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A Guide to Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Your Furniture

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Choosing the right type of wood for your furniture plays a crucial role in how your chosen piece will age and withstand the environment it is being designed or purchased for. If you’re wondering which wood is best suited for your desired custom-made furniture, here are some tips to help you choose.   

There are many different types of wood used for furniture. To simplify it, we have split them into three main categories according to where the furniture is going to be used in your home.   

Full Outdoor

Furniture that is permanently and fully exposed to the elements needs to be designed using a wood that is extremely durable. This is one of the most important factors when choosing wood for different pieces of furniture. Durability is determined based on how resistant the wood is to certain factors. These include the presence of natural extractives in the wood (which protect against sun damage and insect and fungal attacks), density (how hard the wood is), and movement in service (does it shrink or swell when moved).

Furniture that is permanently and fully exposed to the elements needs to be designed using a wood that is extremely durable. This is one of the most important factors when choosing wood for different pieces of furniture. Durability is determined based on how resistant the wood is to certain factors. These include the presence of natural extractives in the wood (which protect against sun damage and insect and fungal attacks), density (how hard the wood is), and movement in service (does it shrink or swell when moved).  

As soon as a tree is felled and no longer has roots, the natural environment wants to break the wood down and transfer it back to its basic elements. This is Mother Nature’s way of recycling, so carpenters are inevitably fighting the process of decay. Certain woods are more resilient to this. Exposure to the natural elements will speed up the process, so outdoor furniture requires woods that naturally withstand this. These woods are Japanese cedar and Plantation teak. They have a relatively dense but high extractive count, which is essentially a built-in natural defense system against Mother Nature. Choosing the correct wood for outdoor furniture will outlast any metal or plastic furniture. Metal tends to rust, and plastic is prone to UV degradation. 

Homewood Outdoor Bench in Plantation Teak


Homewood. Outdoor Kholeti dining table in Japanese Cedar.

Patio

Furniture that is going to be used on a verandah or area covered with a roof and open sides may be exposed less to the harsh elements, but there is still the presence of high humidity and moisture, and even at times in the day – sun exposure. You can be slightly more lenient in terms of durability when choosing wood for patio furniture, but you still need something that will withstand the natural elements. We recommend also opting for Japanese cedar and Plantation teak. The advantage is that you may not need to maintain the wood as often as you would with outdoor furniture that is fully exposed to the elements due to the added protection of roof cover.

Picture: Homewood. Imbiza Couch in Plantation Teak.

Picture: Homewood. Imbiza Occasional Chair in Plantation Teak.

Shop Homewood’s beautiful patio furniture.

Indoor 

Furniture that will be used inside or in an area that is totally enclosed and protected from the elements can be created using wood that is nondurable. The selection criteria for indoor wood furniture is based on colouration and weight of the timber. If you are choosing wood for dining room table chairs, for example, they need to be light enough to move around but also be able to resist warping or cracking from constant movement. If you are choosing wood for a dining room table, you need to consider a surface that is hardy and able to resist scratching and denting from objects being placed on the surface. The ideal woods for indoor furniture are Oak, Ash, Ofram, Blackwood and Cottonwood.

Homewood Plasma Custom Cube in Oak

Picture: Homewood. Duzu Dining Table in Ash.

Other Factors

Other factors which are taken into consideration from a design perspective are geographical location. The coastal regions are prone to high humidity, so the wood furniture design needs to allow enough room for the timber to expand. This is particularly important for products such as doors, tables with frames, and cabinets with drawers. Gauteng, on the other hand, is at a slightly higher altitude and the designs need to allow enough room for wood to shrink.

All these factors are taken into consideration when the team at Homewood choose different woods for different pieces of furniture. The utmost care is taken to hand select the very best wood, with beauty and character, to tell a unique story about the mighty tree it once was. “When we bring in a new timber, we put it through rigorous testing in the factory in Lidgetton and expose it to the worst conditions imaginable in order to reveal its characteristics – if it passes our tests and meets our standards, we know we are good to go” – Ian Perry, Homewood owner and founder.

If you’d like to order custom-made, handcrafted furniture built to last, contact the team at Homewood, or visit your nearest showroom.

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