best wood for outdoor furniture?

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Forum topic by FredIV posted 05-08-2012 05:25 PM 35086 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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121 posts in 3031 days

05-08-2012 05:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cedar

Hey all,
My neighbor asked me to make her a buffet table/cabinet that will be used exclusively for outdoors. The location of this cabinet will be under a porch in the backyard, completely shaded by trees and the porch roof. The flooring is pavers and the unit will sit up against the back of the garage.

Now, I live about 5 miles from the ocean so we experience damp, hot, humid summers and cold winters. Basically, nothing lasts forever on long island.

My question is, what would be the best wood to use for this project considering our natural elements? I’ve considered using cedar as this is probably the least expensive. My other consideration is cypress, which is a little bit more expensive than cedar. Teak was another thought but that seems very expensive. Personally, I’m leaning towards cedar but thought I would get some expert advice.

The dimensions will be 6’ long x 22” deep x 32” high with an upper shelf built on top of the cabinet top. It’s not a small piece so I’m assuming that stabillity of the wood needs to be addressed as well.

Thanks so much!

21 replies so far

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3126 days

#1 posted 05-08-2012 06:08 PM

It sounds like you’ve already got it narrowed down pretty well. I was looking at making some outdoor furniture a while back, and like you, I discovered that teak is obscenely expensive. Cedar would definitely be my choice. If humidity is a concern, perhaps an outdoor marine varnish would be in order. The kind used on boats should do pretty well for just furniture.

-- Brian Timmons -

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3750 days

#2 posted 05-08-2012 06:16 PM

Another option you might consider is White Oak. It can handle the outside elements fairly well and has a nice look to it. It is a bit more expensive than Cedar but much less expensive than Teak.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 3088 days

#3 posted 05-08-2012 09:25 PM

Redwood if it’s near you.

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View AandCstyle's profile


3273 posts in 2898 days

#4 posted 05-08-2012 11:38 PM

I second the white oak suggestion. It makes beautiful furniture, ala Stickley (although I might be prejudiced in that regard :D) and it is used to make Adirondack chairs so you know it is rot resistant.

-- Art

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3638 days

#5 posted 05-08-2012 11:55 PM

I would stick with cedar.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4289 days

#6 posted 05-08-2012 11:57 PM

Cedar would be good. I’d use spar varnish on it.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3911 days

#7 posted 05-09-2012 12:21 AM

There are several hard woods that can be used in this situation. The biggest damage to outdoor funiture comes from UV rays. Once these rays remove your protective finish….the other elements – heat/cold, damp/dry….will finish the work that the UV started.

That said, I have used walnut, maple, mahogany….etc..etc…for outside items with the caveat that I refresh the finish every 6 months to a year. I use a good penetrating oil finish as this is easier to apply and does not require re-sanding to apply (you can apply spar varnish over an old coat of spar…but the level of the finish will be unequal – this is because most UV tolerant finishes are made to flake away with contiuous UV exposure…this is so that the entire finish does not curl and peal away as non formulated interior finishes would). It is usually a very good idea to sand old coats of spar before applying a new coat.

My favorite outdoor funiture woods though are Redwood (1) – great stuff but can be expensive depending on the distance you are from California and Oregon. White Oak and Cedar (2) tied – both are awesome woods and both have their pros and cons. Mahogany (3) great outside wood – alot of wood boats are made from this and with new plantation woods – it is getting a bit cheaper to use. There are many more…but listing them would make this way to lengthy. Typically though, most hardwoods will work outdoors if you are diligent about keeping them oiled or finished…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View treerecycler's profile


6 posts in 2850 days

#8 posted 05-09-2012 12:28 AM

White oak and cedar are good woods for this. For a finish I used a three part finish on my Potting Bench. It is made up of equal parts of tung oil, turpentine, and polyurethane. Keep it thin and let it soak in before wiping. Use as many coats as you like. It is very easy to touch up later.

-- Dave, Arkansas,retiree

View DamnYankee's profile


3312 posts in 3203 days

#9 posted 05-09-2012 12:38 AM


-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View DamnYankee's profile


3312 posts in 3203 days

#10 posted 05-09-2012 12:41 AM

Honestly, all the woods mentioned above are good, but in the end they all grey/rot/ etc faster when not painted. A really good outdoor finish is to use exterior paint base paint without the tint added. The paint base has all the protective properties except the tint (tint blocks UV), but the other properties of the base paint does a pretty good job. Base paint without tint will dry clear even though it goes on kinda milky.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View FredIV's profile


121 posts in 3031 days

#11 posted 05-09-2012 11:27 PM

Thanks for the replies and suggestions. Very insightful.

View patcollins's profile


1687 posts in 3506 days

#12 posted 05-10-2012 01:05 AM

Ipe, Black Locust, and Douglas fir are pretty good choices too.

View joebloe's profile


157 posts in 2935 days

#13 posted 05-10-2012 05:05 AM

I like cypress for outdoor projects.I’ve been getting rough cut cypress for $1.25 a board foot

View Bobmedic's profile


383 posts in 3443 days

#14 posted 05-11-2012 04:17 AM

Ipe or teak but they are expensive. Redwood and cedar are naturally durable woods as well as white oak.

View John's profile


190 posts in 4225 days

#15 posted 05-11-2012 07:49 PM


-- John, Long Island, NY

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