The Best Solid Wood Furniture for Outdoors
Whether you have a postage-stamp sized backyard or plenty of room to spread out, choosing the right outdoor furniture for your home can mean the difference between enjoying spring and summer days in your yard and spending most of your time indoors.
Although it can seem as though the furniture you pick for your outdoor spaces is an afterthought, it’s a good idea to put as much care and consideration into choosing your garden and patio furniture as you would the furniture for your living room or bedroom.
Whether you’re looking for comfortable seating for a lounge area or an outdoor dining set, this guide will help you know what to look for when choosing the best furniture for the outdoors.
Why Choose Outdoor Furniture?
At this point, you might be wondering why you should even bother to distinguish between outdoor furniture and indoor furniture. There’s not much stopping you from putting a table, chairs or sofa meant for indoor use in your yard or on your porch.
One thing that’s important to understand is that outdoor furniture is going to have a much more rugged life than your indoor furniture. Wooden outdoor furniture is going to have to face the elements — everything from rain to wind and from the sun’s rays to scorching heat or cold. Compared to what outdoor dining sets face, indoor dining sets have a pretty cushy life.
That said, outdoor furniture needs to be able to survive in harsher conditions. You don’t want to invest in an attractive dining set only to have it become worn, faded or even rotted by the end of its first summer.
Generally speaking, wood outdoor furniture is made from more durable, tougher woods than the type of furniture you use inside. If the furniture has any upholstery or cushioning, the textiles used are often designed to repel water and resist fading caused by sunlight.
Types of Wood for Outdoor Furniture
When you think of wood, you might not think of it as the best material for furniture that’s going to spend most, if not all, of its life outdoors. Wood is often known for rotting or warping in wet conditions, for one thing.
But whether or not wood can survive in outdoor conditions depends mostly on the type of wood a piece of furniture is made out of. Certain species of wood, such as pine, might be great for indoor use, but will quickly wear out if left to the elements.
In fact, there are fewer types of wood that are appropriate for long-term outdoor use than those that are ideal for use indoors. When it comes to choosing the best furniture for your garden or patio, the limited selection is both good and bad. On the one hand, you won’t have to agonize over which species is the right one. On the other hand, the limited selection can mean you have to pay more than you’d like for furniture or that the type of furniture you want isn’t available in a style that appeals to you.
Why Can Some Woods Resist Rot?
Fungi, bugs and water can all cause lumber to rot. Rotted wood softens, looks worn out and is not suitable for continued use. Meanwhile, some wood types have built-in rot resistance that either comes from a physical barrier in the wood or chemical compounds found in the material.
For example, cedar contains certain oils that deter insects and bacteria. The pests that can cause rot and decay are bothered by cedar oils enough that they leave the wood alone.
Other types of wood, such as white oak, feature designs and structures that allow them to resist moisture, which reduces the chance of them decaying or rotting if left outdoors.
Some woods that aren’t naturally rot-resistant, such as pine, can be specially treated to help them resist moisture and decay. Although pressure or chemically treated woods can be a budget-friendly option for people looking for outdoor furniture, the quality is often not as good as wood that can resist the elements naturally.
Woods For Outdoor Furniture
Although there are just a handful of wood types that are ideal for outdoor furniture, there is enough of a variety that you should be able to find a species of wood that matches your taste, works with your budget and otherwise meets your needs. Popular outdoor furniture wood types include:
- Cypress: Cypress trees, which are very common in the southern part of the U.S., tend to grow in swamps. It also contains oils that repel bugs, fungi and other sources of decay.
- Red Cedar: If you’ve ever smelled cedar, then you might understand why the wood is so resistant to rot and decay. The strong scent of the wood, caused by the oil it produces, does a great job of repelling pests. Cedar might not be as durable as tropical hardwoods, but it can survive in outdoor conditions for decades if you take good care of it.
- Ipe: Ipe is a type of hardwood that comes from Brazil and other areas of South and Central America. It has a reputation for being so hard that it’s able to bend nails. It also has a pretty long life — anywhere from 25 to 40 years, even without treatment. While most types of wood will float in water, ipe is so dense that it sinks. It’s also considerably more fire resistant than other types of wood and is high in tannic acid, which helps it resist damage from fungi and insects. One of the significant drawbacks of ipe is that it can be pretty expensive compared to other materials.
