Live edge tables and furniture have a natural appeal, which is why many customers ask if they can have a table, bench, grill table, or other piece built for their outdoor space such as their patio.
There is no easy answer to this, as many people have used live edge slabs for outdoor pieces, but we do not recommend using your slabs for anything that will be stored outside. In this guide, I’ll break down a few reasons why.
Reason 1 – They Are Kiln Dried
Kiln dried slabs are more expensive and take years to dry prior to even going in the kiln. Because of this, they’re more expensive. If you plan on putting a properly dried slab back outside, there is no point in paying extra for the slab that’s kiln dried.
Since outdoor spaces have no humidity or moisture control, the large fluctuations in moisture levels from humidity and precipitation on the piece will cause warping, cracking, and other flaws with the piece as it ages. This may not bother you, but if you spend thousands on a table, I’m sure you’d like it to last more than a few years!
Green slabs that are freshly cut are much cheaper, and they also have a higher moisture content, which is better suited for outdoors if you choose to go this route. They’re also much easier to find on places such as Facebook marketplace.
Reason 2 – The Pieces Can Rot
When exposed to the elements, and assuming you went with a green slab as recommended above, you still are not out of the clear. Slabs before they’re kiln dried often have bugs in them which need to be killed before finishing the piece. The high temperatures of a kiln do just this. Bugs can cause some of the patterns you see in wood, such as the ambrosia lines in maple.
Outside of bugs, mold and mildew can takeover pieces in these wet and damp areas. The longer the live edge wood is outside, the more likely you are to have damage to your piece.
Reason 3 – Warping and Cracking
Warping and cracking occur in many cases when wood is constantly exposed to different moisture levels. As a slab dries, then gets wet again over and over, the wood will expand and contract. Wood also will expand and contract when inside your home, but at much smaller rates. The more wood expands and contracts, the more it will crack and warp as it’s under stress. This especially occurs if the legs aren’t mounted correctly.
Reason 4 – Splitting at the Joints
If you bookmatch two slabs together, the joint where you glue the two pieces together can slowly split apart. Wood glue will hold this joint for a period of time, but can still split apart. If bookmatching is your only option, you must use waterproof wood glue.
To add an additional layer of support, we also recommend using domino joints or biscuit joints where the two pieces meet together. These help make a two-piece tabletop more sturdy.
Need Outdoor Furniture? Wood Slabs Might Not Be For You.
We could easily recommend our live edge slabs for this application, but they simply aren’t the best fit. Sure, they can be used if you’re okay with warping, cracking, or other issues. However, the pieces simply won’t last nearly as long as they should when they’re used for outdoor applications. Slabs are very difficult to work with because there is so much that can go wrong. If you plan on using them outdoors, do your research and build your piece, but this application isn’t recommended for the average woodworker looking for a piece to last them a lifetime!
Nolan is one of the original members of the team at Lancaster Live Edge. Formerly, Nolan was the Marketing and Sales Manager at our company, and he also spent several hours a day building tables and custom furniture in our shop. Now, Nolan helps with our marketing initiatives. Prior to his time at Lancaster Live Edge, Nolan worked for years for his family’s custom home building company and has built everything from custom furniture to cabins to home additions.
Questions? Drop them below!