The best wood for raised garden beds should last a long time without the need for chemical treatment.
Many homeowners looking to build raised garden beds want to grow fresh high quality vegetables they know are free from pesticides and chemicals.
In order to grow your vegetables without chemicals many experts recommend using natural materials that can not leach potentially harmful chemicals into your soil that then end up in your vegetables.
As a results most organic gardeners do not recommend the use of pressure treated wood.
Pressure treated wood is treated with chemicals to prevent the wood from rotting.
Older pressure treated wood contained CCA (chromated copper arsenate).
The EPA banned CCA in 2003 due to arsenic leaching from the pressure-treated wood and into the soil which can contaminate plants and people.
While the new pressure treated wood uses safer synthetic materials. The USDA Organic guidelines still doesn’t recommend them for organic growing:
“A number of synthetic materials are now commonly used in place of CCA. These include alkaline copper quaternary, copper azole, and micronized copper azole. These materials are not currently allowed in organic production, as they are not included on the National List.” – USDA Organic Guidelines
Many of our customers come to us looking for a durable natural wood for raised garden beds. They have concerns about growing their food in a complete natural environment without the use of chemicals, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides.
Pressure treated wood typically contains some sort of fungicides and insecticides to protect the wood.
Here’s a write up from the USDA Forest Products Laboratory describing the two common pressure treated woods on the market:
Alkaline Copper Quat (ACQ)
The fungicides and insecticides in ACQ are expressed as copper oxide (67%) and a quaternary ammonium compound (quat, 33%). Multiple variations of ACQ have been standardized or are in the process of standardization. There are three types of ACQ: ACQ-B, ACQ-D, and ACQ-C. ACQ-B is an ammoniacal copper quat formulation; ACQ-D is an amine copper quat formulation; and ACQ-C is formulated with either ammonia or amine and a slightly different quat compound. Minimum retentions of 0.25 lb/ft3 or 0.4 lb/ft3 are specified for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 0.6 lb/ft3 is specified for critical structural members in ground contact.
Copper Azole (CBA-A and CA-B)
The first copper azole formulation developed was type A (CBA-A), which contains 49% copper, 49% boric acid, and 2% tebuconazole. Type B (CA-B) was more recently standardized. CA-B does not contain boric acid and contains 96% copper and 4% tebuconazole. Minimum retentions of CBA-A are 0.20 lb/ft3 and 0.41 lb/ft3 for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 9.8 kg/m3 (0.61 lb/ft3) is specified for critical structural members placed in ground contact. Minimum retentions of CA-B are 0.10 lb/ft3 or 0.21 lb/ft3 for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 0.31 lb/ft3 is specified for critical structural members placed in ground contact.
While most of the pressure treated wood manufacturers state they are safe for building raised garden beds, we get many customers that still would rather not use them.
Additionally most of the manufacturers care instructions state that you need to apply water repellant periodically to protect against moisture damage.
This would be difficult with damp or wet soil sitting against the inside of the boards constantly which will ultimately lead to fast rot and decay of the wood.
What about other softwoods such as Redwood or Cedar?
While Cedar and Redwood both have some natural rot resistance they are both softwoods that also require water repellant sealers to prevent water from penetrating the grain and rotting the wood.
Best Wood for Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
Our number one recommendation for raised vegetable garden beds is our Angelim Pedra Trailer Decking.
This product is commonly used for large flat bed semi-trailers that haul huge excavators and bulldozers which can weigh upwards of 90,000 pounds.
Angelim Pedra is an all natural hardwood from South America that is readily available and responsibly harvested.
This natural hardwood has a janka hardness of 3,160. The janka hardness rating is simply an industry rating of various wood species hardness.
Western Red Cedar only has a Janka hardness of 350 and Redwood has a Janka hardness of 450. That makes Angelim Pedra almost 10 times harder than Western Red Cedar.
Our Angelim Pedra wood is exceptionally resistant to rot, decay and wood boring insects naturally without any chemical treatment applied to the wood.
There is no need to worry about applying water sealers to Angelim Pedra since it is naturally very rot resistant. You can put the soil right up against the wood and water your plants daily without concern.
The Angelim Pedra trailer decking comes in a shiplap profile so the boards overlap forming a nice tight seal.
Angelim Pedra is exceptionally beautiful once a simple UV oil finish is applied to the exterior.
Most of our customers apply Ipe Oil to the exterior only. If you are concerned with the oil finish there are food grade finishes that can be applied instead.
Angelim Pedra is one of the hardest and most durable woods available for exterior use and building.
