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Teak Garden Furniture Buying Advice – Exposé

Posted under , Garden Furniture

I have had a busy summer/Autumn in 2012. After so many emails and requests from readers, I decided that it’s time to go out there and have a good look at what is going on in the Teak garden furniture market. To compile the below report I visited 8 warehouses/shops/showrooms, 12 garden centres, one private house and one garage…. in a private house that one company was being run from (I saw the furniture in their living room!), made over 30 phone calls, sent over 50 emails and viewed over 100 pieces of furniture from different retailers or e-tailers. We have also, in some extreme cases where we have had special requests from disgruntled customers, bought some smaller items of furniture on their behalf to confirm their belief of unsuitable quality furniture. These we kept out of our report due to on going legal action.

So here it is. Let’s start with what you should be looking out for and avoid.

1. Semi-machine made furniture - Best to avoid. Usually made very quickly and with very low skill level. This type of furniture is made in small huts in Java normally from un dried wood and normally using very cheap supporting materials such as:

a. Steel screws (rusts inside the furniture and disintegrates within very short period of time. Should always be stainless steel for strength and durability)
b. Cheap Glue.
c. Wet Teak. Will crack and warp in no time at all
d. Grade B or C teak. Will rot within 3 years if left untreated. Also, have characteristics of soft wood such as pine.

2. Treated Teak – By far the common way of deception by many importers in the UK. This is grade C teak which is treated in a hazardous chemical Sulphuric Acid to literally burn the teak into an even colour which enables the retailer to claim it is Grade A. Trading standards have done nothing to battle this phenomena and there retailers are now everywhere claiming their teak is grade A where, in-fact, its grade C treated with this horrid chemical. Normally, the chemical turns the teak into a very darkish colour which, to the trained eye, is immediately apparent but they count on the fact that the average person will not know the difference. See some pictures of Treated Grade C teak furniture which is claimed to be Grade A below.

3. Kiln Drying – Touchy subject for many retailers that we asked. Let’s put the record straight here and now. The UK Equilibrium Moisture Content is ~14%. This means that any furniture approaching this figure is perfect for the UK climate. Anything over and you are looking at some serious warping and cracking. Retailers might try to convince you otherwise as they did us when we anonymously called them, but don’t listen to them. MC is king for garden furniture and anything over 14% should be avoided like the plague. How can you tell? Well, you can’t unless you buy a MC meter and that will only give you a rough idea. Other way of spotting wet furniture is:

a. White mould on the furniture when it arrives. Dead giveaway of very high MC. Expect the furniture to crack and warp in a very short period of time. We recommend you return the furniture and not accept it.
b. Put your hand on the furniture. Does it feel very cold to the touch or clammy? Same advice as above.
c. Look at fittings. Any sign of rust? As above
d. Look at dowels. If there is any sign of dark/black stains near them then it means the dowels are just cups covering a cheap steel screw which is rusting from the inside. Expect the furniture joints to fall apart and become very wobbly in a very short period of time. As above, return furniture.

4. Grade C teak – This is very common these days and some retailers such as should be commended for their honesty when describing some of their furniture as made from lower grade timbre. In their description, Green fingers describe one particular set as “Taken from the sapwood, which is the outer section of the tree, there tends to be colour variation within the product” has some of their non-premium range described as grade B teak. We could not confirm this, but again, it is very rare for retailers to be this honest about the grade of teak they use. Most just claim to be grade A where the pictures clearly show grade C or even worst, chemically treated grade C teak. Most retailers that we called, and some got a bit hot under the collar when asked about this, said either that theirs is Grade A, or that Grade A does not exist. We obviously disagree on both counts. We then said that will it be ok for us to reject the furniture if we found sapwood or chemically treated teak and the pause that caused was very uncomfortable to say the least. It was then obvious to them that we knew about teak and they made their excuses and some were even very rude in saying that they would not sell to ‘people like us anyway’ (you know who you are). And to set the record straight, there is Grade A teak furniture out there. Not much we have to admit, but some companies still sell it here in the UK. Companies that were confirmed as Grade A teak will be listed later. Now, you may say that Grade A is not that important and that has some truth. For most people, Grade B is enough and the wood itself will last long enough. However, the problem is that we never came across lower grades of teak furniture that was well made or that had no-other shortcuts taken in construction. It is very true to say that the line of separation between the grades goes much further than the actual grade of the teak. You can, with almost 100% certainty, guarantee that a grade C teak furniture manufacturer is working to a very small target price and therefore take every cost saving short cut available such as the ones talked about in point 1 above. You can also say that due to the high price of real grade A teak raw material, it is extremely unlikely that the manufacturer will marry it with cheap components. Therefore, a certain threshold of quality is created which is easily distinguishable when viewed side by side. A final note to consider is that we have not yet seen one manufacturer that offers real grade A while using hand or semi machine manufacturing process so this is another reason to stick to real Grade A teak.

