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One of the quickest and least expensive ways to upgrade the looks of your home—indoors and out—is by adding a handsome planter box or two. These three designs shown here are built from redwood. California redwood is an excellent choice for planters. It boasts the unbeatable combination of natural beauty and good durability. Redwood is resistant to decay and to attack by insects.
To determine durability against such attack, redwood is graded by its color and other factors. The reddish-brown heartwood from the inner portion of the tree contains extractives, which render it durable. The cream-colored sapwood that develops in the outer growth-layer of the tree, like most whitewoods, doesn’t have the same degree of resistance to decay and insects as the heartwood does.
When building a planter, choose one of the all-heartwood grades. There are also grades available containing some sapwood, which will be a bit cheaper.
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Use the Right Nails
Use only noncorrosive nails to build any planter box which will be parked outdoors. Conventional steel nails (common and finishing), when wet, will react with redwood’s chemicals and cause unsightly stain streaks. To prevent such staining, choose aluminum alloy, stainless steel, or high-quality hot-dipped galvanized nails.
💡 If you use the latter, remove any nail whose galvanized surface is cracked by an angled hammer blow. When the nail’s galvanized surface is broken, it rusts like any ordinary nail.
Construction has been kept simple and there are no exotic joints to make, and all work can be done with hand tools (if you want). After completing construction, the redwood can be left as is. But you might consider doing some finish work on the planters.
Use a water repellent on all exterior redwood, especially for sapwood-containing grades. The application task is easier, and you will have a better result if you apply the repellent before constructing the planter. Coat all edges, sides, and ends of lumber. Be aware that using water repellent slows down natural weathering, but since it reduces the effects of moisture, it also protects the wood from dirt and grime. A water repellent can serve as the finish, or it can serve as the undercoat for additional finishes such as bleaching or staining.
If you do not plan to follow with another finish, you should apply a second coat of the repellent.
You can use a commercially prepared bleach to speed up the driftwood gray effect (that appears as a result of natural weathering). If you decide to bleach, read all of the manufacturer’s use instructions on the label.
If you prefer a darker color, you will have to stain the planter. A pigmented oil-base stain can be used or you can choose a latex exterior stain. Either way, make certain the stain you buy is intended for outdoor use.
Do not use varnish or any other clear, film-forming finish on your redwood planter. Such finishes deteriorate rapidly when exposed to sun and weather. Once it has been applied, you can bet that you will have an annual task renewing it to keep up the good looks.
Plants can be planted directly in a soil-filled planter box or you can place potted plants inside. If you’re going to do the former, don’t forget drainage holes. Too much moisture will drown your plant quickly.
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