Is Elm Wood Good for Furniture? With Pros and Cons

Ever stared at a piece of Elm furniture and wondered, “Why choose Elm?” Discover the unique allure of this wood and why it’s a furniture maker’s delight!

Is Elm Wood Good for Furniture

Elm wood is one of the most popular woods on the planet because of its beautiful grain pattern and excellent physical properties.

Even though Elm wood comes from a hardwood tree, it is significantly soft.

Therefore, woodworkers believe Elm is perfect for any type of project due to the hybrid qualities of hardwoods and softwoods. But is it really true?

Don’t worry as a seasoned woodworker I got the answer for you thanks to my 10 years of experience working with Elm wood.

So, let’s find out, Is Elm wood good for furniture?

Yes, Elm wood is excellent for furniture due to its durability, unique interlocking grain, and resistance to water. It’s ideal for both indoor and outdoor furnishings and is admired for its warm brown coloration. While moderately priced, its long-lasting quality makes it a worthy investment.

But that’s a quick snapshot.

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    So, in this article, I’m taking a detailed look at whether is Elm wood good for furniture, the pros, and cons of using Elm wood for furniture, Elm wood for indoor and outdoor furniture, and much more.

    Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    Let’s jump in!

    Elm wood furniture and woodwork
    Elm wood furniture and woodwork

    How Does Elm Use in Furniture?

    Elm can be used pretty much for any furniture. It has good resistance against splits and cracks with significantly high compressive and bending strength.

    Even though Elm wood is softer than most hardwoods, it is harder and denser than many softwoods that we use in our day-to-day lives.

    Because of being a soft hardwood, Elm wood has both hardwood and softwood properties.

    It is tough and has good resistance against environmental elements.

    It steams bends easily and is able to shape and turn as we want which is so useful in making furniture parts like legs, seats, frames, and shelves.

    The interlocking grain structure means the fibers of Elm wood spread in the opposite direction when the tree grows.

    The interlocking grain pattern swirls and is beautiful. It adds a bold, uniquely aesthetic look to your furniture.

    Overall, elm is an excellent wood for furniture.

    On the other hand, it has an interlocking grain structure which makes it rigid and stiff.

    Therefore, it’s a bit difficult to make cuts using hand tools and there’s a possibility of wood tearing out.

    Power tools are recommended when working with elm for better results and to avoid wood tear outs.

    Elm wood Furniture

    • Tables
    • Chairs
    • Baskets
    • Boxes
    • Cutting boards
    • Butcher blocks
    • Decorative panels
    • Furniture parts (legs, seats, frames)
    • Musical instruments
    • Bats and hockey sticks

    As you can see elm can use for any woodworking project. Elm furniture is beautiful and has high durability.

    They add a unique appearance to your home, office, or work area.

    Benefits of using elm wood for furniture
    Benefits of using elm wood for furniture

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Elm wood for Furniture

    Elm wood is an excellent wood for most furniture and woodwork. There are some unique characteristic features in every inch of elm which makes it special compared to other wood types.

    But as you know every good comes with some bad.

    By looking at the advantages and disadvantages you’ll be able to decide whether you go or not for Elm wood for making furniture.

    So, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of using Elm wood for furniture.

    Smooth beautiful texturePoor dimensional stability
    Split resistantSusceptible to insect and bugs attacks
    Turning and screwing are easyModerately priced
    Holds nails wellStiff and rigid
    High flexibilityNeed regular maintenance
    Stain and paint wellProne to deformation when drying (Easily Warp)
    Easy to sandPoor rot resistance
    No taste or smell 
    Good decay resistance 

    As you can see Elm wood is filled with lots of exceptional qualities which make it perfect for any kind of furniture.

    Elm is popular in the furniture manufacturing industry because of its qualities.

    Elm wood kitchen cabinet
    Elm wood kitchen cabinet

    Is Elm Good for Indoor Furniture?

    Yes, elm is great for indoor furniture because it is a beautiful, odor-free, strong, and dense wood type.

    Elm wood has interlocked grain pattern that adds a unique look to your indoor furniture, and it makes the wood spilled resistant and extremely durable.

    Elm wood has a color range from reddish brown to a light hue.

    The color of Elm wood mixes with a dramatic grain pattern and makes a stunning look that is perfect for interior furniture.

    Woodworkers are trying to mimic the appearance of Elm wood because the original one is a bit expensive.

