How do I choose the best wood for outdoor furniture?
Outdoor furniture comes in a wide variety of styles and materials, including wicker, metal, stone, and concrete. Whatever your preference, there are several materials that can meet your requirements. We won’t discuss all of the various varieties in this post since, well, I would probably bore you and it would be an absurdly long page. However, this post will discuss the most common materials and how to care for them for a long life. Think of any form of furniture you may see on a porch, patio, or backyard while discussing outdoor furniture. For tasks like building patio furniture, porch swings, and tree houses, wood is a fantastic material choice.
However, did you know that not every wood is suitable for use outside? There are many species, but only a handful create excellent timber outdoor furniture. What, therefore, makes some wood species superior to others for outdoor use? Well, some types of wood, like Black Locust and Bois d’Arc, rot more slowly than others. These woods have tyloses, which are physical barriers that keep moisture from permeating the wood. Additionally, tyloses prevent germs and insects from penetrating the wood. I advise using heartwood rather than sapwood when working with the best wood for outdoor furniture.
Heartwood is the tree’s strongest, innermost wood, and it frequently makes up the majority of the cross-section of a stem. Sapwood, the living, outermost section of a stem or branch, is the color of light wood. I sought the opinions of seasoned woodworkers, furniture finishers, and craft woodworkers to learn more about the preferred materials for outdoor furniture. Their go-to wood species for outdoor furniture projects are listed below (in alphabetical order), and you can use any of them.
Acacia is a dense, sturdy hardwood with a lot of oil. This hardwood resists decay, insects, and the elements. Acacia is one of the more economical alternatives because it is so plentiful. Wood Blinds Direct’s James Armstrong, a woodworking specialist, states “Choose a fast-growing hardwood, such as acacia, if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your wooden furniture. It is strong and effectively withstands the elements (and is often used in boat-building for its abundance and resistance to water). Acacia is a deep, dark, golden color once sealed.” If exposed to water on a regular basis while unopened, it may become discolored. Having said that, I suggest avoiding placing acacia furniture on the ground or on grass because it will have
(2) Black Locust
In terms of strength and stiffness, black locust is among the strongest domestic woods. Even though it is stronger than hickory, it is more stable and rot resistant. Because of this, it has excellent weathering properties and is very durable. Working with Black Locust is only a little difficult. As per the Wood Database “Black locust has variable working properties overall; while the grain is often straight, its great density and hardness can make it challenging to machine. Additionally, black locust somewhat blunts cutting blades. Very responsive to steam bending and lathe turning; glues and polishes nicely.” This wood has beautiful uniform patterns and is reasonably priced, making it a good choice for building seats or tables.
Black Locust is well known to Jacob Aune. “Its resistance to decay is noteworthy enough to be included in a Louisiana State University study on preventing wood rot. This species should be used in outdoor applications where structural integrity is crucial due to its extraordinary strength. It is more durable than white oak and provides longer durability in outdoor settings.” Owner of the bespoke woodworking company Altare Design, located in South Chicagoland not far from Kankakee, Illinois, Aune.
Cedar is a soft, lightweight, and practical material. Working with cedar has some disadvantages, including the fact that the wood is generally soft, which makes it difficult for screws to hold. However, due to its resistance to rot, termites, and powder beetles, it does make good outdoor furniture. Most of the ones that are indigenous to North America, according to Aune, have exceptional resistance to rot and most insects. Cedar is frequently used for siding, roofing, and fences since it requires little upkeep. On the down side, with the exception of cypress, it is more softer and more fragile than the other species on this list
Armstrong emphasized that cedar’s natural resins are what make it such a tough wood and a great material for outdoor furniture. Although it is not necessary to paint, stain, or treat the wood, doing so will lengthen the wood’s resistance to the weather. It weathers to a gray tint if not handled. Cedar won’t survive as long as hardwood since it is softer, lighter, and grows more quickly. An excellent illustration of how insect-resistant cedar is comes from Ken Schumacher, a skilled woodworker and the proprietor of KS WoodCraft, a business that specializes in creating custom furniture: “A few years back, I was a tabletop source for a major national furniture company.
