Guide to Outdoor Furniture Materials

Shopping for outdoor furniture can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Unlike indoor furniture, factors like being able to withstand various weather conditions become vital in determining which is best suited for your home. In reality, there are a lot of great materials for outdoor furniture, but what fares well in one climate or home, may not fare well in another.

This guide will cover popular materials for outdoor furniture, including performance during particular climates and care tips. Use the chart below as a general reference of where to start. Then browse through specific sections to read about the benefits of each material and care tips. 

Essen furniture materialsPlastic

Plastic is highly popular as it’s able to withstand all kinds of weather and is not prone to rotting, cracking or moisture. Due to its lightweight characteristics and price-point, it’s easy to rearrange and come in various colors and textures. Plastic has really come a long way and there is now plastic outdoor furniture that can even resemble wood.

Essen Polignano Wicker

Resin wicker, a product that is more natural in its origin, is easily the biggest winner in this category for its ability to have a sleek, polished look while still resembling natural wicker, but without added maintenance.

Benefits:

  • Maintenance – requires little to no maintenance
  • Withstands – humidity, rain, wind, and extreme temperatures
  • Resistant – fading and moisture (will not experience mildew, rotting, or rust)
  • Eco-friendly – oftentimes made from recycled material

Care: Low

  • Easy to clean by spraying down or with water and mild soap for dust and dirt removal

Aluminum

Under the metal family, aluminum is the most common for its durability, affordability, and resistance to rust. Most metals will corrode or oxidize over time, especially in salt water areas, but those who prefer metal style outdoor furniture will be happy to know that aluminum won’t have that issue. However, it is lightweight, so this material may not be suitable in areas that experience frequent or strong high winds. If you’re set on aluminum metal outdoor furniture and happen to be in an area with strong wind, opt for cast aluminum. Consider pairing with material like fabric to help soften the look.

Benefits:

  • Maintenance – requires little maintenance
  • Withstands – humidity, rain, and extreme temperatures
  • Resistant – fading and moisture (will not experience mildew, rotting, or rust)

Care: Low

  • Easy to clean by using a soft cloth or sponge with mild soap and warm water
  • May require spot restoration with wax or paint

Cement

Though not necessarily at the top of your mind for outdoor furniture, there is a place for cement outdoor furniture. Cement fits well with ultra-modern homes that aesthetically cater to sleek, contemporary designs. Design-conscious homeowners may find that cement suits their patio and will often pair this material with wood.  It would be important to note that while cement is strong and durable, it is porous and prone to staining from liquids and not easy to rearrange. However, cement can easily combat stains and corrosion with a non-porous epoxy top coat.

Benefits:

  • Durable and strong
  • Withstands – wind and extreme temperatures
  • Resistant – fading and rust

Care: Medium

  • Spot clean spills as soon as possible with mild soap and water.
  • For more aggressive spills, use household chlorine, 1 part bleach to 2 parts water.

Wrought iron

Once the leader in outdoor furniture, wrought iron has dropped in rankings. While it is fade, water, and wind resistant, its pronation to rust, high maintenance requirements,  weight, and high price point no longer makes it supreme. These days, you’ll find wrought iron outdoor furniture will be coated with powder for protection. Another consideration with wrought iron is having to make additional complementary, yet necessary purchases. If your outdoor furniture is sitting in the sun for too long, you’ll want to cover your furniture or purchasing cushions to avoid burns.

Benefits:

  • Durable
  • Withstands – wind and extreme heat
  • Resistant – water, fade, and wind

Care: High

  • Regular cleaning and spot cleaning are necessary with mild soap and warm water
  • Apply rust protector and a protective coat frequently
  • For areas where rust has built up, spot clean, sand down the affected area, paint, apply rust protector, and a protective coat

Stainless steel

Steel is the strongest, but heaviest and most expensive in the metal family of outdoor furniture. Stainless steel works well in various outdoor conditions such as wind, extreme temperatures, and even does well when exposed to salt water in marine environments. However, bear in mind that steel furniture will corrode when in contact with chlorine and therefore needs to have a powder coat finish if positioned poolside.

