Is Elm Wood Good for Furniture? + Is it a Hardwood?

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Would you want strong, quality furniture with an appealing wood pattern? Then, you must have elm wood furniture, a soft hardwood with prominent natural beauty that could take a lot of beating and stress.

In this article, our pro woodworkers uncover why elm wood is good for furniture pieces.

Can You Use Elm on Furniture? In What Ways?

Yes, you can use elm wood on furniture and other accessories such as butcher blocks, cutting boards, chair seats, decorative paneling, boxes, baskets, crate, tool handles, bats, and wagon wheels.

Hard elms include Winged, Cedar, and Rock, while soft elms consist of American, Wych, English elm, Red elm, and Dutch. This wood is considered soft and hard wood because hard elms have Janka hardness of least 1,320 lbf and 810 lbf for soft elms.

Historically, elm trees grew as high as 140 feet tall with a 3 to 6 feet trunk diameter. However, the trees do not thrive as before because of the Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease caused by beetles attacking the elm bark.

elm wood

This disease spread rapidly during the early 20th century, and the effects could be seen with the current status of its trees affecting elm wooden furniture manufacturing companies.

Elm tree grows in cool weather conditions, like in northern Europe, Asia, and North America.

Is it Good for Indoor Furniture?

Because of its appealing wood grain pattern, elmwood has become the favorite of most woodworkers and the top choice of homeowners in making indoor elm furniture. It has light to medium red, reddish-brown, and lighter sapwood, sometimes off-white.

Our woodworkers claim that elm wood is good for indoor furniture. It can sustain its shape well and bends easily. The following are the indoor furniture that elm wood can be made of.

elm wood furniture

Elm wood is good for furniture and is incredibly odor-free, extremely durable, and stain resistant because of the interlocked grain pattern. So you can either paint or stain elm easily.

Is it Good for Outdoor Furniture?

Genuine elm wood furniture is difficult to find because of the elm tree scarcity, making it pricey for furniture manufacturing companies. So if you have elm outdoor furniture, you must seal the wood entirely and thoroughly.

While elm wood is known for its suitability for outdoor furniture, it can present various challenges when it comes to preventing rapid rot or decay.

But, as we mentioned, you must make additional preparations to make them susceptible to insect attacks, fungi, and moisture leading to rotting and decaying.

Our pro woodworkers recommend that extensive finishing for the elmwood furniture is required if used as good for outdoor furniture. Doing this will effectively endure external factors and make your elm wood furniture last longer.

elm woods outdoor

You must invest in the best sealer products, so the following elm wood outdoor furniture lasts longer and needs minimal maintenance.

Because of its braided bands, either straight or wavy, elm woods have a porosity structure, causing moisture to infiltrate the elm wood fibers, which leads to rot and decay. So for exterior furniture, you must choose elm wood hardwood or with the highest Janka hardness.

Then gave it an excellent stain to preserve wood fibers and enhance the wood patterns and interlocking grain. Stain offers a protective layer to elm furniture and increases elm resistance from water and splitting.

Is Elm Wood Ideal for Making Dining Tables?

Is elm wood good to use as dining tables? With its durability and toughness, homeowners preferred elm wood dining tables. This wood also has good shock resistance, making it ideal for a dining table.

elm wood table

However, you must extensively prepare your elm woods to ensure that this wood is ideal for making dining tables preventing moisture and external damage that could shorten the lifespan of your elm wood tables.

Is Elm Good for Your Garden Set?

While Elm is ideal for furniture, does it mean it’s also a good wood for a garden set? The answer is yes, but as long as you consider the proper wood preparation.

Most woodworkers adored this wood and made it their top choice because of its durability and toughness, comparing it to existing longer than expected.

Is Elm Wood Furniture Durable?

Definitely, elm wood indoor and outdoor furniture is durable and tough, so you won’t need to worry about changing your furniture after a year or two or perhaps replacing some furniture parts because they rotted immediately.

The durability of elm furniture depends on how you treat your wood before making furniture and ensuring you apply best practices on maintaining its finish.

More articles for you: 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Elm Wood for Furniture

durability and toughness of elm wood

As you know, every wood has both sides of the coin; while elm wood is good for furniture, you must know what good and bad it will bring you. Elm wood is good to be considered a versatile wood; therefore, here are its pros and cons:



Proper Care and Maintenance of Elm Wood Furniture

Applying the Right Sealer Periodically

Nothing beats an extensive sealing of your wood surface, and by reapplying it once a year, you are certain that your wood furniture is in good condition.

Here are our basic steps to apply a high-grade sealant.

Step #1: Ensure your wood surface is clean and free from debris and dust particles. Use a soap and dish to remove dirt and other impurities on the surface. Then wipe it using a clean, lint-free cloth.

