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Best Materials for Outdoor Furniture: The Ultimate Guide to Durability and Design

Updated: Jan 26


outdoor furniture set next to a sunny river

When looking for outdoor furniture, one has to think beyond the basic requirements of comfort and style. Because patio furniture is exposed to external elements, such as the hot sun and strong winds, it should also be durable. This ensures it can withstand the forces of nature—as well as heavy usage and spillages—while remaining intact for years to come.


Choosing the right materials is a matter of education; you’d have to know how different materials vary in terms of comfort, strength, and price. We have done the research for you—and in this article, we round up the best materials for outdoor furniture. Pick one of these and watch them adorn your outdoors for years!


Wicker and Rattan


rattan outdoor couch set

If you’re eyeing a classic country or beach-style look, consider wicker and rattan. Both are lightweight and easy to move around—so you can shift them around outdoors as needed.


However, wicker and rattan can not withstand prolonged exposure to extreme weather conditions, such as sun and rain. This means these furniture pieces should be placed in covered outdoor locations. If you place them in a more exposed area, consider sealing them with wood furniture sealer or marine varnish beforehand. Alternatively, opt for synthetic options (such as ‘all-weather wicker’, also known as resin wicker) that can withstand all weather conditions.


Rattan and wicker have their fair share of differences, too. Rattan is durable and has traditionally been used as outdoor furniture over the years, but wicker is a more popular choice for outdoor use.


Wood


plastic wood mix lounge chairs

Materials for outdoor use can come in and out of trend. But wood? It is here to stay! Wood is long-lasting, handles different weather conditions very well, and is incredibly versatile in terms of style. For such reasons, wood has long been the go-to material for outdoor furniture, especially for patio rocking chairs.


There are different types of wood; softwood is suitable for indoor furnishings, while hardwoods, such as teak, are better suited to outdoor use. This is because the latter are heartier and more resistant to damage—ensuring they can adorn your outdoor space for years to come.


So, while purchasing outdoor furniture made from wood, look for varieties that are naturally resistant to mold and decay. For maintenance, be sure to stain the wood and seal it yearly to prevent discoloration.


Aluminium


aluminum outdoor dining table set

Aluminium is the perfect metal for year-round weather. It’s tough enough to withstand virtually all weather conditions and, being an easy-care material, requires little to no maintenance. (Bonus points if you give it a polyester powder coating.) Plus, it will never rust. We especially love aluminium for Adirondack chairs—these are great for resting and reclining.


While cast aluminium can be more expensive (and sturdy), hollow types come at a lower cost and offer more style options. However, the latter may not be suitable for windy areas, as these may topple over.


Tip: Metal, including aluminium, heats up and cools down really quickly. So, you’d want to pair it with cushions with stain-resistant fabrics to keep yourself comfortable.


Stainless Steel

stainless steel dining set for outdoors

Credit: Beliani


Being a sturdy metal alloy, stainless steel is a good option for large and weight-bearing patio dining sets (here are some fun ideas)—and for the frame of sofas and sectionals. It is sturdy, durable, and resistant to rust and corrosion. This means it is great for coastal areas, where salty air can cause corrosion. Stainless steel is also available in a wide variety of styles.


Its high density means it rarely gets damaged—so if your furniture undergoes heavy usage, stainless steel is a great pick. Like aluminium, the material can get very hot, so it is best when paired with cushions.


Plastic


plastic weave outdoor chairs and table

If you’re working around a budget, plastic makes for a great choice. It is an affordable yet durable material that works well for outdoor use. While plastic furniture in the past may have been prone to fading, new variants say otherwise. They’re treated to be much more resistant—and require little maintenance.


However, plastic is not well-suited to exposure to UV, which means it shouldn’t be placed under the sun for long periods of time. As a bonus, the colors and styles are endless when it comes to plastic furniture.


Other similar options are polyethylene, resin and fiberglass; these hold similar benefits and offer incredibly affordable ways to adorn your patio. However, such man-made materials may have a lower lifespan than other options.


What to Consider for Outdoor Furniture Materials


outdoor couch and chairs in the backyard

We’ve listed the 5 best materials for outdoor furniture, but which one should you opt for? Outdoor furniture—and its frames—should retain structural integrity through different seasons and weather conditions. So, your choice should be based on the local weather conditions. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:

  • If you live in an area with frequent rainstorms, your furniture should be resistant to water-based issues. Stainless steel and aluminium are great options in this regard.

  • Humid and moist climatic conditions are often a high risk for mold, mildew or rot. In such conditions, consider stainless steel and plastic.

  • If you live in a coastal area, there may be a risk of rust and corrosion. Aluminium is naturally corrosion-resistant, so makes for a good choice.

  • For extremely hot areas, aluminium and plastic are suitable as they don’t absorb much heat.

  • Areas with strong winds mean the furniture can topple over, so opt for heavy materials. For example, stainless steel and synthetic wicker.

  • If your climate features mild temperatures and limited moisture levels, wood is a fantastic choice.

  • For folks working around a budget, plastic is the go-to option—it comes in a variety of styles, too!


Our Final Thoughts


And, that’s a wrap! If you’re looking to give your outdoor furniture a fresh coat of paint, consider using paints with UV filters. This makes sure they’re resistant to the sun. And if you reside in extremely cold climates, you may want to cover your furniture pieces during the cold months for extra protection.


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