Solid wood slab dining tables have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their natural beauty and unique character. However, while they may look stunning in your dining room, tl;dr: they are not always the best choice for outdoor use.
That said, many people have done so in Singapore happily, and the discussion is really a lot more nuanced than that. So let's take a deep dive together to find out if using solid wood slabs outdoors is right for you.
Let's start with why not:
Singapore's weather has a great abundance of 2 of wood's greatest environmental enemies: UV and Water.
You already know the basics: wood is a natural material that is susceptible to water damage and UV exposure causes the wood colour to fade. But did you know: not only does outdoor exposure cause wood to fade, it actually weakens the wood fibres themselves, making them less elastic and more prone to damage like cracking and rot!
This applies not just to solid wood slabs, but all wood furniture, even the ones labelled for "outdoor use".
Here's the thing about "outdoor use" wood furniture: all that description tells you, is that the manufacturer used a wood finish that is designed to reduce UV damage, not eliminate it altogether. And speaking from experience, no matter what finish has been used on your table, outdoor-rated or otherwise, it will degrade over time, leaving you with a bleached piece of wood that has been weakened and needs more frequent maintenance.
But if you really love the idea of a solid wood slab table outdoors, here are 3 conditions that would make the experience less of a hassle:
(1) Enclosing your outdoor space in a way that minimises exposure to the elements themselves.
The most popular way of doing this is adding a blind system that is designed to form a seal that greatly reduces the possibility of rain spray. Solar films are also effective at filtering out UV rays and slowing the associated rate of wear and tear. We would recommend getting yours from reputable brands and double checking the actual specs and promises given by the product, to make sure that you get the protection you need.
That said, systems only work if you use them. Be prepared to keep those blinds down most of the time in Singapore, to avoid unintended damage from our unpredictable rain showers!
(2) The less sky your table sees, the better.
In Singapore, "outdoor exposure" means different things at different locations. A patio surrounded by high rise buildings is much less likely to suffer lashing rain and direct sun, than a balcony with a sea-view. And while our daylight budget generally fluctuates by no more than an hour across the year, have you noticed that the amount of exposure to direct sun in your location actually varies quite a bit depending on the time of year?
If you're fortunate enough to have a relatively shaded position, we've known many clients who have used their tables in similar locations happily!
(3) You're up for a more intense maintenance schedule.
Ultimately, as long as you can keep up the protection on your wood furniture, you can prevent long-lasting structural damage to it. By maintaining the protective barrier on your wood slab, water and UV damage to the material can be slowed and minimised.
We can't say how much more frequently you will need to conduct that maintenance, as it depends greatly on the exposure of your particular location, and your personal tolerance for how the table should look. But in a worst-case scenario, assuming full exposure to the elements and you want it to stay in tip-top condition, you could need to conduct maintenance up to once a month to prevent damage.
The good news is, the finish we use is easily applied, and can be DIY-ed so you don't incur hefty professional fees every time. If you're going down this path, we'd recommend investing in an electric sander and buffer so it doesn't feel so tedious.
But what if you don't want to spend your weekends maintaining a table, and actually want to enjoy the "outdoor-ness" of your space, without the enclosures?
Well, then now you know what to expect!
The upside to using wood, is that it can be repaired and refinished, if needed. We've helped clients bring their pieces back to life after years in the sun, restoring it for a new chapter at intervals, whether you want to continue using it outdoors or you're moving it indoors. If you've got a table from us that you used outdoors and what to get it restored, go ahead to ping us and we'll provide you with the details.
Alternatively... we have something very exciting in the works for you! A real OUTDOOR table that looks and acts like wood, without all the structural concerns that come with it! Watch this space and keep an eye out for the drop.
Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to send this article to someone who might need it!