If you’re planning for an outdoor furniture project, you may want to know that not all wood is good for outdoor applications.
Although you can make chairs and tables out of any wood type, outdoor furniture requires stable, durable woods from mature trees. Otherwise, your furniture may not have a long life outdoors.
So, how do you identify woods suitable for outdoor furniture from those that aren’t? Fortunately, it’s not too complicated.
This guide explains everything you need to consider when shopping for lumber for outdoor furniture. More importantly, I’ll discuss 17 of the best wood types for outdoor furniture.
Best Wood for Outdoor Furniture?
- Redwood – Best exterior wood/best overall
- White oak – Best wood for outdoor furniture
- Red oak – Best hardwood for an outdoor table
- Acacia trees – Best wood for outdoor bench
- Spanish cedar – Best wood for outdoor chairs
Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood for Outdoor Furniture Projects
The following are seven critical factors I consider when choosing wood for an outdoor woodworking project.
Type of furniture
First and foremost, I consider the type of project. What am I making, and which wood is most often used for that project type?
For instance, most woodworkers use teak, iroko, and the western red cedar for garden furniture, such as garden benches.
Meanwhile, acacia and black locust are the most preferred for patio furniture. So, I research a little about the type of furniture I am making.
Softwood vs hardwood
The second thing I consider is whether I want softwood or hardwood furniture. As the name suggests, softwoods are softer, thus rated lower on the Janka scale.
This makes them easier to work with. They are also more readily available, more renewable, and generally more affordable.
However, they aren’t very durable and often lack defining aesthetic qualities. On the other hand, hardwoods are durable wood types with beautiful grain patterns.
They are also extremely durable, typically lasting several decades. However, they are hard to work with (often require power tools), are hard to find, and are expensive.
Natural resistance to decay
Nearly all wood types resist decay. However, some woods are more naturally resistant to decay while others require proper finishing, such as waterproofing and special stains to enhance decay resistance and rot resistance.
For instance, cedar, redwood, and cypress, to a lesser extent, have excellent natural decay resistance as they do not absorb moisture. So, do you want natural decay resistance, or are you prepared to use other means for weather-proofing?
Naturally resistant to pests and insect infestation
Like rot and decay resistance, some woods are naturally resistant to pests. For instance, cedar has excellent pest resistance. In fact, untreated cedar has a higher pest and insect resistance than many hardwoods and softwoods.
On the other hand, cottonwood and pine trees are prone to insect infestation. So you must protect them properly, or your furniture may be short-lived.
Read also: The best type of wood for window sill.
Your climate directly impacts the longevity of your outdoor furniture. For instance, if you live in the north, where it snows almost all year, you should pick highly moisture-resistant and water-resistant woods for outdoor furniture.
On the other hand, if you live in the south, where it shines for the better part of the year, you need to select woods that resist fading for your outdoor furniture. Alternatively, you can keep the furniture under a cabana rather than in direct sunlight.
Best Wood for Outdoor Furniture
The following is a list of the best woods for different outdoor woodworking applications based on the above factors.
1. Best exterior wood/ best overall: Redwood
If you don’t have the time to scrutinize multiple wood types to choose one that matches your exact needs, you should pick redwood and not look back. It’s the overall best wood for outdoor woodworking applications.
Available in a range of subspecies, redwood colors range from pink-brown to dark red, and its uses from making durable plywoods to construction.
However, what makes it excellent for outdoor furniture is that natural chemicals found in the pores of redwood trees make it extremely rot, weather, and insect resistant.
This makes a superior choice for outdoor applications such as wooden signs, as it easily withstands heat, cold, windy, and wet weather conditions while deterring insects.
2. Best wood for outdoor furniture: White oak
The American white oak is the ideal wood for an outdoor table and wood pillars front porch. It is a beautiful straight-grained with light-colored sapwood and light to dark brown heartwood.
The straight grains and medium to coarse texture also work very well for outdoor tables. However, its durability and weather resistance truly set white oak apart.
