What's the best type of wooden garden furniture for the UK?

I know here at Lazy Susan we've focussed on Cast Aluminium, Rattan and Wicker garden furniture, but we are most definitely not 'anti' any other materials, far from it. Take wood garden furniture for example. I myself have a piece of timber furniture in my garden in the form of a bench (alongside the rattan sofa set of course) and I love it. Yes it takes a little more TLC that the rattan set, but it looks just as fabulous. Wooden furniture can be a very sound investment when it comes to garden, it is so easy to repair and revive if its been left to Mother Nature. Timber garden furniture is now available in such a wide variety of styles, sizes and shapes, and while its not a material we sell, there is a wide selection of wooden garden furniture in garden centres and specialist retailers online to choose from. The key with timber garden furniture is to know what type of wood to buy for the UK climate and to stick to a simple maintenance plan. This way you'll guarantee it can stand up to the elements and will last for many years to come!

wooden-chair

In terms of which timbers are hardwood and which is softwood isn’t actually determined by the hardness or softness of the wood. The soft and super lightweight balsa wood that we all know from children’s model aeroplanes is in fact technically a hardwood, despite it being so soft that you can easily dent it with a fingernail. The difference between the two types is actually a scientific one, and it basically depends on the type of tree the wood comes from. In general terms, a deciduous tree - a species that will lose its leaves in autumn - will produce hardwoods. Oak, Elm, Mahogany and Teak are all good examples of hardwoods that are used to construct garden furniture. They tend to grow much slower compared to softwoods such as Pine or Fir.

I'm afraid I have to hold my hands up at this point as the title of this post may have been a little misleading (well sort of). Lazy Susan couldn't possibly sit her and type absolutely that one or the other kind of timber is better or worse when it comes to garden furniture. That's not to say we can't tell you what we think is the best timbers, it just that there is more to it than just the type of timber. The particular wood itself is what matters and you can get good Teak, which is what we (and many other people) consider the Bentley of garden furniture, and you can get bad Teak. Teak is a hardwood that many of the leading timber garden furniture companies select because, while its very hard, the good stuff should also have a very close grain. It is important you look at this when buying teak garden furniture, it is not cheap. A close grain will ensure the furniture lasts for many years to come as it makes it naturally more resistant to weather, rot, and insects.

If it has to be timber (and I'm not gonna try and talk you out of it), then the first thing you need to do is to find a reputable retailer that has a wide variety of wooden garden furniture available. That way you know you're buying from a specialist timber garden furniture company and not somebody who's just stocked a few pieces of wooden garden furniture on the off chance they sell a bit. You also need to establish that the furniture they're selling is constructed from a durable timber. And I'm afraid this isn't always the cheapest option, you generally tend to find that the more durable timber pieces are a little more expensive. However, many of the low cost timber garden furniture in the UK is constructed from Iroko, which to be brutally honest is utter rubbish and it will not stand up to the weather we have here in the UK.

It is important with any type of garden furniture, be it wood or cast aluminium, that you take your time, do your research, and this way you'll ensure that you're making a purchase that will last for many years. Garden furniture is not cheap, so you want that investment to last more than a few years. In Lazy Susan's humble opinion, the best type of timber for garden furniture is made from hardwoods and this is because it can easily withstand the higher levels of moisture we get here in the UK. And lets face it, after the summer we've had so far, we get more than out fair share of all year round rain.

Wooden garden furniture has to be robust and able to withstand a lot of moisture. It is generally purchased to sit outside and stay there, unlike say Aluminium which is significantly lighter, and therefore easier to pick up and move inside or to different parts of the garden. Hardwood's have the ability to stand up to all the rain and the occasional burst of sunshine we see in the UK. Good quality hardwood will not to warp and you need to look for timbers that are both seasoned and tempered. Even if you do not have a cover or shed in which to store your wooden garden furniture, if it is a quality hardwood then it will survive for many a year. And just as important as the timber, look at the hardware used to hold it all together. Ideally, you want glavanized or stainless steel nuts and bolts etc as they'll offer the best protection from rust and corrosion.

I always tell people, no matter what you're buying, be it a new car or wooden garden furniture, look for retailers that place a high emphasis on customer satisfaction. You want to buy from a retailer that will bend over backwards to help you make the right purchase, offering advice etc. A clear returns policy is vital, know your consumer rights, their sales policy and make sure you can inspect their products upon delivery as will help you return it or get a refund if there's any problems. And for those of you out there that have an environmental conscious, then you want to look for retailer who have an ecological policy. For example, I know that the timber bench I recently purchased for my own garden was from a UK based company that requires that all the timber they use for their garden furniture is sourced from countries with a sustainable ecological policy.

We would always recommend that you treat your wooden garden furniture with a lick of paint or sealer each Spring in order to keep the wood looking good and protected from the sun and rain. This also stops splinters from appearing as it helps the would to stay supple. Ideally, any type of garden furniture should be kept inside during the winter and the same goes for timber. If this simply isn't feasible, then invest in some protective waterproof patio furniture covers and this will protect it when the temperature drops and we potentially see some snow. When it comes to using your wooden furniture, make sure you purchase good quality cushions too as they make a big difference to the look and comfort of wooden garden furniture. Wooden chairs can be a little hard for prolonged sitting and they also tend to stay damp a little longer than other materials. If you want to do a little al fresco dining, but there was a shower earlier in the day, then using good quality cushions means you can still use the seats.

Take good care of your wooden garden furniture

You can spend a lot of money on wooden garden furniture, however, if you don’t take the time and look after the furniture, it will end up looking weathered and worn out, especially with the erratic UK climate. Hardwood by its very nature is a very durable timber and while it requires a little less maintenance than softwoods,  it will over time weather to a silvery/grey colour. Some people like this look, but if you want to keep its original look, then you should apply teak oil on the day of purchase, before any rain or moisture gets a chance to make contact with your new furniture. Some of the better wooden garden furniture retailers will even ensure this is done for you prior to delivery, so make sure you ask the question.

Every couple of months or so, it helps if you give your wooden furniture a quick wash down. All you need is a little washing up liquid, warm water and a soft bristle brush. You can use a hose on spray to rinse, but never use a pressure washer as they can strip the timber. Once cleaned allow the furniture to dry properly, this will take time, so any cleaning is best done on a bright sunny day. Hardwood garden furniture is naturally very durable so it does not need a regular application of preservative like a softwood, however, as I said before if you want to keep its original appearance, then simply apply a little teak oil or a water based wood stain.

Wooden garden furniture made from softwoods tend to get a bad name these days. It primarily stems from the cheap pine garden tables and chairs that seemed to be everywhere in the 1980's/1990's. They did’t last very long and were highly susceptible to rot and damage. However, it is only right that Lazy Susan looks at what makes good softwood outdoor furniture and how you can maintain it in a little more detail, so please check back!