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by: Debbie Rodgers
In fact, the varieties of wood are dizzying. Which should you choose? How should you care for it? And is wood an environmentally-friendly choice for outdoor furniture?
Types of Wood
First, understand that hardwood is not necessarily hard and softwood is not always soft. The terms refer simply to the type of tree from which the wood is obtained: hardwood from broad-leafed trees, and softwood from needle-bearing trees.
All wood outdoor furniture may be cleaned with warm water and mild detergent.
Here are the most common types of wood used in the construction of outdoor furniture.
The redwood harvested in North American is cut mainly from private lands that are zoned for timber use. Over 95% of these areas are previously harvested -- that is, they are not virgin, old-growth forests. The Coast redwood can grow to 130 feet in just 30 years.
The high price of teak has made other tropical hardwoods, such as roble, shorea, jarrah and eucalyptus popular. All of these woods are dense, durable, and stand up well to weather.
Tropical hardwoods will weather to a silvery finish over time, unless treated twice a year with teak or other furniture oil.
If you use twig furniture outdoors, spray or brush on a good quality clear exterior varnish and use the furniture only in a protected area.
Is It Environmentally Friendly?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies lumber forests around the world, although only a small percentage of the lumber produced globally is FSC certified. If you are extremely concerned about the future of the world's wood supply, look for an FSC label on the underside of the furniture piece or on the hanging tag.
If you are not so stringent in your views, you may wish to consider furniture made from wood harvested from responsibly government-managed forests or from plantations, which grow trees much like farms grow other crops. In addition, according to the Hardwood Manufacturers' Association, harvesting levels of American hardwood are far below the levels of growth, so that twice as much hardwood grows each year as is harvested.
Alternatively, you may choose to purchase furniture made from reclaimed wood - that is, wood that was previously used for consumer items and that has been refashioned into new furniture. In addition, some companies offer recycled wood furniture-furniture made of recycled pallets or barn wood. You can find a partial listing here http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/links/recycled_green_furniture_manufacturers.htm
When considering the ecological impact of purchasing wooden furniture, you should also look at the lifespan of the wood. Most wooden pieces last decades -- more than long enough for the wood's source to be renewed.
So, whether you go rustic or elegant, wood may well be a wise choice for your outdoor furnishings. Take a seat -- and relax!