Your patio furniture has to stand up to a lot of abuse, so it's important to get furniture that can withstand it. Carefully choosing furniture materials for outdoor use is essential, to make sure you'll get years of use out of your new patio furniture.
The sun's UV rays can fade and damage materials, rain and moisture can rot or rust, dust and dirt makes furniture materials unsightly. You need to ensure your outdoor furniture materials are designed to stand up to all of that.
Factors to Consider
The best materials for outdoor furniture for your backyard will depend on your environment. If your yard is in full sun, choose something that is fade resistant; if it tends to catch the wind, avoid lighter materials for outdoor furniture, and so on.
Rain and moisture causes damage to materials and may lead to health problems. A protective finish or naturally moisture resistant material will help. Moisture damage leads to mould, mildew, and rot in natural materials. Certain woods are also subject to warping if they get wet. Mould and mildew are health concerns, but can be cleaned off, while rot will ruin your outdoor patio furniture altogether. It also causes rust and corrosion, especially if you are near salty air in coastal areas. Certain metals and woods are more resistant to moisture damage, and there are coatings that can help.
High heat and direct sun causes fading, cracking, warping, and brittleness. It can also make metal and other surfaces too hot to sit on! If you have a windy backyard, you'll want furniture that won't blow away or keep tipping.
Most cheaper plastic furniture isn't very sturdy and will only last a year or two. Choosing more durable materials may be more expensive up front, but a better long-term investment, as well as being more attractive, to create the kind of outdoor space you want to spend all of your free time in.
Choose low-maintenance and easy-to-clean materials, as you don't want to spend your summers restoring furniture. Some materials are easy to clean with a soft cloth or soft brush and mild soap for minimal maintenance.
Environmental friendliness is another factor for many people. Many higher-end manufacturers are now incorporating sustainability and greener materials into their models.
Outdoor Furniture Materials Guide
Wooden Furniture Pieces
Wood is sturdy and beautiful, and different woods and stains can make your patio furniture match any aesthetic. Different woods are better suited for outdoor use, however. Softwoods like pine are more susceptible to moisture damage and other issues, but hardwoods are more weather-resistant and durable.
Tropical hardwoods are resistant to weather, insects, cracking, rotting, warping, and shrinking or swelling. As a result, shorea or teak furniture can be a good choice, although they may be more expensive initially. They weather naturally, so their colour changes; this doesn't affect their performance, but if you don't like the aesthetic, you will need to resurface your furniture.
Cedar and cypress are light coloured and can be stained easily to match different colours. They are resistant to insects and rot. They are softer woods, although cypress is better for resisting dents and scratches, as well as moisture damage.
White oak is rot and moisture-resistant and highly durable, although it does need regular sealing. Hickory is another very sturdy wood.
Whichever wood you choose, make sure you know its strengths and weaknesses, and be diligent in following any specific care instructions.
Metal furniture and frames are very strong. Most models feature a metal frame and another material, since metal can be too hot and uncomfortable to sit on, although you can get straight iron or steel outdoor furniture.
Aluminum Outdoor Furniture
Aluminum is most common, as it is cheaper than other metals, rust-resistant, and is durable and flexible. Coated aluminum is recommended. Aluminum is lightweight, making it easier to move around, but aluminum furniture can be blown around by wind.
Stainless Steel Furniture
Stainless steel furniture is exceptionally strong. This metal is great for load-bearing frames or structures, and is dent and scratch resistant. Although it will get hot like other metals, it does not get easily degraded by the heat, unlike some other metals. It is resistant to rust, but a coating is still recommended. It also has an attractive modern aesthetic, is easy to clean, and can be made from recycled metals.
Wrought Iron Furniture
Wrought iron outdoor furniture looks beautiful and timeless. It is very heavy and durable, but it is higher maintenance to clean and protect against rusting. Wrought iron pieces are better in protected areas where they don't have to be moved.
As a synthetic outdoor furniture material, resin is becoming very popular, and is a better alternative to plastic. Resin garden furniture is light, can fit any aesthetic, and is more durable and resistant to fading, compared to plastic. Cleaning and maintenance is minimal.
Resin wicker has the beautiful look of rattan wicker, but is better suited for the outdoors, as it won't get damaged by moisture and weathering. Resin is strong,
Good synthetic resin furniture using HDPE is also eco-friendly, but watch for cheaper or low-quality resin furniture with PVC, which is not environmentally friendly and will become brittle sooner.
Wicker style furniture made from natural materials is a good choice, although resin-based alternatives are becoming more popular, as they offer the aesthetics of rattan outdoor furniture, but are more durable.
Coatings make both wood and metal furniture more durable and resistant. Check the care instructions for garden furniture when you are shopping to see if these coatings have been applied and to see whether you will need to be reapplying these regularly to keep your furniture like new.
Wooden patio furniture, even if the wood has a good natural weather resistance or has had a pre-treatment, will benefit from a coating to protect it.
Paint provides a layer of protection, and can be used to make your furniture match the rest of your decor. Scratching and peeling can be an issue, though.
Polyurethane or lacquer act as sealants to protect against scratches and make the wood more moisture and rot resistant. Applying these properly can be tricky. Epoxy finishes strengthens wood and makes it easier to clean, plus offers a glossy finish.
Varnish seals the wood to keep the moisture out, and is easier to apply. Old varnish needs to be stripped off and sanded away before re-applying.
Stains help protect against UV rays and can be fungicidal. They offer less protection than other coatings, and some are not eco-friendly. They are often used for aesthetic purposes. Oils are similar to stains, and highlight the natural look of the wood.
A powder coating offers the best protection, to add durability and rust resistance, although polyurethane, paint, and oils or waxes may be used.
Fabrics for Patio Furniture
You want comfy patio furniture, and upholstered and padded outdoor furniture, plus cushions, offers the comfort you are looking for. However, fabrics are also potentially the most vulnerable to damage and deterioration. Look for sturdy, water-resistant fabrics. Lighter colours will show fading less. Quality brands like Sunbrella(™) provide essential resistance to weather while being available in a variety of custom covers.
Smitty's Fine Furniture has beautiful outdoor furniture, made with high quality materials for low maintenance enjoyment.
Smitty's Fine Furniture is a family-owned furniture store specializing in Canadian made furniture and customized solutions. Visit our locations in Kitchener and Hanover: