Balau features heartwood that is of a yellow to brown colour and has a paler sapwood, which can be up to 50 mm wide. Its moderately fine and even texture presents an interlocked grain, which produces a stripe figure on the radial surface. Resin pockets may also be present. Balau is susceptible to pinhole borer damage.

Of high strength and durability, balau is mainly used for heavy construction. It is also used for wharfage, sleepers, ship building.

Although balau is a high-density hardwood, it is relatively easy to work. The main workability issue is due to the presence of resin pockets, which means resin can build up on cutting equipment. If balau is being nalled, the timber should be pre-drilled. Any machining and surface preparation should be done immediately before gluing. Balau is not suitable for streak bending.

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