Comfy outdoor furniture can turn your backyard into a restful haven. Many homeowners prefer the warm, exquisite ambiance of wood. There are two main categories, hardwoods and softwoods.
Here you’ll learn about twelve types of wood in both classifications, including their pros and cons.
I also answer frequently asked questions, such as “What’s the most durable wood for outdoor furniture?” and “Which is the least expensive wood for patio furniture?”
Although there are 12 kinds of timber to consider, at least one is bound to click with you.
Table of Contents
- Hardwood Furniture Types
- 1. TEAK
- 2. MAHOGANY
- 3. IPE
- 4. WHITE OAK
- 5. ACACIA
- 6. EUCALYPTUS
- Softwood Furtniture
- 1. CEDAR
- 2. CYPRESS
- 3. REDWOOD
- 4. DOUGLAS FIR
- 5. PINE
- 6. JUNIPER
- What is the best protection for outdoor wood furniture?
- What is the best and most durable wood for outdoor furniture?
- What is the cheapest wood for outdoor furniture?
- Clear Choice
Hardwood Furniture Types
One hallmark of hardwood patio furniture is its remarkable strength. Yet, large pieces are dense and heavy, requiring at least two people to maneuver them. Meanwhile, if you don’t coat hardwood surfaces regularly, their vibrant hues turn silver-gray.
Since all hardwoods have these downsides, I’ve omitted them in the “Drawbacks” sections below.
Still, it’s good to keep these factors in mind while reading. Let’s delve into the pluses and minuses of teak, mahogany, ipe, white oak, acacia, and eucalyptus.
A bright, uplifting timber, teak is honey-colored with a straight, narrow grain. Its innate oil repels water, keeping the wood from warping, splitting, and decaying.
It also defies mold and mildew. Moreover, teak excels at enduring ice, snow, beating rain, and blazing sun.
Meanwhile, teak’s oil and resins banish termites and marine borers. In terms of strength and durability, teak is the king of hardwoods! In turn, its average lifespan is 70 years or more.
- superb weather resistance
- unmatched durability
- unfazed by pests
You can ensure teak is sustainable by choosing FSC-certified wood, sanctioned by the Forest Stewardship Council. Certification means the trees are replanted continuously and harvesting protects the native habitat.
This luxurious wood is warm brown with reddish undertones. It can have a straight or interlocked grain in concentric circles.
If you don’t shield mahogany from direct sunlight and heat, it turns silvery-gray in just one year.
For the best quality, choose American mahogany, lasting up to 40 years.
- high resistance to moisture, bugs, decay, and wood rot
- mid-range cost
- especially vulnerable to the sun’s heat and ultraviolet (UV) rays
You can maintain the rich color of mahogany furniture with a UV-inhibiting sealant. For optimal protection, apply the product each year, such as lacquer, polyurethane, shellac, or wood oil. Then, during the winter, store mahogany furnishings in a shed or indoors.
Another exquisite option is Ipe, also called ironwood. Ipe is darker than mahogany and russet-tinged. Its grain can be linear or slightly wavy. Ipe is second in quality to teak, performing well for up to 40 years.
- super-strong and durable
- stays cool in summer by dispersing heat
- resists termites, warping, mold, and rotting
- needs little maintenance
- more available and less costly than teak
- none, aside from being heavy.
4. WHITE OAK
Among hardwoods, white oak is unique in structure. First, it has tyloses, plant tissues that block its pores, making them impervious to insects and water. Secondly, white oak brims with tannins, a type of natural fungicide.
Still, this wood is low in oil. Thus, white oak requires a sealant to retain its durability.
White oak comes in various shades of brown, some with yellow undertones. Its decorative grain is tiger-striped, accented with brown knots and flecks. If you apply sealant annually, white oak patio furniture can persist for 100 years!
- resists rot, mold, mildew, and insects
- readily available
- intense heat destroys its texture
- prone to cracking and denting on impact
- sensitive to scratches
- requires moderate maintenance
- pricey, but cheaper than teak
One standout trait of acacia is design versatility. First, its attractive grain pattern varies according to its growing location, cut, and quality.
Moreover, the wood is available laminated. Solid acacia is the strongest, yet engineered wood comes in more finishes and colors.
