Is Poplar Good For Outdoor Furniture? Here’s What I Think!

The wonderful thing about amateur woodworking is that there is always a lesson to be learned or skill acquired. Whether you are building big-ticket items like a lounge suite or dining room table or making small nick-nacks, there is always a skill that has been enhanced or learned from scratch at the end of each project.

Poplar wood is suitable for outdoor furniture. However, although Poplar is classified as a hardwood, it is a softwood to work with and is one of the most accessible hardwoods to source; its closely placed grain means it does not readily warp and is not as expensive other hardwoods, and weighs less.  

Is Poplar Good For Outdoor Furniture? Here's What I Think!

Choosing the suitable wood for your skill level is very important, and if the wood is less dense, it is easy to work withed on, but great finishes are harder. If the wood is too dense, the equipment in your home woodworking shop may battle, and cutting edges may dull. The end use of the project is also essential. If it is kept inside, there is less potential for weather damage and visa-versa.

With A Few Conditions, Poplar Wood Is Good For Outdoor Use

Poplar is a softer wood when it’s wet, and once it dries out, it becomes harder.

The Janka scale rates the “hardness” of woods. The measurement involves placing a circular steel ball with a diameter of 0.444-inches and placing a hydraulic jack on the ball, and measuring the force required to press the ball into the wood.

Poplar’s Janka scale classification is 480, which places it on the border of softwood and hardwood. However, it officially is classified as hardwood.

The Advantages Of Using Poplar Wood For Outdoor Furniture

Poplar wood has several characteristics which make it suitable for constructing outdoor furniture. There are also some cautions of which you must be aware.

Poplar Is A “Soft” Hardwood

The terms softwood and hardwood do not relate to the density or hardness of woods but rather the botanical classification of hardwood which are angiosperms. Softwoods fall into the gymnosperms family.

Woodworkers use the Janka scale to measure the “hardness,” or density. Poplar scores 420 on the Janka scale, which places it in a similar territory as some “softwoods.”

Poplar wood is right on the border between softwoods and hardwoods; this makes it very suitable for woodworkers new to the hobby (or profession).

The characteristics of Poplar mirror some of those in pine and other softwoods; this means that.

  1. It is easy to work.
  2. Poplar accepts manipulations from lathes, bandsaws, jigsaws.
  3. Poplar wood takes screws and nails well.
  4. Poplar is easy to sand to a high finish.
  5. It is stronger than most softwoods.

Poplar Is A Higher Density Wood

Higher density woods are inherently stronger than their lower density counterparts. The benefits of higher density woods are:

  1. They are stronger than almost all softwoods.
  2. They are stiffer than softwoods and can handle higher vertical and lateral loads.
  3. Being higher density means that joints can stand greater loads.
  4. The higher density of woods, the greater the fire resistance.
  5. Higher density woods are easier to machine with less concern for the wood tearing or splitting.

Poplar Is A Close-Grained Wood

Being a close-grained wood with an even texture

  1. Poplar wood resists warping.
  2. It can accept a high-quality finish. Most stains or other wood finishing products are easy to use on Oakwood, and the results can be very satisfying. Poplar should be the woodworker’s material of choice if paint or stain is to be added.
  3. Open and closed grain woods refer to the size of the pores in the woods. The higher a wood scores on the Janka scale, the closer its grains will be. Open grain woods are more likely to need fillers after cutting and assembling, whereas close grain woods cut easily with sharper and more defined cut lines.
  4. Close grain woods are stronger.

Poplar Is A Lightweight Wood.

Using Poplar to construct outdoor furniture offers the following benefits: not weighing as much as other woods.

  1. Poplar wood is easy to position and manipulate in the woodworking shop.
  2. Using Poplar woods to manufacture your outdoor furniture makes it strong enough to support an adult’s weight but results in it being light enough to move around.

Poplar Costs Less Than Other Hardwoods

Lower cost means that Poplar is an ideal hardwood wood to learn on without fearing that making a mistake is like throwing money away.

As a newcomer, when starting any project, if you can afford it is recommended that you buy more material than your plan says you need; there is less pressure not to make mistakes, and as you learn, better quality units will be the result.

The Disadvantages Of Using Poplar Wood For Outdoor Furniture

Despite the advantages of using Poplar wood for outdoor furniture, you should be aware of a few disadvantages.

Outdoor Furniture Made From Poplar Is Very Vulnerable To Water

In its natural state, Poplar is very susceptible to water damage. Left untreated in an average damp climate, it will not last longer than 3 or 4 years. Poplar needs to be protected from the environment.

Is Poplar Good For Outdoor Furniture? Here's What I Think!

Outdoor furniture built with Polar wood must be stored in a dry, moisture-free (no damp) environment.

How you finish your outdoor Poplar furniture will determine its longevity. When you use proper finishing methods, the durability and resistance to moisture and water will be enhanced.

It is essential to keep the maintenance of Poplar wood ongoing and to redo the finishes as often as required.

Outdoor Furniture Made From Poplar Wood Scratches And Dents Easily

Remember describing a wood as hardwood has no relevance to the actual “hardness” of the wood. Poplar is a case in point because it is less dense (less hard) than some softwoods.

Being one of the softest woods you can work with, Poplar scratches and dents quickly. It dents if you look at it funnily or make threatening gestures which it finds offensive!

Being a softer density wood means that once tightfitting joints eventually wear, the furniture will feel looser more quickly.

Being less dense, Poplar is very easy to sand; however, the waste tends to “fuzz up.” To achieve a high-quality finish with Poplar, you will need to use every finer grit of sandpaper to ensure that you don’t leave sanding marks on the areas you have finished.


Poplar is a great softer wood for the beginner to finetune skills on. Because it is vulnerable to moisture and water damage, it is more appropriately used for inside projects, including toys, bookshelf’s, school desks, etc.

Other woods are more durable in harsher weather environments. We suggest that these materials be explored before you opt for Poplar wood.


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