Outdoor Furniture Materials: Which Should You Choose?
Helpful tips on what material to choose to make the most of your outdoor space
No longer limited to traditional wicker and heavy wrought iron, outdoor furniture now comes in a variety of styles, materials, and designs. From contemporary sleek to country chic, finding styles that suit your taste is easier than ever.
IntroductionSpending time with friends on the terrace or in the garden, lounging around the pool, or having a candlelit dinner on the deck is what makes summer wonderful. Most of us try to find ways to bring our living spaces outdoors. Rather than being considered a luxury, making the most of outdoor space, no matter how small or large, is now considered essential.
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So, it's essential to furnish these spaces well. The right furniture helps us weather the outdoors well, including offering protection from sun and rain. Knowing what to look for is as important for choosing outdoor furniture as it is for the furniture we put inside our homes. In fact, choosing outdoor furniture is even more critical, as it has to stand up to sun, wind, and storms, not to mention everyday use.
WoodFor outdoor furniture, the choice of woods is almost endless; there's teak, cypress, mahogany, and beech, just to name a few. The wood may be stained, oiled, or painted, depending on the species of wood and where the furniture is meant to be placed.
Nature has provided us with certain weather-resistant types of wood. Teak, native to India, Burma, and Thailand, is the most popular. Known for its durability and resistance to weather and decay, teak ranges in color from olive to medium brown when oiled; when left unprotected, it will turn to a silvery gray. Cedar resembles teak in its natural resistance to decay. The best part feature of cedar may be its insect-repelling aroma. It also turns to a silvery gray when left in its natural state.
When purchasing wood furniture, look for solid construction, solid brass or stainless steel hardware, and a rich, even finish with very few knots. Wood outdoor furniture is extremely versatile. Depending on the type of wood, it may require maintenance.
Extra tips for gracious outdoor living
AluminumAluminum is the most popular of all outdoor materials because of its durable, lightweight, and rust-resistant characteristics. Except in areas of high wind, it's suitable for almost anywhere outdoors. Look for smooth welds and stainless steel hardware when purchasing aluminum furniture. A powder-coated or baked-on finish is preferred. There are three types of aluminum available: tubular, cast, and wrought.
Most aluminum furniture is made using hollow tubing, which is bent to form frames and then welded together. Tubular aluminum is often used for contemporary designs.
Cast aluminum can be costly but is amazingly durable and allows for very elaborate and complicated design work. As with iron, cast aluminum is an investment—not for the family that likes to change furniture with every season.
Wrought aluminum furniture is hand-forged much like wrought iron but offers the high-tech properties of aluminum. Wrought aluminum, however, cannot duplicate the intricate designs of traditional wrought iron.
Well made aluminum requires very little maintenance. To care for aluminum, apply a coat of liquid wax to the frame each season and occasionally wash with water and detergent to prolong the beauty of your pieces.