Let’s think about summer. Lounging outdoors, barbecuing or chatting with friends out on the deck. Comfortable, attractive patio furniture only adds to the allure. But, with so many types of furniture available, how do you narrow down your choices?
There are four main types of material used in patio furniture: wood, metal (chiefly wrought iron and aluminum), resin and plastic. Natural wicker made from rattan or bamboo is seldom used outdoors any more as it deteriorates rapidly when exposed to the elements.
If you love all things natural then wood is probably the right look for your patio.
Depending on your budget, you can choose between a variety of woods: teak, pine, cedar, redwood or jarrah. Hardwoods like teak, redwood and jarrah (an Australian eucalyptus) are expensive, but can last between 25 and 50 years. If you like to plan for the long-term this is a great choice.
Cedar and pine are more affordable options and if pressure treated, can last up to 20 years. Wood has the advantage of remaining cool to the touch during the summer heat.
While wood is sturdy and naturally weather-resistant, it is expensive and involves a significant amount of upkeep each year. Teak must be sanded and applied with oil at least once a year in order to retain its rich colour. Cedar and pine also need to be treated annually with a protective stain or finish in order to increase and maintain its longevity.
Metal – Wrought iron and aluminum
For durability and versatility, you can’t beat wrought iron or aluminum patio furniture.
Both types of metal come in a variety of designs from traditional to contemporary. Both metals are usually powder-coated to prevent rust and mildew. Wrought iron is heavy so it’s a great choice for windy areas, while aluminum is lighter and less expensive than wrought iron. Wrought iron and aluminum furniture can be left outdoors all year.
Metal is hard and unforgiving and heats up in the summer sun, so cushions are a must. Wrought iron can be expensive depending on the intricacy of the iron patterns, and is also heavy to move. Aluminum is fairly light so it may dent if it is constantly moved or blown around by high winds. High-end metal sets can be pricey.
Chances are the wicker furniture and the Muskoka chairs you spied in the patio store are made from resin, not wicker or wood.
Resin chairs and tables resist sun and water, and remain cool to the touch. They can be left out in any weather without the worry of mildew. They are also manoeuvrable, stackable, and very durable. Resin chairs won’t fade or crack like its close cousin – plastic. Resin furniture is also often constructed from enviro wood which is a composite of recycled plastic. Best of all, the price is right.
Resin is made from a polymer which means it contains several chemicals and additives. It is also fairly lightweight so chairs may need to be stacked during a windy day. It is not biodegradable.
Molded plastic furniture have come a long way from its humble beginnings and now comes in funky new colours and more contemporary designs.
Outdoor plastic furniture will not break the bank. Plus, your carbon footprint may be reduced since some plastic products are crafted out of recycled materials. In addition, it is light, easy to move, and waterproof. It is also extremely easy to maintain – a bucket of soapy water and a stiff brush will remove most of the season’s grime. It can last for a long time with a minimum of attention.
The major disadvantage of plastic furniture is its weight and look. Be prepared to chase after your chairs in high winds, and plan on scrubbing off built-in dirt. Plastic furniture looks … well, plastic. It also contains chemicals and additives. Plastic furniture will fade and turn brittle in the sun so you might have to replace your patio set every few seasons.
Choose your patio furniture wisely and enjoy the outdoor comfort for years to come.
By Beverley Burgess Bell