How to Choose a Wood Garden Bench that will Last

Stan Horst
As a former cabinet and furniture maker, Stan knows what goes into making quality outdoor storage benches. He puts that knowledge to good use by researching and recommending products to others at his website, www.betterbenches.com. Stan loves the outdoors, and enjoys spending time with his family camping, fishing, and hiking. Stan, along with his wife, owns and operates a successful vacation rental business in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Stan Horst
Stan Horst
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Chadwick Garden Bench

Photo of Chadwick Garden Bench from Amazon

There’s nothing quite like a wooden garden bench to inspire a feeling of calm serenity.  Its natural composition is a perfect match to the creations of nature that you so artfully weave together.  The trouble is”¦when trying to find that perfect wooden bench, there are so many to choose from.  You’ll find everything from a very expensive teak beach, down to a bench that’s not made of wood at all, but designed to look like wood.  You can order online, purchase at your local Walmart, or buy from a home improvement store.

But how do you know you’re getting something that will last?  After all, not all wooden benches are created equal.  If you want to be sure that the bench you purchase will be around to pass on to the kids, read on for a quick description of the various types of woods you’re likely to find, and you’ll be much better prepared when you go shopping.

Cedar

A common wood for outdoor furniture, western cedar is a good choice in some applications.  The resins in the wood make it naturally insect repellent and rot resistant.  Cedar is lightweight, so if you plan on moving your furniture around, this might be the best choice for you.  Cedar can be painted or stained to match your home or existing furniture.

There are a couple of drawbacks  from using cedar.  First, the wood is much softer than typical hardwoods, and therefore will scratch and dent much more easily.  Cedar is not as strong as the hardwoods either, so the construction must take that into account and beef things up, or your bench will seem rather flimsy.  Cedar needs regular upkeep in order to maintain it.  It is recommended that your cedar bench be cleaned and treated at least annually.  If left without treatment, cedar will gray quickly, and will become very rough due to the softness of the grain.

Cypress

Cypress is a good choice for outdoor furniture, even though it is not as common as cedar.  It contains a natural preservative, making it resistant to rotting and insects.  Cypress is very durable and resists shrinking, expanding, and warping.  You could almost say it repels the effects of rain, snow, and sun, making it a great choice for furniture that is exposed to the elements.

Cypress can be stained or painted, but you really don’t need to.  The wood will weather to a handsome gray over time, but will maintain its high quality and good condition.  The fact that this wood performs brilliantly for years with little or no maintenance, makes it perfect

for busy lifestyles.

Redwood

Fairly common for outdoor furniture, redwood is more expensive than cedar.  It performs will in terms of insect resistance, decay resistance, and durability.  It is fairly weather resistant as well, and resists shrinking, warping, and checking (the tiny cracks that develop in many woods).  The color can be a positive or a negative, depending on how you look at it.  This bright color is more subject to fading by the sun, and if not treated, produces a tannin that is likely to stain light colored clothing.  On the other hand, the red can be quite attractive, as long as it is finished with a nice clear coat.

Redwood, like cedar, is fairly soft, making it susceptible to scratches and dents.

Teak

Teak has long been considered the Cadillac of woods for outdoor furniture, and with good reason.  Teak has a very tight grain that gives it superiority in many of the qualities desired in outdoor furniture, including low shrinkage and swelling, good color with age, natural decay resistance, natural oils that repel water, and incredible strength.  It is relatively maintenance free, requiring only an application of teak oil once annually, wiped on with a clean cloth.  Furniture made of teak will very likely last a lifetime.

There are two things that can be considered negatives for using teak:

  1. The high cost.
  2. The non-eco-friendly reputation.  Many teak furniture companies are overcoming this negative image by using teak that comes only from sustainable forests where they are actively involved in replanting.

Shorea

Similar to teak in many ways, Shorea is another tropical hardwood that is a great choice for outdoor furniture.  It is slightly cheaper than teak, very strong, and resistant to daily wear and tear.  Its tight grain pattern makes is durable and resistant to the effects of weather.  It is rot-resistant and combats insect attacks.  Shorea also weathers to a nice gray patina, although an annual application of teak oil can retard this process.

Honduran Mahogany

Honduran Mahogany is similar to Shorea and Teak, although not as stable.  It has a good color, resists rot and insects, and repels water with its natural oils.  It is also very strong.  Honduran Mahogany is grown on plantations instead of the rain forest, so its use is more environmentally acceptable.  The downside is, it shrinks and swells more than teak, which leads to some checking and splitting.  If you do opt for this wood, make sure that it is Honduran Mahogany, as there are several other mahoganies that have different characteristics, and are not nearly as suitable for outdoor use.

Now It’s Your Choice

If money were not an issue, I would opt for teak as the wood of choice.  Following that, I would look at Shorea, and then probably Cypress.  Keep in mind that these are personal choices, and all characteristics of the wood need to be considered in order to make the best decision for you.  Happy shopping for your bench! 

Comments


  1. Twitter:
    Thank you so much – I don’t know much about different woods, so I’m trying to become more familiar. I’ve built things with various pieces of scrap wood I’ve gotten, but it’s nice to know what different types of wood are good for.

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