The Great Outdoors
Spending time outdoors is a treat and like a breath of fresh air if you can enjoy the outdoors in your own backyard. Easily turn your deck or patio into a wonderful retreat by adding the perfect wood furniture. Wood furniture is a great choice – you can’t beat it for appearance, durability, and comfort. You can add chairs, a table, a bench or other pieces to create a real oasis.
Wood, Wood,… and More Wood!
If you’ve looked at wood furniture, you may have already been overwhelmed. There are so many different kinds of wood, it’s hard to know which is the best wood for outdoor furniture. Your wood outdoor furniture can last for a long time, so you want to make a good choice, both for your décor and for your wallet.
The types of wood vary in many ways. Some are more durable than others. Some are more expensive, others are more readily available. Not all of them resist insects the same way. Depending on the look you want, different types of wood take stain and finish differently, or offer natural colors and hues that can complement your home.
Don’t worry, picking the best wood for outdoor furniture doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a few simple ways to compare the major types of wood and make a good choice. These apply whether you are doing it yourself, or buying pre-made furniture from a store, or hiring a carpenter to make custom pieces of furniture for you. In fact, it’s a good idea to get more educated on the best wood for outdoor furniture before you make a decision.
Whatever You Do Remember This
A few general rules. First, hardwood is better than softwood. These species of wood are more durable and slower to rot. Second, heartwood is better than sapwood – this means you want the part of the wood closest to the trunk, not closest to the bark. Finally, use oil-based finish and stains wherever possible, since resin or varnish-based sealers will wear off and you will have to sand and refinish your furniture more quickly.
Teak is one of the most popular choices for outdoor furniture. It’s a durable, rot-resistant species of hardwood that also looks great. It can be a little more expensive than other woods. It requires regular treatment with oils to maintain its color. Teak is naturally buoyant and is often used to make boats. Most natural teak will darken or silver over time depending on the treatment and conditions.
Redwood is very attractive and holds finish very well. The best application of redwood is when you need a wide, plank look (think of a classic redwood picnic table). Redwood is naturally resistant to insects and moisture. If you are conservation minded, keep in mind that redwood is not considered a sustainable wood because of the slow growth of redwood forests. Redwood is also a soft wood, which makes it less durable.
Another soft wood, cypress is very light and has a natural grain which is very appealing. Cypress takes stain very well, and while the light grain can make the staining process more cumbersome, but the end result will be more visually attractive. Cypress is also naturally insect resistant and is not as susceptible to rot. Cypress comes in different natural shades including brown, red, and dark brown.
Cedar is a fragrant species of softwood. The fragrance is part of what makes it so effective at warding off insects, and it is highly resistant to rot (one reason it’s often used for roof shingles as well). It is not usually seen in furniture, more common outdoor applications of cedar are in fencing or other larger outdoor structures. One issue with cedar is the softness of the wood makes it difficult to hold screws and other fasteners, be aware of that if you are considering it for a furniture project.
This species of wood (pronounced e-pay) comes from South and Central America and is rapidly growing in popularity in North America. Ipe is one of the hardest species of wood. In fact, it is so dense that it will not float! That density makes it very durable, but equally hard to work with. It also does not take glue well, something to keep in mind for furniture building or repair projects. Ipe does not have to be treated, and that low maintenance is another reason for its popularity.
Pine is a readily available softwood, very popular and one of the less expensive options. Using the heartwood of this species is a good way to overcome some of the pine’s natural flexibility and wear. Pine must be treated or stained to be a good pick for outdoor furniture and will require regular maintenance to keep it looking good. One option for pine projects is to find reclaimed wood from old barns and repurpose it for furniture.
This is another less expensive wood option to consider. Acacia is very durable and has a high natural oil content which helps ward off rot, insects, and natural decay. This wood is also grown sustainably, making it an ecologically good choice. It’s important to seal acacia if you want to maintain its natural color, otherwise, it will turn silver over time. However, even as it silvers, acacia will still be reasonably resistant to other damage and decay.
Black locust is an extremely tough, dense hardwood which will wear well in the outdoors. It is highly resistant to rot but can be very difficult to work with in making furniture. This species is generally affordable, so it can be a good choice depending on whether you find the appearance of this wood attractive.
That’s All Folks (Not Really)
This isn’t meant to list every possible kind of wood – but these are the top choices for outdoor furniture, based on what you are likely to find, need, and choose from. Wood furniture can last a long time, from five to twenty years depending on the species, environment, and how careful you are about maintenance. Simply put, the best wood for outdoor furniture is the one that fits your budget, taste and the kind of furniture you are making or buying. Enjoy!
A husband and father of two boys, an entrepreneur and business owner, a homeowner and a writer.