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The Best Materials for Outdoor Furniture

by Nick, Digital Specialist | April 11, 2020

'Tis the season for outdoor furniture! It should be easy to find out what your new outdoor furniture is made from...but does it all mean? Which materials are best for you?


The season for outdoor furniture is fast approaching! Here in the Northeast, we’ll see customers start shopping in March or April so they can get outside as soon as it’s nice enough to enjoy the beautiful weather. The perfect patio set makes it so much easier to enjoy the outdoors, and can be a wonderful space for entertaining. However, when our clients start to shop, we’re finding that they’re overwhelmed by the amount of different materials that are used to construct a piece of outdoor furniture. Which one is best will depend on your needs, your style, the weather, and other things. Check below for some guidelines on what to look for while you’re shopping!

What’s the Frame Made Of?

- Aluminum: Aluminum is easily the most popular material for the frame of any kind of outdoor furniture. This includes sets that are made of resin wicker (more to come on that in a second) - usually the resin is woven over an aluminum base. It’s very durable without being heavy, and resists rust and moisture damage. Look for aluminum that’s been powder-coated, which will give you an added layer of protection against the elements.

- Resin wicker: This is a weather-resistant synthetic fiber that’s woven or wrapped over a metal frame (usually aluminum, as mentioned above). This gives a traditional outdoor furniture look to your space, and is easy to clean and maintain. High-end wicker is also resistant to sunlight, but if you’re not sure, consider keeping it in the shade when not in use.

- Wood: Wood is a timeless, classic look in both indoor and outdoor settings. Most woods will offer some sort of natural weather resistance, and certain hardwood like teak will be exceptionally durable. However, wood is generally more vulnerable to changes in humidity, especially if it’s untreated. The good news is that wood can be sealed, which will prevent warping and cracking.

- Wrought iron: This material has a distinctive, unique appearance and is sturdy and strong. It does tend to be a little more vulnerable to the elements, though modern wrought-iron furniture is treated to make it more weather-resistant. If it does start to rust, clean it with soapy water and then seal with paint.

What’s the Cushion Made Of?

- Vinyl: This material is made of plastic and, as a result, is generally the least expensive. The trade-off? Think of your vinyl car seats after your car has been in the sun all day. You’ll get the same burn if your vinyl cushion has been exposed to the heat.

- Textilene: Made with polyester, but coated with a layer of vinyl (see above). Holds up well in the elements, but has many of the same issues with heat that vinyl will have.

- Cotton: An age-old fabric that is so popular, it used to have its own TV commercial. Cotton is great for a lot of things but may not be the best choice for outdoor seat cushions. It doesn’t do well with moisture, so you stand more of a chance of having issues with mold or mildew.

- Polypropylene: An incredibly durable man-made material that we’re seeing in both indoor and outdoor furniture. Known for its durability but can sometimes feel stiff or scratchy because it’s woven.

- Sunbrella: this is a patented fabric made from acrylic. Dyed all the way through the fibers, so it resists fading from the sun and even bleach. It’s a thick, durable fabric that tends to be the most expensive option.

We hope we’ve inspired you to take a look onto your deck or patio and think about how wonderful it will be to go relax outside for a little while. With these tips in mind, you can relax without worrying!