Choosing the Most Durable Wood for Outdoor Furniture

Redwood

Redwood garden bench
Redwood garden bench
The timber from the stately sequoia is not a good choice for the ecologically minded, since redwood trees grow slowly and are in limited supply. The wood’s many fine attributes, however, ensure that redwood will always be used for outdoor furniture as long as harvestable stands of these majestic trees remain.

Redwood is durable and weathers well, and is also naturally resistant to decay and insects. Among redwood’s most valued attributes are stability and a tendency not to shrink nor warp.

Like cedar, redwood is relatively soft, putting it at risk for dents and scratches. The deep brown beauty of redwood can be protected and enhanced by a coat of clear sealer. If left unsealed, redwood can exact revenge on its owners by staining clothing with the natural tannins that give the tree its name.

Shorea

Shorea garden bench
Shorea garden bench
Shorea is a genus name for almost 200 species of trees. Some of the more common names include Meranti, Lauan, Balau, and Philippine mahogany.

Although it grows in Asian rainforests, Shorea is on its way to becoming a sustainable wood, due to the fact that harvesting is highly regulated. Shorea shares many positive attributes with teak while generally being less expensive.

Shorea is a durable, dense, tight-grained hardwood that holds up well under the rough treatment of daily use and inclement weather. Shorea lumber is also resistant to both insects and rot.

Left to its own devices, the patina of shorea fades from gold to gray over time. The wood’s youthful glow can be sustained by treating it annually with oil from its more expensive cousin, teak.

Teak

Teak garden bench
Teak garden bench
Teak has all of the attributes one could wish for in a wood used for outdoor furnishings. It resists decay, repels water, doesn’t shrink or swell, ages well, and is incredibly strong.

Teak’s secret lies in its tight grain and natural oils. Teak oil is all that is necessary to maintain the wood’s beautiful golden luster.

Once plagued by sustainability issues, due to the misinformation that old growth teak was the most desirable, most teak furniture in the western world now comes from carefully managed plantations. The superiority of teak wood for creating outdoor furniture is reflected in its high price tag.

Choosing a Durable Exterior Wood

When buying lumber for outside projects or furniture that will be used outdoors, it’s important to keep in mind that the darker colored heartwood, found nearer the center of a tree, is much more rot resistant than the lighter sapwood. Whenever possible, specify “all heart” materials for your garden bench or lumber used for outdoor projects.

Choosing the type of wood that’s right for your outdoor furnishings is initially a question of priorities. Once you’ve determined the balance between longevity, sustainability, and budget, then it’s time to let aesthetics take over. Because in addition to being durable, a garden bench should also be beautiful.

Further Information

About the Author

Stan Horst is a former furniture maker who understands what goes into making quality wooden benches. Stan loves the outdoors and enjoys camping, hiking, and fishing with his wife, his two teenagers, and his rat terrier, Toby Jax. Stan is privileged to share his love of the Virginia mountains with others through his Virginia cabin rentals.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I live directly on the ocean and had to take down All my outdoor fans and ceiling lights,because of heavy corrosion.
    Are there any ceiling lights on the market made out of plastic only,including mounting plate ?

    Thank you for your reply.

    Regards
    HRE

  2. I have an unfinished pine bench I will use on a porch. I used a wood stain (Min Wax weathered grey). Do I need any kind of finish product over that (to keep it waterproofed)? I don’t know if the stain is enough to protect it (from SOME rain which blows) and can’t find the answer to this anywhere I’ve looked, so far. Anything you can forward in a way of info. on this will be greatly appreciated. Thanks
    Diana Williams

  3. Teak will be the best for garden benches and outdoor furniture. Because of its tight grain and natural oils, it does not need a finish on it to make it a beautiful bench. Teak is also naturally resistant to decay and insects because of its natural oils.

  4. I am searching for a good wood to build a dog house. For inside but something that could also withstand outside elements as it might be used outside as well. Any ideas? It shouldn’t be a too soft wood as it’s for a dog…some kind of medium between all of these essences.

  5. What is the best wood for building a covered patio entry gate that is stainable and durable? It needs to look more like entry door quality, as opposed to a normal fence gate. It will be exposed to Florida weather, and mounted between 2 block walls. It will be replacing a wrought iron gate to give home owners privacy from driveway while relaxing on patio.

  6. How did you miss Oak? Oak should have been third or fourth on the list as it is an excellent wood for making outdoor furniture.

  7. What’s the best wood species for outdoor painted furniture? For price; availability, rot and insect resistance, I’d use White Oak (Quercus Alba) if I’m showing the wood but if I’m painting over it, I need something cheaper that with a paint covering can also last.

    Any ideas?

  8. I have just finished building a table for the patio outside, and the wood that iv’ed used is American coastal redwood (California redwood).
    It has been sanded down first using 80 grit and finally 120 grit. For the finish product i was recommended to use osmo uv oil extra 420 clear finish, the first takes 24 hours to dry and then second coat is applied according to osmo, but the problem i get is that it doesn’t dry at all it just stays tacky. i have tried the same oil on different types of wood etc pine, oak and pitch pie and it bone dry the next day. Can you please help a frustrated person? Thank you.

  9. Hello,
    For a school project I am renovating a old broken bench. I am unsure of which wood i should use. The wood on the bench is extremely ruined and i want to replace it. I live in Norway so the weather can be very wet and the bench is located in the woods close by my house. Therefore i need a type of wood that can be able to cope with the Norwegian weather, is easy to work with (as i am a beginner at woodwork) and i also want to spray paint a quote on it. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me of which wood i could use? The wood should also be able to get a hold of.
    Thank you for your reply,
    Laura,
    Grade 10

    If you have any other comments about renovating benches, feel free to write them down as they would help me with my research!

  10. Hi,
    I have some pinewoods and am thinking to make a single bed without any inside base and only the wood sticks are covered at the corners. So is this beneficial for outdoor.

  11. Hi!
    I living in Zululand of KwaZulu Natal and I have just bought pine wood to use on the main gate but I have got no clue what’s the proper vanish /cortto use in order to protect it from rot caused by rain n insects while keeping it look new n not loosing it’s naturality.

    Regards

  12. I purchased a pair of rocking chairs that had been kept in a garden. I would like to give them new life and use them on my covered deck. They are clearly some type of wood from this list as they have aged well in the garden. The previous owner applied a red stain but doesn’t recall the type of wood. I have sanded and washed the chairs to prepare for finishing.
    I have read through the list and attributes of the various woods above. I have narrowed it down to Acacia, Shores, or Teak. I’m wondering if there is a way to tell the difference? Shorea and Teak both do best with oiling, but Acacia needs to be sealed so I’d like to know which type of wood therefore the best way to finish.
    Thank you

  13. I think this article should probably also cover treated softwoods as these are much more sustainable option than the most of the woods in the article. We chose to use Accoya for our landscape timbers partly because of their environmental credentials which are very impressive. However, the treatment process also makes them incredibly durable and resistant to rot and even termites!

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