Now that the sun has finally decided to make itself known again, it’s time to brush off the outdoor furniture and embrace the alfresco lifestyle once more. All’s well and good until you realize last year’s dining set has been slowly crumbling away in the corner of your backyard, now discolored, cracked, or covered in mold. It’s time for an upgrade – and this time, you’ll want to know which outdoor furniture lasts the longest.
Outdoor furniture doesn’t come cheap, so we all want to be confident that we’re choosing a material that lasts more than just a single summer. Exposure to the elements means that our outdoor chairs, tables, and sofas have to be extra durable to withstand the likes of rain, wind, and changes in temperature. Typically, exterior furniture is made of wood, metal, or plastic, but there are certain types that are better than others – and for furniture that lasts, you’ll need to know what they are.
The good news is, thanks to the help of some experts, we’ve done the work for you. We’ve rustled up a list of materials to look for in your modern outdoor furniture that promise to endure, so you can have a stylish outdoor setting that stands the test of time. Here’s what you need to know.
One of the most popular material choices for garden furniture is wood, and for good reason. This natural option not only has a classic, understated appearance that makes it perfect for your backyard, but it’s durable and hardwearing too.
‘Wood is always a popular choice thanks to its timeless appeal and ability to pair with any style of décor or color scheme,’ says Juliette Thomas, Founder and Director of Juliettes Interiors. ‘Teak is a solid wood that weathers beautifully and will last for years and years with very little attention, so it’s easy to clean and maintain. If it’s not properly taken care of then the wood can stain, however, it can easily be sanded back and re-oiled to restore it.’
As long as you treat the wood with a stain or sealer each season and store your furniture away during the winter, wooden dining sets can serve you year after year. Besides its durability, timber furniture is also less likely to be damaged by extreme weather thanks to its weight. As Deirdre Mc Gettrick, furniture expert and co-founder of Ufurnish, explains: ‘Hardwoods tend to be fairly heavy, which is great to prevent furniture from being blown around in strong winds or storms.’
2. Wrought Iron
Wrought iron has been used for exterior structures and furniture, such as park benches or fences, for centuries. Many of those original installations still remain too, proving the longevity of this material.
As far as metal furniture goes, wrought iron is – quite literally – the strongest choice. This hard-wearing, heavy metal becomes stronger each time it’s heated and worked, and since wrought iron furniture typically has an ornate and intricate design, that means it’s incredibly tough.
Aesthetically, it’s a great option for a vintage look. As Juliette explains: ‘Metal garden furniture adds a dramatic touch to an outdoor space, and wrought iron makes a real statement alongside powder-coated aluminum frames or steel if you need something substantial.’
It is worth bearing in mind, however, that wrought iron can rust. Prolonged exposure to the elements can cause chipping, rust, or even corrosion over time, and cheaper furniture made of alloys will corrode even quicker. ‘For this reason, when opting for metal furniture, always pay close attention to the fixings (where companies often cut corners), as rusting bolts will ruin the look of your furniture,’ urges Juliette. Take a look at the best outdoor furniture brands if you want the promise of quality.
3. Resin wicker
Typically woven in a wicker weave to mimic rattan, synthetic resin furniture is a stylish modern choice of outdoor furniture that’s commonly seen on patios. Low-maintenance, lightweight, and highly durable, it’s also a good option if you’re looking for furniture that lasts, too.
‘Unlike natural materials, these materials are usually UV-resistant and are less likely to fade in the sun,’ says Deidre. ‘They also won’t conduct as much heat, are lightweight, and easy to clean as an added benefit.’
The downside is, while this synthetic material will last year after year and far outlive natural wicker or rattan, it will continue to last long after you’ve finished with it, too. In terms of sustainability then, this one certainly doesn’t top the list. There’s also the fact that resin wicker furniture is lightweight, the fibers being built upon aluminum frames, which makes it susceptible to high winds and consequent damage from tearing.
4. Stainless steel or aluminum
If you want metal furniture that’s more budget-friendly than wrought iron, steel or aluminum are good choices. When used for outdoor furniture, these metals tend to be treated with a baked-on powder-coated paint finish for a smooth texture and appearance, but it also acts as a protective barrier to help prevent corrosion.
‘Metal is a popular material for outdoor furniture as it holds its shape and style for years to come – and if properly looked after, only requires seasonal maintenance to keep it looking its best,’ says Asli Çeçen, furniture expert and founder of Sazy. ‘Aluminium works especially well against other metals as it’s rust and moisture resistant.’
Both steel and aluminum are lightweight and corrosion-resistant, too. As Deidre notes, this makes them one of the best long-lasting furniture choices for seaside properties as these materials withstand the corrosive effects of sea salt. ‘One of the best options is furniture made from stainless steel, as this material is highly resistant to rust and corrosion,’ she adds.
The downside is that these metals are more lightweight than the likes of wrought iron, making them susceptible to dents and scratches. ‘From a practical point of view, they can also become very hot to the touch in direct sunlight, so ensure you choose light and bright cushions to protect you when seated on the furniture,’ Deidre says.
5. Glass or sealed ceramic
For a classic addition to your garden or decking, a glass-topped or ceramic-glazed table is a safe bet for furniture that’s long-lasting. Both these options are super easy to clean and won’t rot, rust, or stain like wood and metal can. That said, they do typically come on a metal frame so it’s worth paying attention to what the structure is made of, too.
‘For outdoor furniture that will remain beautiful for years to come without the need for endless maintenance, tables with glass, marble, or sealed ceramic tops are firm favorites,’ says Juliette. ‘This is thanks to their striking aesthetic and durability.’
Long-wearing though they may be, it’s worth bearing in mind that these materials – especially glass – can crack, chip, or even shatter if they’re not protected. It’s therefore a good idea to make sure your furniture is out of harm’s way when you’re mowing the lawn in case of any mishaps from rogue stones.
How do you make outdoor furniture last longer?
For wooden furniture, seasonal treatment with a stain and sealer is crucial to extend its longevity. Not only will this keep your wood looking fresh and true to its natural color, but it will act as a protective layer against water and UV ways, preventing the risk of rot.
‘For larger pieces of furniture such as lounge or table and chair sets, it’s worth investing in a cover to protect it from the elements,’ says Asli. This goes for all types of furniture, including metal and plastic, and is particularly pertinent over winter. And, if you have space in a garage or shed, it’s worth storing your outdoor furniture here over the colder and wetter months of the year.
Best garden accessories to keep your furniture protected
Thompson’s WaterSeal Clear Wood Sealer
Keep your wooden furniture protected with Thompson’s Clear Wood Sealer. The oil-enriched formula enhances the wood’s natural color by offering durable protection from water and sun, and prevents discoloration. It will also make your furniture resistant to mold and mildew, too.
Outdoor Furniture Cover
Shield any type of outdoor furniture from the elements with this tarp. The universal design fits most outdoor sectional furniture sets and is made of a durable polyester fabric that’s both waterproof and UV resistant to keep your furniture fresh and suitable for use season after season.
Outdoor Sun & Water Shield
Spray this aerosol on the fabric elements of your outdoor furniture to reduce color fading from UV rays and make it resistant to rain and liquid spills. From exterior furniture pillows to patio parasols and tarps, this spray will keep your outdoor accessories performing their best for longer.
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