Guide to Outdoor Furniture Materials
Outdoor furniture is available in many different materials. When choosing the best material for a patio set it’s important to consider climate, exposure to the elements (is your space covered or uncovered) and how it will be used. This guide answers the most frequently asked questions about outdoor furniture materials – including the different types of metals, plastics, natural materials and fabrics. After choosing a material, check out the Patio Furniture Sets Buying Guide for help finding the perfect piece for a patio or any outdoor space.
Outdoor Furniture Frame Materials
Types of Metals
Molten aluminum is poured into molds and solid pieces are welded together.
Pros: Detailed designs, does not rust, minimal maintenance, sturdy
Cons: Typically more expensive than extruded aluminum (but also more heavy-duty)
A solid aluminum billet is forced through a die, creating a hollow tube.
Pros: Lightweight and easy to move, affordable, does not rust, minimal maintenance
Cons: Styles will have less detail, not suitable for extremely windy areas
Iron is hammered, forged, and welded into desired design.
Pros: Multiple design styles, superior strength and durability
Cons: Heavy, waxing and resealing is recommended on an annual basis, scratches must be repainted as quickly as possible to prevent rusting
Steel is a combination of iron and other elements known for its strength and durability
Pros: Extremely strong, less likely than aluminum to dent, able to withstand extreme temperatures, classic design lends a sophisticated look
Cons: Heavier than aluminum, will become hot to the touch if sitting in direct sunlight, scratches to finish can cause furniture to rust
Types of Wood
A tropical hardwood species with a naturally high oil content, often used on boat decks.
Pros: Incomparable durability, strong, naturally resistant to insects, moisture and rot resistant
Cons: While also desirable, teak will turn a silver-gray over time if left untreated
A tropical hardwood comparable to teak.
Pros: More affordable than teak, naturally resistant to insects, moisture and rot resistant
Cons: Will need to be treated/regularly maintained if silver-gray patina is not desired
A member of the pine family, larch is a lighter wood with a reddish color and a straight grain.
Pros: Naturally resistant to decay and moisture, sustainable, high density, durable
Cons: Typically has a slightly higher price point (though less than teak)
A moderately heavy, dense wood with varying grain patterns.
Pros: Long-term durability, affordable, more lightweight than teak or shorea, resistant to rot
Cons: Will need occasional oiling/staining unless weathering to a dark gray is desired
Extremely dense, eucalyptus is a beautiful reddish-brown and will darken as it ages.
Pros: Versatile, naturally resistant to moisture and insects, minimal maintenance, sustainably harvested
Cons: Will need occasional oiling/staining to maintain its rich tones
Types of Plastic
Recycled plastic is a wonderful material to add to your patio if you're looking for durable, stylish furniture.
Pros:This material is very eco-friendly, and has the look and feel of real wood without the maintenance of real wood. It is also extremely durable
Cons: This material is lighter weight than cast aluminum and other metal materials. Consider this if you live in a very windy environment
Resin wicker is generally made of polyethylene. Wicker is not actually a material but a method of weaving.
Pros: Weather resistant, does not absorb moisture, easy cleaning, does not split or crack
Cons: Inexpensive resin wicker may not closely resemble real rattan wicker
A thermoplastic, meaning it can be melted, remolded, and then returned to a solid state.
Pros: Affordable. lightweight, can withstand harsh weather conditions, low maintenance, many design and color variations
Cons: Lacks longevity, may not give the same elegant look as wood or cast aluminum
Outdoor Furniture Fabrics
100% acrylic fibers that have been dyed before being woven vs. woven and then dyed.
Pros: Water repellent, fade resistant (provides up to 98% protection from UV rays), mold and mildew resistant, easy to clean, minimal shrinking/stretching, large color selection
Cons: With higher quality comes a higher price tag
A synthetic, solution-dyed material with a smooth texture.
Pros: Water repellent, resistant to weathering/stains/mildew, quick drying, provides better fade resistance than polyester and cotton for a lower price point than solution-dyed acrylic
Cons: Less detail, not suitable for extremely windy areas, prone to stretching
A synthetic fabric made from plastic-based fibers.
Pros: Strong, resistant to stretching/shrinking, quick drying, lower price, typically the most decorative (can be screen printed), fewer wrinkles
Cons: Do not expose to chlorine, only a 2-3 year lifespan compared to higher quality fabrics
A fabric woven of polyester with a PVC coating, this material is typically used for sling furniture.
Pros: Waterproof, sunscreen proof, fade and mold resistant, flame retardant, easy to clean
Cons: May begin to fray over time
Usually made using a blend of cotton or linen.
Pros:Heavy-duty, relatively inexpensive
Cons: Susceptible to mold and mildew
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