Benefits:

  • Durable and strong
  • Withstands – wind and extreme heat
  • Resistant – water, rust, fade, and wind

Care: Medium to high

  • Regular cleaning and spot cleaning are necessary with mild soap and warm water
  • Apply rust protector and a protective coat frequently

Fabric

No material is going to put you on cloud 9 outdoors like upholstered outdoor furniture. Outdoor fabrics can be made from various materials, but most are focused on weaving patterns that are breathable while still being resistant to fading, moisture, and other damages. Advantages and care will vary from material to material. Homeowners should shop for water resistant synthetic fibers like vinyl, polyester, acrylic, etc., but should also consider weather-resistant fill material that aren’t prone to mold and mildew.

Wicker

Essen Amalfi wicker

Wicker comes in two forms: natural and resin. Natural wicker is often found in homes that enjoy a more classic look that is not only lightweight, but comfortable as well. Traditional wicker made from rattan, seagrass, or bamboo is strong and durable. Natural wicker also has a natural aversion to pests. While natural wicker can experience cracking, warping, or mildew, many homeowners who prefer natural wicker will need to put in some routine maintenance throughout the year to keep it looking its best.

Resin wicker is much more common these days for its ability to withstand all weathers, its durability, resistance to fading and low maintenance. Many homeowners enjoy the versatility of resin wicker as its able to blend with its environment and can fit with various types of landscape. Resin wicker production has become so refined that it becomes indistinguishable to natural wicker so homeowners can still enjoy that natural, classic look without the maintenance or cost.

Benefits for resin wicker:

  • Maintenance – very low maintenance and care
  • Durable and strong
  • Withstands – wind, humidity, rain, and extreme heat
  • All-weather material and resistant – water, rust, fade, and wind

Care: Low

  • For natural wicker, use mild soap, water, and ammonia for surface level cleaning and gently mist wicker with water every few weeks to avoid dryness
  • For resin wicker, wipe down dust and dirt with a clean cloth, then hose down early in the day to allow sufficient drying time

Eucalyptus Wood

Essen Puglia wood

A contender against the greats, Eucalyptus wood is popular with furniture buyers for its rot- and decay-resistant oils found throughout the wood, but without the high price tag. Its ability to block moisture from damage and wood bulging means you can expect decades of reliable service and comfort from your furniture. This durable wood is also resistant to insects that are often floating around in warmer climates and termites. Like fine red wine, Eucalyptus looks better with age and requires very little maintenance. Unlike other wood products, you won’t experience graying with Eucalyptus wood. With over 600 variations, Eucalyptus wood offers many unique, attractive finishes while also being incredibly eco-friendly and low-maintenance.

Benefits:

  • Eco-friendly, sustainable material
  • Insect-proof
  • Withstands – wind, rain, and extreme heat
  • All-weather material and resistant – water, rust, fade, and wind

Care: Low to medium

  • Spot clean as soon as possible to avoid stains or discoloration
  • Regularly wipe and clean with mild soap and water
  • Use a preservative product such as teak or linseed oil

Acacia Wood

Essen catania wood

Acacia has a reputation for its durability to last for decades with its rich brown color and golden undertones. While the density, scratch resistance, and surface hardness properties are prevalent in Acacia wood, those properties further increase after its been processed and shaped.  It’s also a sustainable product with over 1,300 different variations making it widely accessible and eco-friendly. The versatility in grain patterns, like our Catania Picnic Set, is second to none and can even give a lighter, natural material look than teak. However, Acacia wood does require a bit of maintenance, but with proper treatment, your furniture will keep its rich color throughout the seasons.

Benefits:

  • Eco-friendly, sustainable material
  • Durable and strong
  • Withstands – wind, humidity, rain, and extreme heat
  • All-weather material and resistant – water, rust, fade, and wind

Care: Medium

  • Spot clean as soon as possible
  • Clean with mild soap and warm water and allow sufficient time to dry under the sun.
  • Avoid products with silicone or ammonia
  • Use a preservative oil-based product to maintain its rich brown hues.

 

 


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