Light Red Meranti (Shorea spp.)

Balau (Shorea spp.)

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Common Name(s): Balau

Scientific Name: Shorea spp.

Distribution: Southeast Asia

Tree Size: 150-200 ft (45-60 m) tall, 3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 53 lbs/ft3 (850 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .69, .85

Janka Hardness: 1,600 lbf (7,120 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 17,730 lbf/in2 (122.3 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,457,000 lbf/in2 (16.95 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 10,280 lbf/in2 (70.9 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.5%, Tangential: 10.1%, Volumetric: 15.7%, T/R Ratio: 1.8

Color/Appearance: Color can be highly variable depending upon the species: ranging from a pale straw color, to a darker reddish brown.

Grain/Texture: Has a coarse texture with medium to large pores. Grain is sometimes interlocked.

Rot Resistance: Highly variable among species; should be considered as non-durable in regard to decay resistance, and is also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Typically hard to work, due to its high density. Some species may have a slight blunting effect on tools due to small levels of silica present in the wood. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Balau in the Shorea genus has been reported to cause eye, throat, and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Balau is widely harvested and widely available worldwide. It should be moderately priced despite the fact that it is imported.

Sustainability: Balau is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but many species in the Shorea genus are on the IUCN Red List. The majority of Shorea species are listed as being critically endangered due to a population reduction of over 80% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Plywood,veneer, general construction, flooring, as well as a number of other general utility purposes.

Comments: Sometimes referred to as “Lauan,” wood in the Shorea genus is very commonly used in southeast Asia, and there is an abundance of variety between the difference species: each with different working properties, appearances, and mechanical strength values.

The five main groupings for Meranti (Lauan) are: Light Red Meranti, Dark Red Meranti, White Meranti, Yellow Meranti, and Balau. The strength and mechanical values listed at the top of this page represent the average of a handful of species within the corresponding group.

Also called Philippine Mahogany, Meranti bears no relation to  what is considered to be “true” mahogany in the Swietenia and Khaya genera.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: There are currently no pictures of this exact wood species, but a similar species within the Shorea genus is being substituted (Light Red Meranti). If you’d like to contribute a wood sample of this specific species to be scanned, (even small pieces of veneer can be sent), please use the contact form.

Light Red Meranti (Shorea spp.)

Light Red Meranti (sanded)

Light Red Meranti (sealed)

Light Red Meranti (sealed)



  1. David Simon November 16, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    CYRUS.Thanks for the information, 4 Yorkshire sliding sashes made of yellow balau, should they be wood preserved before oiling? North Lincolnshire England thanks dave.

  2. Jacques Hauray September 10, 2018 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    I have serious doubt about the durability of Red Balau. It is basically a meranti or lauan which are used primarily as veneer for plywood. It is not a class 1 wood but class 3 which is not recommended for outdoor use.. It is kinda of a shame that distributors of Red Lauan represents this wood as durable.

  3. Bert Prinsloo July 17, 2018 at 7:49 am - Reply

    I have a balau deck around my pool.Over the years(approx.5 years) the deck has dried out and splintered.It is very dangerous if you walk on it bare feet.Any suggestions how i can solve the peoblem?

    • Xxxvv August 20, 2018 at 5:36 am - Reply

      Do some sanding, apply another layers of coating will do. Can last for another 5 years

  4. Paul Caponetti August 16, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Hey everyone. I had some Red Balau (from Batu, sold as decking material) that I made into an end grain cutting board. The whole process was an experiment, but the product came out really awesome. Does anyone know if Red Balau is safe to put food on after I do the normal cutting board things (wash, condition, oil, etc)?

    • Dias May 25, 2018 at 7:33 am - Reply

      This is not from batu, but country origin is indonesian, nova (america) was bough from here, so many type woods like this, such as bangkirai,

  5. Maya May 16, 2017 at 1:55 am - Reply

    what is the other alternative for red balau? Can i use red meranti?

    • Wooden Decking Durban July 20, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Hi Maya. In South Africa we get largely yellow balau which is of good quality. What we get here that is called red balau is inferior quality. I’ve used it a few times in outdoor wooden decks here in Durban and it is more porous and softer than our yellow balau.

  6. kah22 April 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    I’m looking at a patio set described as a Jakarta Wooden Patio Set

    Is Jakarta a region where this wood is grown or is it the actual wood?

    • ejmeier April 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Pretty sure that’s just where the wood was sourced. “Shorea” is a genus of trees that contains many species listed by the IUCN as being critically endangered, so hopefully when they claim it is “sustainable” that claim is genuine.

  7. J J December 9, 2015 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I am haing some cracking in some doors i made with a yellow balau core and a 1/8″ thick face veneer of yellow balau. The faces are cracking lengthwise. Why would this happen to kiln dried wood

    • Wooden Decking Durban December 9, 2015 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      Hi JJ. Balau is a very oily and resinous wood so even though it has been kiln dried it still contains a fair amount of resins and oils. As this dries out over time it can cause cracking especially in such a thin veneer. Possibly also because the veneer is stuck to the carcass of the door it is prohibited from expanding and contracting. I’ve noticed a fair amount of expansion and contraction in balau. I made T & G floor boards which didn’t work well as they contracted quite a lot after we installed them. Balau doesn’t like to be glued.

  8. Conference venues Johannesburg June 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    I wouldn’t coat it with anything. Coatings can peel and flake, oil can’t.

  9. Jason Anicich February 26, 2015 at 2:32 am - Reply

    does the bacteria and do the insects this wood is prized by live in north America? It seems to me the climate change could preclude your assertions? can anyone in the US confirm having a rotten or insect eaten red balau deck?

  10. donald June 12, 2014 at 9:48 am - Reply

    can I coat balau wood with poly

    • Cyrus November 16, 2015 at 3:56 am - Reply

      to preserve the natural wood grains, I recommend using linseed oil, teak oil or mineral oil instead because this is a very tough and durable wood and unless you are dealing with very harsh conditions, there is no need to take away some of its natural beauties by using polyurethane, use oils instead, otherwise you can use poly on anything

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