In the previous article I wrote about outdoor furniture, I explored the advantages and disadvantages of plastic, resin and wicker/rattan as materials. Of course, these are not all the options – some of the most beautiful and longest-lasting patio accessories are made from wrought iron, aluminum and wood.
As I mentioned in the first article, it’s important to shop carefully when you are looking for outdoor furniture. Quality and price can vary greatly, and you should be sure you get what you pay for. Since you are probably planning to use your outdoor furniture for many years to come, think about spending a little more to get well-made items that will last.
Here’s a look at iron, aluminum, and wooden outdoor furniture.
Iron – Some of the loveliest outdoor furniture is made of metal, especially antique-look wrought iron, which is popular for bistro sets. Iron can be painted in a wide variety of colors and can be found in a wide price range, and is also very good for fixed items like garden benches.
Because iron is heavy, it will last. However, it also makes it difficult to move easily. On the other hand, you probably won’t need to, because it’s a tough material that will resist bad weather, and so you should be able to leave it outside year-round. It also will not blow over in heavy winds.
One disadvantage of iron is that it’s not as comfortable as other types of seating, and the metal can heat up to burning temperatures in the hot sun. However, cushions can take care of these problems, and you may want to consider a shade structure over your wrought iron furniture to keep it cool.
Well-made wrought iron will last many years with regular maintenance. It will need to be repainted from time to time as it ages to prevent rust.
When shopping for wrought iron furniture, look at how it’s manufactured to make sure you are buying quality pieces. Wrought iron can be made either by extrusion, casting, or forging/welding, with the last option considered the strongest.
Aluminum – You’ll also see outdoor furniture made of aluminum, either as inexpensive folding chairs or more permanent, better-grade items. Some really beautiful aluminum furniture is now being manufactured, although you will need to pay more for better quality pieces.
Look for cast aluminum with a special powder coating on the metal, which helps it resist corrosion. Also, any furniture that has nuts and bolts will be a sign of a cheaper manufacturing process; the best quality pieces have smooth joint work.
Unlike wrought iron, aluminum will stay cooler in the heat, and is easier to move. Very inexpensive, lightweight aluminum furniture should be stowed during periods of bad weather; heavier-grade pieces can be left outside.
Wood – A number of different woods are used to make patio furniture, with teak, redwood and eucalyptus being most popular these days. All three will hold up well to outdoor use, although if left bare, will fade to a silvery color in the sunlight (which some people prefer). Wood can also be stained, varnished or painted.
Wood furniture is durable and will last many years with proper care; it’s important to look for quality here as well, because cheaper products may not hold up as well. Wood is heavier than resin and plastic, though not as heavy as wrought iron.
Wood stays cool to the touch in hot weather. Since wood is a natural product and looks great, many homeowners prefer it over other types of outdoor furniture; however, avoid any furniture made from pressure-treated lumber, which contains hazardous chemicals.
Redwood, teak and eucalyptus all are naturally resistant to insects and decay, although redwood is somewhat soft and may dent. Teak has become desirable, not just because of the beautiful color of the wood, but also because its natural oils make it water-resistant. However, it is usually the most expensive type of wooden outdoor furniture. Eucalyptus is relatively new as an outdoor furniture material, but can be less pricey than other types.
Wood furniture should be covered or stowed during the winter and periods of wet weather in order to look its best.