7 Best Woods for Outdoor Projects (Stop the Rot)

Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Web Operator

I admit that I love working on outdoor projects, but that means you need to consider a few other things. For example, knowing the best woods for outdoor projects will be key, and in this instance cypress, ipe, teak, redwood, cedar, mahogany and fir are all excellent choices.

But I don’t want that thought of different conditions to put you off those outdoor projects. There are so many things you can do in order to really get to grips with producing something that will not only work but also stand the test of time. 

So, I will help you out. What I’m going to attempt to do is to guide you through not only how to protect the wood for those outdoor projects but to also go more basic than that.

Yep, I will tell you all that you need to know about the seven best woods that you can use for your outdoor projects. 

By the end, I think you will find it significantly easier to go ahead and plan your outdoor project and know the exact material you will use. I promise it makes a huge difference, and you should even feel more confident in your ability to produce the project you have in your mind.

best wood for outdoor projects

Hardwood is the Best

Before I dive into the seven different kinds of wood, let me help narrow down the options you should be looking at using. The overwhelming consensus is that hardwood is the best as it has the general ability to withstand poorer conditions for longer than with softwood.

But the problem here is that not all hardwood is the same. Some options perform quite poorly when placed in certain situations, so the list of seven kinds of wood I have listed below should be capable of addressing the problems you may run into. 

I do feel that some people fall into the trap of thinking that any kind of wood is going to work in any situation. Yet, that’s completely wrong, and it could potentially damage your project, and even shorten its lifespan.

So, after clearing that up, let’s go through the seven different kinds of wood I suggest you use for your outdoor projects. Also, you will quickly discover there’s no need to have any special tools to work with any of these woods. Ultimately, there’s nothing to stop you from making progress with your projects.

1. Redwood

redwood for outdoor project

What I love about redwood is that it’s almost naturally resistant to rot. Now, I know that doesn’t apply under extreme circumstances, but there’s no doubt it does put up a fight against mother nature to the best of its ability. 

What you should know is that redwood has this ability as it produces a natural chemical within the wood that fights against not only decay but also insects. This alone gives it some additional strength as it effectively stops anything that could get into the wood and weaken it from ever having a chance to do that. 

I also appreciate how redwood comes with straight grain, which does provide the wood with a real sense of stability. This is something that does help to prevent decay, and it’s a significant reason why redwood is so popular when it comes to picnic tables and other outdoor furniture items.

But aside from its ability to resist moisture and the weather, I also love how smooth this wood will be. It really makes a difference when working with it when you know that you don’t have to work quite as hard with the end product as you would have perhaps expected. Also, cutting the wood will not prove problematic, so there’s no requirement to blast the wood with specific tools to get the cut you want.


  • The grain gives the wood real stability
  • It resists moisture pretty well
  • It resists insects and decay, so it lasts longer
  • Working with redwood is easy


  • It does lose its color quite quickly, so don’t expect continued vibrancy

2. Western Red Cedar

western red cedar for outdoor projects

For me, another fantastic option is to use western red cedar, which is for the same types of reasons I just mentioned with redwood. Seriously, it’s a gorgeous type of wood, and any outdoor project can quickly become a real standout feature.

This is another type of wood that has a certain degree of natural resistance to decay, and even though it cannot stop it 100%, It too has that in-built resistance to moisture, so it means the weather conditions need to be pretty brutal to start to have an impact.

Now, I know I mentioned at the outset that hardwood is best, and including cedar goes against that, but let me quickly explain.

You see, cedar is indeed a softwood, but its durability is outstanding. It’s all thanks to it too having those natural chemicals that stop moisture from really penetrating into the core of the wood. 

The chemical here is a natural anti-fungicide, and that’s key. It stops those rot-inducing fungi from getting into the wood and basically eating it from the inside. It’s even believed that this natural chemical is so good that untreated furniture made from this wood could last for around 20 years outdoors before it starts to show any problems.

So, if you want to use something that is durable, easy to use, and also looks great, then I would certainly consider cedar. Also, it’s very easy to purchase, so there’s no excuse for not having enough wood for your project.


