Merbau is an exotic hardwood that is typically found in Pacific Ocean islands and Southeast Asia. Trees may reach a height of up to 160 feet. The tree thrives in the wet settings such as swamps, floodplains, riverbanks, and rain forests. Some of the trees can be found in the last remaining rainforests of Indonesia. Merbau is a favorite in Southeast Asia because of its natural resistance to decay and its superior strength, relative to teak. Its botanical name is Intsia Bijuga
Color: The heartwood of merbau is typically a brownish orange when first cut and becomes a darker reddish brown upon exposure to air.
Grain: The grain of merbau can be straight or wavy and has a course texture.
Variations within Species and Grades: There is a moderate to high variation in the color of merbau lumber.
Hardness/Janka: The Janka rating of merbau is 1,925.
Dimensional Stability: The dimensional stability of merbau is excellent at 4.6.
Sawing/Machining: Sawing merbau lumber can be quite difficult.
Sanding: Merbau can be sanded satisfactorily if correct methods and sequencing is followed.
Nailing: There are no known problems associated with nailing merbau flooring.
Finishing: Merbau lumber can be difficult to stain; however, a neutral finish can be easily applied.
Availability: Merbau is moderately available.
Traditionally, the largest markets for merbau were Germany and the Netherlands, where the wood was used for doors and windows. More recently, China has become a large importer of merbau. While preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, extensive amounts of the lumber were imported. It is also widely used in both the United States and European flooring markets. The lumber is a popular option for those making furniture, cabinets, and musical instruments. There are a number of other uses for the trees, as well. An attractive dye can be extracted from the wood, and the leaves and bark have been used for homeopathic medicinal purposes.
Within the flooring industry one of the most reliable indicators of the durability of a particular type of lumber is its rating on the Janka scale. The Janka scale assigns a number, ranging from zero to 4,000, which describes the hardness of the lumber. A Janka rating of zero indicates a lumber is much too soft to be successfully used in flooring while a ranking near 4000 means the lumber is too hard to be used for flooring. The Janka scale rating of merbau is 1,925; this rank shows the lumber is well suited to being used in flooring. It is quite a bit harder and more stable then red oak. Additionally, the dimensional stability of merbau is excellent, further qualifying it as a flooring option. Finally, the wood is very resistant to termite infestation.
Merbau can be very difficult to work. The wood has a tendency to gum the saw teeth and also dull cutting edges. Because of this carbide tooling is strongly recommended. Sanding can be accomplished easily as long as standard sequencing is followed. Nailing and gluing pose no problems in installation. Finishing the flooring can be difficult if a stain is requested, however, neutral finishes pose no difficulties.
Where to use
The dark coloring of the flooring as well as the durability makes merbau an excellent choice for most indoor locations with low to moderate foot traffic. While it can be used in corporate settings, there are other hardwoods that are better suited for heavier use. This wood can be used with almost any choice of décor, although it may blend more naturally with one that has a traditional or sophisticated feel. As with most hardwood flooring, merbau should not be installed in locations that will be exposed repeatedly to standing water or excessive moisture.
Care and Maintenance
While merbau is more resistant to some types of damage than other hardwood flooring options, it still needs preventative maintenance and routine care in order to ensure the beauty endures. The first step to caring for your new floor is preventative maintenance. Any areas that are going to receive heavy foot traffic should be protected with rugs or runners. This will minimalism the damage caused by shoes with heals. Pads need to be placed underneath the feet of all pieces of furniture in order to prevent the furniture from causing indentions in the flooring over time. Finally, animals that will routinely be walking on the floor need to have their nails trimmed regularly. This will help reduce the number and severity of scratches that can be caused by untrimmed nails.
Once steps have been taking to prevent damage, a regular cleaning schedule should be established. As people enter the home, they will naturally bring in particles of sand and other debris on their shoes. Over time, the sand and other particles can combine and scour the finish of the floor. Regular sweeping or vacuuming, if the vacuum has a hardwood floor setting, can greatly reduce this damage. Additionally, anything that is spilled on the floor should be promptly wiped up in order not to damage the finish. Finally, specific care guidelines are provided for the various finishes that are applied to hardwood flooring. These instructions should be carefully followed in order to maintain the beauty of the flooring.
The popularity of merbau has led to extensive logging of the tree in many areas of Southeast Asia. This has resulted in the near extinction or endangered listing in many places. Some environmental groups have called for consumers to ban this type lumber because of the illegal harvesting that has greatly reduced the number of trees. However, there are still many legitimate sources for merbau and preliminary studies show that the merbau can be established in new areas either from seeds or from wild sprouts that are transplanted and potted in nurseries. With dedication and responsible harvesting the merbau tree will be around for future generations.