Searching For The Best Rubber Wood Standing Desk
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Are rubberwood desk tops really “as easy on the planet as it is on your wallet“?
We’ve seen some standing desk makers jumping on the rubberwood bandwagon recently, trumpeting it as the latest and greatest environmentally sensible material for a standing desk table top. We’ve seen this move before with bamboo, which has probably seen more greenwashing than any other “wood” being marketed by standing desk makers. (Bamboo isn’t really a wood at all and, spoiler alert, it’s one of the least environmentally sensible materials you could choose — read our full report on bamboo tabletops’ environmental impacts.)
UpliftDesk is leading the charge these days in terms of who is selling it hardest, and the one claiming that it’s “as easy on the planet as it is on your wallet.” But they’re not alone. Other brands importing rubberwood table tops from Asia include Flexispot, mopio, FEZiBO, and Geekdesk.
As to the question of whether it’s easy on the wallet, things may have changed a lot since the pandemic, factoring in tariffs, ocean freight, currency fluctuations, and inflation. UpLift sells the standalone rubberwood top in a 30″x60″ size for $666 now. That’s an exceptionally steep price considering you could buy a state-of-the-art, 5-star rated, American-made, ergo-contoured, 3D-laminated desk top, with a 15-year warranty, environmental certifications up the wazoo, and of the same size for only $570 from iMovR.
We remember when rubberwood first came out and the same folks who used hyperbolic marketing to promote bamboo’s environmental virtues started doing the same with rubberwood, such as Geekdesk. But it was a lot cheaper back then. And since then it appears most of the standing desk makers offering rubberwood, like Geekdesk and KNFdesk, have dropped the product. Some have also dropped bamboo. And some have gone out of business altogether. At least one standing desk maker, Flexispot, has actually just started offering rubberwood for the first time, despite the quality, price, and environmental issues associated with it (see Flexispot Willow review).
So just what is rubberwood, anyway?
Unlike bamboo, rubberwood is an actual hardwood from a genuine tree, not something engineered from grass fibers, resin, and a whole lot of chemicals while using up water and electricity. It’s a light-colored, medium-density tropical hardwood obtained from the Pará rubber tree, usually from trees grown in rubber plantations. Rubberwood’s sole environmental claim is that it comes from plantation trees that have already served a useful function.
Like a maple tree that provided sap for maple syrup before it was harvested at the end of its useful life cycle, rubberwood trees are done making sap for latex products after about 25-30 years. Whereas they used to be burned to make room for more monoculture plantation farming, they are now instead being turned into furniture at the end of their productive life cycle. So that’s a good thing, for sure.
However, rubberwood is inherently susceptible to fungal and insect attack that limited its use in the past. The development of chemical treatment processes in the 1980s allowed the wood to be more widely used for furniture making. Today, rubberwood is generally treated soon after sawing by pressurized immersion in boron preservatives, followed by kiln-drying to diffuse the chemicals and to control moisture content. The high moisture content of the wood is what makes is susceptible to white rot and warping, hence the use of all these chemicals to try and prevent its decay.
The adhesive used to hold the rubberwood planks together often has formaldehyde in it, which US manufacturers no longer use but things are different in China. Also, anyone with a latex allergy may want to avoid rubberwood altogether. Even though these desktops are usually “sealed” after production, the sealant may wear away over time, if not be porous to chemical leaching.
Does rubberwood make a good desk top?
On the plus side, rubberwood has very little shrinkage making it one of the more stable construction materials available for furniture. It is easily worked and takes on stains uniformly. As with all hardwoods, rubberwood comes in varying degrees of quality. It is not suitable for outdoor use, as rain can leach the protective chemicals from the wood, exposing it to fungus and insect attacks. Excessive moisture will also cause the wood to warp and rot.
However, user reviews reveal that the transformation of rubberwood into a desk top product may have some of the same inherent flaws as bamboo, with common reports of the wood separating, chipping or flaking away easily. The wood staves that are glued together to make a rubberwood table top are typically individual strips 150-400 mm in length and 20-80 mm in width, assembled in a fingerboard orientation with a lot of adhesive.
