The four hardwood species featured in this article are becoming a popular primary material for decking or platforms around swimming pools. They are also better suited for outdoor furniture than other wood or lumber products because of their workability, toughness, resistance to rot and decay, and being naturally termite-resistant. They are all water-resistant and present a Class A fire rating, making them optimal outdoor building materials for Southern California. Because they are perfect for outdoor use, these hardwoods can also be ideal house siding materials, with advantages far outweighing composites. Best of all, these hardwoods are proven to last for decades without the need for restaining.
They are proven to last for centuries in the native areas where they originate. For instance, genuine 17th or 18th-century genuine mahogany, teak, and red balau furniture are still available today in antique markets. Here are four of the best hardwoods for decking and outdoor finishes:
Red balau is comparatively affordable and is the most widely available exotic hardwood. Its toughness, rot resistance, insect resistance, weather resistance, and high density make it a highly sought-after decking material. Red balau is resistant to scratching, scuffing, twisting, shrinking, and warping. Its unique aesthetics make it an attractive decking material as well. Red balau doesn’t have issues with raised grain and striping despite having the interlocking grain common with other hardwood options for decking. For best results, applying decking oil on all of its four sides is recommended to slow moisture exchange for the most stable boards.
- Color: The color varies from a pale off-white to a dark brown. However, as the name implies, the most popular color is reddish-brown.
- Rot Resistance and Toughness: It is rated as very durable, stainable, and can resist decay for a long time.
- Other Popular Uses: Aside from being a popular decking material, it is a choice material for boats, especially in Southeast Asia. It also serves various utility purposes such as fencing material, window frames, boxes, and crates.
- Workability and Sustainability: Red balau is naturally oily, requiring decks to be well-sealed. However, Red balau stains, glues, and finishes nicely, with grains not coming up easily. Red balau is typically hard to work with because of its high density. The high level of silica present in the wood will cause a slight blunting effect on tools such as circular saws.
The most typical supply of mahogany in the United States comes from Latin America. While some mahogany species are from Asia, lumber is rare nowadays and expensive. However, "genuine mahogany" refers to the Central American variety. Honduran mahogany is a popular choice in America because of its appearance and easy workability. Mahogany is very stable. Because of its toughness, rot resistance, water resistance, and appearance, mahogany makes for the perfect decking material. Aside from making perfect decks, mahogany can fit every outdoor construction application, such as house sidings, exterior structure, and furniture.
- Color: Its distinctive color and grain patterns create an attractive look. Its heartwood can vary widely from a darker reddish-brown to a lighter pinkish brown.
- Rot Resistance and Toughness: Many old standing wooden structures in Latin America and some parts of Asia use mahogany as a significant building material because it is naturally resistant to rot and decay. All mahogany species are very durable and water-resistant. Best of all, it gives a distinct scent that termites hate, particularly dry wood termites. However, most plantation-grown stocks are less rot-resistant than wild mahogany.
- Other Popular Uses: Woodworkers love to use mahogany because of its distinctive color and ease of carving. This is why mahogany is a popular choice for making furniture. Boats made with mahogany in Asia last centuries because of their durability and light weight. Mahogany is also a preferred material for making guitars.
- Workability: Sanding, staining, and machining mahogany are straightforward, making it an ideal material for furniture or pieces. It is also easy to work with hand tools.
Teak grows commonly in Southern and Southeast Asia. Although there are varieties of teak grown in Africa, these don't have the same characteristics as teak grown in Asia and will require additional treatment, just like for classic common wood species. The most desirable teak species originate from Myanmar (formerly Burma). Its toughness and resistance to water make it a sought-after material for decking. Decks made of teak provide a less slippery surface to walk on, making it a preferred decking material for boats and pools. Teak is also ideal for outdoor construction applications, such as house sidings.
- Color: Its heartwood is golden yellow when seasoned. When exposed, it turns deep brown. Teak tends to get darker with age.
- Rot Resistance and Toughness: Unlike mahogany, teak is porous, but its natural oiliness makes it resistant to water and humidity. It is one of the most durable and robust woods and has been a primary material for centuries for ocean-going vessels.
- Other Popular Uses: Its beauty and workability make it an ideal furniture material. It is also an excellent material for carving intricate wooden objects.
- Workability: Teak has good workability despite being a hardwood. Because working with teak is more manageable than most hardwoods, it is an ideal material for making outdoor furniture. On the other hand, its oiliness makes it challenging to paint over it. To do so would require a good coat of shellac-based primer. Another caveat is its high silica content which tends to blunt cutting edges.
Ipe naturally grows in parts of Central and South America. It is also known as Brazilian walnut. Unlike the other three hardwoods, ipe barely floats, hence its other name: ironwood. Its resistance to bending makes it a perfect decking material. Even if left untreated, decks made with ipe can last up to forty years or more with regular use. The Coney Island Boardwalk in New York is made of ipe and lasted for 25 years before being replaced. It is remarkable considering the traffic and environmental conditions it withstood for decades. Because of its excellent weatherability, ipe can also be a perfect material for other exterior applications such as sidings.
- Color: It is a lustrous rich brown with a greenish tinge and lighter or darker stripes.
- Toughness and Rot Resistance: Ipe has excellent weathering characteristics and is durable. The typical ipe varieties have outstanding insect resistance.
- Other Popular Uses: Its distinctive grain and color make it an attractive material for furniture. Ipe is very dense, so it is an ideal material for tool handles and other turned objects. Its hardness and strength make it a good choice as a flooring material.
- Workability: This hardwood species is one of the hardest and densest. It is tough to cut during sawing. Gluing is also a challenge, making surface preparation before gluing it necessary.
Final Thoughts: How to Get the Best Hardwoods In Los Angeles
Bohnhoff Lumber Company takes pride in their motto, "We sell a quality product at a good price." Bohnhoff Lumber Company also has a great selection of common hardwood species available in stock. These hardwoods include ash, basswood, Spanish cedar, poplar, red balau, and walnut. These hardwood species can work well in a wide variety of applications. Bohnhoff also stocks softwood, plywood, particle board, and other wood products to ensure that you always find the perfect supplies for your project. Whether you are a builder, a DIY woodworker, or a homeowner seeking the best outdoor or decking material, Bohnhoff Lumber Co. stocks the best exotic and domestic species of hardwoods including red balau, mahogany, teak, and ipe. We have a friendly and knowledgeable staff ready to talk to you about anything lumber and how to make the best of our products. We are proud to be one of the last remaining lumber yards to allow our customers to handpick their preferred piece. With the quality of our wood products, you can rest assured that the materials you use for your next outdoor project will last for many decades.
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