Kebony: Like Tropical Hardwood, But Sustainable

    Photo: InhabitatTropical hardwoods have long been prized for their rich dark tones and incredible durability. Woods like teak seem to last forever, even in harsh conditions, and they acquire a beautiful patina over time that testifies to years of graceful aging. Unfortunately, these rainforest woods come at a high environmental cost: deforestation and other unsustainable logging practices have devastated communities across the globe's tropics.

    Consequently, many contractors and consumers concerned with sustainable wood have been turning either to reclaimed lumber, which allows them to reuse wood that's already been harvested, or sustainable wood harvested from fast-growing forests like maple and pine. The problem with these woods, however, is that they're much softer. They break down quickly, have a looser grain, and don't necessarily provide that rich, dark look that many people desire.

    Enter Kebony, a new wood product from an eponymous firm that aims to bring the look and performance of tropical hardwoods to sustainable forest products, using a process they refer to as Kebonization. They take wood and impregnate it with a solution of biowaste from other plant material (this in itself provides a useful environmental function by recycling manufacturing byproducts) to create incredibly strong polymer bonds inside the wood.

    The resulting timber is extremely strong and durable, lasting approximately three times as long as conventionally treated lumber -- and unlike treated lumber, it doesn't contain toxic chemicals that make it unsuitable for some applications. In addition, the process gives the wood an incredibly rich, dark tone that makes it look like a tropical hardwood, though it needs to be sealed to retain the color. (Otherwise, just like the real thing, it will gently weather to a grayish color over time.)

    This forest product can be used like tropical hardwoods in decking, cladding, and other carpentry products, as well as the construction of outdoor furniture. It's already being utilized in a variety of architectural products, such as this lovely bathhouse in Oslo, clad entirely in Kebony. Those planning San Francisco remodels and seeking that sleek, tropical flair can add Kebony to their list of considerations to get the look, without the environmental cost.

    Environmentally-conscious firms seeking to meet the needs of the luxury market are planning smart for their consumers by creating products tailored to high-end needs. While people might once have preferred to build with tropical hardwoods to get the right look and feel, Kebony provides an Earth-friendly alternative with similar performance, making it a win-win for everyone: especially the rainforest.

    Katie Marks writes for

    Get Free Quotes

    Looking for a Pro? Call us at (866) 441-6648

    Get Free Quotes
    • Service Needed
    • Zip Code
    Get quotes from qualified local contractors