    The reason for the expense of indoor elm furniture is because of the rarity of the wood.

    Elm woods are hard to find because they are susceptible to insect attacks and finding good, quality wood is hard.

    Even though elm furniture is placed inside, I highly recommend you do proper finishing by applying stain or paint.

    For example, if you use elm for kitchen or bathroom furniture, the raw wood absorbs moisture fast and tends to decay or rot.

    Therefore, sealing and finishing Elm wood furniture is a must to extend its lifetime.

    Proper finishing helps to increase the durability of elm furniture.

    Plus, elm takes stains and paints so well. So, finishing elm furniture is easy.

    Did you know fact about using Elm Wood
    Did you know fact about using Elm Wood

    Elm wood Indoor Furniture

    • Dining tables
    • Chairs
    • Decorative panels
    • Window frames
    • Bed frames
    • Bookshelves
    • Bathroom shelves
    • Drawers

    As you can see elm is useful for any interior furniture. So, let’s see how it goes with exterior furniture.

    Old durable elm wood cupboard
    Old durable elm wood cupboard

    Is Elm Good for Outdoor Furniture?

    Elm is not moderately good for outdoor furniture only with proper finishing because elm is prone to fungi and insect attacks, has no rot resistance, and you need to apply a proper sealer over elm furniture before pacing it outside.

    With proper finishing, elm furniture can easily withstand environmental elements such as moisture, UV light, insects, bugs, and fungi attacks.

    There’re so many methods you can follow to protect elm furniture from outdoor elements.

    Elm is a soft hardwood. The pore structure of Elm wood consists of straight or wavy tangled bands.

    Atmospheric moisture can penetrate through Elm wood fibers and damage the wood which causes wood to rot.

    Staining is the best method to protect elm outdoor furniture because elm takes stain so well to make a nice protective coating that acts as a barrier to the outside world.

    Moisture will get no chance to penetrate through the barrier and damage the wood.

    Read to know the best methods to protect your outdoor elm wood furniture from weather elements.

    Elm does not split easily. It has excellent shock absorbance. When it gets into contact with water, it does not quickly decay with water.

    Elm has good decay resistance compared to other woods. Therefore, elm is mostly used for boat building.

    Even though Elm wood has good decay resistance, it has no rot resistance. It is prone to insects, bugs, and fungi attacks.

    But Elm wood tends to deform and warp quickly according to the outdoor moisture level and extreme temperature changes.

    This can reduce the dimensional stability of elm outdoor furniture. But by applying a proper finisher, you’ll be able to keep Elm wood from warping.  

    Elm wood is easy to sand, and you can make any outdoor furniture with it. It is overall a beautiful hardwood with superior qualities.

    Danish oil is an excellent finisher for Elm wood furniture to get its true rich and warm color.

    Elm wood deck
    Elm wood deck


    Elm is a moderately expensive wood with poor resistance to decay. It is prone to insect and fungi attacks. Even though you’ll be able to minimize its drawbacks by applying a proper finisher, without regular maintenance Elm wood will be ruined so quickly.

    Therefore, I recommend you consider better wood like cedar, white oak, or pine rather than Elm wood when it comes to outdoor furniture.

    Elm wood Outdoor Furniture

    • Patio
    • Garden coffee table
    • Outdoor seats
    • Patio dining chair
    Elm wood patio furniture
    Elm wood patio furniture

    Elm wood Furniture Care and Maintenance

    Elm wood furniture needs regular maintenance and proper care. Elm wood is prone to insect and fungi attacks.

    So, to maintain Elm wood shine and prolong its life proper caring is a must. Here’s what you should do,

    1. Apply proper sealer periodically
    2. Oil the elm furniture periodically
    3. Clean Elm furniture regularly
    4. Keep away from extreme cold and heat

    So, let’s discuss each of the above methods separately to get an idea about things you should do before using Elm wood as a furniture material.

    1. Apply Proper Sealer Periodically

    Elm wood takes stains and paints so well. With proper sealing and sealing, you’ll be able to use elm for any indoor or outdoor woodworking project.

    The protective sealer helps the wood to get protected from insect attacks, fungi attacks, moisture, and other environmental elements.

    Make sure to reapply the sealer periodically because once the sealer fades away with time, there’s a possibility of to wood getting damaged by outside elements. Reapply sealer on elm furniture once per year for better maintenance.

