The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Use

Natural wood is an excellent choice for adding warmth, texture, and beauty to your exteriors and garden. Hardwoods are generally superior materials for outdoor use. Typical outdoor hardwood applications are garden furniture, flower beds, trellises, fenceposts, house siding, and decking. The hardwood is subjected to insects, moisture, fungi, and direct sunlight in each of these applications. Timber typically requires chemical treatment to prevent decay. However, not all hardwoods have natural rot resistance that can survive the elements without chemical treatment. To ensure your choice of hardwoods can survive these conditions, especially with ground contact, select a hardwood known for having superior decay resistance. 

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Factors You Need To Consider When Selecting Hardwoods for Your Outdoor Project

Hardwoods for Your Outdoor Project

Whether you are a DIY woodworker, a furniture manufacturer, or a building contractor, there are factors you need to consider when selecting the best hardwoods for outdoor use. 

Here are the factors in order of importance:

Natural Decay Resistance: 

Direct sunlight, extreme temperature ranges, and moisture expose the wood to significant environmental stress. Even with chemical treatment, certain woods are prone to split and wear down. However, some hardwood species are durable even when they are exposed to the elements.

Natural Insect Resistance:

Insects, such as termites, feed on wood. Some insects, such as marine borers, use wood as a place to live. Certain woods, such as pine, don't have oils or natural chemicals that deter termites nor are they dense enough to keep out boring insects.  They also soak up sufficient moisture for fungi to thrive on. However, denser hardwoods with natural oils and chemicals have excellent natural insect and fungi resistance.

Color and Appearance:

Your garden and exteriors enhance the appearance of your home. Though there are alternative materials for outdoor furniture, selecting wood brings warmth and a natural appeal to your surroundings. The texture and grains found in wood provide an exceptional character to your exteriors.


Because the toughest and most durable woods are typically dense, these are usually the most challenging species of woods to work with. Woodworkers find difficulty in cutting and gluing the most weather-resistant woods. Though denser grains can be planed easily, expect some tear-out on interlocking areas. Less dense woods are easier to work with. That is why woodworkers see the challenging workability of outdoor furniture made with the toughest hardwoods as a healthy compromise to getting the ideal piece.


These dense hardwoods typically grow slower than most woods, including other hardwoods. This means that supplies are less abundant. Moreover, tropical hardwoods, such as ipe, teak, iroko, red balau, and mahogany, are imported. Along with the demand for these exceptional hardwoods, their price is higher than most other wood species.

The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications

For gardens and home exteriors in Alameda, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Clarita, Glendale, Burbank, Torrance, Downey, and the rest of Southern California, these hardwoods present excellent choices.



The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications

Rot and Insect Resistance: Teak is considered by many as the gold standard for rot resistance, especially its very durable heartwood. Teak is also known for its excellent resistance against termites. Its value is held highly in Southeast Asia, where it originates, as an essential element of the wooden structures that still stand after centuries of continuous use. 

Appearance: Teak also has a beautiful appearance, with its golden and medium brown tones that darken with age. In its raw and unfinished form, its surface is slightly oily with a coarse and uneven texture. Once planed and finished, teak makes exceptional-looking furniture and indoor or outdoor trim.

Workability: Because of its straight grains, teak is surprisingly easy to work with. However, because of its high silica content, cutting results in a higher rate of blunting for blades. Teak also glues and finishes nicely despite the presence of natural oils.

Price: Despite being harvested sustainably, teak remains one of the most expensive lumbers on the market, especially for larger and non-figured pieces.


The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications

Rot and Insect Resistance: Iroko is generally considered a natural substitute for teak because of its fine weather and insect resistance. 

Appearance: Its yellow to medium to golden-brown hues are atypical of tropical hardwoods. The boundary between its pale-yellow sapwood and its heartwood is clearly demarcated, making exceptionally-patterned pieces. However, once made into furniture, they tend to darken over time. However, its appearance closely resembles teak, making iroko a viable alternative if you find teak is too expensive.

Workability: Iroko generally has easy workability. However, some portions containing interlocking grains present challenges during surfacing work. Nevertheless, iroko glues and finishes nicely.

Price: The price of iroko is significantly lower than teak per board foot, making it an affordable alternative.


The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications

Rot and Insect Resistance: Due to its density ipe has excellent weathering characteristics. Because of its density, ipe doesn't tend to absorb moisture as much as other woods, making it highly resistant to fungal growth. Ipe also has a superb natural resistance to termites and most insects. Famously, the boardwalk along New York City's Coney Island is made with ipe boards which were said to have lasted for 25 years before being replaced.

Appearance: Ipe's heartwood varies in appearance from reddish-brown to yellowish-olive brown. Ipe has a moderate natural luster that can be enhanced with planing. Wide varieties typically available come in blacking-brown.

