Iroko timber, which comes from a large hardwood tree native to the tropical west coast of Africa, is a very durable wood that is famed for its general resistance to rot and insect attacks. It is also generally seen as an easy wood to work with, and both glues and finishes well. These characteristics make it a perfect substitute for teak at a more affordable price point, and have made it a go-to wood in Britain for many years.

Uses for Iroko Timber

As a very durable, sturdy, and dense wood that isn’t expensive in relative terms, you can imagine that Iroko Timber has had many functions.

The Iroko hardwood timber is used for joinery exterior and interior, decking, boat building, piling, marine work, domestic flooring, furniture, cabinetwork and much more. Most commonly however in the UK, it is used for cladding or external structures like garden gates or fencing due to its resistance to decay and durability. It has been known to last for approximately 50+ years as cladding if properly cared for.  

How Iroko timber weathers over time

Iroko weathers over time like any timber, beginning with a distinct yellow appearance and over time moving across a spectrum of golden shades to a brown. You can halt the weathering process at any stage by treating it, so if it reaches a colour that you like you can then apply it to preserve that certain colour. You can learn more about that process below.

How to treat Iroko Timber

Whilst the weathered dark brown is the colour that most people want to keep, over time this will typically fade to a silvery grey in around a year. This silver grey look has its own merits, and many people like this colour, but if you want to keep the weathered brown shade in place you will need to treat your Iroko timber.

To slow down the process of Iroko weathering over time, and retain its colour, you can use a UV oil to treat the timber. This UV oil essentially acts as a sunscreen for the wood, protecting it against damaging UV rays, preventing it from fading. Furthermore, the oil protects the wood against water marks if it is outside and exposed to the elements.

Ideally you would leave Iroko timber to weather in its natural external environment for approximately three months, before you then apply a finish to it. This normal weathering process allows the grain to open up and let out the naturally occuring extractives before you apply your protective finish. However, understandably this is not possible for all uses of Iroko timber. For example, if you are using it to build a gate and the wood is being attached to a steelwork frame, it is not practical to try and apply a finish to the wood 3 months after it has been attached to said frame. In cases like this, you can get your timber supplier to open up the surface of the wood by sanding the surface of the timber, before cleaning the wood’s grain with a set of thinners and then applying a treatment to it.

Zoe Kickhefer