    By staining and painting, Elm wood not only gets protected but also helps to increase its appearance with beautiful shades.

    Apart from using stain or paints, you can seal elm furniture using a quality sealing product as well.

    Here’re the steps you need to follow when sealing elm furniture for a better finish,

    1. Clean the wood and scrape out previous coatings and residue
    2. Sand the Elm wood and remove sawdust
    3. Apply pre-stain wood conditioner and let it dry and cure
    4. Apply wood stain or sealer
    5. Let the wood dry and cure properly

    Apply 2 – 3 coats of stain or sealer on elm furniture for a better finish. The drying time of stain on Elm wood is around 2 – 3 hours.

    Let the coats dry properly before applying another coating on top of that to avoid blotches and other wood stain mistakes.

    Elm wood bookshelf
    Elm wood bookshelf

    2. Oil the Elm Furniture Periodically

    Apply Danish oil on elm furniture to avoid cracks, and scratches and enhance the sheen.

    Danish is a quality oil that works as a sealer with lots of benefits. It is a waterproof oil that helps elm furniture to get protected from moisture.

    Usually, elm furniture is difficult to dry and deforms its original shape when drying. This will lose its dimensional stability and reduce its durability.

    But by applying Danish oil, it will dry faster within 6 hours and prevent elm furniture from deforming.

    Danish oil is food safe and non-toxic, not like stains. By applying it to elm furniture, you’ll be able to use elm furniture for kitchen utensils and children’s toys as well.

    Apply Danish oil periodically at least once per year for better care of elm furniture.

    3. Clean Elm Furniture Regularly

    Clean elm furniture regularly to get rid of dust and dirt. Without proper cleaning, your elm furniture will turn into dull color and its durability will also decrease over time.

    Because water particles in dirt penetrate through Elm wood fibers and make wood rot.

    Follow the below steps to clean elm furniture properly,

    1. Dip a soft, lint-free cloth in a soapy water solution and wipe the entire Elm wood surface to eliminate dust and dirt.
    2. Make sure not to miss any spots during cleaning and follow sweeping motions for better cleaning.
    3. After cleaning the wood properly, let it dry under sunlight to dry completely.

    4. Keep Away from Extreme Cold and Heat

    Keep your elm furniture away from harsh weather conditions like extremely hot or cold temperatures.

    Elm wood is soft and sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

    Elm wood tends to expand when it is heated and shrinks when cold. Continuous temperature fluctuations can damage the dimensional stability of elm furniture and reduce its lifetime.

    • Keep your outdoor and indoor elm furniture away from getting direct sunlight. Because sunlight can darken the Elm wood.
    • Cover Elm wood furniture when it’s extremely hot or cold to protect it.

    That’s it, folks! Now you have a clear idea about using Elm wood for furniture.

    Elm wood dining table
    Elm wood dining table

    Does Elm Stink?

    Elm wood, in its natural state, is usually quite odor-free. This means that, typically, elm wood does not have a strong, noticeable smell that might put you off using it in your home or workshop.

    It’s one of the reasons why elm wood is a popular choice for indoor furniture, offering a unique blend of strength, durability, and aesthetic appeal, without any intrusive scent to disrupt your daily activities.

    For example, imagine crafting a beautiful elm wood dining table or a bookshelf.

    You wouldn’t want your family meals or your reading time spoiled by a pervasive, foul odor. With elm wood, that’s usually not an issue.

    The Exception: Slime Flux or Wet Wood Disease

    But, as in any aspect of life, there are exceptions to the rule.

    One such exception is when elm wood is affected by a bacterial infection known as slime flux, or wet wood disease.

    This ailment is quite common in shade trees, including elms.

    The bacteria responsible for slime flux block the tree’s natural flow of water and nutrients, causing gas to build up within the tree.

    This pressure eventually forces the sap out of the tree, and this expelled sap can produce a disagreeable smell.

    If you’ve ever come across an elm tree or a piece of elm wood with an unpleasant odor, it’s likely that it was affected by slime flux.

    Dealing with Slime Flux

    If you encounter elm wood with slime flux, don’t despair!

    The situation can be managed effectively by swabbing the affected area with a mixture of 10% chlorine bleach and water.

    This simple solution can kill the bacteria causing the unpleasant smell, bringing your elm wood back to its naturally odorless state.

    Remember, however, that this issue is generally the exception rather than the rule, and most elm wood you encounter will be naturally odor-free.