Does your climate have low humidity? If so, be sure to oil acacia furniture annually. Otherwise, the wood dries out, causing it to buckle and split. It can even break spontaneously with use, a safety hazard.
Still, with regular maintenance, acacia outdoor furniture can last your lifetime.
- affordable, especially engineered acacia
- resists moisture, termites, and scratches
- widely available
- not waterproof unless treated
- spilling alcoholic drinks causes cracks and dry spots
- warps if placed near a heat source, such as a fire pit or barbecue
- darkens with age and exposure to hot tableware
- direct sunlight renders dulling, spots, splitting, and warping
When new, eucalyptus has a bright cinnamon color, darkening as it ages. Typically, the grain is light, straight, and even, although wild eucalyptus may have knots.
The wood has a smooth texture and water-repellent oil. If you treat the surface annually, eucalyptus performs well for at least 20 years.
Does your region get harsh winters? If so, keep eucalyptus furniture inside during cold months, protecting it from deformity.
Also, note that eucalyptus doesn’t like sudden changes in humidity and temperature. It reacts by expanding and shrinking, harming the wood. Thus, if your area is prone to sudden weather changes, choose another type of timber.
- exceptionally durable
- resists moisture, decay, and rot
- readily sustainable
- develops cracks during cold winters if left outdoors
- ravaged by borers, psyllids, and beetles, unless sealed annually
- causes skin reactions in certain people, such as those allergic to tea tree oil
Softwood timbers don’t match the strength and durability of hardwoods. Still, they’re robust enough for outdoor use, standing up to gusty winds.
Meanwhile, they cost less than hardwood patio furniture, making them a good value. Since all softwoods are lightweight, I’ve omitted this advantage under each profile.
Yet, they share some of the same deficiencies as hardwoods. For instance, both types of furniture turn gray with time unless treated annually.
Next, we’ll discuss the pluses and minuses of cedar, cypress, redwood, Douglas fir, pine, and juniper.
This softwood is stunning, featuring a pinkish-brown hue with pale yellow streaks. Moreover, some cuts of cedar can have purplish undertones. The wood’s tight grain and medium texture enhance its striking beauty.
Insects despise cedar, offended by its pungent odor and resins. The wood also has thujone, with neurotoxic effects on bugs.
Meanwhile, cedar’s air pockets insulate the wood against extreme temperatures. So, even in scorching weather, cedar feels comfortable on your skin.
If you stain and seal the wood each year, it braves the elements even better. In that case, cedar furniture can give you 20 years of service. Ideally, cover it before winter, shielding the wood from snow and ice.
- rivals white oak in strength and durability
- stands up well to humidity, cold, and heat
- unaffected by sudden weather changes
- repels powder beetles and termites
- defies moisture, mold, rot, and decay
- reasonably priced
- susceptible to denting
- darkens when exposed to direct sunlight
- highly flammable
This is another aromatic timber, although less fragrant than cedar. Meanwhile, cypress patio furniture is slightly stronger. Also distinct is the wood’s appearance. Cypress is pale yellow to medium brown with a straight grain.
Among softwoods, cypress has superior resistance to pests, rot, and mildew. This benefit comes from cypressene, an oil-like preservative in the wood.
However, cypress loses some durability and fades to a silvery-gray with time. Still, you can avoid this process with a clear sealant, applied every spring.
Furthermore, while cypress repels water, it’s not waterproof. So, treating the wood resolves this shortcoming as well.
With annual maintenance, cypress outdoor furniture can last up to 40 years.
- considerable strength and durability
- doesn’t warp, bow, or crack
- defies insects, mildew, and rotting
- moderately priced
- not waterproof
- low density, marred on impact
Few softwoods match the breathtaking beauty of redwood, derived from the stately sequoia tree. Its gorgeous color ranges from pinkish brown to russet. Meanwhile, the grain has burls and growth rings, heightening its character.
Redwood is also known for its stability. However, if you don’t varnish the wood annually, it will develop flakes and cracks. Still, with regular care, redwood patio furniture has an average lifespan of 30 years.
Note that the majestic sequoia is an endangered tree, in limited supply. Thus, without dedicated conservation efforts, it will become extinct.
