The Best Wood for Outdoor Furniture

Selecting the best wood for your outdoor furniture can be a daunting task. Many types claim to be the best, but in reality, no wood is best all the time.

Outdoor garden furniture is available in many different styles and materials. All you have to do is browse your local home improvement center to discover a dizzying selection of chairs and tables fashioned from plastic, wrought iron, and even imitation wood. Nothing, however, evokes a connection to nature more completely than furniture made of real wood.

Kingsley Bate Dunbarton Teak Bench

There isn’t one single wood appropriate for every use. For instance, garden bench wood comes in a variety of types. One kind may be used for poolside benches, and another to make patio storage benches. Picnic tables will be fashioned from a lesser wood than the teak bench that is the centerpiece of your deck. What follows is a brief description of some of the most popular types of wood used to make outdoor furniture so that you can quickly find what best suits your needs.

Acacia

This sustainable wood comes from the Australian outback. An abundantly available timber, it is more affordable than some other varieties. It is rot resistant, though it will discolor when in prolonged contact with soggy ground. Its susceptibility to termite damage makes it ideal for the porch, patio or deck.

Cedar

Cedar is commonly used for casual, lightweight outdoor furniture. Of all the hardwoods, it is one of the softest, which means that it will show the dings and scratches inflicted by daily use. The light gold color fades to silvery-gray, unless the wood is stained or sealed. This process should be repeated yearly to extend the life of your furniture. Resins within the wood repel insects and prevent decay.


Honduran Mahogany

This is one of the few types of mahogany that is suitable for outdoor use. It is a strong wood with a beautiful, rich tone and it repels water, thanks to the presence of natural oils. It is long-lasting, resisting both rot and insects. The trees are grown on plantations, making the wood an environmentally conscious choice. The one drawback to this wood is the tendency toward checking, which is the cracking and splitting that occur when wood dries unevenly. Furniture created from Honduran mahogany might best be used on a covered porch.

Shorea

A tropical hardwood that has many of the same properties as teak, but that is slightly less expensive. The wood is quite strong and needs very little processing during the manufacturing process. When harvested using best practices, this wood becomes an environmentally friendly product.   The wood’s attributes that make it suitable for outdoor use are its durability, rot resistance, insect resistance, and low maintenance requirements. A yearly application of teak oil preserves the wood’s natural luster.

Teak

The Rolls Royce of wood, Teak’s tight grain prevents the shrinking and swelling that cause checking. Teak is a long-lived wood that naturally resists decay and insect damage. The wood ages well, retaining its golden patina with no more than an occasional application of teak oil. Because the wood is very dense, the resulting furniture is much heavier than if it were made of cedar or acacia. A beautiful garden bench made of teak may truly become the anchor and centerpiece of your landscaping. Although it is an expensive wood, its longevity makes it sensible investment.

Once you have determined how you will use your outdoor furniture – whether it is next to a flower garden or a pool, on an open patio or a covered porch – then you can review the attributes of the various types of wood in order to select the right material to suit your needs. You may find that as you begin the landscaping process, the right choice of wood outdoor furniture is the perfect place to start.

About the Author

Stan Horst is the editor of www.betterbenches.com. As a former furniture maker himself, he understands what goes into a quality bench. He lives in Virginia with his wife, two teenagers, and a highly energetic rat terrier named Toby Jax. In addition to enjoying the outdoors with his family (hiking, fishing, camping), he rents out mountain cabins for vacationers to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains (www.cabincreekwood.com).

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