Workability: Being incredibly dense and durable, ipe is one of the most challenging woods to work with, especially when cutting. Though ipe planes smoothly, grain tear-out may occur in interlocking areas. Ipe also requires surface preparation to enable proper gluing.

Price: Ipe is comparatively affordable among exotic tropical hardwoods. Moreover, there are certified sources of ipe lumber available. Ipe is not on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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Genuine Mahogany

The Seven Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications

Rot and Insect Resistance: Genuine mahogany from older-growth trees has excellent weather resistance. Its heartwood is typically resistant to dry-wood termites. Plantation stock lumber may not exhibit the same superior qualities as lumber from older, wild-growth trees.

Appearance: Genuine mahogany is highly valued because of its appearance. Though its pale pinkish-brown to dark reddish-brown is typical for tropical hardwoods, once finished, it exhibits an optical phenomenon known as chatoyancy or a 3D effect created by its unique grain patterns.

Workability: Genuine mahogany is among the easiest hardwoods to work with. Being dense and durable, it has a slight effect on cutters. Mahogany doesn't have a very oily surface, making it easy to glue, sand, and finish. However, sections with irregular grains may tear out or chip when machined.

Price: Old-growth, live edge slabs, or quartersawn lumber are expensive. However, plantation varieties are reasonably priced for an imported hardwood.


Hardwoods for Your Outdoor Project

Rot and Insect Resistance: Padauk is highly regarded because of its excellent weathering characteristics with good resistance against termites and other pests.

Appearance: Padauk's heartwood color varies from pale golden-yellow to a deep reddish-brown. Beautiful and exceptional, its color darkens to a golden brown over time. The boundary between the yellow sapwood and heartwood is clearly demarcated.

Workability: Padauk is challenging when it comes to workability because of its density and durability. Its interlocking grains present challenges to woodworkers. Despite its naturally oily surface, it stains, glues and finishes nicely.

Price: Padauk, especially the Burma variety, is typically in the upper range among imported hardwoods.

White Oak

White Oak

Rot and Insect Resistance: Among domestic hardwood species in our lumber yard, white oak is exceptional because of its excellent weathering and insect-resistant characteristics. White oak stakes are standard in the forest industry because of their tight grains and rot resistance. White oak is traditionally a preferred boat-building material, as well as applications that require tight cooperage, making them excellent materials for house sidings, decking, flooring, and outdoor furniture.

Appearance: Its heartwood is light to medium brown with an olive cast in most cases. The transition between the sapwood and heartwood is not sharply demarcated, making white oak comparatively uniform. 

Workability: Despite its high shrinkage, white oak is moderately easy to work with, especially in flatsawn boards. White oak is flexible and responds well to steam-bending. White oak also glues, finishes, and takes stains well.

Price: Being a domestic hardwood, white oak is more abundant and reasonably priced. However, thicker planks and quartersawn boards are more expensive.

Spanish Cedar

Spanish Cedar

Rot and Insect Resistance: Spanish cedar is reported to have superb weathering characteristics. Slower-growing old-growth trees produce the best quality timber. Spanish cedar ranges in durability from moderate to excellent and is resistant to termite attack.

Appearance: Spanish cedar has a beautiful and uniform light pinkish to reddish brown appearance for its heartwood that tends to darken with age. Expect pockets of gum and natural oils all over the wood.

Workability: Because of its comparatively lower density and softness, Spanish cedar is easy to work with. However, the drawback is the challenge presented by its softness in sanding, which produces fuzzy surfaces if not machined with high-quality cutters. The random natural gum pockets offer challenges when finishing.

Price: Spanish cedar is adequately available and reasonably priced, considering the fact that it is an imported hardwood.

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Conclusion: Bohnhoff Lumber Co. is the Ultimate Source for the Best Hardwoods for Outdoor Applications in Southern California 

Bohnhoff Lumber Company's motto is "We sell a quality product at a good price." We ensure that woodworkers, carpenters, and builders alike will be provided with the highest quality wood products, including the best hardwoods for outdoor applications. Aside from the exceptional hardwood species discussed in this article, Bohnhoff Lumber Company also has other hardwood species available in our Los Angeles lumber yard. These hardwoods are ash, basswood, African mahogany, poplar, and walnut. Bohnhoff also supplies certain varieties of softwoods and a wide variety of plywood, particle board, other wood products, and finishes and glue

For the best buying experience, you can handpick the ideal piece to complete your woodworking project. We have a knowledgeable staff that can answer any question you may have about hardwoods and lumber. Bohnhoff Lumber Co. also provides milling services to help woodworkers bring home the perfect pieces for their projects. To inquire about the price and availability of these exceptional hardwoods and other wood products, or to set an appointment, call us at (323) 263-9361.

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