Building raised garden beds with Angelim Pedra will give you beautiful long lasting garden beds so you can grow your own vegetables for many years to come without worrying about rotting wood or chemicals in your wood.
If you are looking to build an outdoor table you want to use the best wood possible.
When building an outdoor table you want something that can last for generations without too much maintenance and issues like splinters.
Most people are familiar with the common softwood choices like Pressure Treated Pine, Cedar and Redwood.
Softwoods require a water sealer to keep water from penetrating the grain which can lead to faster rot and decay.
The water sealer typically needs to be applied every year and you’ll need to sand off any that is peeling first.
These woods will also splinter, check and crack over time leaving the table prone to giving you splinters.
There are 5 wood species that we recommend as the best wood species for outdoor tables.
This incredible hardwood comes from South America.
It has proven to last up to 75+ years on commercial applications such as the Coney Island boardwalk.
We typically sell Ipe wood for decking, fences, siding and more outdoor projects but it also works excellent for outdoor tables.
This porch deck is built with Ipe wood tongue & groove decking and shows the natural beauty of the wood.
Here’s a list of benefits that make Ipe one of the best wood choices for an outdoor table:
One of the strongest woods in the world
Up to a Class A fire rating for flame spread
Termite, Mold & Fungi resistant
High scratch & slip resistance
Can outlast composite material
Twice as strong as Oak
Time proven on many commercial projects
Due to the popularity and proven performance of Ipe wood outdoors it has become somewhat expensive.
Not to worry we have at least 5 other species that are significantly cheaper and offer very similar durability as Ipe.
Teak is our next top pick of wood options.
Most people are well aware of Teak’s reputation, it’s one of the most sought after woods for exterior use.
Boat builders have used this wood for centuries since there’s few things that see harsher elements than a boat.
Teak (Tectona grandis) grows all over the world, in southeast Asia, the East Indies, Africa, and America.
Our Teak grows in 20–50 year plantations, which means you get the hardest, most durable wood without harming the environment.
Teak is lighter than Ipe in both color and weight. Its color ranges from yellow brown to dark golden brown, darkening with age.
Because it is less dense than Ipe, Teak is also generally easier to work with.
Cumaru wood (aka Brazilian Teak) is the second hardest exterior hardwood we sell. In Brazil, Cumaru is used in mansions, five-star hotels and major commercial projects.
The color of Cumaru varies from a golden tan to a reddish brown with some dark grain accents through out the wood.
It has a 50+ year lifespan without preservatives! Our Cumaru wood is responsibly harvested from managed forests to provide a truly renewable resource.
Cumaru is a great wood choice for building and outdoor table. Take a look at these beautiful outdoor tables made using Cumaru wood.
This beautiful hardwood also comes from South America and is one our employees often choose for their own homes.
Tigerwood (also known as Goncalo Alves) is one of the finest quality hardwoods available that features a unique light golden-brown to reddish-brown coloring with exotic black and brown streaks.
It is naturally resistant to rot and decay, is the third hardest decking we sell, and offers a 30+ year lifespan without preservatives!
The table above features a custom Ipe wood border and inlay with an Ipe wood table base.
This table has an aluminum base, it once had another surface that was old and worn out.
Our customer sprayed the base black and added Tigerwood to resurface the table and chairs. The outdoor table and chairs look great and should last 30 years or more.
This beautiful South American hardwood starts of a golden yellow color but in a short time when oiled and exposed to UV light it will turn a beautiful golden brown.
Garapa is an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack.
It is naturally scratch resistant which allows the surface to remain smooth for many years, making Garapa a perfect wood for outdoor tables and many other exterior projects.
You can expect a 30+ year lifespan without preservatives!
We don’t have a picture of an outdoor table built using Garapa but above is a beautiful deck built with this beautiful and durable hardwood.
Massaranduba (pronounced Ma-Sa-Ran-Doo-bah) is a hardwood native to South America. It’s one of the hardest woods in the world, once it’s oiled and exposed to UV rays it looks very similar to Ipe wood.
One surprising fact about this natural hardwood is how well it performs under heavy load (bending strength) tests. These tests revealed that, as a decking material, Massaranduba is even stronger than Ipe decking.
This makes Massaranduba an excellent choice for outdoor tables.
We don’t have a picture of a table built using Massaranduba but this picture of our siding we milled gives you a good idea of how the wood will look.
If you have an old concrete porch that looks dingy and unappealing you are probably considering building a new deck over the top of your old concrete porch.
