Wood for Outdoor Planters

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Forum topic by Broooklyn posted 04-19-2010 03:17 AM 8762 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51 posts in 3441 days

04-19-2010 03:17 AM

Hi All,

I’m about to embark on my next newbie project: outdoor planters. I’m going to build 2 planters: 6’w x 2’h x 1’d. Sitting next to each other will create 12’ of planters.

To keep it simple, I’m looking to build the sides with plywood and then dress it up a little with legs, trim, etc. The final product will be painted, not stained.

What type of wood is appropriate for outdoor use? Do I just buy wood typically used for decking? Also,what is the correct process of painting something that will live in the sun, rain, and snow?

Thanks LJs

-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY

6 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3467 days

#1 posted 04-19-2010 07:29 PM

You said “plywood”. That could be a problem. Regular plywood will not hold up very long no matter what you do to it. One can buy pressure treated plywood that is designed to stand up to the weather – but it is difficult to paint. You really should not paint it until it has aged for a couple of years.

There are some woods that hold up reasonably well in the weather. White oak does quite well (not red oak). Cedar does okay. My favorite is ipe, but that is hard to get and somewhat expensive. However, it holds up great. Teak is even more expensive than ipe but it is easier to get. Iroko is another lumber known for holding up well, but I have never used it and don’t know much about.

Any of these woods can be painted. For outdoor use, I would recommend an oil based paint. However, for the very best protection, I would recommend a Spar varnish. That is used on boats to protect the wood from the weather.

If possible, I would also recommend a vinyl liner. The moist dirt on the inside of the planter will do more damage than the weather on the outside of the planter. Don’t forget to incorporate some provision for drainage.

As an FYI – I built a antique style flower cart out of white oak over 8 years ago. I put no finish on it and we have left it outside year round. The wood turned gray (which is what I wanted) but it is still as solid as the day I built it. Most old farm wagons were made of white oak and they never had a finish applied to them either.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View CampD's profile


1774 posts in 3879 days

#2 posted 04-19-2010 08:00 PM

MDO plywood, aka “Sign Board” exterior grade with a smooth very paintabe surface. Just paint all edges before assembly and use epoxy glue. richgreer’s idear for a vinyl liner is excelent. I always try to find a planter or plastic box that I design my boxes to. If not drill a lot of drainage holes in the bottom, bigger the better.

-- Doug...

View Broooklyn's profile


51 posts in 3441 days

#3 posted 04-19-2010 11:51 PM

Vinyl liner is definitely in the plans. If I’m lining with plastic, then I’ll need to seal that hole so the water doesn’t go between the plastic and the wood. Then I’ll probably need a screen over the hole so dirt doesn’t come out?

About painting, as Rich mentions, seems to be a real pain with the PT wood. I’ve read articles where someone used regular plywood with 2 coats of primer and 1 coat of paint. Is this actually a good way to seal?

-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3467 days

#4 posted 04-20-2010 12:18 AM

I really can’t respond to your question about the adequacy of 2 coats of primer and 1 coat of paint because I, simply, don’t know. All I will say is that paint needs ongoing maintenance every few years.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View mrg's profile


860 posts in 3392 days

#5 posted 04-20-2010 12:20 AM

For outdoor use I would paint the boxes with a good oil based paint. It will hold up to the elements and may need painting every couple of years. If it’s in direct sunlight you may want to go with a marine grade paint it will hold up better. So you get the best of both worlds in protection. Water and sun.

I am currently building a modular unit of 3 planters and two benches, all out of cedar with the top and bottom made with outdoor grade plywood. Top will have a hole cut out to put a pot into it. This way you use less dirt and can bring the plants in if you have to, or remove them to reconfigure the planters.

-- mrg

View EPJartisan's profile


1122 posts in 3518 days

#6 posted 04-29-2010 09:37 PM

I usually opt for Redwood for outdoor items where price and time is an issue… I get mine from a decking resource. Teak is nice.. I absolutely love Ipe… (I made an outdoor shower with them) but I would not paint them (feels like a sin to me), and the natural oils in the wood can be an issue, the sun can heat the oils, expanding the wood, and cause small cracks or crazing in the paint. Redwood, is really soft and easy to work and rot resistant, and takes paint very well if you use an oil based primer.. but paint is a surface treatment and will need repainting at some point… but then anything left to the weather needs care now and then. Also a tip… along with the liner use non-hardening window silicone caulk to prevent water from leaking at the joints and corners of the wood.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

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