- Teak: Teak is another type of rot-resistant tropical hardwood. It’s known for being low-maintenance and lasting a long time with little care and attention. Although it’s known for its durability, the big drawback of teak is that the trees themselves grow very slowly. Today, the supply of available teak is very low, which means furniture made from it often costs a pretty penny.
- Eucalyptus: Unlike teak, eucalyptus is a fast-growing, renewable source of rot-resistant wood. Like teak, eucalyptus is easy-care and low-maintenance. The fragrant oil found in eucalyptus helps it resist moisture. Its density also allows it to withstand rot and decay.
- Redwood: Redwood contains a lot of tannins, which help it to resist rot and decay. The wood, which comes from the giant redwood trees that are common in the western part of the U.S., is more commonly used on the west coast than on the east coast. One drawback of redwood is that the tannins can cause staining, especially around any fasteners used to attach the furniture.
- White Oak: White oak’s cell structure is what allows it to resist moisture. The wood is known for being incredibly durable — in fact, it’s so sturdy that it was the wood used in the construction of a U.S. warship dubbed “Old Iron Side.”
- Black Locust: Like white oak, the cell structure of black locust wood is what contributes to its rot-resistance. It might not be a go-to choice for wood furniture today, but it was commonly used years ago for fences and other outdoor furniture.
- Mahogany: If money is no object, you might consider wood outdoor furniture made from mahogany. It’s one of the priciest options out there. Additionally, there are many varieties of mahogany, which can cause choosing furniture made from it a bit of a choose-your-adventure type of game. Not all mahoganies are the same, so if you see it at a price that seems very low, it’s worth investigating further.
Other Materials Used in Outdoor Furniture
Although wood might be your go-to choice when it comes to outdoor furniture, it’s not the only option out there. Poly is a wood alternative that’s designed to withstand wear and tear from the outdoors. You don’t have to maintain poly furniture like wooden furniture, either. To keep it looking fresh and new, all you need to do is wash it with soap and water from time to time.
One other benefit of poly furniture is that it’s made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable itself. It also comes in a rainbow of colors, so you can customize your furniture to your exact preferences.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Furniture for Outdoors
There’s more to look for than just materials when you’re picking out the best furniture for the outdoors. How the furniture is made and its overall quality are also important considerations.
It’s easy to think it’s OK to go low-end when choosing your outdoor furniture. Your patio or deck furniture isn’t going to get as much use as your couch or indoor dining set, mainly because you can’t spend as much time outside as you do inside.
But it’s worth looking at your outdoor furniture as an investment. Sure, you won’t be using it every day, but you do want it to last for years to come. Plus, outdoor furniture gets put under a lot more stress than furniture that gets to spend its life in a climate-controlled indoor setting.
Things to pay attention to when it comes to the quality of your wood outdoor furniture include:
- Fasteners and Hardware: Stainless-steel hardware is rust-resistant, for example. You want pieces that won’t rust or wear out due to rain, sun or other conditions.
- Maintenance Required: Some people want their furniture to develop a patina, and many types of wood will weather and produce a beautiful color or patina after a season or two of use. But at the same time, some types of wood need a lot of upkeep — such as refinishing or oiling — to keep it looking great year after year.
- Joint Types: Take a look at how the furniture comes together. Dovetail joints and tenon joints are particularly sturdy and long-lasting. No matter what you do, steer clear of joints that are glued together — you want a sturdy fastener.
- Appearance: Looks matter, especially when it comes to furniture. Some types of wood furniture are sold unfinished, so you can add your personal touch and flair to them. Poly furniture is also often available in a range of colors, giving you plenty of flexibility and options. The style is another consideration when picking out the best furniture for outdoor living. Try not to go too trendy, as you want furniture that will maintain its aesthetics for a long time. Timeless, classic styles are often the way to go.
- Cost: It can be tempting to buy the least expensive furniture available, but doing so might end up costing you more in the long run. If your budget allows, it’s usually a good idea to buy the highest quality furniture you can, even if it costs more than the bargain basement option. In the end, you’ll end up spending less if you invest in quality and avoid replacing worn-out furniture every year.
Questions to Ask When Buying Wood Outdoor Furniture
Do you still need some help picking out the best furniture for the outdoors? Ask yourself these seven questions.
1. How Will You Use the Furniture?
The right furniture depends on the way you intend to use it. For example, if you dream of hosting grand, outdoor dinner parties or want to be able to dine al fresco with your family on a warm summer’s night, you’re going to want to look for a dining set. If you’re more interested in relaxing outdoors, maybe with a book or a glass of wine, a rocking glider or set of gliders might be a better bet.
