Buying and Storing Tips for Outdoor Furniture

Helpful hints for cleaning, storing, and buying outdoor furniture.
Robert Martin

Whether you're in the market for new outdoor furniture or you're just seeking some cleaning and storing advice on existing pieces, here are some helpful tips.

Wood, metal, wicker, vinyl--the choice of styles and materials for outdoor furnishings seems endless. Concerning recent trends, Bew White, owner of Summer Classics in Pelham, Alabama, states, "Ornamentation is in, particularly with cast-aluminum furniture, because ornate designs can easily be achieved from mold casting. Also, furniture imports have brought prices down while maintaining a surprising level of quality." To shed more light on the subject, the chart on the following page lists the pros and cons of the most popular types.

Once you purchase outdoor furniture, follow these suggestions for maintaining it.

  • Even if your outdoor pieces are aluminum or iron, it's always a good idea to store and cover them during the winter.
  • For aluminum furniture, a silicone spray or a coat of car wax will protect the surfaces from pitting and corrosion.
  • Most plastic furniture can be washed with a solution of mild detergent (such as hand soap) and water. Because plastics scratch easily, never use scouring powders or other abrasives.
  • Treat wrought iron furniture with a silicone spray, particularly underside surfaces. This precaution will act as a barrier against water and help prevent rust.

 

 

Wood

  • Description: large variety of styles and availability; longevity depends on wood type and preservative/finish
  • Location: for indoor and outdoor use, depending on wood type and preservative
  • Type: made from a variety of species, such as redwood, teak (which is most resistant to weathering and rot), and unfinished white wood (must be treated with an exterior penetrating stain containing a mildew inhibitor and preservative)
  • Price: varies significantly depending upon the type of wood (for instance, teak is much more expensive than pressure-treated pine), finish, craftsmanship, and assembly

 

Aluminum

  • Description relatively lightweight furniture that is strong, rust resistant (although it may gradually discolor over time), and able to retain its shape well
  • Location: perfect for outdoor use
  • Type: cast aluminum -ornate furniture made by pouring molten aluminum into a mold
    wrought aluminum -pieces that are welded or forged, often ornate
    tubular aluminum -(the largest percentage) hollow tubing welded or bolted together
  • Price: varies significantly from tubular aluminum (low end) to cast aluminum (high end)

 

Wicker

  • Description: strips of material (natural or synthetic) woven around a frame; this furniture often has a full, bulky appearance
  • Location: strips of natural material are not intended for exposure to rain, direct sunlight, and dew; synthetic all-weather wicker can withstand the elements
  • Type: natural wicker strips are made from such plants as rattan, reed, willow, or bamboo; all-weather strips are made from synthetic materials and sometimes woven around an aluminum frame
  • Price: all-weather wicker pieces tend to be more expensive than those made from natural wicker

 

Iron

  • Description: furniture that is heavy, versatile, and extremely durable
  • Location: used both inside and outdoors (Note: Iron furniture will rust if it is not properly coated by the manufacturer and then carefully maintained by the homeowner)
  • Type: wrought iron-pieces that are welded or forged, often ornate cast iron-heavy, typically ornate furniture that is formed in a mold (a less common method)
  • Price: iron is often less expensive than furniture made with other materials, although design, finish, and workmanship play key roles in cost