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 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 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.
- How to Finish Wood Furniture for Use Outdoors (article)
- How to Build an Outdoor Bench (video/article)
- How to Build a Patio Planter (video/article)
- How to Build a Backyard Arbor Swing (video)
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.