Lots of questions here about outdoor wood/finishes but most of them are for furniture or other high-end projects. I'm looking to build planters like this one...

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The plans I purchased list MDF as the material but I can't imagine using that for anything outside, even for something on a covered porch. I want to find a good balance between durability and material cost. I don't expect it to last forever but if it falls apart after one season it isn't worth my time.

I suspect the readily available pine with a decent exterior finish might be my best bet but would like to hear your recommendations and reasoning behind them.

Thanks all!

  • There is a large difference among woods as to how long paints will last in weather. I remember southern pine ( most common US lumber) was the worst and redwood and cedars were best. Extensive exposure testing has been done; some by Sherwin Williams at Kure (?) Beach NC. Jan 8, 2022 at 16:25
  • @blacksmith37, SYP has decent durability outdoors for a softwood so I'd expect it to last well when painted. Even without paint the OP could expect a service life of a decade or so (comparable to that of the sapwood of western red cedar).
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2022 at 18:26
  • dazedandconfused, paint is the real game-changer here. Of the finishes we'd use domestically paint is the best protection available for woods, hands down. Far exceeding the protection offered by spar varnish for example. A good primer + paint combo could give a project like this a service life of 5-7 years with no maintenance. Just don't expect this from SPF, the generic "pine" sold for building purposes, since much of it is poor quality (grown too fast) and kiln dried by a schedule that does nothing to improve on its qualities.
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2022 at 18:36
  • Different paints have different lives, but SYP is the shortest life for all paints. Jan 9, 2022 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Exterior grade MDF is available here in Europe, but in US I don't know about cost or availability. It is very durable with finish applied, but cost is high.

Exterior grades of plywood should be available everywhere, and much cheaper. Recent question on exterior plywood here Exterior Plywood that looks relatively nice

Because of current high prices plywood probably cheaper than solid wood, except for construction lumber. Plywood is already all correct thickness and large dimensions, so much less work needed to build this so I think very sensible choice.

  • 2
    Waterproof mdf exists in North America as well. Having said that, an exterior plywood would be my first choice. Be sure to apply primer to all hidden surfaces. Jan 9, 2022 at 15:01

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