Wood is a natural choice of material for outdoor table tops, as it’s ubiquitous, relatively affordable, easy to work with and comes in a variety of types, colors, grains and styles. There really are endless possibilities for customization and personalization when it comes to making wood tables. You can go with something lightweight and cost effective, like laminate or Topalit table tops, or you can go for something that matches your personality like custom reclaimed wood table tops. With so many different kinds of wood available, it can be hard to know where to start! Below we’re going to discuss the types of wood that work best for outdoor use, why they are good choices, and other important factors to consider when building or purchasing your outdoor wood table tops.
When it comes to choosing types of wood that are suited for outdoor use, the main things to look for are resilience against weather and pests, and ease of maintenance. Most hardwoods are strong enough to withstand normal weather conditions, but some woods can be softer, more susceptible to pests, or may require more frequent maintenance to stay looking their best. A tip we learned from Houzz is to take a look at what is available locally, as trees from your area are likely to have the best resistance to the conditions and pests specific to your area. That might mean using California redwood if you’re on the west coast, black locust if you’re in the northeast, and bald cypress if you’re in the southeast, among other options.
Key factors to consider for your outdoor table would be where you plan to place your table, and what kind of weather you experience. Will it be shielded from UV light under an awning, or will it be fully exposed to the sun and rain? Are your summers humid or dry? If you plan on leaving your table out year round does it get very cold in the winter? Every type of wood has its own pros and cons, from durability and maintenance to cost and scarcity.
Woods like acacia, and eucalyptus are great for projects that won’t break the bank. Native to tropical and subtropical regions like Africa, Asia, and South America, acacia is a hefty hardwood with a rich brown color. It has natural oils that help resist moisture and insects, but make sure your acacia doesn’t rest on wet ground or the ends can wick up moisture and discolor. Eucalyptus is another fast growing hardwood that has its own oils that make it resistant to moisture, but insects not as much. Native to Australia, eucalyptus is better for warm climates as it can’t tolerate temperature shock or cold weather, which makes it brittle.
Mid-range woods like cedar, white oak, black locust, and cypress offer more unique options at a better price point than more specialty woods. Cedar is a beautiful wood with a rosy hue that is naturally rot and insect resistant, but its softer nature means it is more prone to dings and dents. Cedar fades to a silvery grey if left in the sun without a UV protective sealant, but some people enjoy that! White oak is a tight grain wood that has been popular for centuries for everything from flooring and furniture to whiskey barrels and ships. Needless to say if it can hold whiskey and sail on the ocean it’s a great wood for wet climates! It can be expensive due to lack of supply, but white oak makes up for this with its longevity. Black locust is one of the strongest and stiffest domestic hardwoods. Growing primarily in the north eastern US, this durable and heavy hardwood is perfectly suited for extreme temperatures and is naturally resistant to fungus and insects. Black locust’s primary downside is that it is so dense it is hard to stain, so it will fade if left in the sun. Native to the southern US, cypress is a softwood well adapted to wet climates and is available in a range of shades from golden to reddish brown. It produces its own oils that protect it from moisture and insects. However, like acacia, cypress is better suited for patios where it won’t absorb moisture from damp ground.
Pricier woods like redwood, ipe, and teak are a great splurge for a smaller project, like a table top. Redwood is a softwood known for its beautiful color with the heartwood being a deeper red than the sapwood and is a popular choice for live edge tables. Precautions must be taken with redwood as it can fade in the sun, or stain clothing if not sealed properly. Because of its softwood nature redwood can dent easily and we recommend drilling pilot holes before attaching your base so you take care not to crack the wood. Ipe is a dark brown hardwood that is so dense it barely floats! Imported from Central and South America, ipe is also known as Ironwood or Brazilian Walnut. If treated regularly with oil and sealant ipe has been known to last up to 75 years! It’s worth noting that ipe is so hard that it can be difficult to work with and it’s recommended to use steel screws. Teak is a golden brown hardwood from south Asia that’s possibly one of the most popular woods for outdoor use, and for good reason! Even left untreated teak can last for decades outdoors and it can handle temperature extremes. Its natural oils help to make teak naturally moisture and insect resistant. It’s one of the strongest woods and ages to a silvery grey over time.
Something to be aware of with popular woods like redwood, ipe, and teak is that the reason they’re so expensive is because they were once overharvested to the brink of extinction. To ensure that your wood has been sustainably raised and legally harvested be sure to look for the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) mark of approval!
Whichever wood you decide to use, make sure that your base can handle the elements just as well! Browse our selection of outdoor table bases here. If you need guidance whether a certain table base would be suitable for your project don’t hesitate to contact us!