What Type of Outdoor Furniture is Right for You?

Posted On: 12-01-2016
By: Michael Brown, Outdoor Living Consultant

High quality patio furniture can be a big investment, but it can also offer huge rewards. Comfortable, long-lasting furniture will greatly enhance your enjoyment of your outdoor space. And who knows... you just might find yourself spending more time in the great outdoors in your own backyard. But, with such a dizzying array of outdoor furnishings available in so many types, what best suits your needs? Lets explore some different options, noting their advantages, drawbacks, and some of the misconceptions about them.

Wrought Iron Furniture...

Your mother had it, your grandma had it, and most likely she still does. Wrought iron is practically indestructible. Its heavyweight construction can make it ideal for areas with very strong winds. Most wrought iron furniture will require quality cushions for comfort ( we'll talk more about that in a bit ) and is offered in a large variety of styles and sizes. All that weight can be a problem though if your are planning on moving your furniture often. With wrought iron ( unlike aluminum ) there is some possibility of rust. Usually this is an easy fix. Some steel wool and a spritz of paint will have it looking new again. High quality wrought iron from American manufacturers like OW Lee, Woodard, and Meadowcraft employ modern techniques like galvanizing and powder coating that effectively prevent rust. However, if your furniture will be in standing water ( say around a pool ) you'll want to consider if wrought iron is a good choice for you.

Extruded aluminum...

Lightweight, incredibly strong, never rusts. High grade aluminum is used to construct aircraft for just these reasons...the same reasons that make it ideal for patio furnishings. Extruded aluminum is forced thru a steel die to create lengths of material which can the be bent and welded into finished furniture.The result is a " hollow " material ( flat or tubular ) with reinforcement channels inside for strength. Most of what we think of as patio furniture is extruded aluminum. So...what's the difference between a high quality chair from an established company like Winston or Tropitone and a cheaper chair from a no-name import company? A big part of it is the the thickness of those outer walls and inner channels. A thicker extrusion will not crack when bent and shaped into furniture. These cracks are often tiny and not noticeable under the paint until the metal begins to break. High end manufactures use extruded aluminum with much thicker outer walls and inner channels that can last a lifetime. If you are looking for furniture that can be moved around easily to accommodate different uses around your patio, pool, or hot tub lightweight extruded aluminum furniture might be just the ticket.

Cast aluminum...

Been looking at that chair that has the perfect Tuscan pattern to suit the look of your home? Most likely you're looking at cast aluminum. Cast aluminum uses molten aluminum poured into a " casting " of sand or steel to create furniture that is solid metal. Elaborate patterns and exquisite detail are some hallmarks of quality cast furniture. Much heavier than its extruded brother, cast aluminum is ideal for areas with higher winds. Anywhere that a more " old world " look is required to compliment the details of your home, or just your personal taste, cast aluminum is a strong contender. And ,of course, no rust ever.

Outdoor woods...

Nothing beats the warmth and natural beauty of wood in your outdoor setting. Even if you'll be using other types of furnishings, the addition of wooden benches or tables can add a touch of variety to your surroundings. Some woods, like teak and ipe, can last for decades. Just remember that no matter what the wood or how it's finished it will gray over time. Some people enjoy this
aged look, and in most cases it will not affect the longevity of the wood at all. But if you want to maintain the original look of your wood furniture some maintenance will be needed. Fortunately, most companies offer cleaning or re-coloring products that make keeping your wood furniture looking like new much less of a chore.

Recycled plastics....

One of the newest categories of outdoor furniture are environmentally-friendly recycled plastics...and why not? With solid, weighty construction, vibrant colors, and almost no upkeep required recycled furniture has become a popular choice for boat docks, and seaside settings among others. Maintenance is as simple as a garden hose and pressure nozzle. Durability? Well...it's plastic. If it will last 500 years in a landfill it ought to do okay in your backyard.

Which leads us to our two most misunderstood categories of furniture....

Sling furniture...

Sling is the lazy mans furniture. Upkeep? Wipe it down with mild, soapy water a couple of times a year and hose it off...simple as that. Slings are a vinyl-based material stretched across the frame of a chair to create a seat and back. Slings can be cooler to sit in because the open-weave nature of the material. Even after a pouring rain, sling furniture can be dry and ready to use within a very short time. They also offer surprising comfort, especially the chairs that swivel and rock.

But often in the store a customer will dismiss sling furnishings out of hand. Sometimes they are simply seeking a different look. Sometimes though, a few questions will reveal a concern that when the sling wears out the chair is useless and will have to be discarded. Slings normally will last about 6 to 8 years, but established manufacturers will offer you replacements that will make you chair or chaise look, and sit, like new. Most offer a wide selection of replacement fabrics that can give your old furniture a completely different look. Good sling furniture can give you many years of comfort with almost no upkeep. For all of these reasons, sling furniture remains the largest selling type of outdoor furniture in America.

Cushion Furniture...

Nothing matches the comfort of good cushion furniture. Nothing even comes close. Modern, high-end cushions can offer a level of comfort that will make you King ( or Queen ) of your realm. Still, the most common remark I hear is, " I don't want to take them in and out all the time ". Not necessary...high grade, fast drying foams and miracle fabrics like Sunbrella, Outdura and others assure you that your cushions can be left outdoors, year round, in any weather. What's the worst that can happen? They may still be damp when you want to use them. That's it. These fabrics, also used in boating and commercial applications, are water resistant, stain resistant, and easy to clean. As with slings, they can be replaced by the manufacturer in huge variety of fabrics.

There are more choices than ever before to compliment your outdoor lifestyle. With a little planning and knowledge you can make a purchase that will give you years of satisfaction.

Happy shopping.

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