Choosing patio furniture

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru,

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There is much more to choosing patio furniture than simply finding a patio set that looks good. With the prices of patio furniture on the rise, it's important to choose patio furniture that will last a long time and maintain its good looks.

Patio Furniture Materials

There are three basic choices of materials to consider when shopping for patio furniture: Plastic (PVC or Resin), Metal (Iron) and Wood. Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks. Here is a summary that may help you make the best patio furniture choice for you. In addition to those listed below, there is also rattan furniture: Furniture made of woven peel or rattan is supposed to be immune to damage by the weather. However, like redwood furniture, peel and rattan will look better and last longer if it is coated regularly with a protective finish such as a spar varnish or weatherproof plastic coating.

Plastic (PVC or Resin) Patio Furniture
  • This type of patio furniture is 100% weather-resistant.
  • Resin-based patio furniture is cool to the touch in hot weather. Not all PVC products are.
  • Resin patio furniture can be molded to resemble wicker or wood. PVC looks like plumbing pipe.
  • PVC and Resin patio furniture contain chemicals such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as well as other chemical additives including UV stabilizers, pigments, fire retardants, lubricants, fungicides and foaming agents.
  • This is generally the least expensive type of patio furniture.
Metal (Iron) Patio Furniture
  • Metal patio furniture is generally made from iron. The strength and longevity of the patio furniture depends upon the manufacturing process used. The three options are: extrusion, casting, and forging/welding. Forging is usually considered the strongest, but it is also the most expensive.
  • Because iron is so heavy, the furniture is hard to move but it's stable in windy conditions.
  • Iron patio furniture is often hot to the touch in warm weather.
  • Iron patio furniture is subject to rust or corrosion depending upon the metal used.
  • The surface areas require re-painting when damage occurs.

Wood Patio Furniture

There are over 400 species of wood available to make furniture with, but most of them are not candidates for patio furniture. Here are they three most common woods used to make patio furniture:
  1. Pressure-Treated Lumber Pressure-treated lumber is any wood that has been soaked under high pressure with chemicals such as chromated copper arsenate (CCA) (now outlawed for health reasons) or alkaline copper quat (ACQ). Pressurization is used to make sure that the chemicals reach the wood's core. The chemicals are intended to make the wood insect and water resistant. Because of the chemicals used in making patio furniture from pressure treated lumber, screws nails and bolts tend to corrode quickly.

    The manufacturers of pressure treated lumber warn: "Do not use pressure-treated wood for making cutting boards, or for any food preparation surface," making its use for picnic tables rather dubious.

  2. Redwood

    Redwood is a relatively softwood that is made from the California Sequoia tree. It is used for patio furniture primarily because it holds up well in the weather and it naturally resists decay. Redwood tends to fade in sunlight and the wood is soft enough that it can easily be scratched or dented during use. Contrary to popular belief, caring for redwood furniture isn't a difficult task. If you do it well and the proper way, you'll have a beautiful furniture set that will last you a long time.

  3. Teak

    Teak is a very popular wood that is used for manufacturing patio furniture because it is naturally water and insect-resistant without requiring chemical treatment. It is a very hard wood that holds up well under use, is not affected by suntan lotion, body oil, pool or sea water, or the elements in general.

    Teak outdoor furniture comes in a natural honey brown color that does not requires stain or paint. As it ages, the wood turns a beautiful grey color, but it can easily be returned to its natural color with a light sanding.

    The best patio furniture is made from Grade "A" Teak which does not have any knots or defects. Teak park benches used in the Commons of London have been in continual service for more than 70 years which speaks to the strength and durability of Teak for use in patio furniture. Note: Teak patio furniture tends to be the most expensive.

Some tips when choosing patio furniture:
  • Measure the space and consider who will use it and for what purposes. A quiet reading nook needs different furniture than a place to host your son's baseball team.
  • Survey what's available in quality patio furniture: Surf the Internet, check decorating magazines and visit local shops.
  • Choose fabrics treated with water and stain repellants or treat them yourself before using. Plan to clean and retreat fabrics annually.
  • Keep budget in mind, but shop for value over price. Flimsy materials, complicated assemblies and delivery hassles can be costly in the long run.

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