Guide to Outdoor Furniture Materials

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Your Essential Guide to Outdoor Furniture Materials

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Creating an inviting outdoor space starts with selecting the right furniture materials. Whether you’re furnishing a sprawling patio, a cozy balcony, or a charming garden, the choice of materials can significantly impact the aesthetics and durability of your outdoor furniture.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various outdoor furniture materials, discussing their unique characteristics, benefits, and considerations to help you make an informed decision.

Essential Considerations for Outdoor Material Selection

When selecting materials for your outdoor projects, there are several essential considerations that should be taken into account. These considerations will help ensure that the chosen materials can withstand the various outdoor elements and provide long-lasting durability. Let’s dive into the details of each factor:

Weather Conditions

Outdoor materials must be able to withstand the elements. Consider the climate in your area. Look for materials specifically designed for outdoor use with built-in resistance to moisture, UV rays, rust, and corrosion.

  • Rain & Moisture

If you reside in a region with consistently high rainfall or humidity, it is crucial to select furniture that is waterproof or moisture-resistant.

outdoor furniture rain

Excessive moisture can create a favorable environment for the growth of mold and mildew, especially when it seeps into outdoor furniture materials like wood or wicker. This leads to material decay, compromises structural integrity, and gives rise to unpleasant odors and health issues.

Continuous exposure to moisture can cause certain materials, like wood, to warp, swell, or discolor. This can result in distorted furniture, making it uncomfortable to use and affecting its overall appearance.

  • Sun & Temperature

Suppose you reside in a sunny area or an area with significant seasonal climate changes. In that case, selecting outdoor materials that offer resistance to UV rays and can withstand the repeated cycles of hot and cold temperatures is essential.

outdoor furniture sun

Sunlight’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerate the breakdown of pigments, causing fading and aging of materials. Prolonged exposure to intense heat and sunlight can result in the drying out and cracking of wood. Additionally, temperature fluctuations can lead to the expansion and contraction of materials, exerting stress on joints and connections. Over time, this can contribute to instability, loosening, or even breakage.

Extreme heat or cold can also make outdoor furniture uncomfortable to sit on or touch. Metal surfaces, in particular, can become scorching hot, posing a risk of burning your skin without adding cushions or coverings.

  • Wind & Storms
outdoor furniture storm

If you have outdoor furniture in coastal or windy areas, please ensure that the furniture is adequately weighted.

Strong winds can cause lightweight or improperly secured furniture to shift or blow away. Severe storms can cause even greater damage, resulting in furniture toppling over or being tossed around, leading to dents, scratches, or breakage.

Moreover, wind can pick up debris and other loose objects during storms. Flying branches, rocks, or other projectiles can result in chips, dents, or even structural damage to the furniture.

Durability

Outdoor materials should be durable enough to withstand frequent use and last for many years. Assess the material’s strength, resistance to wear and tear, and its ability to maintain structural integrity over time. Consider factors such as impact resistance, flexibility, and resistance to fading, cracking, or warping.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Evaluate the level of maintenance the material requires. For example, wood may require regular sealing or staining, while resin or plastic may only need occasional cleaning. Consider how much time and effort you will dedicate to maintaining the outdoor materials.

Eco-Friendliness

If sustainability is important to you, consider materials that have a lower environmental impact. Look for materials that are renewable, recycled, or made from sustainable resources. For example, consider using reclaimed wood, recycled plastic, or eco-friendly composite materials for outdoor furniture.

Cost

Set a budget for your outdoor furniture and consider the cost of different materials. Prices vary significantly based on the material’s quality, durability, and aesthetic appeal. Remember that investing in high-quality materials upfront can lead to long-term cost savings by reducing the need for frequent replacements or repairs.

Outdoor Furniture Materials

With the key factors above, selecting suitable materials for your patio becomes more straightforward. Here are some popular outdoor furniture materials with key features:

outdoor furniture materials comparison

Wood

Wood is a favored option for outdoor furniture due to its natural beauty, durability, and versatility. However, it’s essential to recognize the significant distinctions among various wood types, including the contrasting characteristics of softwood and hardwood.

  • Softwood

Softwood refers to wood sourced from coniferous trees. It is generally less dense and more affordable than hardwood. However, it is more vulnerable to moisture, insects, and UV rays. Despite this, softwood, such as beautiful pine and cedar, is still suitable for outdoor use with proper treatment and maintenance.

Pine is a lightweight, cost-effective wood that is easy to work with. However, pine furniture may require regular sealing or staining to protect it from moisture and decay.