The business loved placing orders with us for live edge aromatic cedar tops..
We discovered that there were small insects digging into the slabs’ bark when the raw slabs arrived at our shop. After being treated in the kiln, the slabs must have been set out in the yard. The insects must have sought refuge in the wood’s bark because they did not enter the heartwood or sapwood.
Because of its inherent oils, cypress wood is resistant to rot and insects. If left unfinished, cypress weathers to a silver gray color over time, much like cedar, and contains enough oil to withstand water and rot for a while. The wood is as soft as different types of cedars. The heartwood of cypresses ranges in hue from light yellow to reddish to dark brown. Aune claims “The best timber is considered to be ancient growth. Even while the commercially collected wood nowadays might not be as well-regarded, it is still a good wood to utilize outside.” Why is cypress a fantastic material for outdoor furniture, then?”Despite being a softer wood, cypress is still a fantastic choice for creating outdoor furniture since it is a light wood with a lovely grain pattern that has a striking visual effect.
Once cypress wood has been stained, your choice of stain will truly stand out due to its lighter color and lovely grain. If you want to make your outdoor furniture stand out, cypress is a particularly attractive alternative, according to Armstrong. Cypress is a very good stain. A majority of the furniture made by KS Woodcraft is made of cypress. According to Schumacher, “despite being a relatively light [weight] wood, it stays extremely stable. We find that there is very little movement in all of our applications, which we adore.When planning “short passes to remove tear out,” extra caution should be used. Planing is the process of using a tool called a plane to flatten, smooth out, and shape a rough piece of wood.
The most common uses of douglas-fir are in construction and building projects, where it is widely accessible. One of the toughest softwoods commercially accessible in the United States is this species. Although its heartwood is somewhat resistant to rot, insects can still damage it. Working with Douglas-fir is rather simple. It is simple to finish and stain. It also holds adhesives firmly. If you observe Christmas, you could already be familiar with this species.
A well-liked variety of Christmas tree is douglas-fir! Douglas-fir is described as having “excellent wood character in terms of grain and texture while giving a strength, sturdiness and durability that performs remarkably well for everything from outdoor patio sets and seats to tree houses and barns” by Bruce Lemler.The adaptability for finishing can be added on top, and you have your wood. This wood will look fantastic whether clear varnish, stain, or paint creates the required effect. If you look for Douglas-fir that has received weather treatment, you are already one step ahead.
Woodworker, proprietor of ARTwood, and self-described “Lumberjock,” Bruce Lemer is knowledgeable about outdoor wood. ARTwood specializes in making wood furnishings out of reclaimed wood, primarily trees that were felled by Hurricane Sandy, as well as salvaged furniture.
Fast-growing ipe wood is a product of Central and South America. There is no doubt that it’s a very durable and dense wood. Ipe has such a high density that it hardly floats. Ipe has a high cutting resistance, which makes it a more challenging wood to deal with. As a result, watch your cutting edges carefully while using ipe. Ipe can be challenging to correctly glue. It is advised to clean the surface before gluing. If possible, I would advise against using adhesives on ipe.
Altare Design’s Aune concurs. He notes, “Ipe also resists many adhesives, so use it with caution.”On the plus side, some specialists claim that if left untreated, ipe can endure up to 40 years. If left untreated and outside, I would estimate that it would last for around 15 years. It is impervious to bending, warping, cracking, decay, and denting. Aune claims “Given its extreme hardness, this wood will be more resistant to physical harm than the other species indicated here.
Additionally, due to its oil and extractive content, it has a high level of resistance to fungi and insects. Ipe is therefore the perfect wood for outdoor projects that would subject it to a lot of wear and tear, such as deck and gazebo flooring. Because of its great density and weather durability, it is frequently sold for decking.