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Outdoor Furniture Material Guide - 2022 Updated

Jun. 13, 2022

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When evaluating outdoor furniture, you may be looking for many of the same characteristics as indoor tables, chairs and sofas - durability, comfort and style (and, of course, price). The main difference, however, is that patio furniture must withstand outdoor weather. While there is virtually no such thing as 100% weatherproof patio furniture, it varies greatly depending on the materials used.

 

Before you make a decision, it is important to understand the pros and cons of the various material options. Determine how each fits with the requirements of your residential or commercial environment and your personal preferences and priorities. Choosing the "best" material for your outdoor patio furniture depends on matching your specific needs with the inherent qualities of each substance, as each situation is unique.

 

Factors to consider for outdoor materials

Outdoor furniture frames, table tops and upholstery need to maintain their structural integrity and appearance through multiple seasons and a variety of weather conditions. In addition, the time and effort required to maintain materials throughout the year, as well as their "greenness" and cost, are important aspects to examine.

 

1. Rain and Moisture

If you live in an area with frequent rainstorms or high humidity, you need to make sure your furniture is resistant to damage caused by various water-based problems. Standing water or retained moisture not only physically degrades materials, it can also lead to health risks.

 

Mold, mildew and decay

Damp or humid environments create an environment where a variety of fungi thrive. Organic materials that retain moisture are susceptible to mold and mildew, which can lead to respiratory problems, irritation and other health issues. However, they usually do not damage the material and can be removed. Decay, on the other hand, leads to the biodegradation and decomposition of the material (rot).

 

Rusting and Corrosion

Metals containing iron or steel are susceptible to corrosion when continuously exposed to water and oxygen. Corrosive oxidation processes slowly weaken these metals, leading to visible rusting and other discoloration. Salts in the air and water accelerate the chemical process, so rusting is usually more prevalent in coastal areas.

 

Warping

Materials that allow water penetration may dry unevenly, causing distortion (twisting or bending) of the original shape. Initially, it may be difficult to notice, but over time it can significantly warp the material, misaligning joints and loosening screws and other fasteners used to hold furniture together.

 

2. Sun and temperature

If you live in a sunny area or one with dramatic seasonal climate changes, look for outdoor materials that can withstand intense UV rays and extreme hot to cold swings.

 

Decline

Constant exposure to sunlight can cause many materials to fade and lose their luster over time. Aesthetic changes can be attractive (e.g. copper green) or simply a reduction in color vibrancy or uneven spotting.

 

Cracking

Some materials will expand and contract significantly when heated or cooled. They can crack, split, warp or become brittle when exposed to extreme temperatures or violent fluctuations. Dry air can also cause furniture to bend and crack.

 

Insulation

Heat can also lead to other logistical problems. Deck furniture placed in the sun can become hot and uncomfortable (or unsafe) to touch. No one wants to burn their skin when they sit down or try to reposition a poolside lounger.

 

3. Wind

If you live in an open and windy area, it's important that your outdoor furniture is heavy enough to avoid tipping over or being blown away. It doesn't take much to damage a nice lightweight chaise lounge or dining table when taking on nature, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise, you will need to continually store or protect your items when they are not in use.

 

4. Durability

Some outdoor materials may last for years under ideal conditions, but may need to be replaced every few seasons when exposed to inclement weather. Others can withstand a lifetime of countless elements and still look new. Another variable related to durability is usage. If you only dine at your outdoor table a few times a summer, it will see less wear and tear than the sun loungers and sofa beds found poolside at popular upscale resorts and hotels. The more frequently you use it, the more durable the material should be.

 

5. Cleaning and care difficulty

Aesthetic and functional durability is also affected by how well you care for your patio furniture. Some materials require little attention season after season and can be cleaned quickly and easily with simple soap and water. Others require more time intensive care and special products to keep them looking great and working properly. If your time is valuable, or you just don't want the hassle, you may want to choose materials that are less expensive to maintain.

 

6. Environmentally friendly

Today, everyone knows the environmental impact of manufacturing processes and raw materials used in products, even if they don't know the specifics. All things being equal, most people (hopefully) prefer to be ecologically responsible. Fortunately, most outdoor furniture luxury brands have adopted "green" manufacturing practices and use materials that are biodegradable, recyclable or certified by environmental organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). That said, the recyclability of different outdoor materials does vary.

