Wood Choices for Outdoor Benches

Furnituremakers suggest naturally durable woods for outdoor furniture. February 29, 2012

I am building two outdoor benches to sit in front of a restaurant. What is a good wood choice? It will be out in the rain and direct sun. The finish will be a thin paint with a lot of the raw wood showing through, kind of antiqued. I have learned my lesson with wear and tear in a public situation so cedar, redwood, cypress, and fir are not durable enough.

The obvious choice is teak but it is very expensive. Ipe will work but what about African mahogany, oak, maple, alder, ash, and poplar? Is there a study out there about best woods to hold up outdoors? Rot is probably not an issue as it will sit on a cement patio but expansion and contraction in the rain and hot sun is more of an issue.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor L:
White oak is an excellent choice as an exterior wood - not red oak.

From contributor M:
Mahogany or white oak should work well. I would also install a plastic or metal piece under the legs to prevent water from being absorbed into the end grain in contact with cement.

From contributor O:
White oak is a good choice for outdoors and at a reasonable cost too. I like to coat the exposed end grain with epoxy. It helps to stop the end grain from soaking up water.

From contributor B:
How about red elm?

From contributor C:
In Europe they use a lot of larch. Iíve never seen it here in the states but I thought I'd mention it.

From contributor V:
In my humble opinion I would use the African mahogany, but I would avoid using paint or stains on outdoor furniture due to the hassle factor of re-finishing it. I would go with teak or tung oil, and maybe carnuba wax as well as a topcoat. This method requires no stripping and repairs amazingly easily. The wax is also a great moisture barrier, though this will need refinishing more often.

Otherwise if you are going to stain it (or use a semi-transparent stain/paint) I would go with redwood because I've found it's sometimes denser than the other easily accessible softwoods. It also is naturally weather resistant.