Merbau Wood: Properties, Colors, Uses, Workability, Advantages & Disadvantages

Merbau wood tree in tropical forest

Merbau, being a hardwood, is a deciduous tree. It gets harvested from tropical forests of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Fiji, Madagascar, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Samoa, and North Queensland, Australia. It can reach a height of 40 meters and has a trunk as wide as 0.6 meters. It is a bushy tree with a spreading canopy. 

If you live in Southeast Asia, you might be familiar with Merbau, a rainforest hardwood known for its durability and hardness. It has a remarkable 1,925 Janka Hardness rating and features a dark reddish-brown hue. It is rich in tannin content; hence, you must apply Intergrain Ultraprep Timber Cleaner before you coat this wood to do away with much of its tannin content. This wood has many applications, including fences, decking flooring, and paneling.

Characteristics and Properties of Merbau Wood

If you intend to use Merbau, it will be best to know its succinct characteristics and properties to ensure it is best suited for your woodworking projects. Merbau wood, of course, comes with an orangish-brown color once freshly cut. Over time, it darkens to a dark reddish-brown hue. 

You will also notice variations in its colors. You can see, for example, tiny yellowish mineral deposits within the wood, allowing you to distinguish it from other wood species. These water-soluble yellow deposits can cause staining of the wood. 

The grain of the Merbau wood ranges from straight to interlocking. It also has a coarse texture with a mild natural luster. Merbau’s wavy or interlocking grains create attractive ribbonlike figures on its radial surfaces. Its pores usually have water-soluble deposits, which can be very noticeable on its surface. 

The end grain of Merbau features diffuse pores with very large to large pores. These pores are very few and sometimes solitary or radial multiples. As mentioned above, occasional yellowish mineral deposits are visible on its surface. Plus, you will see narrow rays with regular spacing. 

Merbau is a hard and dense wood. It is also rot-resistant and very durable. It resists insect attacks and is not susceptible to decay and rot, especially if adequately seasoned. It also shows less degradation over time and very little expansion or contraction. 

Merbau is a very dense wood. It has a density of 800kg/m3 with over 12% MC. So, with these figures, it is 23% better than teak. Thus, it is an excellent choice for high-end wood projects and constructions like roofs, ships, and many others. 

Lastly, Merbau wood carries a unique smell when you sand it or saw it. Such an odor, however, can sometimes cause allergic reactions leading to sneezing and irritation.

Typical Applications and Uses of Merbau Wood

Merbau has many applications, especially in construction, engineering, and other fields. This wood is also usable both outdoors and indoors. Thus, it gets used for building bridges, posts, wharves, piles, and sleepers. It gets also utilized in decking, framing, treads, and many other projects. 

You will notice that many decks of boats are wrought in Merbau. Even some musical instruments and tool handles get made of this wood. 

You can also use Merbau for woodturning, joinery, paneling, shop fitting, parquet flooring, cabinet making, bench tops, carving, and countertops.

Furthermore, furniture components and furniture, interior joinery, interior paneling, and cabinet works make use of Merbau. You can also use them for tool handles, stairs, and many other projects. Besides, you can use it for hydraulic works, woodware, poles, veneer, flooring, vehicle flooring, cooperage, crates, and boxes. 

Workability of Merbau

You will find sawing Merbau wood challenging because it is gummy and can dull the teeth of the saw. Nevertheless, you can glue it with ease and finish it well. This wood also receives finishes like paint, and it polishes and stains well. Yet, the gummy content of the wood might bleed through the wood and could even stain concrete and textile. 

Merbau is good for woodturning. It is also easy to work using your hand tools, though it might be easy and mildly difficult to work with using your power tools. You can cleanly cut this wood but blunting and gumming of your saw blades might happen. Besides, you should predrill the wood when fastening it because it might split. 

Advantages of Using Merbau

If you intend to use Merbau wood, it will be best to know the following upsides of its use to figure out if it is the best for your woodworking projects:

Less Likely to Splits and Cracks

Merbau wood carries an oil that enables the wood to be more flexible. This oil helps mitigate the building tension when you cut it, lessening the splitting or cracking of this wood. Merbau will be a good choice among hardwoods if you want wood for decking. 

Merbau also has a tannin component that shields it from moisture and salt. Thus, it doesn’t alter its dimension radically. This tannin content enables it to last longer and remains intact over time.

Enticing Looks

Merbau wood looks excellent and enticing with its orange-golden-brown hue contrasting its ivory to a yellowish-white color. You can also lighten or darken this wood using oil-based stains. It can retain its natural color longer, making it an excellent choice for decking. 

Besides, its color seems to intensify over time. Its grain pattern, likewise, is beautiful with its interlocking pattern. 

Hgh Resistant to Fire

Merbau will not burst into flame easily. Thus, it is ideal for planting in forests prone to bushfires because it will not catch fire with ease.

Termite Resistant

Merbau wood is highly resistant to pest and termites. Besides, termites will find it hard to gnaw on this wood, for it is quite resistant to termite attack, especially if it is air-dried or kiln-dried well. 

It only exhibits low degradation over time. Thus, you don’t need to worry much about termite and pest attack when you use this wood.

Minimal Maintenance

Since Merbau is very hard and durable, it doesn’t shrink or expand over time. Besides, it can retain its color and appearance over time. Thus, it doesn’t need much maintenance. 

Merbau can resist extreme temperatures as well as harsh weather conditions. Thus, you don’t need to spend much on regular maintenance when you opt for this wood. 

This wood also exhibits tracheids, making it less susceptible to decay and decomposition. You can simply mop and sweep this wood without damaging its appearance. 

Disadvantages of Using Merbau

Your knowledge of Merbau wood will never be complete if you only know the upsides of its use. It will also help if you are familiar with the following downsides of its use:

Too Oily

Merbau is naturally oily and tends to bleed tannins when it gets wet. Thus, if you are not careful, these resins might get stuck to your feet or shoe soles, making your room look bad. You can avoid this if you use well-seasoned timber.

It is Expensive

Merbau is an excellent wood. It is a high-quality wood that features excellent properties. Thus, if you use it for decking, you might be spending more on your deck. Of course, using this wood will not break the bank, but the costs of installation will surely be higher. 

Frequently Asked Questions

After knowing the qualities and characteristics of Merbau, as well as the pros and cons of its use, it will also help if you are cognizant of the FAQs about Merbau, for they may also be the questions you have in mind:

Is the Use of Merbau Sustainable?

The timber industry is lucrative and could bring in revenues to a developing country. Merbau is a highly sought-after wood. Its use, of course, lessens the number of trees in the rainforests. Besides, the exportation of Merbau from developing countries is sometimes unmitigated. Unsustainable practices, therefore, persist in some developing countries because of the lure of profit from logging. 

The Merbau wood you can buy gets often derived from old-growth trees. Moreover, Merbau is not a fast-growing tree. Thus, Merbau might get severely diminished within several decades at the current pace of logging.


Merbau is a popular hardwood in Australia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands, and Papua New Guinea. It is popular because it is naturally durable and robust. Besides, it has an excellent appearance that you would love to have in wood. Thus, it is a wise wood choice. 

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of Merbau makes it a highly sought-after wood, and we all know its use will never be sustainable because most Merbau wood available in the market originates from old-growth forests. Thus, if you want to help the environment, it will be best to shift to using other, more sustainable wood species.

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