There’s a few considerations you need to think about before attempting to take on this project.
First make sure your concrete porch is structurally sound
Some old porches have hairline cracks that contribute to the old dingy look of concrete but they are still structurally sound.
If you live in a climate that has freezing temperatures it’s a good idea to seal any cracks with a good concrete caulk to prevent water from seeping into the cracks.
Water trapped in the cracks can freeze and create structural damage.
Inspect your concrete porch to ensure it is sloped away from your house and water drains properly.
Once you’ve inspected the porch to make sure it’s structurally sound you can usually put a wood deck over the top of your concrete porch but there’s a few things you should know first.
Do not attach decking materials directly to the surface of your concrete porch.
Attaching deck boards directly to your concrete porch would lead to excessive mold, mildew and early deterioration of the deck boards.
It would also create two different moisture levels in the deck boards. The bottom of the boards would be wet while the tops of the boards would be exposed to wind and sun so the top of the deck boards would be dry.
When you have varying conditions like this your deck boards would cup and would not stay flat. This would cause the surface to hold water and make your new deck undesirable to walk on in a short matter of time.
Not all Decking is Created Equal
Most people think composite decking is the best decking material. Many also believe once it’s installed they’ll never have to do any maintenance to their new deck.
This is not the case in fact if your read all the reviews on Google for most major brands you will read thousands of complaints from homeowners.
We recommend a minimum of 18 inches of air space underneath our standard decking to allow the material to breath properly on all sides of the deck boards.
Some homeowners will install 2×4 pressure treated sleepers 16 inches on center to the top of their concrete porch with concrete screws.
This only gives you one and a half inches of air space between the concrete porch and the underside of the deck boards.
For most materials this really is not adequate airspace and you could see cupping issues still or early deterioration of your new deck boards.
If you decide to try this method you should try to find narrower deck boards like 4 inch wide decking opposed to the standard 6 inch wide deck boards.
Narrower boards are less likely to cup, you should also consider thicker deck boards since thicker materials are usually more stable as well.
A few other considerations that could help if you choose this method.
You should consider coating your concrete in a sealer or concrete since concrete wicks moisture it can add more moisture to the underside of your deck boards.
This can lead to faster rot and decay as well as cupping. It’s also a good idea to wrap your 2×4 pressure treated sleepers in a joist tape since they will be fastened directly to your concrete.
There is an easier method however to put a new wood deck directly over the top of your old concrete porch.
Hardwood Deck Tiles Can Be Installed Directly Over Concrete
Advantage hardwood deck tiles are made from South American hardwoods proven to last up to 75 years or more. They are one of the few products you can install directly over old concrete patios and porches.
Installing the deck tiles is simple with DeckWise deck tile connectors you simply just click them together.
Most homeowners can cover their old concrete porch in one afternoon. Installation is easy when using Advantage deck tiles and DeckWise deck tile connectors.
They come in a variety of beautiful hardwood species that are up to 3 times harder than teak. In addition they are naturally slip resistant and naturally resistant to rot, decay and wood boring insects.
Before and After Concrete Porch Makeover
This homeowner had an old concrete front porch that had a large crack down the center.
While the front porch was still structurally strong it was not visually appealing. The homeowner purchased our 20 x 20 Cumaru deck tiles to resurface his old concrete front porch.
The results look incredible and the install only took him a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Deck tiles are the easiest DIY way to build a deck over an old concrete porch.
If you are looking to build a new outdoor wooden bench or resurface and old outdoor bench read on as we’ll cover the best woods you can use for your bench.
Outdoor benches are most commonly made with pressure treated pine or cedar. The problem with these species is they are soft woods that generally require annual maintenance and application of a water sealer.
Softwoods like pressure treated pine and cedar have a open and somewhat porous grain structure which can tend to absorb water almost like a sponge.
While these woods do have some resistance to rot and decay and can last many years if properly maintained.
Many people find the maintenance to be too much work, so their outdoor bench gets neglected as shown in the picture below.
Stripping the old stain off an old bench like this one can be a lot of work getting in between all the bench slats. These benches often get neglected and have paint or stain peeling off the majority of the bench.
Once this occurs the wood is left unprotected and when it rains the wood usually stays saturated for an extended time period making them often undesirable to sit on.
In addition these softwoods can give off splinters and eventually get attacked by wood boring insects which can also make them not pleasant to sit on.
Is Composite Plastic Lumber Good for Outdoor Benches?
In our years of experience selling exterior lumber for decks and other exterior projects we’ve seen too many complaints from homeowners to make us comfortable selling any plastic lumber for now.
