Your Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide: Top Tips on Lifespan, Maintenance + More

From durability and weather-resistance to cleaning and maintenance, there's a lot to consider when it comes to purchasing the best outdoor furniture. That's why we've created this go-to guide on the most popular materials on the market.

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May 07, 2018

Which Outdoor Furniture is Best for You?

You have lots of options when it comes to buying deck and patio furniture. When you factor in all the materials and finishes to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming. From durability and weather resistance to cleaning and maintenance, there's a lot to consider. That's why we've created this go-to guide on the most popular materials on the market.

Material: Teak

ABOUT: Known for its classic beauty and durability, teak furniture is one of the hardest woods available so it can last decades. This means it's not going to be the most inexpensive option, but it'll last a lifetime. High-quality furniture will have a smooth finish and tight-fitting joints. Teak is also a great choice for windy environments, due to its weight.

MAINTENANCE: Teak is maintained with tung or teak oils to keep its golden luster, or it will naturally weather to a silvery-gray patina. Look for an oil with UV- and mildew-resistant ingredients, so even in the year-round sun, your teak will keep its color. Clean furniture with a mild soap and remove stubborn stains by lightly sanding with a fine-grit paper. Be very careful when pressure-washing teak, as it can leave marks in the wood if the water stream is too intense. Keep in mind, if you live in a cold climate, you'll want to cover your furniture during the winter months. Also, bird droppings can mark teak, so remove them ASAP to avoid small stains.

Material: Aluminum

ABOUT: Powder-coated aluminum furniture is all-weather and many products come with a UV-resistant finish, so placing it on an exposed deck is no problem. Aluminum is also much lighter than iron, so it's perfect if you like to periodically rearrange your furniture. If you live in a windy area, though, iron furniture may be the better choice.

MAINTENANCE: Clean aluminum furniture with mild soap and water, but avoid pressure-washing or using abrasives as they may scratch the finish.

Material: Plastic/Resin

ABOUT: If you want affordable, all-weather outdoor furniture that's easy to rearrange and doesn't need much upkeep, then plastic/resin is the way to go. Even on the sunniest decks, this material holds up well to sun and moisture. Whether you're shopping for chairs, tables or planters, you'll find an endless array of styles, textures and colors. As with any product, some pieces will be constructed better than others, and the price may reflect this. While it won't warp, rust, dent or peel, some plastic furniture is very lightweight. If you live in an area with a lot of wind, you may prefer to go with a heavy-duty constructed resin or products made from dense wood or iron.

MAINTENANCE: To keep your furniture looking its best for years to come, hose it off occasionally and remove any stubborn stains with soap and water. For extremely dirty furniture, a diluted bleach mixture may be necessary (but always defer to the manufacturer's recommendations).

Material: Acacia

ABOUT: Acacia is a hardwood species with an attractive, broad grain pattern and is more affordable than teak. It's very durable, ages well and grows quickly, so it's an eco-friendly choice for furniture. Acacia is also weather, bug and rot resistant, even with erratic humidity levels. Due to its durability, it's OK to keep on an exposed deck or patio; however, you may want to cover it during the rainy season.

MAINTENANCE: Outdoor furniture made from acacia can last several years if kept clean and properly maintained. Clean with a mild soap, rinse with water, then allow it to fully dry in the sun. Some experts recommend treating acacia wood with teak oil or waterproofing sealants to protect it from moisture and discoloration. When in doubt, though, always refer to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Material: Synthetic Wicker

ABOUT: Synthetic resin wicker is usually called "fake wicker." Manufactured from nylon, PVC and/or polyethylene, it's extremely durable thanks to UV- and weather-resistant construction. As with natural wicker, synthetic wicker can be dyed a variety of colors. Ironically, synthetic wicker costs less than natural wicker and lasts longer. Keep in mind, not all synthetic wicker is created equal. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) wicker is a high-quality product that's recyclable, while fake wicker made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride is not.

MAINTENANCE: Synthetic wicker cleans up easily with mild soap and water.

Material: Natural Fibers

ABOUT: Kicking back in a swing chair or hammock is a sure-fire way to relax outdoors. Most natural rope fibers hold up well outdoors, but prolonged exposure to sun and moisture will eventually take its toll. Using a covered (or shaded) area is best, and be sure to store the item in the off-season, too.

MAINTENANCE: Some natural rope products can last for decades with proper care. To care for natural fibers like cotton rope, soak in an oxygenated detergent and water mixture. This is a snap if you use a kiddie pool outdoors. After a good soak (preferably an hour), lightly scrub any stained areas, then rinse thoroughly. Spread the swing or hammock flat, and allow plenty of dry time before re-hanging.

Outdoor Fabrics

Whether you're sprucing up your existing patio furniture with throw pillows or going all-in for a cushy sectional, you'll want to do your homework and buy the most durable product in your budget. Look for materials that are washable as well as water and mildew resistant. If the furniture will live in a sunny area, shop for UV-protected products so they'll be fade resistant. Keep in mind, polyester fabrics are inexpensive but they don't weather that well, so covered use is best. If you're decorating an exposed area, look for olefin (synthetic fiber) or a solution-dyed acrylic where the color/pattern is infused into the fibers. These fabrics are truly all-weather and easy to clean with soap and water.

Synthetic Rugs

An indoor/outdoor rug is usually made from flatweave synthetic fibers known for their durability and stain resistance. Synthetic or polyester rugs are durable, easy to clean and resist fading. They're often thin and reversible. To prolong the life of the rug, sweep and rotate it frequently. To clean it, simply hose off and hang over a railing to dry. (You don't want mold to develop!)

Umbrellas

When it comes to patio umbrellas, whether a table, cantilevered or free-standing version, you often get what you pay for. Look for breathable, all-weather fabrics that are UV resistant, especially if your deck gets full sun exposure. Solution-dyed acrylic is ideal because the color is infused into the fabric, making it resistant to fading more than a printed fabric. As for the frame, aluminum is more durable than wood but it's also lighter and more susceptible to high winds. To avoid chasing your umbrella across the yard, make sure the base is properly weighted. A good rule of thumb is the larger the umbrella, the heavier the umbrella base. Your patio umbrella should last several years if you hose it off regularly and scrub stains with a soft brush and mild soap. To avoid mold and mildew, clean it and allow it to fully dry before storing.

Fire Pits

Fire pits are a terrific way to make your outdoor space inviting year-round. Pricing depends on the style (built-in versus free-standing), type (wood versus gas) and material (metal versus stone). Before you buy, determine the location of the firepit. For instance, a traditional wood-burning fire pit on a wood deck can be a safety hazard. If the idea of flipping a switch to get the fire going appeals to you, opt for a gas pit. Tabletop units are a fantastic space-saver and a good option if you have a deck. How long your firepit will last depends on its construction and frequency of use. For instance, a lightweight, metal, wood-burning fire pit left out in the sun and rain may not last more than a couple of years before rusting out.

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