  • It resists fungus, which means less chance of it rotting
  • The natural resistance means it can last 20 years outdoors
  • The durability is out of this world
  • It’s very easy to work with for a number of projects


  • It can be easier to scratch or damage when in use, so be aware of that

3. African Mahogany

mahogany wood for outdoor projects

Mahogany is known for being sturdy, so it’s no surprise that it ends up appearing on this list. However, there’s more to mahogany than just being resistant to decay.

What I also love about this wood is that it’s not going to warp on you. That means it’s easier to work with it, even though cutting through mahogany can be a slower process thanks to how stiff it is as a material. 

Now, if you know anything about wood, then you are probably aware of just how hard mahogany tends to be, and that’s a big deal when it comes to this weather resistance. This hardness level, which is high, but not the highest out there, is going to help your outdoor project to last for longer than you thought possible.

This wood is just not going to warp, twist or even shrink in harsh conditions. It stays almost exactly as you want it, and that does give you some confidence in then using it for any of your projects. 

It’s partly thanks to how tight the grain is in this wood. It’s so densely packed together that it gives it so much solidity that you feel as if the wood can last for decades without running into problems. Well, it probably can, but I still recommend giving it some added protection to ensure it lasts even longer and without you having to carry out constant repairs. 

Also, if you are worried about the cost, then mahogany does not come with as high a price tag as people often believe. Yet, if you know you are going to use wood that could last decades without decaying, then paying a bit extra for some quality wood makes sense. You save money in the long term anyway. 


  • It’s solid and won’t bend or warp
  • It will last for years without any issues
  • It’s easier to cut than people realize


  • Thanks to the grain, installing mahogany can sometimes prove problematic

4. Teak

teak wood for outdoor projects

Teak has always been highly sought after as a wood for outdoor projects, and this has been going on for centuries. In the past, it was wood used for boat building, so that should indicate how it copes with wet weather. 

This wood is also highly stable. That means it doesn’t split or warp, and when you add this in with its anti-decay properties, then you start to understand why it does come with a premium price attached to it. 

I feel that teak comes with some amazing grain, and it just looks so good when used in outdoor furniture. It’s no surprise that it can also last outdoors for so long when you think that teak oil is even applied to other types of wood to act as a preservative, and teak wood obviously has that oil just sitting there naturally. 

You will struggle to see teak decaying or becoming weaker due to the effects of rain, snow, or even the sun beating down on it. Sure it will happen eventually, but chances are that you will have moved on from the project and replaced it with something else just because you were bored rather than because it is due to decay.

But there is one problem with teak, and it’s the way it’s sourced. You want to go for a sustainable sourcing approach, and sadly that’s not always the case. Do your research beforehand and check where the supplier gets the wood from. It’s just better for the planet to do it that way. 


  • It can cope with all kinds of weather conditions
  • It just won’t really rot or decay, at least not for a long time
  • The natural oil offers a lot of protection
  • The grain is gorgeous making this an attractive wood


  • It’s not harvested as sustainably as other options

5. VG Fir

fir planks for outdoor projects

VG Fir stands for Vertical Grain Fir, and it’s the VG part that’s the most important here. You see, this type of wood has been the main choice when it comes to external porches, and those porches need to contend with everything that nature can throw at them. That alone should give some insight into how sturdy this material will be.

I do admit that this type of fir is not as stable as some of the other woods I’ve mentioned here, but left untreated, it should lead to it lasting around 15 years before the weather conditions would take their toll on the wood. 

But I do still think it’s a great option if you are willing to put in the work and really care and treat the wood every now and again. Fir is very easy to work with, and it still doesn’t shrink or twist that much compared to other options you may have gone for. Also, you can glue things together with ease.

I also appreciate that this is more of an affordable option for most people, so if you are trying to strike that balance between quality wood and a quality price, then fir may indeed be the one you choose. 


  • It’s very easy to get your hands on fir
  • It won’t twist or split too easily when in even poor conditions
  • It’s very affordable


  • The wood is not as stable as other options, so you do need to treat it

6. Ipe

ipe planks for outdoor projects

If you have never heard of this wood, then I suggest you change that if you intend on carrying out a variety of outdoor projects. That’s because this wood, which comes from Central and Southern America, is a fantastic choice for various reasons.

Actually, this wood could be the perfect choice if you plan on adding some decking, and it’s thanks to the way it is very dense, and it just does not warp even under some very harsh and challenging conditions. However, it can be expensive, so that could be a deciding factor for you when it comes to choosing the type of wood you plan to work with. 