So, questions you should ask in order of importance:

1. Is the furniture semi machine made or fully machine made? – Check corner pieces on chairs and gaps in the tenon and mortise joints filled with glue to confirm semi or fully machine made. This and Kiln drying are the most important aspects of long lasting furniture.
2. Is the furniture Kiln Dried to at least 14%? - Check signs of wet timber upon delivery (See point 3 above) and reject if wet. (see for EMC Guide)
3. Grade of Teak used? Is it chemically or otherwise treated? - (Chemical treatments or any other treatments are used to hide lower grade Teak. (Teak DOES NOT NEED TO BE TREATED!)
4. What Guarantee do you offer? - This has to be in the T&Cs of the site or on the invoice otherwise, a verbal assurance is not acceptable. Anything under 6 years and be suspicious. Also, make sure the company has been going for some time otherwise, the guarantee can be worthless. I.e. a company that has been only going for 1 – 3 years is much more likely to go bankrupt and therefore reduce your warranty to nothing more than worthless.

Is price a good indication of quality? Well, sometimes. We have seen two retailers selling what is obviously Treated grade C teak as grade A and actually charging near Grade A prices. A complete rip off. Others sell grade C teak (taking the ambiguity approach by not mentioning grade used) for Grade C prices. We have not seen anyone selling what looks like to be Grade A teak for cheap prices. This is more of an indication of the raw material prices.

So there you have it. It’s a complete mine field out there. Most companies we spoke to gave us the impression that they were nothing but importers…. box shifters who cared about nothing but selling. These sort of retailers not only care less about customer satisfaction, but we can’t imagine for a minute that they would care about small things like say the environment. Some were very rude, or dismissive in their attitude when faced with our questioning. However, some gems have really shone through so there is some hope yet.
For legal reasons, we are unable to name and shame these companies. We just don’t have the time and budget for lengthy court appearances. Also, some of these companies had such mannerisms that would leave us… well… scared if we are completely honest to expose. However, we are more than happy to list the below companies as people who we spoke to, or anonymously visited and can confirm some amazingly well made furniture: (please note the below is just my personal opinion)

1. Faraway Furniture ( ) – One of our favourites. They not only knew what they were talking about, they seemed passionate about it. Their furniture was one of the best we have seen. It was on par with Barlow Tyrie and in some cases better but at a fraction of their price. Fully machine made, real grade A teak and 10 year guarantee.

Quality: 5/5
Production: Fully Machine Made
Grade: A
MC: ~ 12%
Value: 5/5

2. Alexander Rose – One of the best known garden furniture companies and one of the largest, we viewed their teak furniture in 3 different Garden centres. Very well made, all grade A teak and excellent warranty. However, quite pricey. We have seen very similar quality and in some cases better for less than half the price.

Quality: 4/5
Production: Fully Machine Made
Grade: A
MC: ~16%
Value: 3/5

3. Garden Furniture Direct ( – These guys sell furniture from different manufacturers so it’s quite hard to judge as they may have furniture from other manufacturers at other times. When we visited their warehouse they had some Alexander Rose furniture and some generic semi machine made furniture. Worth checking with them as to what stock they managed to get their hands on at the time of purchasing. Some bargains can be found here.