- doesn’t warp or shrink
- resists decay and bug raids
- vulnerable to scratches and dents
4. DOUGLAS FIR
This stylish softwood can feature yellow, orange, pink, or reddish-brown hues. It has a close, elliptical grain, showcased with clear varnish and stains. Knots are common, adding keen visual interest.
Douglas fir is durable, standing up to moderately harsh weather. It’s also versatile with countless outdoor uses. For instance, the wood often comprises pergolas, chairs, gliders, decks, and gazebos.
Still, you’ll want to seal the surface annually to guard against bug attacks. In turn, Douglas fir outdoor furniture has a life expectancy of 30 years.
- sturdy, withstanding frequent use
- doesn’t warp, buckle, or split
- fends off decay and rot
- widely available
- susceptible to termites
- darkens with UV exposure
- prone to denting
Although pine outdoor furniture denotes a country or rustic theme, it also suits contemporary style. Pine’s defining traits are dark knots, a prominent grain, and uplifting hues. Its light colors include pale yellow, creamy white, and yellowish-brown.
For this reason, pine takes well to staining and paint. Additionally, it’s best to seal the wood or buy pressure-treated pine. Otherwise, its lifespan can be shortened by harsh weather, frequent use, and rot.
With diligent care, you can expect pine patio furniture to last 20 years. Another plus is that pine trees are sustainable. They thrive on farms and plantations with little effect on natural habitats.
- design versatility
- stability, not shrinking or swelling with climatic changes
- readily available
- pine can have excessive knots, weakening the wood
- may scratch or dent with use
- must be treated for durability and longevity
Western juniper is the most popular variety for outdoor furniture. It has a pinkish-brown base and occasional cream-colored streaks. While insects avoid the bracing smell of juniper, you’ll likely love its invigorating effect.
Juniper naturally outperforms pressure-treated timber. Still, you’ll want to apply a finish. Treating the wood guards against UV degradation, temperature extremes, moisture, and abrasion from flying debris.
While juniper is malleable, it’s still strong, holding hardware better than other softwoods. In longevity, it exceeds redwood and cedar.
For this reason, juniper patio furniture can render 50 years of excellent service. Additionally, juniper grows wild across the US, making it highly sustainable.
- outstanding strength and durability
- thwarts decay, wood rot, mold, and bug attacks
- great value, moderately-priced
- easily sustainable
- widely available, particularly in the western US
What is the best protection for outdoor wood furniture?
There are three methods of shielding wood patio furniture from the elements.
- Apply an oil finish, such as tung or linseed oil. These materials guard against damage by UV rays and moisture.
- Coat dark wood furniture with a DIY oil-based sealant. It will defend the surfaces against wood-eating bugs, water, scratches, and UV light. To make the sealant, combine one part linseed or tung oil, one part mineral spirits, and one part polyurethane.
Note – Since this product yellows with time, avoid using it on light woods, such as pine.
- Use a premade stain-sealant combo. It consists of a sealer with added pigment. This “armor” covers most threats to wood integrity – harsh weather, water, direct sunlight, and pests.
As a guide to the best product, consider the weaknesses of the wood you buy. Here are a few examples.
- White oak – prone to denting, scratches, heat damage, and cracking – apply the DIY oil-based sealant.
- Cypress – not waterproof, although highly resistant to pests, mildew, and rot – use an oil finish.
- Douglas fir – prone to termite attacks and UV darkening – coat with a premade stain-sealant combo.
For step-by-step instructions on applying all three products, see this post.
Moreover, here is a helpful video for sealing wood of outdoor furniture:
What is the best and most durable wood for outdoor furniture?
Teak is the optimal wood for patio furnishings. It’s unmatched in durability, strength, and weather resistance.
Meanwhile, it defies termites, marine borers, water damage, mold, and mildew. Additionally, it’s low maintenance. The only drawback to teak is the high cost.
What is the cheapest wood for outdoor furniture?
The least expensive is pine, followed by Douglas fir, slightly more costly due to its durability.
Now, you’re acquainted with the 12 types of wood for patio furniture. While there are many factors to consider, two can simplify your decision:
- a wood’s maintenance requirements
- your budget
Essentially, any low-cost wood can serve you well with annual care.
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