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 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.

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

    • 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!

  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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