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Strong for summer

Wood, plastic, metal or wicker: which material can withstand outdoor living?

When shopping around for some new outdoor furniture, we normally crosshair on two main elements: design and colour. However, one factor which we normally ignore, yet which is equally critical, is material.

Outdoor furniture is made from a variety of natural and manufactured materials. Given the main purpose of such furniture, all materials used are durable and can withstand the elements. However, while some materials are more weather resistant, others are easier to maintain and will still look good in the years to come. Also, your choice depends on climate: some materials are more resistant to rain while others will last for years in direct sun.

All materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Wood, for instance, is very durable but requires more maintenance. On the other hand, synthetic wicker is fairly weather-resistant but is very light and so may suffer in strong winds. Wrought iron has been used to make garden furniture for years and is very durable – however, larger pieces need a lot of strength to move around.

In order to make the best decision when buying outdoor furniture, you should do some research on the characteristics of each type of material and see which best suits our climate and your garden. For instance, if your garden is in full sun all day long, then plastic might be your best option. If, on the other hand, you plan to place your garden furniture directly on soil, which is more often than not moist from watering, then avoid some types of wood.

Plastic ticks most boxes. It is the least expensive option, comes in a variety of colours and, since it can be molded, comes in all shapes and sizes. It can withstand harsh weather and is resistant to moisture. Moreover, it is lightweight and can be stored easily: chairs, for instance, can usually be stacked and relegated to a corner for the winter. However, plastic furniture is not always the best looking of the bunch and if you don’t take good care of it, after a couple of years, it will start fading and pitting. That said, it all depends on your budget – there is good quality plastic furniture which will last longer without showing the wear.

Wood is another option. Softwoods like cedar and pine are affordable but are not as resistant as hardwoods such as teak and redwood. Teak is an especially strong wood with a beautiful grained finish. Moreover, it produces its own oil and so can protect itself. Still, wood can suffer harsh weather conditions and dew. However, if treated well with oils and sealants, outdoor furniture made of wood can last for years.

Wicker is another popular option for garden furniture. You can choose between natural and synthetic wicker. Natural options include cane and bamboo while the more popular synthetic variety is rattan. Wicker is resistant to heat and to clean it, all you need is to give it a good splash of water. Another advantage is that wicker furniture is usually lightweight, which means that you can move it around your garden with ease.

Although not very popular, garden furniture made of stone adds a lot of character to a garden. It can be quite expensive but it is virtually indestructible and will last for years. The biggest disadvantage is that you cannot move it around: once you install it in one place, it will have to stay there.

Metal garden furniture can also be quite expensive. However, it all depends which metal you choose as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Aluminium, for instance, is lightweight, resistant to rust and lends itself very well to modern designs. Moreover, it can survive outside for long periods of time, especially if it has been treated with a powder coat finish.

Wrought iron is another popular choice, especially for a formal or classic garden. Garden furniture made of wrought iron is strong, durable and heavy, which makes it resistant to strong winds. That also makes it quite heavy. Also, iron is not the most comfortable option so you also need to invest in cushions. For cushion fabric, choose a hardwearing type such as canvas, polyester or acrylics.

Whatever material you choose for your garden furniture, some degree of maintenance is involved. Plastic needs to be washed, paints needs a fresh coat every summer, and wood needs sanding and cleaning. But it’s worth all the effort because there’s nothing more pleasant than spending a day outside.

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