Step #2: If your elm furniture has an old finish, remove it using the proper stripper or TSP solution [1]. Clearing the surface from previous coatings provides good wood adhesion to your preferred new finish.

proper maintenance of elm wood

Step #3: Then sand the elm woods using 100-grit sandpaper to remove visible and smoothen uneven texture. Change to higher grit or fine grit to smoothen the surface.

Step #4: Next, remove the sawdust using a tack cloth. You can also use a vacuum to ensure no remaining sand dust on the surface.

Step #5: Apply pre-stain or wood conditioner because elm woods have dense wood grain. Conditioning will make the absorption of the stain evenly and consistent. Then let it dry before applying your wood sealer.

Step #6: Once cured, apply your preferred wood stain or sealer. If you’re a beginner at staining wood, get scrap wood or find a smaller hidden furniture area to test your chosen stain color. Practicing enables you to see the actual shades you desire.

Depending on the consistency of your stain, you can apply two to three coats. Ensure to let each layer dry before applying the next one.

Step #7: After you have achieved the shades of your stain, let the elm wood surface dry for two to three hours or as long as needed.

let elm wood dry

Oiling Your Elm Furniture

If wood tear outs, oiling your elm furniture will keep the cracks and other damage at bay but most importantly, it enhances the gloss of your finish. Applying oil on your furniture can be done once a year, given that your furniture is in good condition.

For better results, we recommend a quality oil to maintain the quality of your elm furniture, and as such, Danish oil is our top choice. It keeps the wood in good shape and moisture resistant.

Moreover, Danish oil is toxic-free, so you won’t need to worry if you use this on your kitchen tables and cutting boards. But ensure to cure it for at least six hours after application.

Cleaning Your Elm Furniture

If the finish does not wear off or damage, then you can follow how we safely clean our elm furniture.

Step #1: Using a cotton, lint-free cloth, soak it in a soapy water solution, then wipe the surface to remove the dust. The cloth should be wet enough to prevent dripping water.

Cleaning elm wood

Step #2: Gently rub the surface in one direction and ensure all the spots are cleaned.

Step #3: Once the entire surface is cleaned, let it dry directly to sunlight. It will take less than two hours.

Avoid Exposure to Intense Cold and Heat

Extreme weather conditions affect your elm wooden furniture; it shrinks when cold and expands when hot.

So to keep it in good condition, you must place it in the shade to prevent direct heat from the sun. And when it’s winter, protect it by covering it with a cloth or plastic sheets.

Is Elm Wood Resistant to Water?

As it is sensitive to extreme heat and cold, elm woods are evidently not resistant to water and moisture because of the interlocking wood pattern. Therefore, we recommend using sealant before exposing it outdoors.

water resistant wood

Will Elm Wood Rot Easily, or It’s Resistant to Decay?

Unlike cedar wood, elm woods have no natural characteristic to defer bugs, fungi, and insect attacks, so if not treated well, it can rot quickly.

So as we’ve mentioned, you must apply a good finish on the wood surface to keep your elm wood fiber in good condition.

Is Elm Wood Furniture Affordable? How Much it is Worth?

Compared with walnut wood, elm wood is more expensive, but you can get your money’s worth with proper wood preparation. But elm is cheaper than white oak wood.

Because of its rarity, its price is high, but if you acquire genuine elm furniture, it offers a unique aesthetic look to your indoor and outdoor furniture.

Is Elm Wood a Hardwood or Softwood?

As mentioned earlier, elm wood is a soft hardwood with 830 lbf to 1,450 lbf Janka hardness. Depending on your wood project, you can choose from which elm wood you need and the finish you desire to achieve.

elm hard softwood

Does Elm Stink?

Naturally, elmwood has no foul odor, but if your elm wood has one, then you have a slime flux or wet wood disease. According to a report, this is a common problem with shade trees such as elms, and a bacterial infection causes this disease.

The bacteria block the flow of water and nutrients. Thus a gas produced by the bacteria pushes the sap out, which creates a stinky smell. To resolve this, swab the area of your elm wood with 10% chlorine bleach + water to kill the bacteria.

Elm vs. Oak Wood

Elm and oak are both hardwood and ideal for your furniture, but here are their differences.

Elm is less expensive and less durable than oak, with a 1,290 Janka hardness. It has fewer species than the oak, which has 600 species making it easy to find in the market. More so, elm is less versatile than oak, considering you can easily stain oak.

Oak wood


Is it okay to stain Elmwood?

Elmwood can be stained, but it is difficult because of its interlocking grain. Using pre-stain, the result of your stained elmwood is even and consistent. Stains enhance the natural shades of your elmwood.

Can you split Elmwood easily?

Elmwood has several varieties coming from softwood and hardwood tree. Splitting elms can be either a problem or not. However, hard elm is challenging to split, but most woodworkers prefer using this rather than other woods because it holds nails well.


So, is elm wood good for furniture? The answer is yes. After understanding elm wood, you have many reasons for using this wood in your projects. 

It may be moderately pricey from other hardwoods, but you will have your money’s worth with its unique beauty and natural appeal for your furniture.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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