Outdoor Furniture 101 -- Part 1: Types of Patio Furniture
There are six main varieties of patio furniture available. Once you’ve established your needs and noted the conditions your furnishings will be exposed to, it’s easy to find the perfect product from the many choices out there. When comparing durability between brands, important factors to consider are sun exposure, wind conditions, weight support, maintenance requirements and your personal decorating style.
- Aluminum (Cast or Hollow) - Lightweight, rust resistant, weatherproof, powder coated or painted, low maintenance level. The quality can vary greatly; go with powder coating for more durability and look for pieces with good details like smooth welds and extra braces to support weight. Hollow aluminum has come a long way in the last thirty years, but we recommend cast aluminum for greater strength. Aluminum is available in a huge variety of styles and designs.
- Wood (Usually teak) - Medium weight, light to dark color and a variety of grains, weather resistant, high maintenance level. An elegant and timeless choice, wood furniture can be hard or soft wood, painted, sealed or stained, from very simple to intricate and elaborate designs. With proper cleaning and care, it can last for many years. Most wood furniture requires periodic sanding and staining or application of hardwood oil or paint. Wood furniture benefits greatly from being covered when not in use.
- Wrought iron - Heavy weight, weatherproof, medium maintenance level. Beautiful, sophisticated and durable, you can’t go wrong with classic wrought iron. Bare iron is prone to rust, so be ready to fix chips and scratches in the finish as quickly as possible and be sure to regularly lubricate moving parts. A good cleaning and a light coat of automotive wax once or twice a year will help keep cleaning and repair time to a minimum.
- Plastic/resin/polymer - Lightweight, weather resistant, low maintenance level. The most cost-effective options in a rainbow of colors with hundreds of designs including wicker. These varieties of lightweight furniture will give you several years of good use with periodic cleaning and waxing. Plastic furniture is very light and is not as strong as resin and polymer furniture. Marine-grade polymer is the most resistant to fading and is usually made with recycled plastic bottles. Make sure your furniture has UV inhibitors to prevent oxidation, pitting and fading caused by sun exposure.
- Steel - Medium to heavy weight, weatherproof, rustproof, low maintenance. Make sure you buy stainless steel or galvanized steel; once you get it home, you’ll be able to look forward to years of comfort from this sturdy, low-maintenance furniture choice. An occasional washing and a little lubricant on the moving parts should keep your patio set in good shape.
- Wicker or rattan - Lightweight, moisture resistant if painted, low maintenance level. Often confused, wicker refers to the technique of weaving vines or reeds into a pattern like the furniture that’s been a sunroom standby for generations, while rattan is a strong fibrous vine that is commonly made into furniture as well as baskets, purses and mats. While many other materials may be used for wicker furniture, rattan is the best choice as it is durable, flexible and strong. This furniture is best suited to the indoors or a covered spot because it will fade in the sun unless it’s painted. If you want to take the wicker look outside, consider wicker resin, also called all-weather wicker and synthetic rattan.
A few more things to remember:
- Mild detergent and water is better than harsh chemicals, abrasives or high-pressure water for cleaning. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the sun.
- All types of furniture will look better and last longer if you keep it covered when not in use.
- Sunscreen and insect repellant can stain or damage paint and other coatings. Clean these off as quickly as possible to protect your furniture’s finish.