If you’re creating a wooden garden table, chair set or bench, the timber needs to have certain characteristics and qualities — particularly in the UK. Our cold, wet British winters really put outdoor furniture to the test!
Choose the right timber species and you’ll have some great-looking, long-lasting garden furniture that really adds value to life in the garden; a true place to relax and unwind.
What sort of wood do I need for DIY garden furniture projects?
Outdoor furniture: Hardwoods vs. softwoods
In the UK, garden furniture is asked to withstand a punishing range of elements — sunlight, rain, thunderstorms, termites, fungi and dirt. The timber used needs to be robust, strong and durable with good moisture and rot resistance. Ideally, garden furniture also ought to be low maintenance.
Hardwood should be your first port of call for garden furniture DIY projects, although some softwoods can still perform well. Hardwoods usually have higher density and natural strength as a result of their slower growth time, making these types of wood more resistant to knocks and scrapes. As a rule, hardwoods also offer more water and rot resistance, suiting them to the outdoor furniture job.
That said, as we’ll discuss, there are still a number of interesting softwoods that can be suited to outdoor applications.
What are the best types of timber for garden furniture?
All of the timbers below have excellent longevity, durability, beauty and are unlikely to warp — everything you’d want for outdoor use. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you won’t go far wrong with any of these woods!
Everybody knows about teak, possibly the ideal wood for outdoor furniture. Durable, waterproof and resistant to sunlight, as well as very easy on the eye — teak is as close as it gets to perfect.
Teak doesn’t attract dirt and is resistant to insects, allowing it to be left out in the most adverse weather conditions. The fact teak is a traditional wood used for boatbuilding should tell you everything you need to know.
Many people are turned from teak because of the high price, which is quite understandable. You did ask for the best, after all!
Weigh up this initial cost with the savings you’ll make in the longer term through lack of maintenance costs and the many, many years you’ll get out of your furniture.
2. European Oak
There’s a reason why oak is a perennially-popular choice for the woodworkers, particularly those involved in outdoor projects.
It’s a strong, durable and sturdy choice, as well as a gorgeous species. It’s clear why European Oak has stood the test of time; that classic golden-medium brown colour never goes out of style.
An excellent hardwood choice, oak garden furniture does require occasional protective treatment, as well as a covering when not in use (ideally).
Because of their shared status as softwoods, we decided to group these two together! Despite not being hardwoods, species like cedar and larch offer fantastic natural resistance to the elements, making them strong contenders for outdoor furniture projects.
Two softwoods we’d recommend include Western Red Cedar and Siberian Larch in particular. Both produce very high levels of natural protective oil which serve as a defence to rot, bugs, decay and moisture.
Also, did you know that Siberian Larch — due to its cold native climate in the forests of Russia — grows at an extremely slow rate? This makes the timber extremely dense, strong and and more robust to knocks and scrapes. In fact, despite being classed as a softwood, Siberian Larch is actually harder than many hardwoods.
Now, here’s where things can get interesting!
Iroko holds many similar cellular properties to teak. Slow grown on the Ivory Coast and with a high natural oil content, it provides incredible strength and durability.
As a species, Iroko or ‘African Teak’ requires little maintenance and has a natural resistance to pests. It's an extremely reliable, attractive timber choice for your garden furniture.
Outdoor garden furniture maintenance tips
A good rot-resistant species does not necessarily need treatment, but applying a clear UV preservative will help your furniture to retain its original colour and protect it from the elements. That’s unless you’re digging the silvery-grey look which many timber species gradually acquire — this ‘silver fox’ look has grown in popularity recently.
Every couple of months, give your garden furniture a gentle clean down to remove dirt. This should be done with some warm water, soap and a bristle brush. This is best done on a sunny day, allowing the furniture to fully dry out.
Starting a garden furniture project?
At Duffield Timber, we’ve been helping customers to meet their timber requirements since 1957. Our enviable reputation is built on providing the highest quality of imported timber and timber products.
If you’re thinking of getting cracking on a DIY woodworking project, get in touch with our friendly team. We’d be delighted to advise you on your project.
If you’re nearby, why not also pay us a visit and cast your eyes over our sought-after selection of wood? We’re just off the A1 near Ripon, in Melmerby.