Douglas Fir Outdoor Furniture (Pros and Cons & Treating)

One of the common struggles when looking for outdoor furniture is the need to find great wood that can withstand the elements. The key here is to look for something that looks good while being low maintenance and offering weather resistance. Douglas fir outdoor furniture is one of the options that constantly is turned to due to its numerous advantages.

Douglas fir deck design collage

You would also have to consider other factors such as its durability, insect damage and rot resistance, and how long it would generally stand up and out over time. This is where Douglas fir can come in as a pretty good option. [toc]

Our backyards have become extended living spaces. Many of us have decks, patios, and gardens to enjoy. Some of us may just be starting to plan our outdoor living spaces. But, regardless of the situation, we all want good-looking, functional furniture to use and to beautify our homes and gardens. -Danny Proulx, Building More Classic Garden Furniture

Is Douglas-Fir Good For Outdoor Furniture?

Wood outdoor dining table

Although traditionally used as a flooring option inside the home, this type of wood has actually become a bit of a favorite when it comes to its use as outdoor furniture.

As a matter of fact, as a classic, this particular wood has become a favorite material used as porch decking. It can be seen in homes over a hundred years old. The reason builders used it a lot back in the day is still the main reason why it continues to be a favorite for builders in the modern age.

Douglas fir is a type of wood that is readily available. It doesn’t cost too much. It’s extremely durable. It is also a variety that builders would describe as very dimensionally stable.

This technically means that it can expand and contract when it comes in contact with moisture. However, it isn’t likely to buckle or warp because of the elements. This is because this product is vertical grain. [Source: The Identification of Douglas-Fir Wood]

Pros And Cons Of Douglas Fir Outdoor Furniture

Quicklist – Pros and Cons of Douglas Fir Outdoor Furniture

  • Pros:
    • Unlimited outdoor uses
    • Durable wood species
    • Beautiful grain patterns
    • Budget friendly
    • Weather resistant
  • Cons:
    • Can be dented on edges
    • Changes color when exposed to extreme sunlight
    • Care must be taken when sanding

Pros of Douglas Fir

Unlimited outdoor uses – The sky’s the limit when using Douglas fir for outdoor living. It can be made into virtually anything from porches to furniture used for outdoor entertaining, outdoor decks, patios, gazebos and pergolas, and any garden furniture you can think about.

Durable wood species – When cured and treated properly, primed, and painted, it can outperform any redwood in its time. It can also withstand a lot of foot traffic, and of course, it can withstand the elements.

Beautiful grain patterns – A major pro for Douglas fir is that it makes for interesting grain patterns on the wood surface. With a little bit of stain, it can really bring out the dark red welted patterns can make for very eye-catching aesthetics.

This isn’t something easy to come by within a budget wood type, but for some reason, it works perfectly for a Douglas fir lumber.

Budget friendly – Douglas Fir is considered a budget friendly wood. It is cheaper to buy and use for furniture than many other types of wood. It is slightly more expensive than cedar, but cheaper than oak.

Weather resistant – This wood has natural weather and rot resistant capabilities that makes it a good choice for outdoor use. [Source: Douglas-Fir Rot Resistance]

Cons of Douglas Fir

Can be dented on edges – One con that you ought to be aware of, though is that although it is tougher than most, it is still categorically considered as a softwood. It can easily dent, particularly on the edges.

For this reason, Douglas fir may not be the best for uncovered work benches or tabletops. Read more about the best wood for tabletops here.

Changes color when subjected to the sun – Douglas Fir tends to undergo drastic color changes when exposed to extreme sunlight.

Care must be taken when sanding  – Care should also be taken when sanding the surface. Over sanding a Douglas fir wood flooring could mean it might not withstand a lot of weight in the long run.

Another related problem while sanding is to avoid using higher than 100 grit sandpaper as it will prevent the absorption of stains.

Weather Resistance

Diy rustic custom table and benchSpeaking of the elements, Douglas fir is a material that is famously weather resistant. It is readily available, so it won’t stretch your budget out too much, but at the same time, you can rest assured of the fact that you aren’t scrimping on appearance as well as durability.

It makes the concept of outdoor living a possibility and not just a farfetched dream. Imagine having a lovely cozy gazebo with lawn chairs surrounding a covered fire pit.

Whatever your imagined dream may be for your outdoors, your builder or you as a DIY project can whip something up using Douglas fir.

For another type of wood that holds up well in different weather conditions, you may want to consider acacia wood outdoor furniture.

Rot Resistance

Douglas-fir is a conifer or softwood. It is not of the fir (Abies) family, but is far superior to the true firs in strength, durability, and all properties and usefulness. -US Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, American Douglas-Fir and Its Uses

The basic makeup of this type of wood makes it a natural candidate for rot resistance. Because of so much interest around Douglas fir wood, there have been studies conducted regarding how much time and decay it can actually withstand.

According to research by the University of California, completely untreated Douglas fir wood could last up to 1- 15 years when exposed to outdoor use.

This is a tremendous feat considering that completely untreated lumber is almost never a practice anymore. Builders these days would treat the wood and make sure that it has all of the preparatory care needed to make it last through the years.

So by and large, 10-15 years is a very conservative projection. You can easily double up its lifespan with the proper wood treatments, especially when prepping it for outdoor use.

How To Treat the Wood For Outdoor Use

Quicklist – Steps in treating Douglas Fir for Outdoor Use

  1. Choose Douglas fir as your wood type
  2. Treat lumber with water repellent
  3. Preserve with brush/spray treatment (pressure treating)
  4. Reinforce load-bearing parts
  5. Stain with natural or unnatural finish
    • Natural finish: Maintain wood’s natural look; reapply every few years
    • Unnatural finish: Achieve specific stain color

Properly preserving wood for the great outdoors is just as important as the design conception itself.

Without the proper type of protection, your Douglas fir wood could have severe effects from the elements, which can be in the form of wind, air, water, salt, frost, rain, pests, and so on and so forth.

Choosing the wood type is the first step; if you’ve chosen Douglas fir, you’ve already chosen well.

The next step to take is to make sure that you treat your lumber with some water repellent. Granted, this is not a permanent fix and might need to be repeated annually; this puts the wood in pretty good shape for outdoor use.

Next up is a step for preservation. Make sure that you treat it with some brush or spray treatment. This is called pressure treating your lumber.

Although the solution can be a bit on the pricey side, it’s always good to reinforce your lumber, particularly if you are preempting its usage to be a bit on the heavy side. Ensure you support the load-bearing parts, such as pieces for joints, beams, and the like.

The final step is staining, of course. There are 2 main categories to staining finishes: natural and unnatural.

Natural finishes are great if you want to maintain your Douglas fir wood’s natural look, particularly if it has interesting streaks or patterns you would like to retain. It’s best to get this reapplied every couple of years or so.

If preserving its natural beauty isn’t a top priority and you’re going after a particular stain color, then unnatural finishes are the way to go. For more maintenance free outdoor furniture ideas visit this article.

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