Using the correct type of wood to make outdoor furniture has a significant impact on the durability of your projects. Not all wood can withstand severe exposure to the elements and survive. Some are naturally adept at resisting insects and rot. Others have physical barriers against moisture called tyloses.
If you’re looking for the best wood for outdoor furniture, you’re most likely to find it in a select variety of wood species. The challenge is finding wood that is easy to source, good for outdoor furniture, and easy to work with.
The Best Wood for Outdoor Furniture
Teak is possibly the best wood for outdoor furniture. It is durable, resistant to water and sunlight, and easy on the eye. Teak is also resistant to insects. One of its better-known attributes is its ability to resist dirt. This is why it was so popular for building boats.
The only downside of working with teak is its cost. It is one of the more expensive building woods. But, aside from the initial cost, teak is actually quite affordable, especially since it practically takes care of itself.
Cedar is a softwood that is light and easy to work with. It makes good outdoor furniture because it is resistant to termites and powder beetles. Cedars that grow in North America are known for their excellent ability to resist insects and rot.
Cedars are commonly used for fencing, roofing, and siding. They can last for years without treatment or maintenance of any sort. Unfortunately, their main drawback is that they can be too brittle. Cedars have poor screw-holding capabilities, which can make furniture vulnerable to damage.
Redwood has natural insect and moisture-resistant qualities, which explains its popularity as an outdoor furniture wood. Due to its lack of resin and pitch, this wood excels at holding finishes. However, it is not the most sustainable wood since redwood trees take longer to grow and are not in abundant supply.
Redwood may also have extravagant qualities that make it more expensive to buy. However, like cedar, redwood is brittle and therefore susceptible to dings, dents, and chips. It’s not the easiest wood to work with, as it can sustain tear-outs during machining. Otherwise, it is a gorgeous wood.
Iroko shares a lot of qualities with teak. Known sometimes as “African Teak,” iroko wood has incredible durability and strength. It requires very little maintenance over time because it can naturally resist pests. It is also a very attractive wood, which looks excellent on garden furniture.
Acacia is a hardwood with high oil content. This thick hardwood is quite resilient and has the ability to resist insects, rot, and punishment from the elements. It is also more affordable than teak and iroko.
Acacia is also a fast-growing hardwood. It is the best ecological option since the wood is durable, can withstand the elements, and resist water. That’s why it is also a commonly sought boat-building wood.
Sealed acacia wood takes on a rich golden-brown appearance, which looks very appealing. Unsealed, it can lose this color if regularly exposed to moisture. One thing to note is that acacia furniture is highly absorbent and will draw water from the grass and ground if regularly exposed.
Some carpenters consider white oak the best wood for outdoor structures. The reason is that white oak is much stronger and much more rigid than teak and iroko and is quite attractive. It also grows abundantly in North America, so it’s easy to source in various widths and thicknesses.
Best of all, white oak has a straight grain that is very easy to work with. It has a natural resistance to rot, but it thrives better when regularly stained. That’s because it lacks the oil content in iroko and teak and should be protected by a coat of paint or sealer. White oak is roughly five times cheaper than teak, and with regular maintenance, it can last for decades.
Douglas fir is a wood you may be familiar with if you’re into Christmas. It is a particularly hard softwood that is widely available in the US. Although it fairs well against decay, it is not impervious to insect penetration.
However, the wood itself is solid and sturdy and has excellent character. Weather-treated Douglas fir is a great option for all types of outdoor furniture, patio sets, and lawn benches included.
Oak is a perennially popular choice for outdoor projects with a classical golden-brown hue that’s always in style. It is strong and durable and arguably the best hardwood choice for outdoor furniture.
It fairs better with a bit of care, which may include investing in furniture covers and giving it the occasional sealing/treatment.
Western red cedar
Western red cedar produces high levels of protective oil, a strong defense against moisture, decay, and insects. Though it is softwood, it is a great option for outdoor furniture, one that thrives with minimal treatment and is quite hard.
Tips for Maintaining Outdoor Furniture
UV Furniture Wax
Unless you’ve got a rot-resistant species (and even then), applying a clear UV furniture preservative helps it retain its natural color. It provides ample protection from the elements, which delays the eventual “silvering” of wood furniture as it turns old.
The Howard SWAX16 stops the wood from drying and fading due to sun exposure and heat changes. It also pops out the depth and beauty of the grain, all while providing protection using UV inhibitors, beeswax, carnauba wax, and orange oil.
Every two months or so, you should give your outdoor furniture a gentle hand cleaning to remove accumulated dirt and debris before they cause permanent stains. This should be done using warm soapy water and a bristle brush. Then, it would be best if you allowed the furniture to dry under the sun.
This inexpensive short-handled bristle brush is suitable for general cleaning and scrubbing. Its 2” bristles have just the right stiffness to provide a thorough clean without scraping your furniture. You can leave this brush outside with your furniture as it features a warp-resistant block.