Is Poplar Good for Outdoor Use? With Pros and Cons

Poplar wood is considered one of the most popular wood for any kind of furniture, and other woodworking projects. Poplar wood is widely distributed through North American, North African, European, and Asian regions. As a woodworker, I have worked with poplar wood for so long. When I was a beginner, I have always wondered, Is poplar good for outdoor use?

I decided to check it out and here’s what I’ve discovered:

Poplar is good for outdoor use only if it keeps dry and moisture-free. With proper finishing methods, poplar woodworks and furniture are good for outdoor use. Proper maintenance is a must for poplar outdoor uses because poplar isn’t a resistant wood for outdoor elements and decays quickly.

But that isn’t exactly a yes or no question.

So, in this article, we’re exploring the world of poplar wood to find out is poplar good for outdoor use, how to finish poplar for exterior use, qualities of poplar wood for outdoor use, rot resistivity of poplar wood and I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about outdoor uses of poplar wood as well.

Let’s jump in!

Can You Use Poplar for Exterior?

Yes, you can use poplar for exterior furniture, woodworks, and wood carvings without any issue. But you must make sure to keep it in a dry less moisture environment. Because poplar is so sensitive to exterior moisture levels and has less resistance to environmental elements.

Poplar wood is less durable than many other hardwoods that commonly use door indoor and outdoor uses. To increase its durability, you should finish the poplar woodworking project properly for exterior usage. Without proper finishing, poplar woodwork will never last long and get attacked easily from moisture. So, give the same attention to the finishing part of poplar wood as much as your effort on making the woodwork or furniture.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Poplar Wood for Outdoor Use

AdvantagesDisadvantages
High strength than many softwoodsLess strength than many hardwoods
Uniform textureLess resistant to water damages
InexpensiveNeed to keep the dry, moisture-free environment
Lightweight and high mobilityDent and scratch easily
High workability 

Poplar wood is considered as a hardwood with relatively high bending strength, compressive strength, and high density than many other softwoods. But when compares with hardwoods, poplar has one of the lowest strength values than many other hardwoods.

Poplar is new or old-growth; it doesn’t form durable regular heartwood. Because of that, we need to think twice before placing our lovely woodworks or furniture made from poplar outdoor. The wetting problem will easily decay the wood.

Even though you place the poplar furniture outdoor, I advise you to choose a dry less moisture area for the better good. Because even if you have done a perfect finishing with paint or sealer, they don’t stop the moisture absorption 100%.

But proper painting and sealing reduce the wetting. Painting the outside of the poplar will reduce the transportation of water droplets from the outside world. This is why focusing on the finishing part is an essential thing when it comes to using poplar wood for outdoor use.

So, let’s discuss how to finish poplar wood for exterior use to eliminate or minimize the attacks from the environmental elements.

How To Finish Poplar for Exterior Use?

Poplar wood can finish applying paint or stain properly. If you love the natural aesthetic look of poplar wood, the best method you should follow is to apply stain to finish poplar for exterior use. The stain will help the wood to minimize moisture absorption from the outside environment and stop the decaying process.

If you have applied the stain correctly, you’ll be able to keep your loving poplar wood furniture or woodwork for exterior use without any issue.

So, let’s find out how to finish poplar wood using stain for exterior use.

Requirements To Finish Poplar Wood

  • Pre stain wood conditioner
  • Wood stain
  • Paintbrush designed for stains
  • Rags or old cloth
  • 220 grit sandpaper

Here’re the steps you need to follow when finishing poplar wood for outdoor use correctly.

  1. Clean and sand the wood.
  2. Apply pre-stain wood conditioner.
  3. Let the wood sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Apply the stain.
  5. Let the wood dry completely.
  6. Apply the second coat of stain and let it dry completely.

So, let’s explore each of the above steps to finish poplar for exterior use. This is how you can get Yes, answer to the burning question, is poplar good for outdoor use?

1. Clean and Sand the Wood

Cleaning and sanding the poplar or any kind of wood before staining is a must in woodworking.

As per requirements, take the 220-grit sandpaper and sand the entire poplar wood surface uniformly without missing a single spot.

Make sure to sand along the wood grain without scratching the surface.

Cleaning and sanding helps to remove unnecessary stuff on wood and make the wood smooth and ready to take on wood stain evenly all over the wood.

220 grit sandpaper is enough to work with poplar wood and higher-grade sandpapers can kill the natural aesthetic look of the beautiful poplar wood. Plus, they’ll never help the wood stain to take the stain well. So, selecting the perfect grade sandpaper is important when finishing poplar wood.