 

7. Cost

Ultimately, most people are concerned about the financial impact of choosing one material over another for their furniture. You need to stay within your budget, but in the long run, it's also important to understand how expensive materials are and how much they are worth in terms of price versus revenue. Does it need to be replaced frequently? Does maintenance require too much time and effort? These are key cost considerations that may not immediately come to mind when you are evaluating alternatives.

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Outdoor furniture frame and tabletop materials

A. Wood

Wood has been a popular raw material for furniture for thousands of years. It has a natural beauty, is often easy to use and provides a sturdy frame for tables, chairs, benches and other furniture. However, not all woods are created equal when used outdoors. Many softwoods, such as pressure-treated pine, cedar and fir, are inexpensive and are widely used for indoor furniture, but do not withstand harsh weather well and require constant protection when not in use. Hardwoods, on the other hand, are stronger, can resist weather damage, and can last for decades if treated properly. On the downside, they are usually more difficult to shape and are usually more expensive than softwoods. However, there are also significant differences between hardwoods.

 

B. Teak

Teak is easily the most popular choice of wood for outdoor furniture. Its high demand combined with limited supply has pushed the price of this fine-grained hardwood to extremely high levels. Fortunately, teak has many properties that make it ideal for outdoor use. It is very strong and does not warp, crack or become brittle as many woods do. This is because teak repels most water and does not swell or shrink during the drying process. It has a high natural oil content, which makes it highly resistant to rot, decay and insect damage. This durability against the elements allows teak to last the longest - up to fifty years! Its gorgeous honey brown appearance can be maintained with minimal oiling, or if left untreated, it will turn an attractive silvery gray color over time. Most patio furniture brands have at least a few pieces made from this beautiful wood. Scandinavian manufacturers such as Skagerak and Skargaarden embrace the natural beauty of teak and use its inherent strength to design artfully elegant collections of outdoor lounge and dining room furniture. It is relatively easy to care for and can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

 

Pros - durable, strong, weather and insect resistant, does not crack or warp, easy to maintain

Disadvantages - High price

 

C. Eucalyptus

This sturdy Australian hardwood is fast-growing, long-lasting and offers significant cost savings compared to teak. It has a rustic appeal with its natural washed appearance and will turn silver unless regularly oiled. It is weather and rot resistant and its oil acts as a natural insecticide. However, a sealer is recommended to improve the resistance of eucalyptus to pests and to minimize the negative effects of uneven moisture retention.

 

Pros - Durable, insect resistant, rot resistant, environmentally friendly, sustainable growth and cost effective

Disadvantages - Vulnerable to marine and pinhole drilling and prone to cracking if not treated with a sealer

 

D. White oak

This rich wood is stronger and harder than most and can be used for decades. For a long time, it has been used to build ships because of its waterproof structural ability, which also helps it resist decay. However, it does not have much natural oil and requires paint or sealant to maintain its durability. Over time, untreated white oak produces a charming grey sheen.

Advantages – waterproof, corrosion-resistant, strong

Disadvantages - low oil content

 

E. Other hardwood

There are many other hardwoods that share some of the positive qualities of teak at a much lower price. However, compared with the above hardwoods, they also have disadvantages. The reddish brown acacia (also known as locusts) is easy to buy, but it warps or cracks more easily than Shorea or eucalyptus. Roble is rare and light, and its service life is only half that of teak. However, African Iroko is difficult to process, and it is easy to break and passivate woodworking tools. Mahogany has a beautiful reddish hue, but it is rough, requires a lot of maintenance, and does not decay like teak.

 

F. Metal

Metal is usually the strongest and most durable material for outdoor garden furniture. Due to its strength, the metal frame can be thinner than other options and form a more complex design, thus providing manufacturers with greater style flexibility. When combined with other materials with their own functions and aesthetic advantages, metal is also a good choice. Various production technologies can produce metal chairs and tables that do not require bolts, screws or other fasteners, which will make other types of furniture more vulnerable to damage. However, metals also have their drawbacks. It gets hot in the sun and feels uncomfortable. Some metals are very heavy and difficult to move, while all metals are susceptible to rust and corrosion to some extent. But each metal has its own unique characteristics.

