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Which Wood is Best For Outdoor Furniture – Teak Or Cedar?
If you are looking to landscape your backyard, reinvigorate your tired porch or patio, or even create a warm and welcoming living area out of that new deck, you may need some new furniture. After all what good is having a great place to entertain if your guests don’t feel comfortable while they’re there? When you need a few chairs to fill some space on the porch, or that plush, comfortable, deep seating sofa for the veranda, chances are that Teak or Cedar will be your best choice for this outdoor living furniture. Which to choose will depend on a variety of factors however most importantly you will need to consider the look you are hoping to achieve, maintenance required, and the price you can expect to pay in order find the best fit. So read below and you’ll be lounging by your new poolside bar in a new sun lounger in no time at all!
One of the most important features of any new furniture is the appearance that it gives off. Is your outdoor patio living space better suited for a rustic appeal or luxurious contemporary style? Perhaps neither. Maybe just a simple, yet warm, elegance speaks to you more. But whether you’re looking to create a fun, relaxing environment with a pool side bar and some sun loungers or a simple conversational seating area you will have many choices with both Teak and Cedar.
Cedar usually has a very natural look, accenting your living area with soft red, light brown, and gray tones. Lightweight and porous, cedar can easily accept a stain, sealer, or even paint, but most commonly is left in a raw finely sanded finish to preserve its natural look, feel, and smell. Cedar is aromatic by nature which not only adds to the ambiance of a relaxing evening, but also helps preserve and protect the wood from insects and weather.
Teak is almost the polar opposite of cedar in terms of just about everything. Teak is by nature a hardwood and as such, is more dense and heavy than cedar. Grown exclusively in subtropical and tropical regions, and most commonly in the dense jungle of Indonesia and other Asian countries, teak is almost always imported and therefore is also more rare. As a result of the exoticism associated with teak furniture it has achieved a perception of rarity and wealth and thus portrays a look of luxury and prestige. Teak outdoor furniture is commonly purchased in one of two ways. It can either be oiled, to achieve a darker “stained” look, or it can be left in its natural unfinished state where it will gracefully age and turn a soft patina gray color. This color, unique to teak furniture, contributes to its exotic appeal.
Another very important factor to consider when deciding to purchase outdoor patio furniture is the level of maintenance that you wish to employ in living with your new furniture. Luckily the maintenance factor, or lack of, is one of the main reasons that both teak wood and cedar wood are top choices of furniture manufacturers and consumers.
Cedar, by nature is a very resilient wood whose properties help to resist weather of all climates but specifically heavily climates with heavy precipitation. Snow, sleet, and rain are no concern for the long lasting properties of cedar, which will maintain its brilliance for many years. This is one of the reasons why leaving cedar furniture in a sanded unfinished state is by far the most popular finish. Like with many other woods though, some wish to finish their cedar furniture to achieve an altogether different look. Several refinishing options are listed below in order of popularity.
- Stain – many prefer the finished look of a nice stain on their outdoor furniture. The benefits of using a stain include being able to change the color of the furniture to virtually any color for which stain is available. Stains are now offered in many shades through the dark to light color spectrum. The stain may also provide a slight protection from the elements although with cedar it’s not really necessary and so mainly should just be used to alter the color. The disadvantages of stain are that in order to maintain the original stained look, the stain needs to be reapplied every 2-3 years as the stain itself is not as resilient against the suns UV rays and weather elements as the wood is.
- Sealer – some prefer to “lock in” the natural look of their cedar furniture and so choose to use a high end sealer. Sealers are made by many companies and are available at any hardware or big box store. The sealer will prevent the cedar patio furniture from fading and will slow down the aging process. Keep in mind though that this aging is often a desired affect of the cedar. The downside to sealing the cedar furniture is consistent with the drawback to using a stain. In order to maintain its effectiveness, it must be reapplied every 2-3 years which can be tedious and cumbersome.
- Paint – like any wood surface, cedar can be painted with a fine outdoor wood paint. This is not as common as staining or sealing the furniture because paint will crack and chip, and also drastically alters the appearance of the furniture from its natural state. Once the paint cracks and chips the entire painted surface must be completely sanded and repainted, sealed, or stained.
Teak is also a very weather resistant and ultra resilient wood due in part to its propensity to secrete a natural teak oil which helps to self condition it and protect against the harsh demands of a wet and/or humid climate. Many shipbuilders choose teak as a main wood for the decks of their ships for this very reason. Many sunken ships have been raised from the depths of the ocean only to show the teak beautifully preserved and in tact. It’s this property that makes teak more commonly found in its natural unfinished state as there is no functional reason to apply any external finish to the surface. Some customers however choose to apply additional amounts of this teak oil to achieve a darker more stained look. While this will preserve the “new” look of the furniture it must be reapplied every 2-3 years to maintain this appearance and so can become burdensome. Also by leaving the teak in its natural state, the often desired patina gray look is naturally achieved where it cannot be, if a teak oil or other finish is applied to the surface of the furniture.
While price is often a concern for consumers, sometimes it is not such a factor for consumers of wood patio furniture. As with everything else, price is a measure of perceived value. The more valuable a product is perceived to be in the mind of the consumer, the more it will cost. This reason alone is why both teak and cedar patio furniture are generally more expensive than other common outdoor furniture materials such as plastic, wicker, or rattan furniture. Teak and cedar themselves have a price difference too though which can be quite significant depending on the individual furniture item. Here’s why.
Cedar – because of its lightweight, proximity, ease to harvest and availability, cedar is the cheaper choice of the two wood furniture types. While it will last a long time and is very durable, typically teak will last longer.
Teak – for all of the reasons opposite cedar, teak is the more valuable wood. Simply not having the availability of cedar or other woods helps to create this elite, rare, sort of feeling that teak carries with it, which raises the price. The purchase of teak furniture is often perceived as a sign of affluence or wealth because teak has a widely known reputation for commanding a higher price. More expensive to harvest, more expensive to ship, and its long lasting appeal coupled with its novelty together contribute to its higher cost to produce which in turn creates a higher price for the consumer.
In summary, “better” or “best” can only be determined by the customer. However taking appearance, maintenance, and price into consideration, teak and cedar can easily be compared and contrasted for similarities and differences. Cedar, the more light weight, commonly used wood makes great patio furniture because of its ability to resist insects, rot, and weather elements (specifically rain, sleet, and snow) and also because it is relatively inexpensive to produce. Teak, the hardwood of the two, is more exotic, rare, and will last longer. Therefore, it commands a higher price, but also delivers a greater perceived value in terms of prestige, longevity, and maintenance free ownership experience.
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