White oak is highly dense (750 kg/cubic meter), has impeccable impact resistance, and is very hard (1350 Janka). It’s also almost impervious to water. These are some of the reasons why it’s commonly used in railway sleepers and timber bridges.
3. Best hardwood for an outdoor table: Red oak
Red oak shares many similarities with white oak. For instance, both are popular and highly valued hardwoods. They are also both durable. However, red oak has a few advantages over white oak when making an outdoor table specifically.
For one, it’s softer than white oak (1290 Janka vs. 1350 Janka). This makes it easier to saw, cut, sand, and even curve if you wish.
Secondly, it has a stronger and more dramatic grain pattern that gives it a beautiful look. Finally, red oak hides dents and scratches better due to the stronger pinkish-red tone.
4. Best wood for outdoor bench: Acacia trees
Well, acacia furniture is best known for high-water resistance. But there are also some disadvantages of acacia wood furniture to consider.
The trees contain natural oils that repel water, allowing acacia items to withstand prolonged periods of moisture, water, or snow exposure.
The wood is also highly dimensionally-stable, meaning it doesnt change shape significantly after exposure to extreme weather. These qualities make it an excellent wood choice for outdoor furniture.
But that’s just the start. Acacia makes the perfect wood for outdoor benches because it is extremely durable, resists dents and scratches, and easily withstands rough use.
Above all, acacia wood furniture gives a smooth finish without lots of polishing or treatment.
5. Best wood for outdoor chairs: Spanish cedar
Cedar is one of the most popular softwoods in the US because it’s affordable and widely available. However, did you know that cedar also doesn’t warp due to moisture?
Yes, it’s that dimensionally stable. It is also naturally resistant to pests and insects. So, you don’t have to treat it with chemicals to keep off the borers and ants.
However, not all cedars are the same. So, if you’re looking for the best wood for outdoor chairs, I recommend the Spanish cedar.
It has a beautiful pinkish to white tone and golden luster, thus making beautiful chairs. Meanwhile, the straight grain pattern makes it highly workable.
6. Cheapest wood for outdoor use: Cypress
Cypress is one of the most durable woods. Though a softwood, it can last several decades. The best part is that it lasts so long without significant maintenance.
Old-growth cypress lumber can last over 40 years with little maintenance, while lumber from younger trees often lasts 20+ years.
More importantly, cypress weathers extreme temperatures easily. It contains natural oils that give the timber incredible weather resistance.
Cypress is also resistant to insects ad fungal attacks. Above all, it’s one of the cheapest wood for furniture. Some cypress species cost as little as $2 to $3 per board foot.
It’s one of the best woods for Adirondack chairs, patio chairs, and picnic tables among other outdoor furniture.
7. Best naturally rot-resistant wood for outdoor furniture: Honduran Mahogany
Many woodworkers consider mahogany the king of hardwoods. It’s not the hardest of them.
In fact, an 800-900 lbf rating on the Janka scale makes it softer than most hardwoods and several softwoods, including some cypress varieties such as the Australian cypress (1230 Janka).
However, few wood types come close to mahogany in terms of durability. It naturally resists splitting and chipping and doesn’t lose shape due to weather.
It also doesn’t warp. Most importantly, mahogany is the gold standard for rot resistance. It takes incredible levels of abuse and exposure for mahogany wood to rot, making it the best for epoxy wood slab countertops.
8. Best wood for an outdoor tabletop: Aromatic red cedar
Aromatic (or eastern) red cedar is commonly used in closets and chests to repel moths and other insects. This is because it produces natural oils that repel insects.
This already tells you that it can survive outdoors. It’s also highly weather resistant. The same natural oils make it repellent to moisture. As a result, it doesn’t rot readily.
The above features plus aromatic red cedar’s aesthetic qualities make it the perfect choice for making outdoor table tops. It has reddish or violet-brown heartwood that doesn’t easily fade and beautiful straight grains. Meanwhile, the sapwood is pale yellow.
