Wood Species for Exterior Projects

      Suggested wood choices for a set of garage doors. March 18, 2006

I need to make two 4' wide garage doors, custom, stained, so the grain should be attractive. They should be able to withstand some weather conditions, like water splashing on it. What wood type should I use? Redwood or cedar may be too soft. I don't know about cypress. It can't be too heavy or hard to mill. I am basically looking for a good weather resistant wood with a nice grain that is able to take stains, clear, and is easily milled and glued. Ipe is too hard and expensive but along the lines of what I need.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
I cast one vote for Redwood.

From contributor B:
I cast my vote for Cedar. We use it for all of our garage doors with Sikkens for a sealer.

From contributor C:
Spanish cedar. It is a lot harder than redwood or western cedar and will take a stain very well. Western cedar and redwood dent and ding too easily.

From contributor D:
Without a doubt, use reclaimed lumber. My experience with Spanish cedar is that it has excellent resistance to moisture and insects, but it is way too soft and unattractive - unless you like a luan look.

From the original questioner:
To contributor D: You mentioned reclaimed. What type of reclaimed?

From contributor D:
I've used a boatload (no pun intended) of reclaimed fir. It comes from the lake and river bottoms of Idaho. It is good looking, unique, consistent and extremely stable. It just doesn't move.

From the original questioner:
My concern with fir is how it will stand up to water splashing on it year after year. You can seal it but tiny cracks over the years start to let the moisture in. So it should have some natural resistance to rot. I'm in Texas so I want a wood I can pick up locally.

From Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying forum technical advisor:
I believe the best choice is teak. It has good color and excellent longevity, as well as excellent stability. It machines well and is widely available. These properties are the reason that it is used for boat building. It resists insects and decay. A second choice is jarrah (eucalyptus marginata). It is a bit denser than teak, but looks good and is quite stable. It resists insects and decay. The third choice is Ipe (Tabebuia spp.). This is widely used for outdoor projects. Use only the dark red colored wood. Although Spanish cedar (which is really not a cedar; in fact, it is a hardwood) has good insect resistance, it is not widely available. There have been some dishonest dealers that sell a wood called Spanish cedar, but it is not.

It is true that the cedars (except Spanish cedar) are quite soft, but I do not know why this would be a negative. Western red cedar has been and still is used for house siding very often. It will require more frequent maintenance to maintain the red color, compared to the previous species. However, the grey patina is often very desirable. Have you considered black walnut? There are so many species of wood. I have listed only a few more popular species that seem to be leading candidates.

From contributor G:
Use Spanish cedar, then wire brush.

From contributor H:
I vote for cypress. It has a nice grain pattern. It works nicely but is a little oily.

From Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying forum technical advisor:
Old growth cypress would work OK, but it is my impression that it weathers to a gray color quickly if exposed. New growth (or second growth) is not acceptable for this use.

From contributor I:
I vote for the Spanish cedar. I'm in Texas and it is available here. It looks good with a spar varnish. Lyptus might be another option its a little pinker than Mahogany but harder and I think it resists weather pretty well.

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