maintenance and preservation. So teak, like any wood regardless of janka rankings will fade from sun exposure. For many, this fading or patina is part of the character of using wood and a desired effect. In our standard teak mosaic tile installation guide ,  we only discuss the installation and maintenance of the natural unfinished teak so we needed to provide a good solution to preserving the wood look. With natural timber oils, any faded wood can be restored and if you want to eliminate the potential of fading you can add a wood preservative. But for our back splash, we wanted to take this one extra step. So before installation, all the teak mosaic tiles were laid out and pre finished with a water base polyurethane. This gave the wood a slightly darker appearance which created stunning contrast with the counter tops and cabinetry. It also made the teak mosaic back splash  water and stain resistant. 

One of the great aspects of this design is it also incorporated some of the basic goals of green building by using sustainable materials. Sustainable materials are often described as materials that are fast growing and so are easily replenished. It also refers to the re purposing of material. The teak we use for our teak tiles is reclaimed which is part of the material efficiency of green architecture. We also use waste scraps from the Indonesian furniture business. This way we create functional art from what would otherwise become rubbish.

So my hats off to my client and this beautiful kitchen, this couple created ( especially the M) with her stunning interior design, great blend of elements and a very large eco friendly nod towards using sustainable green materials. I really appreciate them sharing their home with us and their great design.

How about you? Have you thought about ways to incorporate a more environmentally friendly approach to your design? Let us know. We would love to hear from you.



Tad Keyser
Tad Keyser


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