9. Best wood for outdoor bench slats: Black locust
Robina Preudoacacia, popularly known as black locust, is a medium-sized deciduous hardwood tree that grows to 82 feet tall and 47 inches in diameter. The heartwood is pale greenish-yellow to dark brown, fading to a russet brown with age.
It’s one of the hardest woods, with a Janka rating of 1,700, thus a great choice if you’re looking for bench slats that don’t break. It’s also highly rot-resistant.
Indeed, some studies claim it’s the most rot-resistant hardwood indigenous to North America. You’ll also appreciate that it makes very beautiful wood pieces.
10. Best weather-resistant wood: Eucalyptus
First and foremost, I must clarify that eucalyptus is a hardwood. Many people often confuse it with softwood. Eucalyptus is a narrow-leaved hardwood with a hardness rating of 1125 on the Janka scale.
It’s also very durable. The only downside is that it’s too brittle for most applications, thus easily splitting as it dries. Eucalyptus also has low shock resistance.
However, if your application doesn’t require extreme shock resistance, then eucalyptus can be an excellent choice for outdoor applications as it has exceptional weather resistance. It is also rot and decay-resistant. Staining eucalyptus wood is easy, allowing you to enhance its natural beauty while adding an extra layer of protection.
11. Best long-lasting wood: Teak
I would have named teak my best overall wood for outdoor furniture but it’s very expensive and here’s why. It scores highly in important departments and has the classic dark brown color that many people love.
No wonder the teak wood price in USA keeps on soaring.
Additionally, teak, though one of the hardest hardwoods, is very easy to cut, saw, and sand. It’s also lightweight. Above all, teak has silica in its grains, making the wood extremely durable.
It’s why species such as the Brazilian teak easily last a lifetime or longer. It withstands all types of weather and is insect and pest-resistant.
12. Best wood for patio furniture: Ipe
Also known as the Brazilian walnut, the ipe tree is a beautiful exotic hardwood from South America. It’s hard and very strong. Ipe also resists cracking and warping.
But most importantly, it’s highly weather-resistant. It doesn’t matter if you live in a snowy or sunny location; ipe can withstand the weather.
Of course, ipe wood is also very beautiful. The light brown to dark brown color suits the outdoors, and its straight and interlocked grain patterns with a natural luster make it a great choice for patio furniture.
13. Best water-resistant wood for outdoor: Douglas fir
The Douglas fir tree doesn’t get enough plaudits. It’s a native softwood that’s readily available and very affordable. Douglas fir is also highly workable.
It takes paints and stains very well and cuts, saws, and sands effortlessly. And, it’s not the softest of woods. A 660 Janka rating makes it hard enough to withstand most uses.
But above all, Douglas fir is one of the few softwoods with very high water resistance. Although it can hold water, it doesn’t allow the water to change its stricture; it maintains its shape throughout.
14. Best wood for outdoor bar top: Atlantic white cedar
Also known as the southern white cedar, the Atlantic white cedar is native to the Atlantic coast of North America. It mostly grows from southern Maine to Georgia and along the Gulf of Mexico.
The trees can grow to 1,000 years and are extremely resistant to decay. Indeed, Atlantic white cedar trees buried in peat bogs for decades have been retrieved still in excellent condition.
The wood is lightweight but strong enough at 1,560 Janka. It is also a low-shrinkage wood and extremely durable. These qualities make it a very good choice for outdoor bar tops.
If you’re wondering, the heartwood is light reddish-brown while the narrow sapwood is pale yellow-brown to almost white and clearly demarcated from the heartwood.
15. Strongest wood for outdoor furniture: Shorea
Shorea is often compared to teak and ipe. It is a tropical hardwood that excels in outdoor woodworking applications because it has a very high density.
For instance, whereas teak weighs 43 pounds per cubic foot, Shorea weighs 46 pounds per cubic foot. The trees are mostly found in rainforests, especially in Indonesia and southeast Asia, where some call them sal trees.
There are at least five common types of Shorea: white meranti, yellow meranti, light red meranti, dark red meranti, and Belau.