Quality: range from 3/5 to 4/5
Production: Semi machine made on day of visit.
Grade: B
MC: ~12%
Value: 5/5

Barlow Tyrie ( – Without a doubt, one of the best known garden furniture manufucturers but also one of the most expensive. Although the attention to detail is faultless, i cant help but think that it has passed the threshold of the rule of diminishing returns. Fully machine made, 5 year guarantee and grade A teak.

Quality: 5/5
Production: Fully Machine Made
Grade: A
MC: ~14%
Value: 3/5

In short, do not believe anything you read. I will say that at least 80% of the sites we checked have blatantly lied in their descriptions and their website text. The vast majority of the companies we talked to are just importers even though they claim in their website text to manufacture or design or even quality control their own furniture. The fact that we could only recommend the above 4 manufacturers out of the 30 odd that we vetted shows the importance of actually seeing the furniture in the flesh before buying. In this particular case, unless you are buying from one of the above companies, we would highly recommend you DO NOT BUY blindly from the internet. If you do decide to go and visit the retailer, please do not be shy to ask all the questions you need. You will soon get a feel for the company and its products and whether you should spend your hard earned cash on them.
This is it for now. If you think I missed you or the company you represent out, feel free to send me an email with full details for our consideration.


Things to Consider When Buying New Office Furniture

Posted under Office Furniture

It might be hard to imagine that a simple thing as a chair for example could affect your business success rate but the chair you or your employees are sitting on at least 40 hours a week makes a huge difference. After all, it is extremely difficult to sit on an uncomfortable chair eight hours a day or even longer and even more difficult to concentrate on work if you have a back pain for instance. Furthermore, old worn out furniture from the early 1990s does not make a particularly good impression on your clients, while the employees may get the impression that you are saving on their expense which can make them demotivated and less productive. The same effect can have a beautiful but non-functional office furniture. Purchase of new office furniture therefore will not automatically achieve the desired effect either.

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Garden Furniture – What You Need To Know Before You Buy One

Posted under Garden Furniture

Garden furniture selection is a particularly difficult task because unlike indoor furniture, garden furniture is exposed to harsh outdoor conditions ranging from rapid temperature changes, rain, intense UV light, rain, insects, etc. And to remain beautiful and provide you with a comfortable place to sit, your garden furniture needs to withstand the mentioned unfavourable outdoor elements.

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Buying Furniture Online – Getting More For Less

Posted under Tips

Online shopping has become very popular in the recent years and the number of people who buy from online rather than the physical stores is rapidly rising. This is partly related to convenience that online shopping is offering. You can shop any time you feel like it and easily compare the offers and prices between different vendors. But the main reason for increasing popularity of online shopping are without a doubt major savings it provides as the vast majority of things are significantly cheaper if bought online. This is due to reduced costs of running an online store allowing the owners to offer their products at lower prices than the physical stores which have to buy or rent a suitable place on a suitable location and employ more salespeople to deal with the customers. In addition, they cannot attract as many customers because people are not willing to drive miles just to save a few tens of pounds.

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Reclaimed Wood Furniture – Enjoy the Unique Appeal of Wooden Furniture Without Guilt

Posted under Reclaimed Wood Furniture

The world has reached a point at which it can no longer afford reckless behaviour towards the environment. Climate change is a fact and there is virtually no doubt that people are responsible for the rising global temperatures which if not reversed, can threaten the very existence of the humanity. But carbon dioxide emissions, tonnes of waste and severely toxic chemicals polluting the soil and groundwater are not the only problem.

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How To Care For Antique Furniture

Posted under Antique Furniture

Antique furniture is much more than just an old piece of furniture. It often has a major historic, artistic and monetary value which, however, can be affected by improper care. Antique furniture can be used just like any other piece of furniture and is not only appreciated for its historic and artistic value but its functionality too. But since practical use poses a high risk of damage, antique furniture requires special care and additional protection.