Every week we get complaints from homeowners who installed a composite plastic deck a few years ago that need to replace their entire deck because it’s failing and the manufacturer won’t honor their warranty.
If you want to read more about all the issues homeowners have faced with these products just Google search “composite decking problems”, “composite decking complaints” or “brand name decking reviews”.
You’ll be able to read about plenty of issues homeowners have struggled with so as a result of all this feedback we generally stay away and don’t recommend these products.
The 5 Best Woods for Outdoor Benches
Ipe (pronounced EE-pay) is an all natural hardwood that is more than three times harder than teak. It has shown to last up to 75 years or more on many commercial applications such as the Coney Island boardwalk and the Brooklyn bridge.
This hardwood is one of the strongest woods in the world and naturally resists wood boring insects. Ipe wood does not splinter and will not get incredibly hot like plastic lumber.
In addition it’s also naturally slip resistant, has a Class A rating for flame spread, is scratch resistant and naturally mold and fungi resistant. It’s also so dense that it does not absorb water.
All of these excellent natural properties make Ipe wood our number one recommendation for not only decks but many outdoor projects such as outdoor wood benches.
Similar to Ipe Cumaru wood is nearly identical in terms of properties and durability. The main difference is the color color ranges from a golden tan to a reddish brown.
You can still expect all the same excellent properties as Ipe.
This excellent wood is also low maintenance, resistant to wood boring insects and naturally resistant to rot and decay without chemicals.
One other benefit to using Cumaru is the price can be upwards of 40 percent cheaper compared to the price of Ipe wood. You can view the current Cumaru wood prices here: Cumaru Wood Prices
Tigerwood Exterior Lumber
This beautiful wood also comes from South America and is incredibly durable and beautiful. You can expect a 30+ year lifespan with Tigerwood.
Similar to the other woods we listed above Tigerwood is also resistant to wood boring insects, mold and mildew and does not splinter. This is another excellent low maintenance exterior wood material that works great for benches, decks, fences, siding and more.
Also known as Brazilian Ash this incredible exterior hardwood is one of the finest quality hardwoods that features a fine-grain that is light yellow to a warm golden hue.
Garapa is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack and offers a 30+ year lifespan. Garapa’s proven exterior durability make it an excellent choice for outdoor benches, decks and more.
Ipe decking can last up to 75 years with hardly any maintenance. That’s great! But customers often wonder: what about the framing?
Deck framing is usually made of pressure treated pine. It’s cheap, easy to install, and readily available. But pressure treated pine is only rated to last about 15 years. So why would you spend all that money on 75-year ipe if you’re going to have to replace the deck in just 15 years anyway due to rotten framing?
It’s a great question! Here are a few way to make your framing last as long as your ipe decking:
Build the Frame with Ipe
The most obvious fix is to build your frame from the same material as your decking. This will certainly work, but it will be very expensive. And because ipe is so tough, it will be a lot harder to build the frame and secure the deck boards to it. For these reasons, we don’t typically recommend going this route.
Build the Frame with Metal
Metal deck framing comes with many of the same advantages and drawback as ipe framing: it’s expensive and difficult to work with. Additionally, metal products tend to react with ipe and stain the decking. Because of this, you’ll have to use joist and ledger tape as a protective barrier between the framing and the deck boards.
Metal framing can be a great solution if you don’t mind the extra cost and effort, but we don’t usually recommend it. However, now that we’ve brought up joist and ledger tape…
Build the Frame with Pressure Treated Lumber and Protect It with Joist and Ledger Tape
The third option—and the one we recommend—is to use pressure treated pine, then cover your joists, posts, and ledgers with a protective, waterproof tape.
Most wood deterioration is caused by exposure to the elements, especially moisture. The areas of your frame that are most susceptible to rot are places where the wood touches up against something else, creating tight spaces that trap water. Common culprits are the bases of posts in contact with the ground and the tops of joists in contact with the decking.
Joist tape creates a protective barrier between the decking and the joists and keeps the wood dry. Ledger tape does the same thing, but it’s wider so it can cover a broader area. Ledger tape is good for protecting ledgers, beams, and posts.
You should apply joist and ledger tape to all your horizontal framing surfaces. The tape should be wide enough to fold over the sides for maximum protection. You may have to cut the tape in order to wrap corners without creating wrinkles, which can allow water to seep in.
Using joist and ledger tape on your deck framing will drastically improve the lifespan of your deck without costing you tons of money or effort.