Outdoor Materials Buying Guide

Learn more about furniture materials, the benefits of each material, and how to care for the material itself.

The material used in your outdoor space determines your furniture set’s practicality in outdoor conditions. The material construction should be both highly functional, able to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture, sun, and wind, and display an appealing aesthetic value that enhances your patio. PatioLiving examines the  most commonly used materials used to construct outdoor furniture so that customers can determine the ideal construction material best suited for their lifestyles and outdoor space. 

Comparing Different Outdoor Material Constructions

Aluminum Construction

Aluminum outdoor furniture uses extruded aluminum. This means that the aluminum has been pushed through a machine that folds the metal into a hollow square or round frame. Because of this process, aluminum can also be referred to as tubular or hollow aluminum. Aluminum naturally absorbs heat, so it is important that aluminum is finished with a powder-coating that will make it UV-resistant and rust-proof

Aluminum Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Aluminum is extremely lightweight making it easily portable. It is also very durable and impervious against corrosion making it a low maintenance product. ITs structural integrity will not degrade even during temperature fluctuations. Aluminum outdoor furniture is an affordable option and is available in many styles and colors.

How To Care For Aluminum Outdoor Furniture:

Wash any aluminum outdoor furniture with diluted soap and water in order to remove any dirt. To protect the surface, we suggest using mineral oil or car wax.

Learn more about outdoor aluminum furniture.

Cast Aluminum Construction

Cast aluminum outdoor furniture refers to solid aluminum construction. In the process, molten metal is poured into molds to create detailed forms. Since it is completely solid, it is considerably heavier in weight than aluminum outdoor furniture. Cast aluminum furniture typically features ornate detailing such as scrollwork and flourishes. 

Cast Aluminum Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Cast aluminum is extremely durable and rust resistant. It can usually last a minimum of 15 years. It is also very stable due to its weight, making this a smart option for people living in windy locations.

How To Care For Cast Aluminum Outdoor Furniture:

Wash any cast aluminum outdoor furniture with a mixture of soapy water in order to remove and dirt before rinsing off with water.

Learn more about outdoor cast aluminum furniture.

Natural Wood Construction

Wood is one of the most common material for outdoor furniture and can be made from a variety of wood, including cedar, oak, teak, and eucalyptus. Wood that is left unsealed or unfinished will naturally age over time while exposed to the elements. Natural wood outdoor furniture is constructed from multiple wood parts that are attached and can be carved into with different designs. Depending on the type of wood used, it can become an expensive option.

Wood Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Natural wood does not absorb heat like aluminum and steel, but it is still strong and sturdy. If cared for correctly, it can last many years.

How To Care For Wood Outdoor Furniture:

To keep wood furniture water-,insect, and mold resistant, use a sealant and preservative, otherwise the wood will just age naturally. If you plan on painting your wood outdoor furniture, use a paint containing UV filters to prevent any fading. If unpainted, use an oil to maintain its natural beauty. Keep a lookout for splinters in wood furniture.

Learn more about outdoor wood furniture.

Recycled Plastic (MGP) Construction 

Marine grade polymer is similar in performance and density to natural wood, except that it does not splinter. Recycled plastic furniture is similar but has a different feel. Both are made from high-density polyethylene, a synthetic polymer that can resemble many types of material.

Recycled Plastic Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Recycled plastic and MGP are resistant to fade and rust. It is an all-weather material that is lightweight and low maintenance, while still maintaining its durable quality.

How To Care For Recycled Plastic Outdoor Furniture: Regular

 cleaners that are meant to prevent mildew are advisable. Simply rinse off with water.

Learn more about outdoor recycled plastic furniture

Stainless and Galvanized Steel Construction

Stainless and galvanized steel outdoor furniture tends to be heavier than aluminum outdoor furniture, but lighter than iron outdoor furniture. Steel conducts heat, so it is important to lay down cushions that will prevent any discomfort.

Steel Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Stainless and galvanized steel are sturdy and durable. It also tends to be more comfortable than furniture made from iron.

How To Care For Steel Outdoor Furniture:

Wash any stainless and galvanized steel outdoor furniture with water and mild detergent to remove any dirt before rinsing off with water. A protective finish should be applied to non-stainless outdoor furniture in order to prevent rusting and corrosion.

