If you plan on building something around your home, whether furniture, cabinets, stairs, decorative pieces, or anything in between, there is rarely anything better that you could use than solid wood. That said, there are of course many types of wood to choose from.
Two very popular types of real wood to use for a variety of projects are mahogany and meranti. However, they are not at all the same.
Let’s figure out what makes mahogany and meranti different, and what both are best suited for.
What Is Mahogany?
First is mahogany, which is a type of tropical hardwood deciduous tree that is native to the warmer regions within the Americas. Being deciduous simply means that it does generally lose its leaves during the colder seasons of the year. Due to its exportation, mahogany trees can also be found in Oceania and Asia.
The mahogany tree has a straight and tight grain, very few or no voids, gaps, and knots, a relatively fine texture, and a fairly dark reddish-brown color that tends to get darker over time. Mahogany is also a very dense and hard type of wood and contains small amounts of resin and sap. This leads to mahogany being super durable, resistant to moisture and rot, as well as pests and fungus. For this reason, mahogany is a suitable choice for both indoor and outdoor use.
Due to its durability and great resistance to the elements, as well as its beautiful appearance, mahogany wood is a good choice for high-end applications, by which we mean making high-quality indoor and outdoor furniture, luxury cabinets and dressers, decorative pieces, and for any other such purpose where both aesthetics and durability are required.
What Is Meranti?
We then have Meranti, which is often referred to as Philippine mahogany, although it is not really a type of mahogany at all. Meranti is a type of hardwood tree found in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. This tree comes from the Shorea species of tree. In the Philippines, these trees may also be referred to as red meranti, due to their reddish-brown color.
The meranti tree can grow quite large, with trunks reaching up to 200’ tall and 6’ wide. The grain of the meranti tree is generally quite straight and interlocked, although not overly tight. The texture of meranti wood is medium to coarse.
Many people do prefer meranti wood due to its beautiful appearance, as well as its low cost. However, there is a reason why it has a relatively low cost, which is because it’s not the hardest or the most durable type of wood, and it also doesn’t resist pests or moisture that well. For this reason, meranti is often used for low-end indoor furniture, light structural framing, trim and molding, low-end cabinets, and plywood.
Mahogany vs. Meranti: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what mahogany and meranti are, let’s take a closer look at what makes them different from each other.
One big difference is that mahogany is very hard, as it comes in at around 900 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. Meranti, on the other hand, comes in at just 550 lbf, therefore making it one of the softer hardwoods out there, and yes, this does make a difference in terms of durability.
Weight and Density
Mahogany is also a fairly dense type of wood, as it comes in at roughly 800 kg per cubic meter, which is beneficial in terms of durability, although its heavy weight can make it a bit hard to work with. Meranti wood, on the other hand, comes in at around 640 to 700 kg per cubic meter, therefore making it a bit lighter and less dense, which generally means lower durability but easier workability.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
Another big difference here is that mahogany tends to be very resistant to moisture and pests. It is a very dense and hard wood that moisture and pests cannot easily penetrate, plus it does also contain some natural oils that help on this front. Meranti, on the other hand, is not a very pest, moisture, or rot-resistant type of wood. Therefore, mahogany is the far better option for outdoor use, as it can resist the elements much better than meranti.
Strength and Overall Durability
When it comes down to it, meranti just isn’t all that strong when compared to mahogany. Mahogany is harder and denser, it’s more resistant to denting and scratching, and it has better structural integrity too. If strength and durability are required, mahogany is the way to go.
Color, Appearance, and Grain
The grain of mahogany is a bit straighter and tighter than that of meranti. Mahogany also has a bit of a darker red color than meranti, which can be a bit paler. Additionally, meranti has a coarser grain texture than mahogany. Most would agree that mahogany is the better-looking of the two.
Real mahogany wood is going to cost you roughly 15 dollars per board foot, whereas meranti will cost between 2.50-5 dollars per board foot.
When to Use Mahogany Wood?
If you are making high-end indoor or outdoor furniture, you want beautiful doors, windows, cabinets, and dressers, or want to build anything else that needs to be durable and beautiful, and you don’t mind paying the high cost, then mahogany is the way to go.
When to Use Meranti Wood?
If you are making low-end indoor furniture, you need plywood, are making low-end cabinets and dressers, you need veneer, or even some lightweight structural framing, then meranti is the way to go, particularly if you don’t want to spend too much money.
Alternatives to Mahogany and Meranti Wood
If you need wood that is as hard and durable as can be, then a few good ones to consider include walnut, ebony, olivewood, and African pearwood. However, if you just want something super affordable, you can try poplar, alder, beech, and oak.
Also, make sure to check out my detailed article about mahogany alternatives.
As you can see, although both mahogany and meranti have their benefits, they are very different, so choose wisely!