Wooden Garden Furniture
Although no wood is completely immune from rotting and insect damage, some resist decay better than others. Because of naturally occurring preservatives in heartwood, insects and fungi find the woods listed in the chart on the last page undesirable. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, so decide which wood best suits your building needs and budget.
While garden benches and other outdoor furniture can be made from a range of materials, it’s hard to beat natural wood for warmth and beauty. When using wood for outside furniture; it’s important to choose a durable, weather-resistant wood.
So which wood should you choose for your garden bench? Here’s a look at some of the most durable and attractive natural woods available.
For those concerned about sustainability and eco-friendly living, acacia makes a good choice. Acacia trees grow in such abundance in many regions of the world, that they’re often considered an invasive species.
Acacia is a dense, durable hardwood that can withstand the elements. It is often used in boat building.
Sealing acacia serves to enhance and preserve the wood’s rich, golden brown color. If left unsealed, acacia should be reserved for deck or patio furniture, since constant contact with the damp ground of a garden may cause the wood to discolor.
The resins in both western cedar and northern white cedar render these woods resistant to both insects and rot. Cedar is a lightweight wood, making it the perfect choice if you plan to move or rearrange your outdoor furniture often.
Cedar is also a good choice if you would like your bench to match your house or other furnishings, since it paints and stains well. In fact, yearly cleaning and sealing of cedar are recommended, as the soft grain becomes rough over time if left untreated.
Left in a natural state, cedar weathers to an elegant silvery gray over time. Bear in mind that cedar is rather soft, so it will dent and scratch more easily than harder woods like shorea or teak. Paradoxically, since cedar retains moisture, rather than drying out, it’s more resistant to cracking than many other woods.
Cypress wood contains a natural preservative that is both rot and insect resistant. Cypress is capable of withstanding the elements without a finish of any kind, though a periodic coat of oil will keep the wood looking fresh longer.
Like cedar, cypress weathers to a silver gray over time when left unfinished. Cypress is also a very stable wood, with little shrinking or swelling throughout the changing seasons.
While cypress is a good choice for outdoor furniture, it may be a little difficult to find due to the scarcity of mature trees.
The timber from the stately sequoia is not a good choice for the ecologically minded, since redwood trees grow slowly and are in limited supply. The wood’s many fine attributes, however, ensure that redwood will always be used for outdoor furniture as long as harvestable stands of these majestic trees remain.
Redwood is durable and weathers well, and is also naturally resistant to decay and insects. Among redwood’s most valued attributes are stability and a tendency not to shrink nor warp.
Like cedar, redwood is relatively soft, putting it at risk for dents and scratches. The deep brown beauty of redwood can be protected and enhanced by a coat of clear sealer. If left unsealed, redwood can exact revenge on its owners by staining clothing with the natural tannins that give the tree its name.
A renewable resource – eucalyptus is a plantation-grown hardwood that is sustainably harvested and in plentiful supply. This high-quality, kiln-dried timber is incredibly solid with great durability and strength and has beautiful grain and a smooth finish that requires minimal maintenance. Eucalyptus is extremely dense, rot- and decay-resistant with a high oil content that repels water and moisture. It also weathers to a soft gray if left untreated, however, it can be stained to maintain its rich tones.
Taking Good Care
For unfinished woods, which generally turn a beautiful silver or gray as the years go by, a light sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper once a year will knock down any fuzzy grain (caused by rain and/or snow), eliminate any larger fibers that could cause splinters, and generally give the wood a clean, smooth look. Don’t be overzealous in sanding, however: You don’t want to sand through the silver and expose the original color of the wood once the furniture is on its way to developing a natural patina. Furniture with an oil finish should be sanded in the same manner – once a year – then given a light coat of whatever oil the manufacturer or retailer recommends.