How to Choose the Right Lumber for Your Backyard Project

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big oOutdoor woodworking projects, from fences to picnic tables, can present a challenge because the wood you choose must be able to withstand the elements. Choosing the right type of wood will help furniture and structures better withstand the humidity, temperature changes and pests. Here are some guidelines to consider when choosing which type of wood to use so you can build outdoor projects that will last.

What to consider when choosing wood for outdoor projects

To choose best wood for your project, start with considering price, the intended use, climate and tools available for you. The wood is available in a variety of densities and has color, pest resistance, and humidity. Decide to a budget, consider how much your wood will be handled, consider the potential environmental challenges and wwhether or not you intend to apply a finish to it, and take stock of type of tools and experience you have at your disposal.

When To use nnatural wood

There are many types of natural wood that have qualities that make them well-suitable for outdoor use.

red cedar

Red cedar is a common choice for outdoor use because it holds up well to moisture and is naturally pest resistant. This makes it a favorite for fences, raised beds and planters. Because Ia softer wood, it can scratch and dent easily, and it can also split when you are driving screws or nails. Cedar also contains tannins that can bleed into the paint, so it will require extra preparation if you want to paint it to prevent staining. This can cost between $2.00 and $4.00 per board foot.


Cypress is another wood that resists humidity well, and it is also naturally resistant to warping, swelling and pests. It can be used for trellises, furniture or fences. It has a light yellow to dark brown color and tends towards a straight yarn with few knots. This wood will hold up well outdoors and is a softer wood, which makes easy to work with but vulnerable to bumps. It’s a good idea to ppierce to prevent cracks when driving screws into cypress wood. This can cost between $2.50 and $5.00 per board foot.

black locust

Robinia is a hardwood that is resistant to extreme temperatures, humidity and pests. This wood is well-suitable for furniture or other decorative applications. It is naturally resistant to warping and bending and is almost impossible to stain, scratch or dent. Because it is so dense, it can be difficult to cut and will dull blades over time—and it can be difficult stain for the same reason. This can cost between $5.00 and $8.50 per board foot.

When to use tlumber

Pressure-Treated wood has come a long way since the days of arsenic treated wood. The chemicals used now to treat the pressure-treated wood is much less toxic and safer to use, so it can be a good choice for patios or fences. Usually the pressure-treated boards come from yellow pine, a softwood, and will not rot when exposed to moisture—and it is not vulnerable to pests.

The downside to this wood is that it can still warp or split due to moisture, so it’s a good idea to seal or paint it. Wet pressure-treated wood is heavy and likely to warp, while thethe dried version is lighter and straighter but about twice as expensive.

When to use ssynthetic wood

Composite wood is synthetic wood made from PVC or another material. Because it’s synthetic, it can’t rot or be eaten by pests, and it’s very well-suitable for use outdoors on decks, porches and patios. It does not need to be treated, but you can paint it if you wish. When working with composite wood, you need to be careful of sawdust because it will persist in the a vacuum accessory and arag when cutting composite wood.