Cedar is renowned for its natural resistance to decay and insects, pleasant aroma, and attractive grain patterns. However, due to its softness, cedar is prone to dents. It can also accumulate moisture, leading to potential cracking issues.

softwood furniture

PROS – Abundant, renewable, cost-effective, lightweight, versatile in design

CONS – Not durable enough, prone to dents, susceptible to decay and insect infestations, require regular protective treatments

  • Hardwood

Hardwood, derived from deciduous trees, is denser and more durable than softwood. It offers excellent longevity and resistance to the elements. Hardwood used in outdoor furniture includes teak, ipe, eucalyptus, oak, shorea, etc.

Teak is highly durable and weather resistant. Its natural oils provide resistance to rot, decay, and insect infestation. Teak furniture weathers beautifully over time, developing an attractive silver-gray patina. It requires minimal maintenance, making it a sought-after choice for outdoor settings.

Ipe, also known as Brazilian Walnut, is renowned for its extreme hardness and durability. It has excellent resistance to rot, insects, and harsh weather conditions. Ipe furniture has a rich brown color and a fine, straight grain.

hardwood furniture

PROS – Durable, strong, weather-resistant, long-lasting, fadeproof

CONS – More expensive, heavier,require periodic maintenance

Metal

Metal materials are popular choices for outdoor furniture. Aluminum, stainless steel, and wrought iron provide long-lasting performance and can withstand various outdoor conditions.

  • Aluminum

Aluminum is frequently used to create outdoor dining sets, patio sofas, and side tables. Because of its strength, durability, and rust resistance, this material is perfect for usage in coastal areas or near seawater. Outdoor aluminum furniture usually has a protective paint or powder coating on the finish. It can be combined with wicker and wood to create diverse design styles.

aluminum furniture

PROS – Affordable, lightweight, durable, resistant to rust and corrosion, low-maintenance

CONS – Not sturdy enough in high winds, heat-retaining

  • Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is highly corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for outdoor use. It can withstand exposure to moisture, rain, and harsh weather conditions without rusting or deteriorating. With its exceptional strength, it can bear heavy loads and withstand impacts. Low maintenance requirements and easy cleaning contribute to its appeal.

However, stainless steel can retain heat when exposed to direct sunlight, making it uncomfortable to sit on without cushions or shade. Its substantial weight can pose challenges in terms of mobility.

stainless steel furniture

PROS – Durable, corrosion-resistant, weather-resistant, low-maintenance

CONS – More expensive, heavier, heat-retaining

  • Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is a durable material created by heating and shaping iron into intricate designs. It can withstand harsh weather conditions, such as rain, wind, and sun exposure, without compromising its structural integrity. It can also support heavy weights and withstand regular use.

However, wrought iron furniture may require occasional maintenance to prevent rusting. It is relatively heavier than other materials, which may limit its portability.

wrought iron furniture

PROS – Sturdy, durable, weather-resistant, high load-bearing

CONS – Higher cost, require regular maintenance to prevent rust, difficult to move

Resin Wicker

Resin wicker, also known as all-weather or synthetic wicker, is crafted from synthetic fibers, typically polyethylene, intricately woven to mimic the appearance and texture of natural wicker. Resin wicker surpasses natural wicker in its resistance to environmental factors such as moisture, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. Still, it may experience gradual wear over time. Compared to solid wood or wrought iron, resin wicker furniture is lightweight, making it easier to move or rearrange as desired.

A wide selection of styles, colors, and weaves is available, catering to diverse outdoor aesthetics. However, it is worth noting that wicker furniture’s crevices tend to accumulate dust, necessitating additional cleaning time and effort.

resin wicker furniture

PROS – Lightweight, versatile, weather-resistant, eco-friendly

CONS – Unstable in high winds, prone to cracking or breaking over time, difficult to clean

Plastic

Plastic materials are popular for outdoor furniture due to their durability, weather resistance, and low maintenance requirements.

  • Recycled Plastic

Recyclable plastics can be collected, processed, and reused in the production of new items, reducing waste and conserving resources. Two commonly used plastic materials for outdoor furniture are High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS).

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a popular recycled plastic material for outdoor furniture. It is derived from post-consumer plastic waste, such as plastic bottles or containers.

Renowned for its strength and durability, HDPE is an excellent choice for outdoor applications. It exhibits remarkable resilience against heavy usage and impact, minimizing the risk of breakage.

Moreover, HDPE showcases exceptional resistance to harsh weather conditions, such as sunlight, rain, and snow, making it highly resilient to fading, cracking, or warping when exposed to the elements.

HDPE furniture
HDPE Furniture
High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)

Similar to HDPE, HIPS is also recyclable.

HIPS is a rigid plastic known for its exceptional impact resistance. The high impact strength makes it withstand rough handling and protect against damage from impacts or heavy loads.

It is also resistant to moisture and UV rays, ensuring its longevity in outdoor environments. HIPS can be easily molded into various shapes and designs, allowing for creative and intricate outdoor furniture designs.