2. How Much Space Do You Have?
A small space limits how much furniture you can have, which means you might want to consider pieces that serve a dual-purpose. A serving bar can do double duty as a potting bench or a place to serve beverages from, for example. You can also relax on an outdoor bench or pull it up to a table when dining outdoors.
Along with determining how you’ll use your outdoor space, how much room you have also influences the size of furniture you can buy. Whatever you do, measure your outdoor area before you make any purchases.
3. Do You Have Room for Storage?
Storing your outdoor furniture in the off-season will help to prolong its life. Even if you have seemingly unlimited space outdoors, you might have enough indoor storage space for every piece you want to buy.
4. Does the Furniture Work for Your Family and Lifestyle?
You know what’s awkward? Having a family gathering outdoors where there aren’t enough chairs for everyone to take a seat. Although space limitations might prohibit you from buying a lot of furniture, it’s important to make sure you have ample seating for everyone who lives in your house to use the outdoor space at the same time.
5. Where Will You Place the Furniture?
Not all outdoor spaces are the same. Will the furniture be under any cover at all, such as a roof over a porch or an awning? Will it rest on the soft ground, such as the lawn, or on a concrete or other paved surface? The location of the furniture can play a part when it comes to choosing the type of wood or materials its made from. The more protected from the elements the area is, the softer and less durable the wood can be.
6. What’s Your Climate Like?
Even woods that are rot-resistant like cypress can get a bit weathered in extreme heat, as well as very wet or very sunny conditions. If it rains a lot where you live or if the summers get very hot, you might want to pick poly over hardwood.
7. Do You Want Accessories?
Things like pillows, outdoor rugs and candles can put the finishing touch on an outdoor space. Ask yourself if cushions or pillows will work with the types of chairs you’re getting and if there’s an outdoor rug that can provide a barrier between the feet of the furniture and the soft ground below.
Types of Outdoor Furniture
Now that you’ve got an understanding of the types of wood and materials used in outdoor furniture, take a look at the kinds of furniture available and how each might work with your space:
- Dining Sets: If you plan on eating outdoors, you’re going to want to invest in a dining set. Dining sets include traditional looking picnic tables with bench seating and the option for an umbrella to provide shade on a sunny day. If you want something a little more formal, you can also buy a dining table and a set of matching chairs in poly.
- Gliders: Maybe your dream is to sit on your porch in the evening and relax with a book or a cup of tea. If that’s the case, you might want to try out a glider with an attached table. Gliders let you gently rock back and forth. The attached table makes it easy to bring along a snack or drink. You can also put a lamp or candle on the table to add some light as the sun sets.
- Occasional or Side Tables: Side tables can make your outdoor area much more functional. If you’re having a gathering or picnic, the tables give guests a place to rest a drink or put down a plate of food while they mix and mingle. You can also put candles or lamps on the table, as well as small decorative objects such as potted plants. If your outdoor space feels unfinished, try adding a side table to see if it brings everything together.
- Chaise Lounge: If you have a pool, a chaise lounge provides a great place to lean back and relax. It’s also an excellent option for sunbathing or just relaxing outside.
- Accessories: Don’t forget the finishing touches. Details like window boxes and planters can help to beautify your space.
Caring for Your Outdoor Furniture
Taking care of your wood outdoor furniture will prolong its life and keep it looking nearly new for many years. You don’t have to invest in fancy cleaning solutions or elaborate equipment to care for outdoor furniture. In fact, in many cases, the simplest measures are often the best.
For example, to keep wood and poly furniture clean, all you need to do is combine a small amount of dish soap with warm water in a bucket, then use a sponge or rag to wipe the furniture clean. Rinse thoroughly with plain water after cleaning.
If your wood furniture has tough-to-remove stains or has developed a gray patina and you want to restore its original color, you can gently remove the top layer of the furniture by sanding it.
As an added layer of protection against sunlight or water damage, you can try covering the furniture when it’s not in use. It’s also a good idea to bring it in during the winter, to protect it from frost and snow.
Buy Your Solid Wood Outdoor Furniture From AmishOutletStore.com
If you’re ready to beautify your outdoor space and want to make the most of it in spring, summer and early fall, take a look at the outdoor furniture options from Amish Outlet Store. We offer furniture made from cypress wood and poly, and every piece is hand-made by Amish artisans. Spend your summer relaxing on your porch or by the pool. Get a custom quote from AmishOutletStore.com today.