Best Sustainable Wood For Outdoor Furniture

Best Sustainable Wood For Outdoor Furniture

See some of the most durable and sustainable woods suitable for outdoor furniture.

Best Sustainable Wood For Outdoor Furniture

Are you wondering what the best sustainable wood is for outdoor furniture? Whether you want to buy a piece of furniture or you’re looking to make your own sustainable garden furniture, you need to choose wood responsibly.

While all wood is sustainable to a degree, some varieties are definitely more suited to making outdoor furniture, and grow more quickly, making them even better options.

So, which is the best sustainable wood for outdoor furniture?

The best sustainable wood for outdoor furniture is wood that is sourced from sustainably managed forests and is strong and durable making it suitable to withstand adverse weather conditions. Some woods include sustainably sourced Teak, Bamboo and Red Cedar among others.

In this guide, we delve into five different types of wood, their properties, and what makes them suitable for outdoor furniture needs.


  • What Makes Wood Sustainable?
  • Hardwood vs. Softwood
  • Teak
  • Bamboo
  • Oak
  • Red Cedar
  • Iroko
  • Summary – Buying Sustainable Wood

What Makes Wood Sustainable?

All wood is sustainable to an extent. Perhaps the question you should ask is “what is the most environmentally friendly wood?”

All wood does its bit for living things, keeping the air clean and providing us with the atmosphere we rely on, but some forests are more sustainable than others.

Forests should be managed carefully, preventing damage to wildlife and making a source of wood for the long term rather than just chopping down trees and not worrying about the consequences.

The PEFC describes sustainability as having three pillars, and that wood should be “socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable”.

Sustainable wood comes from forests which, in theory, should still be there for generations to come.

Fast-growing wood species are often the best for sustainability, as they can quickly regenerate and provide more wood per square foot of forestry. A lot of sustainable wooden garden furniture is made from species of wood that grow quickly.

Hardwood vs. Softwood

Every different type of wood has its own character, but as a rule, should you choose hardwood or softwood for outdoor furniture?

Hardwoods are usually better at withstanding difficult conditions and they don’t rot as easily as softwoods. You can often keep a garden bench made from sustainable hardwood outside the whole time. 

Some furniture made of softwood may need to be brought inside to protect it from time to time or when the weather gets bad. However, there are exceptions to this such as cedar, which is technically a softwood. 

Of course, you can treat and cover furniture so there are many other factors to consider, but hardwood is usually best (sorry bank balance).


Did you know that teak is one of the largest species of tree? Some varieties can reach up to 150 feet in height. 

Teak is generally very sustainable as long as it is responsibly sourced, and that is good news if you want to find a great sustainable wood for outdoor furniture, as this is one of the very best woods for the job.

Teak doesn’t tend to attract any insects or build up too much bacteria on the surface. On top of this, it is water-resistant, so much so that it used to be the industry standard for boat building, though many builders are now using Lignia wood for this purpose.

If the furniture is made out of teak then there is every chance it can stay outside all year round and not rot or degrade.


Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials known to man, making it a wonderful choice for making furniture. However, it does have its downsides and it isn’t quite as durable as other types of wood.

Bamboo isn’t naturally water-resistant so you should treat it and cover it if you expect that your furniture will see a lot of rain.

The benefits of bamboo outweigh the negatives. As well as being sustainable (partially due to being so fast-growing) it is also a strong and sturdy wood with antibacterial properties, making it suitable for furniture that gets used a lot.

If left out in the winter, bamboo may develop mould, but if you are just looking to use it in sunny conditions and are willing to care for your sustainable wood, bamboo is ideal.


It is not a coincidence that we use oak as a comparison for things that are strong. 

Oak has long been a staple material used for outdoor furniture and other wooden projects that need to be strong and stable, and while it is one of the most expensive woods you can buy, it has an incredible level of durability.

Oak contains a lot of tannins, which is one of the reasons why it resists disease and fungi and remains incredibly strong through the years. It is also water-resistant so it makes it a great candidate for outside furniture.

In many countries, you will find oak beams used in housing, and these may still be going strong hundreds of years after construction.

Oak is an elite wood in terms of looks and its hard-wearing properties. It has always been seen as one of the most stylish woods for building and the rich hardwood finish is great for any furniture. 

To get the most out of oak, you should cover it in poor weather conditions as well as treat it with suitable oil.

Oak is quite a common wood, and this means there are many responsibly run forests to source this material from.

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Red Cedar

Cedar is another wood from a tree that can grow to be truly huge. Red Cedar from managed forests is a great material for building and is one of, if not the most eco-friendly wood available.

As well as the possibility to harvest in large quantities, red cedar contains a lot of naturally-occurring oils which defend the wood against rot and other diseases. These help the trees to survive for generations, and we can harness those characteristics for our furniture.

Although red cedar is technically a softwood, it makes a suitable outdoor wood. Treated, and properly looked after, you can get decades of use out of furniture made from cedar.

It is resistant to warping in temperature and humidity changes, so cedar can stay outside all year if covered.


Iroko wood is not as commonly known as some of the other woods on this list. 

This hardwood is grown mainly on the west coast of Africa and has earned the nickname “African Teak” as it has so many similar properties to teak wood. The two species are totally unrelated.

Iroko grows in countries like Nigeria, too, but the trees tend to be lower in quality due to the poor soil conditions in the country. The trees can grow up over 150 feet in the right conditions.

It actually looks similar to teak, too, as it has similar colouring and the graining tends to look the same as teak wood, especially once treated.

While you can treat iroko wood to keep it even more highly protected, it is one of the few types of sustainable hardwood that doesn’t necessarily need treatment. It is incredibly robust and can survive in tough conditions.

Iroko is regularly compared to teak as well as oak, partially because it is at a similar price point to oak. The truth is that whichever wood you buy, you need to consider the surroundings and climate first.

Summary – Buying Sustainable Wood

All of the species of wood above are great for making a table or garden bench from sustainable wood, but only if responsibly sourced.

The truth is that the merchants and forests need to be sustainably managed to ensure you are getting the most environmentally-friendly wood available. 
Look out for the FSC® or PEFC™ endorsement when buying wood or wooden furniture to ensure that their standards on sustainable forestry have been met.