One problem is that lacquer can start to weaken, leading to progressive delamination of the desk, just like with a bamboo top. But the other problem that we’ve seen users experiencing is flat-out cracking of the desktop, either in transit or over time, such as shown in this posting on Reddit where multiple users apparently had the same cracked top experience. The sheer number of rubberwood desk customers who experienced this problem just in a single Reddit thread is quite concerning.
We’ve noticed that warranties for these tops are either really short, like 1 to 2 years, or in the case of UpLift’s 15 year warranty have a lot of carve-outs that might make it tough to get a free replacement for a manufacturing defect down the road that they may deem to be due to “natural wear and tear.”
Rubberwood is very soft as compared to other hardwoods, with a Janka rating of only 995. It has a tendency to dent easily, and if you’re not careful, you might find your John Hancock permanently indented into the surface. For maintenance follow the same rules as solid wood desktops in our guide on How to Clean, Sanitize and Disinfect Your Desk in the Pandemic Age.
Given the many less risky options for desk tops these days — which we review comprehensively in our Ultimate Guide to Table Tops for Standing Desks — for this kind of money, the consumer can find far more durable and reliable alternatives, with better environmental profiles, better warranties, better features, better price, and domestically produced with a much smaller carbon footprint than an import.
And given that as many manufacturers seem to have dropped rubberwood as have picked it up, that’s just another clue that it can be a problematic buy for consumers. The super high price on these rubberwood tops now might be a reflection of high warranty replacement costs, which wouldn’t surprise us at all after reading all the user reports of cracking and delamination.
Standing Desks with Rubberwood Desktops We've Reviewed
It’s popular. Really popular. Not necessarily because it’s an awesome product but because it’s very heavily advertised, with hyperbolic marketing claims that don’t hold up to close inspection. The UpLift is probably the top-selling, Chinese-made commodity standing desk on the market in the sub-$800 price tier, now on its third generation design (the “V2”). The improvements over the last generation appear to be more behind-the-scenes in cost reduction moves than in tangible, valuable features that can benefit most users. After weeks of testing in our labs our reviewers detail the pros and cons of the new design.
A pioneer in electric adjustable height desks GeekDesk has not kept pace with the innovations and sheer spectrum of choices that newer manufacturers are bringing to the fore. Judging by site traffic readings, the lack of a phone number for customer service or sales, and the lack of availability through trusted channels like Amazon, it appears that GeekDesk is getting ready to sunset its offerings.
This standing desk from mopio uses a rubberwood desktop. This doesn’t really meet the expectation of a solid wood standing desk buyer, as rubberwood is about as cheap a wood as you can find in China to make furniture from, basically being scrap wood from trees that no longer produce latex (be sure to read our detailed article on rubberwood desktops). Overall this is a very cheap standing desk posing as a high-end solid wood desk. The one year warranty should be another red flag for consumers. If you do buy this desk be sure not to overload it, as it is extremely underpowered and likely not to last much longer than its warranty.
The FlexiSpot Willow starts at $339.99 and comes with a solid wood top, which is quite cheap for a standing desk in solid wood. Though this translates to lower quality construction than competitor desks in solid wood. The collection ranges from super weak lifting capacity and a bit stronger with two motors. Several kinds of controllers let you choose from super simple to one with a bit more control.
The FEZiBO Electric Standing Desk is pretty cheap for all of its sizes. That’s probably because it only offers a single motor and single stage legs, which is close to the bare minimum for standing desks. This isn’t including that a lot of the assembly is gonna fall on the user that can be complex and difficult. Stability will be lacking as well because of the lack of quality construction. A fabric pull-out drawer might help with storage issues. But with short warranties on the parts, it might not last as long as you want.
Despite excellent weight capacity and an attractive keypad for changing height, the E7 has drawbacks. It lacks flexibility in important ergonomic spots, is difficult to set up alone, and is outclassed by similarly priced (and cheaper) electric sit-stand converters.