When looking for wood for your outdoor project there are several variables to take into consideration such as: resistance to rot and moisture, durability, exposure to weather and sunlight, and finishing and maintenance -- after all, you want to make sure your investment stands the test of time (and looks great). In general, almost any wood will be applicable in an outdoor setting if it’s kept dry and regularly maintained, however, some woods are a little more durable in this application than others. With that being said, let’s jump into some important factors you should consider when choosing a wood for exterior use.
Resistance to rot and decay
Decay comes from fungus, and fungi need an adequate supply of oxygen, a favorable temperature, moisture in excess, and a suitable source of energy and nutrients (your newly installed wood). Therefore, to eliminate the chance of rot and decay, you must make sure that your project is uninhabitable for fungi.
Resistance to moisture
Increases in humidity or moisture will cause the wood fibers to absorb the moisture and expand and swell. When the humidity levels decrease, the wood will attempt to return to its original shape and the wood will shrink and warp.
Exposure to weather and sunlight
No wood is impervious to weathering and sunlight without some type of protective finish. If a wood is left bare, you run the risk of your hardwood warping, turning gray in color, or cracking. Different woods will react sooner or later than others so it’s important to do your research before choosing a species and plan for this in advance.
Finishing and Maintenance
A good finish for an outdoor wood project will have UV protection and water repellant characteristics. To keep your wood looking like new, try a penetrating exterior oil. Depending on the level of exposure to the elements and changes in the climate, this type of finish may need to be reapplied as often as 6 months. However, this finish does not require you to strip the wood; Simply clean, dry, and re-coat your outdoor wood project.
With these things in mind, here are some woods to consider.
Teak is a great choice for outdoor projects as it is a very durable wood and requires little maintenance. Teak is dense, straight grained, and will resist rotting -- even in high moisture environments.
Like Teak, Ipe is also a great idea for outdoor projects and is frequently used for decking and outdoor furniture. This wood option has a beautiful, rich red color that will last for several decades if maintained and oiled regularly.
Garapa, also known as Brazilian Ash, is an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to scratching, rot, and decay. It is also specially dried for use on exterior projects which make it able to hold up to moisture rich climates.
Old growth pine
Pine is not usually a rot resistant wood, however with old growth pine you gain an extra bit of strength and resistance. This type of wood is often found in shiplap siding and exterior elements on old homes.
White Oak is a dense, domestic wood that is readily found in the US and Europe. Oak has been used for centuries to build exterior elements of homes such as window frames, doors, furniture, and flooring.
New or second growth cypress is relatively affordable and holds up to rot and insects, however, old growth cypress has much more heartwood which makes it even harder and more resilient against rot and insects.
We hope this has been helpful in your journey of finding the perfect wood for your outdoor project. As always, feel free to contact our wood experts with any questions you may have.