Teak vs. Sapele: Which One to Use?

Teak vs. Sapele: Which One to Use?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

If you are looking for a good type of wood to use for your next big construction or woodworking project, you’ve come to the right place. Right now, we want to compare two very popular types of wood that you might not know about.

These are teak and sapele. Now, there are some pretty big differences between these two, and this is exactly what we are here to discuss today. Let’s get to it and determine which one is best for you.

What Is Teak?

First, we have the teak tree, which is a tropical hardwood tree that grows in a variety of hardwood and mixed-species forests around the world. This tree can be found in Southeast Asia, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean.

One of the most popular types is Brazilian teak, otherwise known as cumaru, so this is what we will be focusing on today.

Brazilian teak features a straight grain, which may be interlocked at times, along with a fairly medium texture, and a complete lack of knots, holes, and gaps. This wood generally has a very rich golden color, and may sometimes be a bit browner than it is gold, but always has a great luster. It also tends to lighten in color as it dries.

A big advantage of this wood is that it is extremely hard, strong, dense, and durable overall. It resists physical damage just as well as it resists moisture, pests, fungus, mold, and decay.

It works really well for both outdoor and indoor purposes and is often used for an extremely wide variety of projects. Just keep in mind that it is quite expensive.

What Is Sapele?

We then have sapele which is a North African type of wood named after a city in Nigeria. This tree can be found in most tropical areas in Africa, and it is technically a deciduous hardwood tree that is a part of the mahogany family.

This type of wood is very durable, hard, and dense, and also quite resistant to many types of physical damage. It also resists fungus, pests, and moisture quite well.

It is ideal for both indoor and outdoor purposes due to this reason, although it is also quite expensive. It’s often used for various high-end applications, such as veneers, joinery, boat building, luxury floors, musical instruments, luxury furniture, and more.

As for the appearance, this wood has an interlocked or straight grain, along with a tight and fairly fine texture. It may also have some gaps, knots, holes, and irregularities. In terms of color, it’s usually reddish-brown, often a bit browner than red, and it actually darkens over time.

Teak vs. Sapele: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both of these types of wood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.


Sapele features a Janka hardness rating of 1,410 lbf, whereas Brazilian teak comes in at 3,330 lbf. As you can see, teak is therefore much harder and more durable and resists damage much better, particularly denting and scratching.


Sapele features a density of about 42 lbs/ft3, whereas Brazilian teak features a density of 68 lbs/ft3. As you can see, teak is therefore much heavier than sapele. This does lead to it being more durable, although also quite a bit harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

Sapele wood is a good option to use for outdoor purposes, as it is quite resistant to pests and moisture. However, Brazilian teak, a tree that originates in tropical areas, is even more pest and moisture-resistant. Both are ideal for outdoor purposes, with Brazilian teak being the better of the two.

Overall Strength

In terms of the overall strength, if we look at the compressive strength, the modulus of rupture, and the modulus of elasticity, Brazilian teak scores much higher on all fronts. It can handle more pressure, and more weight, and is more structurally sound in general.


Sapele wood can be difficult to work with due to its grain, although the heaviness and hardness of Brazilian teak also make it fairly hard to work with.

When it comes down to it, sawing both of these types of wood apart can be fairly difficult, due to their weight and hardness. Both have an interlocked grain, which also makes things pretty hard.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Most people would agree that Brazilian teak is by far the better looking of the two, as it has a rich golden color, compared to the reddish-brown color of sapele wood. That said, you may also appreciate the darker color of sapele. Of course, this is more a subjective measure of comparison than an objective one, as personal preference plays a large role here.


As mentioned above, both of these types of wood are relatively expensive. Brazilian teak can cost you up to $35 per board foot, whereas sapele wood can cost you up to $25 per board foot.

When to Use Teak?

If you need an extremely strong, durable, weight-bearing, structurally sound, pest-resistant, and moisture-resistant type of wood, and you are willing to pay the big bucks for it, then Brazilian teak is a fantastic option to consider.

When to Use Sapele?

More or less the same can be said for sapele wood as for teak. It’s also very resistant to the elements and it is extremely durable too.

It works well for both indoor and outdoor purposes, although it is quite popular for projects that require moisture-resistant wood. It’s not quite as hard or durable as Brazilian teak, but also not quite as expensive.

Alternatives to Teak and Sapele

If both of these types of wood are too much for you, particularly in terms of the price, you can always go for something a bit softer and more affordable. Any type of softwood, particularly spruce, and pine, make for great options too.


What it comes down to here is that both sapele wood and Brazilian teak are some of the hardest and most durable types of wood out there. If you need something strong, both make for great options.