Iroko – otherwise known as ‘African Teak’ – is one of our favourite wood worktops. We’ve collated all the information you’ll ever need to know about this charismatic timber, including its science, history and more.
Iroko is one of the largest hardwood trees in Africa. When freshly cut, the wood has a yellow hue, but soon after installation this will darken to a rich bronze shade. Some staves have a beautiful golden sheen that reflects the light.
We also stock the more lavish Deluxe and full stave variants of iroko, which have a 90mm wide stave rather than the standard 40mm. Whatever the formation, iroko block worktops have a radiant, exotic appeal and will bring warmth and class to your room.
To see more photographs of iroko worktops up close and personal, take a look at our Worktop Image Gallery
TYPE OF WOOD AND GRAIN STRUCTURE
Courtesy of mpingoconservation
Iroko is a fairly large deciduous tree that grows to over 50 metres tall. Whilst the bark is a pale grey colour, the darker hardwood hidden within has a relatively coarse texture, with open pores and an interlocked grain.
‘Medullary rays’ are present throughout the timber, which are the radial sheets and ribbons that extend vertically throughout the tree and across the growth rings. Our worktops are constructed from quartersawn staves, which shows off the wood to its finest and keeps the character of the grain intact.
Poorer quality examples of iroko timber may contain deposits of calcium, which forms cavities and weakens the structure of the wood. You can recognise these deposits of calcium if the wood displays lots of small dark patches. Our suppliers only construct our iroko kitchen worktops from wood which does not exhibit these qualities.
SOURCE AND MANUFACTURE
There are two main trees that fall under the ‘iroko’ banner. Both are of the Moraceae family: Cholophora excelsa is the most common, though the very similar Cholophora regia is also frequently used.
These species of tree are found throughout Central Africa, with the largest concentrations found in wet savannah, rainforest, and low-altitude evergreen forests.
It’s our top priority to source wood that is not only hardy and attractive, but also environmentally sound. In terms of forestry, the certification process is not as developed in Africa as it is in Europe, but this has not deterred us: instead we have set up our own, rigorous set of protocols and specification to ensure that our timber only comes from sustainable, legal sources. We demand a clear chain of custody for all timber imported, and only ever deal with suppliers that promote proper environmental practice.
To find out more about our environmental credentials, please read our Environmental Policy page.
Since the inception of Worktop Express® we’ve delivered over 200,000 worktops and are proud to now be considered experts in the field. We fabricate and deliver worktops and accessories of the highest quality at excellent prices. We only ever deal directly with suppliers, cutting out any middlemen and ensuring we always have the best relationships with the manufacturers. To keep our standards at the highest level, we visit our suppliers at least once every three months. We welcome you to learn more about this strand of our business by reading the dedicated ’Sourcing and Manufacture Guide’.
Courtesy of Milicia_excelsa
All of our standard worktops are constructed from 40mm wide staves (which are solid blocks of timber). We join these 40mm staves of varying lengths together to create the larger piece of wood required for a worktop. We have worked closely with our manufacturers to ensure that staves of the highest quality are chosen, prioritising aesthetic consistency and prominence of the timber’s characteristic and attractive grain pattern.
The staves are finger jointed under high pressure to create a consistently smooth surface. By using this particular type of joint we ensure that our worktops are not only visually pleasing, but can also stand up to the stresses of daily life.
For more information on the construction of our worktops, visit our ‘Construction Types Explained’ information guide.
- Tree Size: 30-50m tall, up to 1-2 m trunk diameter
- Density: 550-750 kg/m3
- Average Dried Weight: 660 kg/m3
- Janka Hardness: (5610 N)
- Modulus of Rupture (bending strength): 87.6 MPa
- Elastic Modulus (‘stiffness’ of wood): 9.38 GPa
Colour variation is a natural characteristic for any wood, which can be caused by a variety of reasons such as factors in its growing environment. After felling, oxidation and increased exposure to UV light cause most species of wood to gradually change colour over time. Iroko is especially sensitive to the oxidation process, which is accelerated by sunlight. Consequently, it darkens much more rapidly, starting life a pale yellow and maturing to a rich dark brown with a stunning golden sheen. Due to this rapid mellowing of the timber, iroko is displayed on our website as the colour you should expect it to become after treatment and installation.
Courtesy of djembe-art
It’s difficult to find much historical usage of iroko – when compared with what we know about European counterparts such as oak, for instance -however, there are key gems of wisdom that we can impart.
In West Africa, for example, iroko is often considered a sacred tree. In the past ritual sacrifices would take place underneath a solitary tree. Gifts were also offered up to the tree out of respect. It was believed that spirits were trapped within the tree, and the tree was also associated with fertility and birth. The timber has been used for ceremonial drums and coffins, as well as masks and small carved idols.
In more recent times, iroko has been used to create modern tourist versions of the face masks and idols that were once sacred to the tribes of West African culture. Of course it’s also used for furniture and our superb wooden worktops.
As leaders in the field of solid wood worktops, we go through great lengths to make sure that we are able to offer iroko and other hardwood worktops at an extremely competitive price. This involves us streamlining our processes to become very efficient whilst engaging in high-volume purchasing to keep cost prices as low as possible. At any one time we have over 5,000 worktops in stock, meaning that we can deliver direct to the public and trade quickly and efficiently with our own in-house delivery team.
We have specialist online stock ordering systems that help us reduce the quantity of dead stock and wastage, which in turns helps us to reduce costs. Our ‘direct-to-public’ e-commerce business model has meant that we’re able to drastically save on overheads compared to some of our competitors. We’ve also been the first in our industry to introduce various new practices and the most up-to-date products.
We take regular trips to Europe and beyond to visit our suppliers – usually every three months. We never use an agent as we believe it’s very important that we see the products first hand, and as a result can ensure that our high standards are continually implemented. We’re looking to expand into further European markets throughout 2014.
With great character and a beautiful finish, iroko is a great choice for anyone looking for a worktop with brightness and zest. Consider complementing your worktop with a matching iroko butcher block or iroko chopping board; we also recommend dark, earthy painted cabinetry and accessories in primary colours – red is a particular favourite of ours – for an exotic, vibrant look.