Whether you’re looking to create a bench, chair, or table, the type and quality of wood that you choose can make a huge difference to the strength and durability of your finished product.
Cedar, Oak, Mahogany, Teak, and Redwood are amongst some of the best choices of wood for outdoor furniture. Hardwoods are great for durability. With their resistance to harsh weather, the wood is less likely to swell and split. Narrowing down your choices depends upon several factors.
The country and climate that you live in can have a huge influence on the choice of wood you should use. If you’re planning to create the furniture yourself, the workability of the material may be a priority.
And for many of us, the cost will be a large consideration.
In this article, we will examine the best types of woods for outdoor furniture, which woods have the best weather resistance, and whether any wood can be used outdoors if treated properly.
Whether you’re looking to purchase or create something yourself, this article will help you to make an excellent investment.
Woods that are untreated or unsuitable for outdoor use will lack endurance. As they get wet, they will saturate, grow mold and fungus, eventually rotting away.
Conversely to the rain, the sun can also be extremely detrimental to wood, sapping it of its natural oils.
For these reasons, amongst others, it is good to research and select a quality wood that will stand the test of time.
For example, cedar, redwood, and oak have better natural qualities for prolonged survival outdoors, even when untreated. In comparison, woods such as alder or pine will not withstand the natural elements for long before they show signs of rot and decay.
When purchasing wooden furniture from a retailer, you may be enticed by a cheap price tag, but check the quality and hardiness of the material, as a cheap product could end up costing you more in the long run because of repairs and replacements.
Being defined as hardwood or softwood does not show the actual hardness of the wood. Rather it describes the seeds of the wood.
Trees whose seeds are contained in a hard outer shell are known as hardwood, whereas those that have soft shells or exposed seeds are called softwood.
Hardwoods are hardier when it comes to surviving the natural elements and can fight off the damp and decay for much longer than the softwoods.
Hardwoods can often be left outside all year long, whereas softwoods may need to be brought under cover or inside during the harsher months.
If you choose to purchase softwood, you will find a considerably lower price tag and softwood is a considerably more environmentally friendly option.
Not only do hardwood trees take much longer to grow (some even being protected species), but preparing them is more time and energy-consuming.
Either type of wood will require maintenance and annual treatments, some of the best protective coatings, including water repellents and UV absorbers, which we will detail further down in the article.
The choice between hardwood or softwood is not a simple one, and you will need to consider cost, maintenance, aesthetics, and the suitability of the material for the purpose you want it to serve.
Treated wood will always come out the winner as it will hold its appearance and weather the elements for a lot longer than its untreated counterpart.
However, if cost is a factor for you, untreated wood may seem the more appealing option. Untreated wood can be used if your area has a reasonable amount of cover or shade.
The additional benefit to untreated wood is that it doesn’t contain the harmful chemicals that the treated wood will.
In this section of the article, I will list some of the most popular wood types used for outdoor furniture along with their advantages and disadvantages to aid you in the decision of which wood type is best suited for your individual project or purpose.
Acacia is a thick and strong wood that is highly resistant to outdoor elements. It is an environmentally friendly option as acacia trees are abundant and grow quickly.
However, acacia furniture is best to be kept off the ground as it is prone to soaking up water, which will cause it to rot. It is highly recommended that acacia is sealed. Otherwise, its exposure to rain could cause the color of the wood to change.
Cedarwood is one of the best soft options because of its resistance to rot and burrowing insects. It is a highly popular material for garden furniture as it is long-lasting with minimal maintenance required.
The only drawback to this wood is that the incredible softness of it means that it’s not so good at holding screws in place. And, like other softwoods, it is not as durable as its hardwood counterparts.
Similar to Cedar, Cypress wood is another excellent softwood option. Thanks to the natural oils it contains, it is also rot and insect-resistant wood.
Both Cedar and Cypress will fade to grey over time if left untreated, but Cypress wood has an aesthetically pleasing grain that looks good in your garden.
Mahogany is a much-loved choice for its look and durability. However, it requires more maintenance than some of its counterparts if you want it to keep its aesthetics.
Redwood is a much sought-after source from which to build outdoor furniture thanks to its rot resistance, insect resistance, hardiness, and visually appealing look. There aren’t many downsides to using redwood for your outdoor furniture other than the hefty price tag and environmental impact. Redwood trees take a long time to grow and are in high demand. Some species are now endangered.
Similarly, teak is amazingly durable. It is one of the best weather-resistant woods; no matter how much rain it faces, it is very unlikely to split or crack, meaning that the wood will not become damp or rot. It is dense, straight-grained, and has a great aesthetic look for outdoor furniture.
But again, it carries a hefty price tag, and consider the environmental effects before purchasing.
Teak is becoming very rare, and if you decide this is the wood of your choice, be sure to source it from a reputable retailer as many products now marketed as teak are not genuine teak, and you could be investing money in a substandard product.
A more affordable and environmentally friendly option to consider is white oak. This could come in with a price tag five times lower than that of a teak product. It is rot-resistant, easy to work with, and grows in abundance.
What’s not to like? Well, it will require more of a maintenance effort than the redwood or teak, but if you have the time to invest, it could be worth your while for less of a financial and environmental hit.
Above, I have detailed various types of wood that are water-resistant such as black locust, teak, and redwood.
You still have the option to use non-waterproof wood for your outdoor furniture but will need to seal it to prevent dampness and rot.
There are three main options for sealing a wood that is not naturally waterproof to enhance its resistance to the outdoor elements using oil, sealants, or stain.
Linseed, walnut, and tung oil are all good options for waterproofing your wood. The oils will need to be mixed with turpentine or apple cider vinegar to strengthen the effect of the waterproofing. This mixture can apply to your wood in over one coat to enhance its ability.
If using a sealant, the wood needs to be prepared by sanding and wiping clean before application. The sealant is fine to use by itself and will require you to apply an even coat before leaving it to dry for a few days before using.
Using a similar application technique – preparing and then coating the wood – a stain can be combined with a sealant and is the preferred choice for many people wishing to waterproof wood as it maintains an aesthetically pleasing wood and soaks into the wood rather than sitting as additional layers on top of it.
In conclusion, when sourcing wood for outdoor furniture, consider its purpose, how exposed it’s likely to be, and what your most important factor is: aesthetics, durability, or cost. By figuring out your priorities, it will make your choice a lot easier.
I hope the assessment of a variety of woods within this article can aid in an effective decision-making process for you.