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What is Rubberwood?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rubberwood is taken from Hevea brasiliensis, also called the rubber tree or Para rubber tree. These trees are cultivated for their natural latex sap, but they also yield a high quality wood with a tight grain that can be used in a wide range of applications. Despite the name, rubberwood does not bounce or stretch; the name is a reference to the parent tree. In addition to being beautiful, this wood is also an ecologically sustainable timber, making it popular with people who are concerned about the health of the world's forests.

Rubber trees are in the Euphorbiaceae family, and they produce a commercially valuable sap. People have been tapping rubber trees for their latex for centuries, and although synthetic alternatives have been developed, there is still a lively market for natural latex. After around 30 years, however, a rubber tree will start to produce much less latex, making it no longer commercially sustainable. These older trees are cut down so that new ones can be planted.

The wood of felled rubber trees has traditionally been used for fuel and to make furniture in the regions where these trees are cultivated, but latex farmers realized that the wood could have commercial value as well, and they started to export it. Since the trees are not felled specifically for timber use, many people consider rubberwood to be ecologically sound, simply using up a waste product of the latex production industry. It is also a great building material, since it is durable and very strong, and it takes a range of finishes.

Many companies that focus on high quality and unusual furniture use rubberwood in their products. It may also be labeled as parawood, to disassociate it from images of rubber. Consumers can recognize the wood by its density and tight grain, and furniture made of it is very solid, with a smooth, even look that some people find quite enjoyable. The wood is sometimes compared to teak, another close grained tropical wood, and some people prefer rubber to teak, since teak is not always a sustainable choice.

Unfinished rubberwood is uncommon outside South America. With some effort, boards can be ordered for custom projects or flooring, but the bulk of the wood that comes from South America is exported in the form of finished products like furniture, toys, and manufactured flooring. These products may be stained or dyed to enhance the natural beauty of the material, and the wood takes a wide range of finishes, so it can be found in an assortment of colors.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001440 — On Apr 14, 2019

Rubberwood is supposedly as dense as black walnut, but it is susceptible to water damage and UV damage (don't place rubberwood furniture by a heating vet or in direct sunlight because sunlight can make 'yellow' and fade. Don't spill water and liquids on rubberwood furniture. It will damage it considerably (you can wipe it up immediately, but make sure it is then completely dry).

By anon969834 — On Sep 13, 2014

If your looking for a durable wood rubber wood isn't that bad, I think it is better than pine. I love to finish my own furniture and have done many pieces throughout the years using parawood and domestic woods. It is a medium to hard wood, it lacks deep grain structure, there is hardly any grain. I stain mine twice and it takes the stain all right, not like oak or maple however.

That being said, you can stain as much as you want to get the deepness in color you are looking for. Parawood seems to have replaced a lot of oaks and maples at unfinished furniture stores around here, but you can still get pine. Personally, oak is my favorite but you can still make an awesome piece out of rubberwood/parawood.

By ottolenghi — On Nov 10, 2012

I understand that rubber wood is often used in children's toys because it reduces splintering and is therefore safer. Is this true? Where can I purchase rubber wood lumber?

By anon187365 — On Jun 17, 2011

Rubberwood is a waste by-product of mono-culture which is destroying our environmental diversity! The wood really isn't that interesting in grain or color- it is all of the toxic finishes (stains, paints, polyurethanes) that they put on it that make it somewhat appealing to consumers.

I'm sticking with domestic hardwoods which are by far more beautiful and higher quality. Also, the woods grown in the US are sustainable. If you don't believe it, read through the 2010 Forest Services' Sustainability report. Search for it on the Forest Service website.

By anon80888 — On Apr 29, 2010

Does rubberwood work for exteriors? Can it protects itself from uv rays, rain, termites, moulds and algae, fungus, blue stains?

By anon73665 — On Mar 28, 2010

Is rubberwood a good material for corbels?

By anon70374 — On Mar 13, 2010

Does rubber wood absorb water? can it be used for a dining table?

By anon67917 — On Feb 27, 2010

I have many pieces of rubberwood furniture. I love it. It cleans easy, very durable, and shines up very easily.

By anon50972 — On Nov 02, 2009

My husband and I both have autoimmune disorders. I use a wooden cutting board and have read all your suggestions. My daughters think I am crazy to continue using this board. Plastic boards dull my knives, and I have cut myself. What do you suggest?

By anon36395 — On Jul 12, 2009

If you are allergic to Latex would you be allergic to this product?

By mally12 — On Jun 12, 2009

I have been looking for the most "eco-friendly" timber for use in our development of a bed base. Could rubberwood be promoted as a certified timber from a reputable source such as the FSC?

By debz — On Jun 06, 2009

I just purchased a vanity table made of rubberwood and was advised by the salesman that rubberwood had a hardness like that of maple...I would definitely buys a dining table out of rubberwood...such a gorgeous, rich looking wood...

By karebear — On Mar 02, 2009

Does anyone know, is rubberwood a good quality wood for a dining room table? I'm leaning towards oak, but found a table I like that's made of rubberwood. Is rubberwood soft like pine? Softer or harder than oak? *Thanks*!

By anon27194 — On Feb 25, 2009

Is rubber wood a good choice for outdoor furniture?

By anon24189 — On Jan 08, 2009

I disagree that its not a nice name. Rubber comes from trees, so of course there will be wood from these trees! I like the fact that it is a sustainable resource and I like the appearance too.

By anon11059 — On Apr 07, 2008

I really support companies using rubberwood. Especially furniture companies and construction companies should look into this as an alternative.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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