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Choosing the Best Material for Outdoor Furniture

When selecting outdoor furniture, one of the first things to consider is the material it is made from and whether or not the furniture pieces will be exposed to the elements. Even if your furniture is situated under a canopy or other ‘protection’, it is still subject to the wind, rain and other extremes of the weather. As such, durability is imperative.

If you have a great outdoor space on your property, dressing an area with furniture to enjoy the outdoors can really boost your home’s appeal. Choosing the right type of furniture for the outdoor space is crucial for really getting the most out of the garden.

UK dwellers in particular, though, will be all too aware of the constant downpours that very often overshadow our spring and summer days. With this in mind, it's a pretty smart decision to choose a material that's water-resistant, regardless of its placement in the outdoors. Looking for a weatherproof material can help reduce the damage caused by the weather and add longevity to your outdoor furniture.

Understanding the various water-resistant materials that are suited to being outdoors will narrow your options and help you find furniture capable of braving the outdoors come rain or shine. Waterproof outdoor furniture pieces are usually made of materials such as mahogany, teak, cast aluminium, PE wicker, plastic and PVC wicker.

Mahogany

Characterised by its brown-red colour, mahogany is a hardwood. Harder than other woods, such as pine and oak, mahogany is very durable. In fact, it is up to 70% more stable than any other forms of hardwood including as oak or balsa.

It possesses no pockets or grooves, which makes it completely immune to water damage. Seasonal changes can cause intense humidity. During these periods, mahogany endures minimal swelling and shrinkage.

However, even though mahogany can be used for outdoor furniture such as dining tables and chairs, the wood has to be kept away from direct sunlight. Heat can damage the wood and the finish if it is subject to this direct exposure over long periods of time.

While mahogany is popular for use in the home for furniture like bookshelves and chairs, this is probably where the material is best kept. Its ability to withstand a whole variety of environments, including wet ones, sees it remain popular but longevity may be questioned after a few years.

Teak

Teak wood consists of natural properties that are incredibly well-suited to the outdoors. Its durability means it is unlikely to rot or be subject to any afflictions like decay that can occur on other woods such as mango wood. Teak is extremely adaptable with resistance to rain and various climates. The material’s tough endurance means furniture made from it typically requires little or no maintenance.

Teak wood is crafted from three grades, A, B and C. Grade A teak is usually up to 50 years old and is found at the centre of the tree log. Teak possesses dense oils which allow the material to resist temperature changes and the outdoor weather. Many garden benches are crafted from teak due to its beauty and natural oil content.

This material is ideal for outdoor use. The rain won’t pose a problem either. It has an almost complete immunity to water, rain and various climates. Teak wood furniture lasts for many years (in some cases over 100 years) and if you're looking for outdoor furniture to serve you for a lifetime, teak is the best choice.

Cast Aluminium

Cast aluminium is a metal that has gone through a process known as casting. It is created when a method such as mould casting is used to temper the aluminium for use with the creation of many different types of outdoor products.

Castings made from aluminium are corrosion resistant. This quality allows garden furniture manufacturers to produce many items of outdoor furniture, including tables and chairs, that won’t rust, even giving their metal nature. The finished products have the benefit of a longer lifetime ensuring the consumer usually receives value for money.

Another great benefit of this material is that it will not rust and is durable enough to withstand the diversity of the weather, particularly an onslaught of rain.

Minimal maintenance is required for cast aluminium furniture. Besides cleaning occasionally, there tends to be no need for upkeep. Whilst it is lightweight enough to be easily moved, cast aluminium furniture is also heavy and sturdy enough to feel stable and not blow around when it is windy, making it a popular material for many homeowners.

PE Wicker

PE Wicker (also known as resin wicker) is made from a synthetic material. Very similar to plastic or wood, this material can last for many years. The material and processes used to manufacture this wicker ensures it does not split. Not only is wicker resin resistant to splitting, it can withstand humidity, rain, extreme cold, and hot temperatures. Other materials, such as mahogany, cannot withstand these types of damaging weather.

Wicker that is manufactured from rattan reeds or cane does not possess the properties needed to hold up well under wet conditions. For example, a wet (natural fibre) wicker chair may dent or even break when sat on.

There is no need to bring furniture indoors when a piece of furniture made from PE Wicker is not in use. This feature is important for many since it can become cumbersome to repeatedly be bringing furniture inside when the weather worsens.
Since PE wicker withstands any wet and windy elements and direct sunlight, this makes the material a popular choice for outdoor furniture. Many people desire the look of natural wicker making PE wicker the ideal alternative to the non-water-resistant natural material.

Plastic

Plastic furniture is inexpensive and lightweight. Plastic is generally very hard wearing, so rough handling or dropping will not be a problem if proper care is taken. This material has little or no maintenance cost and will not require regular cleaning or upkeep like wooden furniture. Plastic furniture is weather resistant. It can be left unattended in any element as it does not get rusted, cracked or weathered.

On the other hand, plastic furniture lacks the longevity needed for an outdoor space. If proper care is not taken, this material can be subjected to some common damages.

Not all plastic is greatly sturdy and unfortunately you cannot predict if your piece of furniture can withstand a heavy weight or pressure. This can be deemed quite unsafe for some, especially with young children.

Although plastic holds weather resistant qualities, it quite often lacks elegance. This is extremely noticeable when compared to wooden pieces of furniture, especially teak. Plastic furniture lacks originality, and does not emit the same aura as wooden or aluminium furniture depicts today.

Wicker

There are many benefits to wicker material, including that it is extremely lightweight. The natural materials used in wicker for outdoor furniture are environmentally friendly. However, wicker does not have waterproof coating properties resulting in the material deteriorating quickly when exposed to heavy downpours or heated temperatures.

Making sure this material has limited exposure to the elements will assist you to maximise its overall durability, although it may prove quite inconvenient. Limiting this exposure can prevent cracking of the natural materials. If you are looking for patio furniture made of wicker, then PE wicker (above) is more resilient, especially if you live in a climate that receives a lot of humidity.

If you're after furniture that is bamboo-like, rattan (wicker) material is fast growing and sustainable. Unfortunately a drawback to using wicker furniture is its susceptibility to damage. This material may not stand up well outdoors to bad weather.

How Do I Choose?

Outdoor furniture is manufactured from a range of material. Consumers are usually looking for the furniture to be durable, have a long life expectancy and have style, despite coming into contact with a medley of weather conditions each day.

Of course, some materials are stronger than others and serve longer when used for the outdoors. When choosing the right furniture for your outdoor space, take an in depth look at each of the available materials. Then, weigh up their different advantages and disadvantages.

All materials, like wicker and wood, have their own strengths and weaknesses in different areas. For example, teak is more resistant to rot and rain than untreated eucalyptus, and resin wicker is less likely to morph in the heat, unlike traditional rattan.