    Elm wood flooring
    Elm wood flooring

    Is Elm a Good Wood for Dining Table?

    Yes, elm is an excellent wood for a dining table because it is moderately heavy and strong.

    It turns and screws so well and is able to hold nails. Elm wood is beautiful, and its interlocking grain pattern helps to get protected from moisture and it has good resistance against decay.

    Elm wood is resistant to splitting and it has good shock resistance. Therefore, the Elm wood dining table has high durability.

    With regular maintenance, you’ll be able to keep your elm dining table as fresh as new for a long time.

    Is Elm wood Waterproof?

    Elm wood is not waterproof, but it has good water resistance because of the interlocking grain pattern.

    Therefore, Elm wood is decay resistant and able to use for moisture woodworking applications like bathroom furniture and kitchen furniture.

    Because of having a good resistance against water, Elm wood is popular in boat building.

    Does Elm Rot Easily?

    Yes, Elm wood rots easily because it is susceptible to insect, fungi, and bug attacks.

    Elm does not have natural bugs repel ability like cedar. Therefore, you need to apply proper finishing over elm furniture to get the furniture protected from rotting.

    Tip for Elm wood furniture maintenance
    Tip for Elm wood furniture maintenance

    Is Elm Furniture Affordable?

    Generally, Elm furniture is moderately expensive because of the difficulties faced when finding quality Elm wood.

    Elm wood is prone to insect attacks and finding quality wood is a difficult task. Therefore, Elm wood is rare, and the price is also high.

    Apart from that Elm wood is beautiful and able to add a unique aesthetic look to your home, work area, or garden.

    Is Elm wood Hardwood?

    Elm wood is a soft hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 830 lbf which is relatively less than most of the hardwoods and some of the softwoods as well. But it comes from a hardwood tree family.

    Therefore, elm soft hardwood has hybrid qualities of both hardwoods and softwoods which can be really useful in when furniture manufacturing industry.

    Is Elm Wood Furniture Durable?

    Yes, Elm wood is a strong, durable material that can withstand daily use, resist damage, and even brave the elements, making it a fantastic choice for furniture.

    Its tightly interlocked grain structure gives it robustness and resilience, which are critical components of durability.

    Elm wood furniture can easily withstand daily usage, making it a great choice for items like tables, chairs, and bookshelves.

    I once visited a friend who had an elm wood dining table that was passed down through three generations!

    The table was still in great shape and looked just as beautiful as the day it was made – a testament to the longevity and durability of elm wood.

    Elm’s Resistance to Damage

    Beyond its inherent strength, another factor that makes elm furniture so durable is its resistance to splitting.

    This is particularly useful for items that are prone to wear and tear, like dining tables and chairs.

    Remember that elm wood coffee table I mentioned earlier?

    It has seen its fair share of wild parties, boisterous game nights, and everyday meals.

    But, despite all of this, the table barely shows any signs of damage, thanks to the inherent toughness of elm wood.

    Durability Against the Elements

    Another factor to consider when talking about durability is how well the material stands up to the elements.

    Elm wood is known for its water-resistant properties, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture or for areas in your home where spills might occur, like the kitchen or dining room.

    One of the coolest elm pieces I’ve seen was an outdoor patio table.

    Despite being exposed to sun, rain, and changing temperatures, the table maintained its structural integrity and charm, proving that elm’s durability extends even to the great outdoors.

    Longevity and Maintenance

    Elm furniture, like all wood furniture, will require some care to maintain its look and extend its lifespan.

    Regular dusting, immediate cleaning of spills, and occasional treatment with a wood conditioner can go a long way to ensure the longevity of your elm furniture.

    Having said that, don’t be intimidated by the idea of maintenance. My parents have an elm wood bookshelf that has been around for years.

    Despite their busy schedules, a little TLC once in a while has kept that bookshelf looking pristine and beautiful.

    Elm Vs. Oak Wood in Furniture Making

    When it comes to selecting the right wood for furniture making, you’ve likely come across elm and oak as two top contenders.

    Both have unique qualities that make them appealing in their own right, but how do they stack up against each other?

    Let’s find out!

    The Beauty of Elm Wood

    Elm is a hardwood species that’s renowned for its strength and durability.

    It has a straight grain with a coarse texture and often features an attractive interlocking pattern that can give your furniture a unique aesthetic appeal.

