Live Edge Furniture has been a principal component of interior design and used throughout people’s homes as dining, coffee, and side tables, as well as stand-alone art pieces. Regardless of the aesthetic, live edge wood can create an experience in your home that leaves an unforgettable impression – It does more than liven up a room, it makes the room feel alive.
For the same reason you would have live edge furniture inside your house, you could also use them outdoors. Maybe you want to elevate the ambiance to your backyard or add some character to your patio -They have a natural look that is appealing to anyone who wants to elevate their outdoor décor. However, not all live edge wood can be left outside unprotected against the extreme elements.
What You Want From Your Live Edge Slabs
When choosing a live edge slab specifically for outdoor use, you’ll want to look within the tropical hardwoods. Those species that come from tropical regions tend to do better outdoors because their environment was constantly exposed to those higher temps and intense humidity. Also, most of the tropical hardwoods have higher densities and oil content which helps preserve them further. While tropical hardwoods are notorious for their remarkable durability and longevity, they also have some of the most beautifully rich colors throughout their grain that makes it an easy choice to build with.
In addition to tropical hardwoods, a few other species are domestic to the US and will embrace outdoor exposure. While no wood is completely immune from rotting and insect damage, some species resist decay better than others – We’ll mention which ones are in the specific species below.
Here are some general guidelines when choosing the best live edge wood for outdoor use:
- Tropical Hardwoods are more resistant to rain because of the wet environment they grew in and had a familiar kinship with it.
- A variety of tropical species also have a strong biological resistance to decaying fungi and insects, making them more tolerable in wet weather.
- Dense woods have a natural ability to repel rotting, moisture & insects because the grain is so tight it doesn’t allow for a lot of penetration of elements.
Best Outdoor Wood to Use
When searching for a live edge slab for your outdoor living space, make sure to choose one of these species that we recommend below. While it depends on where you live and how much exposure the slab receives, you can expect these seven different wood species to withstand extreme sunshine to torrential rain as well as fungi and dirt BETTER than most.
Our first tropical hardwood that works well for outdoor use has the nickname Raintree, more commonly known as Monkey Pod. Monkey Pod live edge slabs are extremely weather tolerant due to how dense they are and rot resistance which makes them adaptable to various climates.
While exotic hardwoods face increasing regulation to manage forests and preserve trees, monkeypod is a species in great abundance and is mindfully sourced. This species is called Albizia Saman and can be identified with the signature black stripe and golden color – Its applications are endless. Take a look at our Monkey Pod live edge slabs.
Teak is the most popular species used in outdoor applications and is practically impervious to extreme weather and rotting. It’s the go-to wood for boating, patios, and deck chairs because of the inherent resistance to insects, moisture, and decay. A Teak live edge slab rough sawn has an almost waxy texture – Those are the natural oils that repel water and make it termite resistant. Teak is also a stable hardwood and won’t shrink or expand much.
You can expect a light to dark brown color, although the classic color of teak will always be golden. Not all teak is sustainably sourced, and you should be cautious when buying. Because of the high demand for teak and the long life cycle of the species, it has driven unsustainable and often illegal logging practices in tropical forests. While it may not be “genuine teak,” our African Teak has the same appearance and properties as its cousin, and it is also a fraction of the cost.
Ipe isn’t just any hardwood. It’s an extreme hardwood — highly dense and highly durable, it’s arguably the hardest hardwood around. So much so, it will sink in water and has been known to bend nails. And when it comes to fire resistance, Ipe has the same fire rating as steel and concrete. That natural hardness and high density make it extremely decay and insect-resistant. Those natural characteristics make Ipe the perfect choice for outdoor furniture even in the face of extreme conditions.
Ipe wood will vary in color from reddish-brown hues to a more yellowish olive brown or darker blackish brown — sometimes with contrasting darker brown/black stripes. The grain of Ipe trees typically has tropical striping and exotic grain variations.
Cypress trees grow all over the world in various climates. They grow in swamps, in high-altitude forests, and urban areas as well. These trees are constantly exposed to weather and have learned to adapt. They produce a natural preservative oil called cypressene which makes the heartwood resistant to decay, insects, and other damaging elements it’s exposed to.
Cypress is an ideal live edge slab for coastal locations with humidity, everyday heat/cold, and torrential rains. Its sapwood is almost white, while the heartwood color varies from a light yellow-brown to a reddish-brown and dark brown. Cypress appears to get lighter as it weathers over time if left unfinished. Check out our Cypress Wood Veneer Sheets.
Cedar is a naturally weather-resistant species and is less likely to warp or decay with changes in the weather. Specifically, Western Red Cedar thrives in damp climates, which allows the wood to be highly durable. While the coarse texture and porous structural tissue create a natural soundproofing material, the natural resins in cedar make it very useful for outdoor furniture.
Western Red Cedars heartwood is deep red to a pink-brown with deep red streaks and bands throughout the grain.
Redwood Trees are part of the largest living trees in the world and grow specifically along this narrow strip of coastline from the southwestern corner of Oregon to 150 miles south to Big Sur, CA. They are sometimes the go-to species for outdoor furniture because of their natural resistance to moisture, decay, and insects. Redwood live edge slabs have a very tight uniform straight grain, which makes it difficult to penetrate.
Its heartwood color ranges from a light pinkish brown to a deep reddish-brown. It will most likely be straight grain, though figured pieces may be wavy or have a curly figure. Take a look at our Figured Redwood live edge slab.
The oak hardwood family encompasses both red and white oak. Red oak is one of the most commonly used domestic hardwoods and is considered the standard for durability. White Oak is one of those long-lasting woods resistant to water and rot because it’s so dense and the grain is very tight. That being said, you can worry less about these wood slabs warping, cracking, or twisting either when properly kiln-dried.
White oak slabs vary in color from light tan to yellow-brown, sometimes with a pinkish tinge. The grain is typically straight though sometimes figured with longer rays and a medium to coarse texture. Click to learn more about White Oak live edge slabs.
How to Waterproof Wood Furniture for Outdoors
One interesting note is how lighter woods will darken over time with UV exposure – This is because the UV light accelerates the oxidation process inside the wood. Interestingly enough, some darker woods will get lighter and almost turn grey. Sunlight (ultraviolet light) is the true enemy of wood surfaces and will change the color and appearance over time, no matter what you do. For that reason, it’s essential to understand that having wood outdoors is going to require upkeep. Depending on the finish used, one can treat the wood annually to maintain its luster. To suppress these effects and prolong the integrity of your live edge slab, make sure to use a UV blocking finish or topcoat over the wood slab. We have seen waxes, varnishes, oils, lacquers, shellacs, and water-based finishes offer different degrees of protection against these variations in weather. Each one of these finishes offers different levels of durability, applications, as well as visual appearance.
Suggestions to extend the overall look and longevity of your live edge slab:
- Put a finish or sealant with UV inhibitors on the wood slab
- Keep it out of direct sunlight as much as possible – Consider an awning
- Re-surface your furniture every year