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Getting Your Garden Furniture Ready For Spring

Posted under Garden Furniture

Observing the awakening nature while sitting in the garden, patio, balcony or gazebo is most people’s favourite way to spend their leisure time in early spring. However, to be able to truly enjoy the sight of the nature in early spring, you have to get your garden furniture ready because a dusty, dirty or rusty garden furniture ruins the whole experience. How to get your outdoor furniture ready for the new season depends on several factors, primarily on the material from which it is made and its condition.

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Kitchen Stools

Posted under Commercial Furniture, Indoor Furniture, Interior Design

Kitchen stools are designed to be used in a kitchen environment, with a counter height of around 90cm to the underside. These stools therefore have to have a seat height of around 65 – 70cm in order to leave enough space for your legs to sit comfortably underneath. This makes gas lifts very desirable, as you can adjust the seat height to suit your particular location.
The bar stool is being seen as an ever more fashionable addition to the home, and with the deletion of the domestic dining table, kitchen islands are quickly becoming a much sought after commodity. This has been helped in recent time by interior designers, who have turned the humdrum kitchen of the past into the vibrant hub of the home. Open plan living has seen this once utilitarian part of the house become the centre of action; many people now choose to socialise in the kitchen area, having a few drinks in the evening or watching the television from a bar. It has also become a popular place to complete the daily homework, under the supervision of Mum.
Due to its pivotal role in the modern family, it is common that each family member has their own stool, much like a traditional table and chairs. This makes width the all-important factor, as a 15cm gap between each seat is required as a minimum to allow for movement and easy access. This stops them from hitting each other and makes for a more comfortable seating arrangement.
But even if space under your worktop is lacking, or there is no island unit in your kitchen, there is no need to worry. Bar tables make an ideal accompaniment to any stool and provide an effective and cheap way of getting the most from your bar stools. The upside to bar tables as opposed to an island counter is that they can be moved, giving you a more flexible arrangement, as well as coming in a variety of designs to suit differing tastes.
Also becoming more popular is the brushed finish. This can be attributed to the rise in the number of appliances available in a brushed finish, not to mention all the trimmings and fittings like lights and door handles. People see brushed steel as more contemporary than chrome and it has become the must-have for modern installations. And thus brushed steel stools have had a surge in popularity, due to their ability to seamlessly blend into such environments and create a sleek, uniform look.
But if metal is not your thing, never fear! As the modernist movement gains momentum, so does the traditionalist. Many people are still after the rustic look in their kitchen, and this is where wooden stools come in. These beautifully made items are usually left in a natural finish, showing the grain of the wood and the craftsmanship involved. They give any kitchen a traditional look and feel, adding character and style to the atmosphere.


Optimising ergonomics in the workplace

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A desk job may not be physically demanding, but sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can result in stiff and sore muscles and joints. This is the body’s way of indicating strain or muscle damage.
There are a number of exercises office workers can do to avoid the effects of static posture and the pressure that it puts on the body. While suggestions such as standing up once an hour and taking a stroll around the office may not be viable due to work loads, adjusting office furniture can help to ensure good posture and minimise the risk of injury.
A desk surface doesn’t necessarily have to be flat. By adjusting the height and level of reference material and strategically grouping items that are used together, eye and neck strain can be reduced. This includes the level of office keyboards, which should always be placed correctly on desks in order to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
Making use of a headset instead of cradling the telephone between the head and shoulder not only improves posture, but also allows for hands free phone calls and enables more effective multitasking.
With regards to ergonomic seating, desk chairs should be replaced if they are old and don’t have a ‘shock absorber’ feature. Certain items such as a balance cushion, can be used to promote good posture and improve core strength while sitting in front of the computer.
Ensure correct workspace ergonomics, both at work as well as at home, for increased comfort. Great Universal offers a number of healthy solutions within their office furniture range can help you maintain good posture. Visit for more information and products that can help optimise your workplace’s ergonomics today.


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