After you sand the wood uniformly all over the wood, clean it using a rag or old cloth to remove sawdust, dust, and debris which can cause troubles in upcoming staining steps. So, the cleaning part is a must after sanding.

After you’re done with the sanding and cleaning process, I recommend keeping the wood for 24 hours to make the surface completely dry before moving on to the next step.

2. Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Applying a pre-stain wood conditioner before the stain is an optional step. But I advise you to apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to make the wood ready to absorb wood stain evenly throughout the surface.

Pre-stain wood conditioner helps the poplar wood to take stain evenly without making most of the wood staining mistakes like getting streaks and blotches when applying wood stain.

Poplar wood absorbs wood stain so easily. Therefore, the amount of wood stain you need to cover up the entire poplar wood surface is high. By applying pre wood conditioner, it will limit the amount of absorption of wood stain to the poplar wood and save the wood stain by making the top layer with less amount of stain.

Read: What Does Wood Conditioner Do? – All You Need To Know!

I highly recommend Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner for the above process which I have already gained good results.

After successful application of pre-stain wood conditioner, let it sit for about 30 minutes and make sure to wipe off the excess using a dump cloth.

3. Apply the Stain

Now you’re good to go with applying wood stain. Take the paintbrush and dip just the tip of it into the stain. The stain will run up through paintbrush fibers because the paintbrush will absorb a lot of extra stains. Therefore, we don’t want to put too much on there.

After you have the stain-dipped paintbrush and start from the middle of the poplar wood and work to the outside. That way you’ll not splash over and have run down on the sides of the wood.

Plus, make sure to distribute stain evenly throughout the wooden surface with even pressure.

Make sure to run the brush strokes through the same direction of the wood grain to avoid crossing with each other with the grain of the wood and the brush strokes.

After the stain is applied for one to two minutes, take the rag or cloth and wipe off the excess stain in the wood. this will help you to minimize many wood stain mistakes.

In the wood, there’re both hard spots and soft spots. The stain will easily soak into the soft spots and absorb all the stain. Then stain will sit on top of the hard spots. So, to get the nice even stain surface, you should wipe off all the excess.

If you’re looking to get a specific color, there’re many different colors of stain products available in the store. Select the one that most matches the poplar wood grain.

Also, make sure to open the windows and make the room with good air circulation. Because stain is very potent, and it’ll end up making you sick with a sore throat and running nose.

4. Let the Wood Dry Completely

After applying the first coat of stain, let the wood dry for nearly 24 hours before going for the second coat of stain. One coat of stain is probably not enough for wood-like poplar due to its high absorbance.

I highly advise you to wait until the previously applied wood stain is dried completely before applying the next coat, because if you applied the second coat of stain to a wet surface, screen blotchiness can happen and at the end of the day, you’ll have to sand down all and start over from the beginning.

So, drying is so much important when staining the poplar wood.

That’s all about how you can finish poplar for exterior use. With proper staining, you’ll be able to use poplar woodworks and furniture for outdoor use for long enough.

So, let’s answer some of the frequently asked questions about the outdoor uses of poplar wood.

Is Poplar Naturally Rot Resistant?

Poplar wood does not have natural rot resistance. It is highly sensitive for outdoor moisture levels and decays so easily.

Poplar wood does not have natural water-resistance and therefore water molecules will easily get inside of the wood and start rotting from the inside.

You can prevent the poplar wood from rotting by sealing the wood before keeping it outside.

Outdoor Applications of Poplar Wood

With proper finishing, poplar wood is great for outdoor applications. The uniform texture adds an aesthetic modern look to your outdoor furniture. Here’re some of the common popular wood outdoor applications.

  • Adirondack patio chair
  • Gardening beds
  • Outdoor benches
  • Garden gates

As you can see with proper maintenance and finishing you can use poplar wood for almost any application you want.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Poplar Good for Outdoor Use?

From this article, we’ve deeply discussed is poplar good for outdoor use and what are qualities poplar wood has that make it good for outdoor use.

We discussed how to finish poplar for exterior use in detail. Furthermore, I have answered some frequently asked questions about poplar wood as well.

Poplar wood is one of the most attractive woods that can use for both indoor and outdoor woodworking projects with proper finishing and proper maintenance. Otherwise, it will rot and decay easily under moisture environments.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about is poplar good for outdoor use and how can you minimize its drawbacks to use for any kind of project. So, let’s start your next outdoor woodworking project with poplar wood with good finishing. Have fun!


About Walter Parker

Walter Parker is a father and 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!

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