 

G. Stainless Steel

This solid metal alloy is very strong, making it an excellent material choice for large load-bearing outdoor dining tables, sofas and combinations. Its high density helps prevent dents and other damage caused by frequent use. Although it does feel hot in summer, stainless steel can withstand extreme temperatures better than most metals. Its composition makes it almost free from rust and corrosion, but it is recommended to use powder coating to increase resistance, especially in coastal areas where salt air and water exist. If you compare the type of stainless steel, the higher the chromium content, the stronger the resistance of the alloy to atmospheric corrosion. Similarly, the presence of molybdenum can prevent red rust and reduce the depth of surface pitting [mameng, Pettersson & leygraf 2017].

Garden and courtyard furniture made of stainless steel is heavy and will not tip over or blow away in windy conditions. It is an excellent material choice for high-end modern outdoor furniture because its smooth silver metal finish has a unique modern appearance. Although expensive, stainless steel is worth the money. Not only is it relatively easy to clean, it is often made of recycled metal, making it an environmentally responsible option.

Advantages – durable, strong, rust proof, wind proof and easy to clean

Disadvantages - expensive and insulated

 

H. Aluminium

Aluminum is the most popular metal for outdoor furniture. Despite its light weight, it is strong and durable, and can be easily processed into a variety of complex shapes. Aluminum is relatively cheap, low maintenance cost and never rusts. Although it has strong weather resistance, polyester powder coating is recommended. This electrostatic process not only increases the protection against elements and scratches, but also allows you to add color to the mixture. Although you can buy painted aluminum, powder coating has better adhesion to metal and is more resistant to fading. This is also helpful if your deck or pool banks are exposed to salt air, which tends to erode paint and untreated metal. Like other metals, aluminum heats up, so it's best to have a seat cushion to keep you cool and comfortable.

Advantages – rugged, lightweight, weather resistant, inexpensive and low maintenance costs

Disadvantages - hollow pipe frames may blow down in high winds and retain heat

 

I. Wrought iron

Throughout history, iron has been used in tools, buildings and furniture because of its strength and durability - it can last a hundred years if properly maintained. It is one of the heaviest metals, so it is difficult to move forged or cast iron furniture. But it certainly won't drift with the wind. It has strong ductility when heated and hammered. This enables the wrought iron to form a gorgeous hand design with a high-end craftsman's feeling. On the other hand, cast iron is melted and poured into the mold, but it is heavier and more difficult to manage than wrought iron.

Although it is durable, outdoor iron frames and tabletops may require great care to clean, maintain, and prevent rust. Fortunately, the best contemporary wrought iron has a weatherproof finish that insulates it from harmful moisture. In addition, this metal often matches the temperature at that time - it will become very hot in summer, and it will become cold if excluded in winter. Wrought iron outdoor furniture is very hard and may be uncomfortable without cushioned seats and backrests.

Benefits – durable, rugged, stylish classic look, ideal for windy areas

Disadvantages - easy to rust, requires more maintenance, may be uncomfortable, difficult to move and keep hot or cold

 

J. Resins and plastics

Synthetic materials, such as resins and plastics, are becoming more and more popular in the field of outdoor furniture. New manufacturing processes and mixed ingredients enable these polymers to take on shapes and sizes that were previously unattainable. Synthetic materials are usually light and cheap, and can be molded into any imaginable decorative style. Because colors are inherent in the chemical composition, they are resistant to fading and do not require paint or sealant used by other materials. They are also easy to clean and maintain. There are more and more plastics and resins, but here are some commonly used ones.

 

How do you clean and maintain garden furniture?

Cleaning and maintenance in summer and after summer can prolong the service life of outdoor furniture. Each material has specific instructions for cleaning various types of spills, repairing damage and protecting them from wind, rain and sunlight.

 

You Wood is a China Furniture Manufacturer with 20 years of production experience, with a complete marketing system, integrating R&D, production and sales. Our products are of high quality, competitive prices and diverse styles.If you would like to customize your furniture, please click here to contact us.


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