Outdoor furniture comes in all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest differences between furniture types is the material. Below is a guide to the five main types of material and the pros and cons of each.
Timber has a rustic look that can fit in with pretty much any style of garden. It’s not too heavy nor too light – it will withstand strong winds, but you can still move it around. It also doesn’t get hot when exposed to sunlight unlike metal and generally won’t degrade (although heat can cause wooden furniture to warp).
The biggest drawback to timber is that it needs to be treated annually to protect it against rot from water damage as detailed here at Gardenista. The exception to this is teak, which is weather-resistant enough that it doesn’t need to be sealed – a good option if you like timber furniture but don’t want the hassle of maintaining it.
PVC is the most common plastic used in outdoor furniture. Such furniture tends to be very cheap and doesn’t require any maintenance. It’s also one of the lightest outdoor furniture materials, making it easy to move around.
Unfortunately, PVC isn’t the most weather-resistant material: it can crack when exposed to the cold, become discoloured in sunlight and blow away in strong winds. Heavy usage can also weaken it and cause it to break. If you want to get a lot of use out of PVC furniture, then it’s best to use it as a temporary solution and store it indoors when not in use.
Rattan furniture as found here at Poplar Nurseries is traditionally made from a type of palm tree called rattan, which is often weaved into a wicker pattern. Other materials including bamboo and synthetic fibers are sometimes weaved into a similar rattan style and referred to as ‘rattan furniture’ – they generally have the same properties as traditional rattan.
Rattan has become one of the most popular outdoor furniture materials in recent years because of its all-round decent qualities. It’s fairly weather-resistant, light, affordable and doesn’t require maintenance.
Aluminium has a very modern look that makes it ideal for newer homes. It’s a very durable material that requires zero maintenance. It doesn’t rust and it doesn’t warp or discolour in the sun. Aluminium can also be fairly light – sometimes more so than timber.
This lightness does make it less suitable to windy gardens, where it may have a tendency to blow around. Aluminium furniture can also be a little pricier than furniture of other materials.
Cast iron has a very traditional look that makes it a great match for older homes. Much of it is hand-crafted and very decorative. It’s very sturdy and durable – even the strongest winds will fail to make it budge.There are quite a few disadvantages to cast iron. This metal is very prone to rust and needs to be well-maintained to avoid this. Cast iron furniture can also be quite expensive compared to all other furniture types. It’s heaviness also makes it very difficult to move around.