How To / February 23,2017
With the weather warming up, there’s no better place to sit back and relax than on your patio, so it’s important that you’ve chosen good quality outdoor furniture that will not only stand up to the elements but also provide the comforts of indoor living. The process of choosing what’s best for your needs can be difficult if you are unsure of where to start, but if you know some of the basics, such as what materials are used and why, it can really help you eliminate the guesswork that comes with deciding on what will work best in your outdoor space. Read on to learn more about some of the most popular materials used in creating some of the best patio furniture out there.
Choosing a solid frame is particularly important for outdoor seating, from outdoor sofas to sun loungers and dining chairs, but the materials used also plays a big role in how your outdoor living space will be styled. With a wide range of frames to choose from, it’s essential that the core of your outdoor furniture is both durable and long-lasting, as well as suited to your taste.
A popular choice amongst outdoor enthusiasts, wicker is a highly versatile material used for outdoor furniture as it is comfortable, stylish and suitable for use indoors as well as outdoors. Wicker is generally made of bamboo, cane or rattan woven tightly onto a lightweight, rustproof aluminium frame making it exceptionally lightweight and easy to move around. Most outdoor wicker today is made of a synthetic resin wicker which has been treated, making it hard wearing and more resistant to the elements. Wicker not only gives your garden or patio a natural look but also creates a coastal feel.
Pictured: MODA Seven Ways Lounge made with high-grade PE wicker
Stainless steel is a good choice for the outdoors as it makes for very sturdy and durable furniture that’s resistant to rust. Being one of the heavier choices of material (heavier than aluminium but lighter than wrought iron), it’s best to pick a spot where your furniture will live for a while so there’s not too much need for moving around. Stainless steel furniture is generally made from two grades of steel; 316 grade (otherwise known as marine grade) which works best for coastal, marine or heavily chlorinated environments or 304 grade which is more commonly used for standard outdoor settings. Steel can be finished in a number of ways, but is usually polished or brushed.
Pictured: Element 8 Seater Outdoor Dining Set made with brushed stainless steel
Though not as strong as it’s above lookalike, aluminium is still a very durable yet lightweight option when it comes to fitting out your outdoor space. It’s a pretty low maintenance choice as it won’t rust and is easy to clean, and tends to be somewhat more affordable than it’s steel twin (depending on quality). Powder coated aluminium is a very popular choice of finishing as it not only provides a protective but also decorative touch to your outdoor furniture, but anodised aluminium is also widely used because of it’s hardwearing abilities and resistance to the sun.
Pictured: Horizon Outdoor Corner Lounge made with powder coated aluminium
There are many types of woods used for outdoor furniture, but one of the most popular is teak because of it’s resistance to rotting, warping and swelling. Like most wooden furniture items, teak must be well cared for as it tends to turns gray if left untreated. As it’s a little on the expensive side, eucalyptus might be a good alternative as it is similar in durability and slightly easier to maintain. Cedar and pine are also suitable choices for outdoor use, but like teak require a bit of maintenance such as painting, sealing or varnishing to ensure it is long lasting.
The most affordable of all materials, plastic can be a good choice if you are after something that’s lightweight, space-savvy (i.e. stackable) and inexpensive. It might not stand the test of time like the above materials, but if style and longevity is not high on the priority list but affordability is, this could be the option for you.
The importance of choosing the right fabric for your outdoor furniture is often overlooked, but it plays a major part in how long your furniture will last. Quality, durability, style, comfort and price are all important factors that can turn your backyard wishes into a dream or a nightmare, so whether it’s cushion covers or a fully upholstered outdoor lounge, don’t let your choice of fabric be an afterthought!
Without a doubt, Sunbrella fabric is one of the best known outdoor fabric manufacturers, but what exactly is it? Sunbrella is a 100% solution-dyed acrylic, meaning that the fibers of the fabric are individually dyed in a colour solution before the fabric is woven, as opposed to the colour being printed on the fabric at a later stage. This results in fabric that is long lasting in both colour and performance, and is water, fade and stain resistant making it an excellent choice for use around pool settings. Premium quality also comes with a premium price tag, so see below for more options that might be appropriate for the budget-conscious buyer.
Pictured: June Outdoor L Shape Lounge made with Sunbrella fabric
A solution-dyed polyester such as Spuncrylic uses the same methods as above but with a different material. Much of the same applies with Spuncrylic, as it’s also weather resistant and easy to clean yet provides a more affordable solution at a similar level of quality. Spuncrylic is an excellent alternative for outdoor enthusiasts who want to see their outdoor furniture stand the test of time but who, like most people, are trying to work within the constraints of a budget.
Canvas is usually made of cotton or hemp and is a widely popular choice for outdoor furniture due to it’s durability and affordability. Canvas dyes quite easily so you can usually find it in a wide range of colours and patterns, and although it’s weather and water resistant to a certain degree, it’s better suited to a setting that won’t be in the midst of too much water play.
Textilene is a woven mesh fabric made of polyester and specially coated with PVC so as to withstand outdoor use. A huge drawcard is that it is flame and mold resistant, and of course, like most outdoor furniture is water and fade resistant making it a great choice for poolside furniture. Textilene fabric is perfectly suited to the outdoors, and is widely used in sling furniture because of it’s durability, comfort and stylish qualities.
Pictured: Element Outdoor Sun Lounge and Table (Twin Set) made with textilene fabric
Comfort is an important factor to consider when choosing your outdoor lounge, and just as the frame and fabric choices will determine the longevity of your furniture, so will the type of foam you use. Most padded furniture uses a standard foam which is typically found in both indoor and outdoor furniture, and although water resistant fabrics might hold off some liquids that are trying to seep through, if left out in wet weather it will only be a matter of time before water is sitting in the foam. But there is a solution! Some outdoor furniture is made with quick-dry foam, essentially made with holes to allow water to run through the foam rather than sit. Considered a premium product, this type of foam comes with a heftier price tag than the standard option but it’s definitely something to consider if you are after the highest in quality for your outdoor product.
Pictured: Riva Outdoor Sofa Suite made with quick-dry foam
Glass is a beautiful choice for table tops and when it comes to outdoor furniture, this is no different. Tempered glass, or toughened glass as it is commonly known, is widely used for outdoor dining, coffee and side tables because of its smoothness, durability and ease of cleaning. The safety aspect of using tempered glass is reason enough to choose this type of glass over others; upon impact it won’t break like regular glass, instead it will shatter into small blunt pieces as opposed to sharp jagged shards.
Pictured: Letizia 9-Pce Outdoor Wicker Dining Set made with tempered glass (table top)
A little bit of research will go a long way in helping you decide what type of furniture is best for your backyard, but it’s also a good idea to have a think about how you will be using your furniture as well as understanding your environment - will you be doing a lot of outdoor entertaining with these products or will you mostly be using your space as a quiet little nook? Do you have a pool? Is your backyard covered with trees? Does it rain a lot where you live? The elements can be quite rough on furniture and nothing is indestructible so you should always keep your outdoor possessions covered when not in use. Quality materials will only take your furniture so far, but love, care and a bit of common sense goes a long way in ensuring your patio furniture will stand the test of time.