HIPS furniture
HIPS Furniture

Both HDPE and HIPS offer advantages in terms of durability, weather resistance, and recyclability. They are low-maintenance and resistant to fading, rot, and insect infestation. With various colors and designs, recycled plastics provide flexibility in style and aesthetics.

PROS – Sustainable and recyclable, durable, weather-resistant, impact-resistant, low-maintenance, fadeproof, versatile in design

CONS – Higher price

  • Other Plastics

Polypropylene (PP) is lightweight, durable, and resistant to impact and weather conditions. PP plastic furniture is easy to clean and often features contemporary designs.

Polycarbonate (PC) is a strong and transparent plastic used for outdoor furniture, particularly in applications where transparency is desired, such as clear chairs or tabletops.

Acrylic is a clear and lightweight plastic often used for outdoor furniture, particularly for its visual appeal and weather resistance. It is available in various colors and can mimic the appearance of glass.

PP material furniture

Upholstery Materials, Cushions and Protective Covers

Upholstery materials refer to the fabrics or coverings used to upholster furniture, such as sofas, chairs, and ottomans. They significantly impact the overall look, comfort, and durability of the furniture.

Common upholstery materials include fabrics like cotton, linen, polyester, microfiber, leather, and synthetic blends. Each upholstery material possesses distinct qualities, such as breathability, texture, resistance to staining, and ease of maintenance. The choice of upholstery material depends on personal preference, the intended use of the furniture, and the desired aesthetic style.

outdoor cushions

Outdoor cushions require fabrics that can withstand exposure to sunlight, moisture, and frequent use.

Solution-Dyed Acrylic is highly resistant to fading, UV rays, and mildew. With a wide range of colors and patterns, it provides versatility for outdoor cushions.

Olefin, recognized for its strength and colorfastness, is also resistant to fading, staining, and mildew. Additionally, it boasts quick-drying properties and ease of cleaning, rendering it well-suited for outdoor cushion covers.

outdoor furniture cover

Regarding protective covers for outdoor furniture, durability, weather resistance, and the ability to withstand different elements are essential factors.

Polyester covers are an ideal choice as they are lightweight, affordable, and exhibit resistance to water and UV rays. They provide decent protection against dust, dirt, and light rain. Solution-Dyed Polyester, combining the strength of polyester with solution-dyed technology, ensures excellent color retention, resistance to fading, and protection against UV damage. It offers long-lasting safeguarding for outdoor furniture.

Similarly, vinyl covers excel in water resistance and ease of cleaning, making them suitable for shielding furniture from rain and other moisture-related issues.

Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Furniture Finishes

Regular maintenance and cleaning of outdoor furniture is crucial to preserve its appearance, durability, and longevity. Proper care helps prevent damage from weather elements, prolongs the lifespan of the furniture, and ensures a clean and inviting outdoor space for relaxation and enjoyment.

Below are maintenance tips for each type of furniture finish.

Wood finishes

It’s vital to consider the specific needs of your wood type and the environmental conditions it will be exposed to when selecting a protective stain or sealant. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and reapplication to ensure adequate protection and maintenance of the wood finish.

wood varnish
  • Varnish

Varnish is a popular choice for protecting wood surfaces. It forms a rugged and durable coating that helps to shield the wood from moisture, UV rays, and general wear and tear. Varnish comes in different sheens, including gloss, semi-gloss, and matte. But it can be challenging to apply evenly without leaving brush marks or streaks.

  • Polyurethane

Polyurethane is another common choice for wood protection. It creates a strong, clear finish that provides excellent resistance to scratches, spills, and other forms of damage. Polyurethane is available in oil-based and water-based formulas, with varying levels of glossiness. Oil-based polyurethane has a longer drying time compared to water-based polyurethane.

  • Lacquer

Lacquer provides a hard and durable finish that dries quickly. It offers good resistance to water, chemicals, and general wear. Lacquer is available in various sheens and can create a smooth, high-gloss appearance. It may be yellowing over time.

wood finish maintenance
  • Exterior Oil-Based Stains

These stains penetrate the wood and provide a natural appearance while offering protection against moisture and UV damage. They enhance the wood’s grain and are suitable for outdoor applications. It may require more frequent maintenance and reapplication compared to film-forming finishes.

  • Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains are environmentally friendly and dry quickly. They offer good color retention and protect against fading and mildew. They are a suitable option for both interior and exterior wood finishes. However, it can result in a less pronounced grain appearance compared to oil-based stains.

Metal coatings

Each metal coating option has its strengths and weaknesses, and the ideal choice depends on factors such as the type of metal, desired appearance, budget, and environmental conditions. Consider consulting with professionals or specialists in metal coatings to determine the most suitable option for your outdoor furniture.

metal coatings
  • Powder Coating

Powder coating is a high-quality method that involves the application of a dry powder onto metal surfaces, followed by a heating process to create a robust and protective layer. This technique provides exceptional durability and resistance against scratches, fading, and corrosion. However, due to the requirement for specialized equipment and expertise during the application, powder coating may be comparatively more expensive than alternative coating options.

