What Wood and Finish are Best for Outdoor Benches?
Issue: Issue 333
Posted Date: 8/27/2013
What type of wood and finish do you recommend to build benches for outside use? - James Hamilton
Tim Inman: It all depends..... What are your needs? Utility? Decorative effects? Longevity? Ease of work? Budget? The answers to these questions will guide you into more limited choices. Treated pine lumber is cheap, easy to work, and lasts pretty well -- though it is not as permanent as the marketers might like you to think. Redwood or teak are much more durable, and great looking. They weather into a nice, soft silver-gray. They are much more difficult to join, and they are expensive. Neither class of wood really needs a finish. Actually, I'd probably select a wood that patinates to a nice look outdoors without a finish. Why? Because there is no long-term finish -- save paint -- that will weather well outside. Even paint doesn't last that long. The world is your oyster on this one.
Chris Marshall: I second Tim's suggestion here, but that's partly because there's a lazy streak in me. Finishing an outdoor project once wouldn't be so bad, but maintaining that finish over time (and you definitely will if you want it to look good and offer ongoing projection) does not rank high on my "to do" list. So, I let nature take its course and "paint" my projects silvery gray. But, one aspect I won't cut corners on is wood choice. If you're going to take the time to make some nice benches, use wood that will stand up to the elements for as long as possible. Cedar, teak, mahogany, white oak, cypress or redwood would be my first choices. They'll resist rotting, insects and destruction from UV sunlight better than most other woods will. In the long run, spending more on the right lumber for the application is actually cheap insurance.