As life changes, we move, or our tastes change a bit, and we might want to move our indoor furniture outside. A question that I often get from customers for whom I have built beautiful custom furniture is whether the furniture I build can be moved outside. The short answer is no.
HANDLING THE ELEMENTS
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. At Mill St. Millwork, we finish our wood pieces and metal works to be able to survive the harsh conditions of everyday life. Mother nature, on the other hand, can really put man-made materials to the test. Most wood species need a top coat of some type to preserve the beauty of the grain. While some of our topcoats have UV inhibitors they are not meant for direct and constant exposure. Over one hot summer, they will break down and leave the wood exposed. That’s when you see cracks and discoloration appear.
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. The ability of the wood to survive in outdoor conditions depends mostly on the type of wood from which a piece of furniture is made. For example, certain species of wood, such as pine, might be great for indoor use, but will quickly wear out if left to the elements. At Mill St. Millwork, we select wood that is designed to survive the elements.
THE WOODS WE USE 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.
- 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.
- 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 Ironsides.”
- 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.
Understanding these different wood types and their best use takes time. You can rely on Steve, our owner to walk you through the design phase and wood selection up through completion and installation. Contact us at 970-939-0011 to set up a time with Steve to answer your questions about designing the perfect outdoor furniture for your home or office.