The individual trees get their names from the color of the heartwood. Some species are extremely hard. For instance, the light red meranti has an 800 Janka rating, perfect for outdoor applications.
16. Best wood for a wood fence: Pressure-treated pine
A wood fence can be practical when constructing a picket fence on your front yard or garden or building a post and rail fence to enclose a field. Wood fences are beautiful, durable, and affordable.
Above all, they are low-maintenance. However, you must start by picking the right types of wood for the project. Pressure-treated pine is one of the best choices.
Although redwood is another excellent pick, pressure-treated pine is just as good. It’s extremely durable, often lasting 20+ years.
Additionally, pine is more affordable and readily available than redwood. Above all, pressure treated lumber is best for outdoor use. It is highly resistant to moisture, fungus, and insect infestation.
17. Best pest-resistant wood for outdoor use: Southern Red Cedar
The southern red cedar is also popular as the Florida red cedar grows in well-drained sandy soils, in full or partial sun. It occasionally reaches 40 feet tall, though most trees range from 25 to 35 feet tall.
The southern red cedar is one of the most insect-resistant trees. It contains a special compound that’s poisonous to most insects and pests. Additionally, it has a rare fragrance that repels insects.
This is why it’s the ultimate Christmas tree. Don’t forget that cedar trees are also highly resistant to rotting. They can live for decades in damp conditions without rotting.
Treated or Untreated? (What if it’s Left Untreated?)
Ideally, I consider treated wood for outdoor furniture as treated wood is better protected from moisture and weather elements. Moisture exposure accelerates rotting.
Untreated timber lacks waterproofing and thus typically rots within weeks rather than months in damp, outdoor conditions. By comparison, treated wood is waterproofed and thus can last up to two years outdoors without signs of rotting.
The danger is even bigger for fence posts that go into the ground. A combination of soil contact and moisture exposure can quickly cause decay.
Wood used decking may also become damaged faster due to direct exposure to sunlight and rainwater. The decking will quickly begin to crack and warp, and the wood may fall apart before you know it.
Therefore, you should prioritize treated wood for outdoor furniture. Alternatively, find other ways to protect it from direct exposure to moisture and sunlight.
The wood treatment process essentially refers to infusing the timber with chemical preservatives to protect it from insects and rot. First, the wood is placed in depressurized holding tanks to remove air and replace it with a preservative.
The wood is sealed in a tank, and air is extracted, creating a vacuum. Then a solution containing chromium, copper, and arsenic is added.
Due to the vacuum, the chemicals are carried deep into the wood, taking up the spaces previously occupied by air.
How to Protect Untreated Outdoor Wood Furniture
If I have to use untreated wood for outdoor furniture, I consider protecting it by coating the furniture in outdoor sealers, clear coat/spar urethane, exterior paint, or wood oils.
- Outdoor sealers: The best outdoor sealers are water-based sealers that combine chemicals and oils for better mildew and UV protection. Water sealers primarily seek to keep the inner wood dry.
- Clear coats (spar urethane): I rub, brush, or spray clear coats such as spar urethane onto outdoor wood furniture. It is affordable and does an excellent job of protecting the wood from moisture and weather elements.
- Exterior paint: Exterior paints can also protect outdoor furniture from moisture and weather elements while coating the furniture in a beautiful color. Make sure to choose colors you love.
- Wood oils: Finally, wood oils are a natural way to protect the wood from rotting agents and weather elements. For instance, decking oil protects wood from UV damage and overall weather damage.
How to Protect Outdoor Furniture
The following are additional ways to protect outdoor wood furniture (treated or untreated) from moisture and other weather elements.
- Keep it dry: Decay and rot are directly related to fungus, which require moisture to survive. So, depriving the microorganisms of moisture helps prevent decay.
- Keep it shaded: Sunlight robs wood of its natural oils and can cause bleaching and degradation. It also eliminates natural chemicals such as lignin from wood. So, keep furniture out of direct sunlight.