Learn more about outdoor steel furniture.

Wicker Construction

Traditional wicker outdoor furniture

 is made from natural fibers such as wood byproducts and woven grasses. Because wicker is organic, it is naturally prone to degradation when exposed to air and moisture. Today's wicker outdoor furniture use vinyl reproduction and synthetic materials that simulate the look of wicker. The synthetic material adds enhanced performance durability, making wicker outdoor furniture able to withstand outdoor conditions. To ensure unrivaled aesthetic quality in synthetic wicker, dyes are mixed in with the synthetic material to certify that the color runs through the entire material. The material is then cut into thin strips and woven together, and is wrapped around an aluminum frame that makes up the piece of outdoor furniture. 

Wicker Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Wicker and rattan are very lightweight and flexible. It also creates a rather comfortable piece of furniture and can be made in a variety of attractive colors.

How To Care For Wicker Outdoor Furniture:

Use a cloth dampened with diluted mild dishwashing soap, then rinse off with water.

Learn more about outdoor wicker furniture.

Wrought Iron Construction

Wrought iron is made up of iron with low carbon content which is mixed with fibrous slag inclusions. Contemporary wrought iron furniture now typically features a mix of cast iron, or even steel. This type of wrought iron is usually referred to as “machine wrought iron”. While wrought iron is prone to rusting, a powder coating finish will sufficiently protect against corrosion.

Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

Wrought iron is very heavy duty with unrivaled strength and stability. 

How To Care For Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture:

Create a solution of equal parts water and dishwashing detergent. Using a damp cloth covered in the solution, clean any wrought iron outdoor furniture. Apply a rust protectant to prevent any rusting and touch up with paint for any chips and cracks.

Learn more about outdoor wrought iron furniture

Teak Construction

The protective oils of teak give this tropical, dense-grained hardwood unique characteristics that are ideal for outdoor settings. Its natural rubber and oil consistency make outdoor teak furniture insect-repellant and weather-resistant. Because of these unique properties, teak is distinctly qualified for outdoor use. It is extremely durable and requires little care. Outdoor teak furniture is available in two conditions. It natural form form displays a golden color patina that can easily be maintained when consistently treated with teak oil. Teak develops an attractive patina that turns silver when exposed to outdoor elements and not treated with oil. Teak outdoor furniture that is appropraite for use year-round. Because teak is a type of wood, teak outdoor furniture feature fine wood craftsmanship including joints and joinery. Make sure that hardware pieces are made from from stainless steel and brass to prevent corrosion which can degrade the quality of your outdoor teak set. Because of the unique aesthetic and functional value of teak wood, teak outdoor furniture typically displays a higher price point than other outdoor materials.

Teak Outdoor Furniture Benefits:

 Unrivaled aesthetic value, extremely durable. Naturally resistant to rot, mold, and insects

How To Care For Teak Outdoor Furniture:

 To prevent discoloration for treated and non-treated teak wood, regular maintenance is advised 

  • Cleaning teak furniture- Cleaning and disinfecting outdoor teak furniture is important. Mix mild soap with bleach and water to clean teak outdoor furniture. (Vinegar can also be used as a substitute for bleach.) Using a metal brush with bristles will scratch wood's surface so never use a harsh brush tool to scrub down furniture. Instead, a soft plastic brush is advisable to use for cleaning purposes to prevent damage while deep cleaning. Specific teak cleaner is recommended to use on harder to clean stains. PatioLiving recommends starting with the mildest cleaning solution, and slowly applying higher concentrations of cleaning solvent to remove dirt and stains. To prevent streaks from forming, clean from the bottom up.

  • Oiling teak furniture- To retain the original golden patina, oiling will enhnace and maintain teak’s golden color. Note that teak oil is not a protectant solution. It is recommended that teak furniture be oiled every 2-3 months to retain its golden color. Also be sure to keep it directly out of sunlight to prevent fading and discoloration. Make sure that teak furniture is cleaned throughly before applying teak oil. Tung oil and Linseed oil can both be used, however there are teak oils by manufacturers that are enhanced with mildew retardants and UV blockers for added protection. Teak oil can be applied directly with a paint brush. Use smooth, even strokes. Immediately wipe off any excess oil.

Learn more about outdoor teak furniture.