    One of the most memorable pieces of furniture I’ve encountered was a coffee table made from elm.

    The beauty of the grain, the robustness of the table, and the way it became the centerpiece of the living room was truly remarkable.

    Plus, elm wood’s resistance to splitting makes it a great choice for items like chairs, tables, or anything that’ll see some significant wear and tear.

    The Classic Choice: Oak Wood

    Now, let’s talk about oak. This hardwood is a classic choice in furniture making and for a good reason. Its strength, durability, and beauty are hard to beat.

    With a prominent grain and warm tones ranging from light beige to medium brown, oak furniture exudes a timeless appeal that’s hard to ignore.

    One personal anecdote I love sharing is my grandmother’s old oak dresser.

    Despite being over 50 years old, it still looks magnificent, holding its ground in terms of both appearance and structural integrity.

    This speaks volumes about the longevity of oak as a material for furniture making.

    The Differences: Cost, Availability, and Sustainability

    When it comes to cost, oak tends to be pricier than elm.

    This is largely due to the fact that oak is often sought after for its high-quality attributes and timeless appeal.

    However, elm provides a more budget-friendly alternative without significant compromises on quality.

    In terms of availability, oak is more widespread and easier to find due to its popularity.

    Elm, on the other hand, may not be as readily available but offers a distinctive choice for those looking for something a bit different.

    Finally, let’s touch on sustainability. Both elm and oak are considered sustainable options, given that they are sourced responsibly.

    However, it’s always worth checking the origin of the wood and the practices of the supplier to ensure they align with sustainable and ethical practices.

    Elm or Oak?

    In the end, the decision between elm and oak boils down to personal preference, budget, and availability.

    Both offer excellent strength and durability, making them excellent choices for furniture making.

    Oak brings timeless elegance and broad availability, albeit at a potentially higher cost.

    Elm, while less common, provides an equally strong and durable option with a distinctive aesthetic and a more budget-friendly price tag.

    Tip for using Elm wood
    Tip for using Elm wood

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    What color is Elm wood?

    Elm wood has a beautiful light to medium brown color, often with a reddish hue or streaks. Its grain is usually straight, offering a rich, warm aesthetic to any furniture piece.

    Is Elm wood easy to work with?

    Yes, despite being a hardwood, Elm is relatively easy to work with. Its interlocking grain can make it slightly challenging to cut and shape, but overall, it responds well to both hand and power tools.

    Can Elm wood be painted?

    Elm wood can certainly be painted, but most people prefer to highlight its natural grain with a clear finish. If you do decide to paint, ensure the wood is properly prepped and primed for best results.

    Is Elm wood heavy?

    Elm wood is a hardwood, and like most hardwoods, it does have some heft to it. However, its weight is comparable to that of Oak, making it manageable and great for sturdy furniture.

    Can Elm wood cause allergies?

    While any wood dust can cause reactions in people sensitive to it, Elm wood is not commonly associated with severe allergic reactions. However, it’s always a good idea to use proper safety equipment when working with any wood.

    Can Elm wood be used for kitchen countertops?

    Elm’s toughness and resistance to wear make it a good choice for kitchen countertops. However, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s properly sealed and maintained to protect against stains and water damage.

    Are Elm trees endangered?

    Certain species of Elm, particularly the American Elm, have been affected by Dutch Elm disease. However, numerous conservation efforts are underway, and wood used for furniture often comes from sustainable sources. Always buy from reputable suppliers to ensure sustainability.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Elm wood Good for Furniture?

    In this article, I have deeply explored is Elm wood good for furniture, examples of Elm wood furniture, the pros and cons of using Elm wood for furniture, how to protect Elm wood furniture with regular maintenance, and caring with tips and techniques.

    Elm wood is an excellent choice for furniture due to its unique, attractive grain, durability, and resistance to water. Its sturdiness and ability to handle stress makes it particularly suited for pieces like tables and chairs. Despite its toughness, it’s relatively easy to work with, making it a popular choice among craftsmen.

    When using Elm wood for outdoor furniture, you need to focus more on the finishing part because Elm wood is prone to rotting due to insect and fungi attacks. Other than that elm is so good to use for any kind of furniture.

    Furthermore, I have answered some frequently asked questions as well.

    Hope you have gained good knowledge about, is Elm wood good for furniture with tips and methods.

    Let’s begin your next woodworking project with Elm wood and practice with it. Practice makes you perfect in woodworking!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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