  • Galvanizing

Galvanizing is the process of applying a zinc coating onto metal surfaces. This coating is a barrier, protecting the metal from rust and corrosion. Galvanized coatings are highly durable and often used for outdoor furniture exposed to harsh weather conditions. It requires a professional application and may not be suitable for all types of metals.

  • Epoxy Coating

Epoxy coatings provide a rugged and protective layer to metal surfaces. They offer excellent resistance to chemicals, UV rays, and abrasion. Epoxy coatings can enhance the lifespan of outdoor furniture by preventing rust and corrosion.

metal furniture coatings
  • Clear Coats

Clear coats are transparent protective coatings applied to metal surfaces. They provide a glossy finish and protect the metal from oxidation, UV damage, and corrosion. Clear coats are commonly used to preserve the natural appearance of metal furniture.

  • Anodizing

Anodizing is a highly effective process that forms a durable oxide layer on the surface of aluminum. This coating enhances the metal’s resistance to corrosion, abrasion, and fading. However, anodizing offers limited color options, predominantly in shades of silver.

Recycled Plastic & Resin Wicker Treatments

While HDPE, HIPS, and resin wicker are weather-resistant, additional treatments and maintenance can enhance their longevity and appearance.

Regularly clean the furniture with a soft brush or cloth to remove dust, dirt, and debris. You can also use a mild soap solution and water for more thorough cleaning. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or brushes that can scratch the surface of the furniture. After cleaning, rinse the furniture thoroughly to remove any residue.

During the winter season or extended periods of non-use, it is advisable to provide protection by using covers or storing the furniture indoors. This precaution safeguards against extreme cold, freezing temperatures, and potential damage.

HDPE furniture maintenance

In addition, if mildew appears on the resin wicker, promptly clean the affected area using soapy water or a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly and ensure complete drying of the furniture.

Suppose any strands of resin wicker become loose or damaged. In that case, you can reweave them using a heat source (e.g., a hairdryer) to soften the resin and make it pliable for repair. For more severe damage, consider seeking assistance from a professional wicker repair service to assess and fix the issue.

wicker furniture maintenance

Remember to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for your outdoor furniture. Different brands and products may have their own recommendations for care and maintenance. Following proper care practices can extend the lifespan and keep your furniture looking its best.

The Verdict

In conclusion, consider factors like durability, weather resistance, maintenance requirements, and aesthetic appeal when selecting outdoor furniture materials. Every material possesses unique strengths and weaknesses.

For those seeking durability, weather resistance, and low maintenance, HDPE and HIPS materials are excellent choices. These materials offer exceptional resistance against the elements and require minimal upkeep. The abundant array of colors and styles ensures you can find the ideal match.

Adirondack chairs

If a classic and elegant look is desired, natural woods like teak and cedar are highly recommended. They showcase natural beauty, strength, and resistance to decay, ensuring longevity in outdoor furniture.

Resin wicker is an ideal choice for those desiring lightweight, modern, and visually appealing furniture.
For cost-effective metal furniture, aluminum is a wise option.

Ultimately, choosing outdoor furniture material depends on personal preferences, budget, and specific needs. By understanding the characteristics and care requirements of different materials, you can select outdoor furniture that combines comfort and durability.

FAQs – Outdoor Furniture Materials

Metal, particularly aluminum or wrought iron, is often considered the most durable material for outdoor patio furniture. It is highly resistant to weather conditions, does not rot or warp, and can withstand years of use without significant damage. Regular maintenance and proper care can further extend its lifespan.

For humid weather, it is recommended to choose outdoor furniture made from materials that are resistant to moisture and mold growth. Aluminum, teak, and certain types of plastics, such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), are popular choices. These materials can withstand the humidity without warping, rotting, or developing mold, making them suitable for humid climates.

Expensive outdoor furniture, particularly those made from durable materials like HDPE, can be worth the investment. HDPE is a durable and long-lasting material that is resistant to moisture, fading, and cracking. It’s weather-resistant, requiring minimal maintenance.

Despite the initial higher cost, HDPE furniture offers long-term benefits in terms of extended lifespan and reduced maintenance. This makes it a valuable investment for individuals looking for durable and high-quality outdoor furniture.

The lifespan of outdoor furniture varies by material. Well-maintained wood furniture can last 10-15 years, while metal furniture can last 10-20 years. Synthetic wicker furniture typically lasts 5-10 years, and high-quality plastic furniture can last 10-20 years or more, depending on the material’s quality.

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