Is Sapele Wood Any Good For Outdoor Use?

It’s no secret why Sapele wood is becoming increasingly sought-after. And it’s not only because Sapele is a more affordable Mahogany wood lookalike.

Rather, what makes this hardwood so popular is the fact that it is more durable and harder than Genuine Mahogany.

It’s also resistant to bugs and termites, which is why Sapele wood is used for everything from flooring to furniture. And yet this tough hardwood is still easy to machine and work with.

So in this post, we take a look at the qualities that make certain types of wood perfect for the great outdoors. You’ll also discover which special characteristic also make Sapele so durable.

And we reveal the best weatherproofing finish for Sapele outdoor furniture.

is sapele wood good for outdoor use

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What’s The Best Wood To Build Outdoor Furniture With?

Any wood that is naturally rot resistant, tough, and bug-proof, is perfect for garden furniture.

For example, Teak wood is a great outdoor lumber.

Teak is harder than Cedar or Mahogany. And it’s naturally moisture resistant too, due to the fact that this lumber has a lot of its own tree oil saturating it.

Teak tree oil acts like a natures-own wood preservative, preventing water and bugs from getting into it. In fact, it contains so much oil, it can be hard to apply penetrating wood stains and finishes onto Teak.

Another great timber for outdoor furniture is White Oak. This particular timber doesn’t contain natural oils, so it’s not as ‘waterproof’ as Teak. However, White Oak wood has special qualities to it that prevent water from seeping into the pores of this timber.

You can learn more about Oak woods water-resistant qualities right here on The Woodwork Place. Simply click on over and check out our post: Can You Really Use Untreated Oak For Raised Beds?

As a result of its water-resistance, White Oak is a very stable wood. Which means that this timber can handle getting drenched with rain water. Yet, as it dries out afterward, it won’t warp and crack.

And What About Sapele Wood?

Sapele wood (sometimes referred to as Sapele Mahogany) is very stable too. And this allows it to resist the very worst outcomes of water damage, such as wood rot and warping.

This hardwood is very tough and hard-wearing as well. Based on its Janka rating, Sapele wood is a little over 10% harder than White Oak. And Sapele is up to a whopping 50% tougher than Teak wood.

Just What Is The Janka Rating Exactly?

The Janka Rating measures how much impact it takes to dent a piece of lumber. Measured using lbf, (pounds of force), the higher the Janka rating then the tougher the wood.

When it comes to Sapele wood, this lumber has a Janka rating of 1510 lbf. Which means that it will take 1510 pounds of force to break through the surface of Sapele.

And What Is Sapele Wood Like? Is It Similar To Mahogany Wood?

Sapele wood and Mahogany wood are similar in that they belong to the same tree family. These two hardwoods look alike with their rich brown tones.

However, while Mahogany (also known as Genuine Mahogany) is typically from South America, Sapele wood is harvested in West Africa. But, there is one key difference between the two; Sapele wood is much harder than Mahogany wood.

So, Is Sapele Wood Waterproof Enough To Be Good For External Use?

Well, first off, this wood isn’t waterproof. Sapele will still soak up water and absorb it. But, it won’t shift around, twist, and warp out of place.

In which case, Sapele is a great choice for outdoor furniture.

Still, because this timber can still absorb water, it’s worth applying some kind of wood preserving treatment to it. So whether you use a penetrating wood preservative, or seal it with a waterproofing sealant, is completely up to you.

Does Sapele Darken In Sunlight?

It will. Those harsh direct ultraviolet rays will speed up Sapele wood oxidation. And that in turn will darken Sapele over time.

Yet, if coat Sapele in a UV-inhibitor, this will prevent UV-damage from changing the color of your furniture.

And How Do You Weatherproof Sapele Wood?

Use Spar Urethane.

Spar Urethane, (also called Spar Varnish), contains UV inhibitors and fungicides. Combined with its amazing water-resistance, (this finish has been used to waterproof boats), Spar Urethane will give Sapele great protection.

If Spar Urethane sounds right for you, then you should check out Rust-Oleum’s Oil-Based Ultimate Spar Urethane.

This clear oil-based Spar Urethane is a weatherproofing finish that will prevent rainwater from drying out your garden set. And, once applied, it dries to the touch in less than 2 hours.

You can find the latest prices for Rust-Oleum’s Spar Urethane product over on Amazon.

To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). Sapele wood is a naturally rot resistant, tough, and stable hardwood.
  • 2). Sapele wood is not wholly waterproof, and it can darken under intense UV sunlight.
  • 3). To weatherproof Sapele wood outdoor furniture, coat it with Spar Urethane.


Dadzie, Peter Kessels, and Martin Amoah. “Density, some anatomical properties and natural durability of stem and branch wood of two tropical hardwood species for ground applications.” European Journal of Wood and Wood Products 73.6 (2015): 759-773.