- Bring them inside whenever necessary: Sometimes is difficult to keep wooden furniture dry and away from direct sunlight. If so, consider bringing the furniture inside when outdoor conditions become too harsh.
- Consider borate-treatment: Many people are dead-set against natural pressure-treatment methods involving arsenic, which isn’t too health-friendly. In that case, consider boric pressure treatment. Boric is a naturally-occurring mineral that’s completely safe for humans.
What wood is the most durable outdoor furniture?
Teak is widely considered the most durable wood for outdoor furniture. Teak outdoor furniture repels water, deters insects, and doesn’t warp with changes in humidity. Its natural oils are responsible for its amazing weather resistance.
What wood is most weather resistant?
Cypress is widely considered the most weather-resistant wood. It’s the main reason it is known as the “eternal wood” The natural oils in cypress repel insects and prevent rotting. They also prevent moisture absorption, keeping the core of the furniture pieces dry even in wet conditions. Given its moisture resistance, can I paint wet wood, like cypress, without risking damage to the wood’s integrity and the paint’s longevity? It’s generally recommended to paint dry and well-seasoned wood for the best results.
Which type of wood is best for making outdoor furniture?
Softwoods like cypress, redwood, and cedar are the three best wood types for making outdoor furniture. The three softwoods have natural moisture-wicking properties that allow them to withstand the worst rains and winters.
What wood lasts the longest outdoors?
The two wood types that last longest outdoors are ipe and teak. First off, both are very strong hardwoods that easily resist dents and scratches, typical of outdoor environments. Additionally, the two wood types are highly moisture and rot-resistant. So, they often last many decades outdoors.
Is meranti wood good for outdoor use?
Yes, meranti is one of the best wood types for outdoor use. In fact, it’s one of the few kinds of wood that you can use for outdoor furniture without treatment. Although it’s only slightly durable, the dark red hardwood rarely moves due to moisture. It’s also very dense at 710 kg/cubic meter. Also, Meranti is a suitable wood for a subwoofer box due to its moderate density and stability. However, proper design and construction are vital for optimal sound performance.
Is oak good for outdoor use?
Yes, oak is an excellent wood choice for outdoor applications and the best wood for outdoor shutters. Not only is oak strong, strong, and durable, but it’s also undeniably gorgeous. The European oak, for instance, is a classic, versatile, golden to medium-brown wood that works in any outdoor environment.
Is mahogany good for outdoor furniture?
Yes, mahogany is a good choice for outdoor furniture. It is extremely hard and tight-grained, allowing it to resist shrinking, splintering, and checking. These properties make mahogany the perfect wood for outdoor use.
Is cedar wood good for the outdoors?
Yes. Cedar is an extremely tough wood with natural anti-microbial properties, making it a great choice for furniture, especially outdoors. Moreover, cedar has beautiful straight grains and is lightweight and easy to work with, making it the best wood for fence posts.
Is red oak good for outdoor use?
Red oak is considered one of the best woods for outdoor use, often compared to cedar. While harder than cedar and similar to white oak, it may not weather as well, with checking being common. However, red oak can still be a viable option as the best wood for a bow with proper maintenance.
Is white oak good for outdoor furniture?
Yes, white oak is beautiful and strong. It is also a close-grained hardwood that’s virtually impervious to water. These qualities make it an excellent choice for that outdoor project. Remember that white oak is also highly rot-resistant, so it’s often used to build boats. In addition, white oak stands out as the strongest wood for axe handles.
Is whitewood good for the outdoors?
Yes, whitewood is a good candidate for outdoor woodworking projects. It is highly termite-resistant and keeps at bay most pests from the furniture. It is also weather-resistant. So, your outdoor furniture will be perfectly fine if it is made of whitewood.
Related: Best wood for pyrography
That’s all you need to know about outdoor furniture wood. The main takeaway is that some wood types are more suited to outdoor applications than others because they are more moisture-resistant and insect/pest resistant.
However, you can waterproof most wood types by pressure-treating and use it for outdoor furniture-making projects.