When you’re constructing a deck or building Adirondack chairs for your backyard, you want to make sure you choose a wood that can stand up to the elements. While many people go straight to treated yellow pine for outdoor projects (it is the cheapest and most common option), there are plenty of wood species that hold up at least as well even when left untreated. Here are a few woods to consider for your next outdoor project.
This tropical hardwood from Central and South America makes an excellent choice for outdoor projects, including decking. Ipe is very hard and dense and resists warping, cracking, and decay extremely well. Its oil and extractive content makes it highly resistant to insects and fungi, and untreated ipe can last up to 40 years outdoors. Its density makes it fairly impervious to denting and foot traffic, but also hard to cut.
Long a popular choice for boat building, teak is another good candidate for outdoor applications. Teak is prized for its beauty as well as its durability outdoors, and you can expect to pay a premium for it. Teak’s high stability means it won’t shrink or expand much with changes in humidity, and its natural oils and extractives repel water and deter insects. Unlike ipe, teak works easily. One caveat: most teak on the market is not sustainably sourced, so if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your wood choices, look for certified sustainable forested teak.
Less expensive than teak but more expensive than ipe, African mahogany is another top of the line choice for outdoor applications. African mahogany is a durable hardwood that resists decay, infestation, and warping and is easy to work. Left untreated, its durability will endure a very long time, but its beautiful reddish color will fade to gray.
Vertical Grain (VG) Fir has been a traditional choice for porches for over a century due to its wide availability and durability, both of which still make it a good choice today. VG fir is quite dimensionally stable, so it expands and contracts evenly and is unlikely to warp. Naturally resistant to decay and insects, VG fir can last 10-15 years outdoors untreated, and is an affordable choice.
Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar is another widely available, reasonably affordable choice for outdoor use. It’s dimensionally stable, typically straight-grained, and resists warping, decay, and insects (including termites). Untreated, Western Red Cedar will last about 20 years outdoors. As cedar is a softwood, you can expect to see some damage from foot traffic if using it as decking or flooring. Beware of splitting when driving fasteners, and expect tannins to appear as stains around them.