Choosing the Most Durable Wood for Outdoor Furniture

Wood is a natural choice for outdoor furniture, but durability varies. (DepositPhotos)

A garden bench adds the perfect finishing touch to a landscaped yard. At the end of a meandering path or under a favorite tree, a comfortable bench provides a place to sit and contemplate nature, to unwind from the pressures of daily life.

While garden benches and other outdoor furniture can be made from a range of materials, it’s hard to beat natural wood for warmth and beauty. When using wood for outside furniture, it’s important to choose a durable, weather-resistant wood.

So which wood should you choose for your garden bench? Here’s a look at some of the most durable and attractive natural woods available.

Acacia

Acacia garden bench

Acacia garden bench

For those concerned about sustainability and eco-friendly living, acacia makes a good choice. Acacia trees grow in such abundance in many regions of the world, that they’re often considered an invasive species.

Acacia is a dense, durable hardwood that can withstand the elements. It is often used in boat building.

Sealing acacia serves to enhance and preserve the wood’s rich, golden brown color. If left unsealed, acacia should be reserved for deck or patio furniture, since constant contact with the damp ground of a garden may cause the wood to discolor.

Cedar

Cedar garden bench

Cedar garden bench

The resins in both western cedar and northern white cedar render these woods resistant to both insects and rot. Cedar is a lightweight wood, making it the perfect choice if you plan to move or rearrange your outdoor furniture often.

Cedar is also a good choice if you would like your bench to match your house or other furnishings, since it paints and stains well. In fact, yearly cleaning and sealing of cedar are recommended, as the soft grain becomes rough over time if left untreated.

Left in a natural state, cedar weathers to an elegant silvery gray over time. Bear in mind that cedar is rather soft, so it will dent and scratch more easily than harder woods like shorea or teak. Paradoxically, since cedar retains moisture, rather than drying out, it’s more resistant to cracking than many other woods.

Cypress

Cypress garden bench

Cypress garden bench

Cypress wood contains a natural preservative that is both rot and insect resistant. Cypress is capable of withstanding the elements without a finish of any kind, though a periodic coat of oil will keep the wood looking fresh longer.

Like cedar, cypress weathers to a silver gray over time when left unfinished. Cypress is also a very stable wood, with little shrinking or swelling throughout the changing seasons.

While cypress is a good choice for outdoor furniture, it may be a little difficult to find due to the scarcity of mature trees.





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16 Comments on “Choosing the Most Durable Wood for Outdoor Furniture”

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  • dashinithu Says:
    March 12th, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Thank you so much.



  • Kristin Says:
    July 18th, 2018 at 6:41 am

    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


  • Official Comment:


    Thomas Boni Says:
    July 18th, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Hi, Thabani! Here’s a good article on this topic: https://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/28/nyregion/home-clinic-pine-an-easy-wood-that-s-difficult-to-finish.html
    Thanks for reading!



  • Thabani Says:
    July 14th, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    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



  • Tyler Myles Says:
    February 26th, 2018 at 4:48 am

    can someone suggest what’s the best hardwood lumber store in Chino , CA?



  • Annu verma Says:
    June 8th, 2017 at 7:19 am

    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.



  • Laura Says:
    September 22nd, 2016 at 10:59 am

    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!



  • Alwyn Vaughan Jones Says:
    September 6th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    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.



  • Patrick Joseph King Says:
    July 6th, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I want to cover a manhole to suit the slabs. I could paint it to suit for outside in the yard.



  • Mark Newton Says:
    April 22nd, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    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?



  • Juna Says:
    April 3rd, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    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.



  • Errol Says:
    July 27th, 2015 at 7:32 am

    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.



  • shivam kataria Says:
    February 23rd, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    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.



  • Smith Herison Says:
    September 10th, 2014 at 12:26 am

    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.



  • Diana Williams Says:
    May 28th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    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



  • Heinz R.Eckhardt Says:
    July 1st, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    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


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Choosing the Most Durable Wood for Outdoor Furniture