Many feel that untreated Ipe wood could last up to 40 years outside without too much in the way of tarnishing or decaying. That’s impressive, but on the flip side, it’s known to be a type of wood that is exceptionally difficult and tough to cut.

This is because of how tightly packed together the grain tends to be, which gives it a solidity that far outstrips so many other woods out there. This does make it a perfect choice for a decking area as it won’t be troubled by people walking over it, as the wear and tear of this will be minimal for a plank of wood this thick and sturdy.

But as I said, it is expensive, and it’s not a wood I would try to work with if I was new to woodworking. It will resist your efforts to shape it unless you have quality tools capable of throwing out a whole lot of power. 


  • It copes well with even harsh conditions
  • It will last for over 40 years even if you haven’t treated the wood
  • The wood is solid and won’t be damaged too easily


  • It is expensive, so not best for people on a budget

7. Cypress 

cypress wood plank for outdoor projects

The final wood I want to mention here is cypress, and it’s probably one of my favorite woods to work with. Considering it often grows in swampy conditions, then it kind of lets you know that it’s pretty good at dealing with damp conditions.

It’s all because of something in the wood called cypressene, and this naturally protects and preserves the wood from moisture and those wet conditions. That is why you can then go ahead and use it for a whole host of outdoor projects and not have to worry the same about how it will react. 

Cypress wood is also relatively easy to work with, and that makes life so much easier. You can also easily get a couple of decades out of untreated cypress wood before anything starts to go wrong, so it does mean there’s no need to continually treat it year after year. It just won’t decay like that.

I also feel that cypress is still pretty easy to locate, and the price is not too high compared to other options out there. That does make it a viable option for people working on a bit of a budget.

But one thing you need to think about is what the project involves. This is because cypress does have a problem of being scratched and even having dents rather too easily. Sanding or planing wood to remove those marks is certainly an option. However, if you plan on using this wood in a high-traffic area, then I would think twice about doing so. It’s highly likely you would need to carry out repairs in the near future, and not because of the wood rotting. 


  • It works well in wet conditions and those with high humidity
  • It’s very easy to work with
  • It’s easy to get your hands on cypress without it costing a fortune
  • It doesn’t decay too easily


  • It can dent and scratch a bit too easily

Protecting the Wood

protect outdoor wood

Even though the seven different options above all have some form of natural resistance to rot and decay, you shouldn’t just leave the wood to effectively fend for itself. Instead, you need to help it along and give it some additional protection that will mean the wood will last even longer, and cope with even harsher conditions.

Exactly how you do it will depend on the finish you want. If you plan on keeping it natural, then a blend of resin and oil painted over the wood will bolster that water resistance. The oil basically leads to the water bouncing off it, and it cannot penetrate into the wood itself.

But this is something you need to do once in a while, as the coating you add to the wood does wear down over time. It’s not a one-off thing. 

I would actually recommend adding more than one coat to the wood as well. Apply it in thin layers, and allow each coat to completely dry before adding the other. If you wish to slightly change the color of the wood, then get a resin with a bit of a tint to it. All it will do is color the wood but not completely change it if that’s not the look you are going for, and at least it’s protecting the wood at the same time.

But if you don’t want to keep the wood effect, then painting the wood is also another option. Make sure you only use paint designed for this very purpose, as it will come with some added protection that helps the rain or weather conditions to bounce off the wood and not be absorbed.

As with the resin and varnish approach, you may wish to use more than one coat to really double up on the protection. More color options are out there on the market now, so you should find it easy to locate a color that fits in perfectly with what you want. 

Aside from adding these protective layers, I would suggest checking the status of the wood once a year to see if there’s any damage or signs that something is going wrong. That allows you to potentially make some repairs before it gets too bad and could mean you have no need to completely replace a project as a result. 

Overall Conclusion

And those are my suggestions when it comes to the seven best woods for outdoor projects. Now, they are not the only wood options available, but they are certainly the types of wood I tend to lean toward when I’m working on a project that will indeed sit outdoors. 

Always take some time thinking about your project and what the wood needs to contend with from a conditions perspective. However, I also think these articles will also help make things easier when it comes to working on these projects.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.