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Choosing Outdoor Furniture - Wood vs Wicker vs Metal

Choosing Outdoor Furniture - Wood vs Wicker vs Metal

Are you trying to choose your outdoor furniture and not sure whether to go for timber of metal? Or maybe, you’ve already decided on metal but you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the types available and not sure how to assess the quality? 

 

The process of shopping for outdoor furniture can become daunting and conversations quite technical. 

 

 

Things to keep in mind: outdoor furniture needs to be durable to  the weather elements around your home. Depending on where it is placed it will need to 

  • withstand long-term exposure to UV rays, 
  • moisture
  • high winds. 
  • and, in Australia,  heat  (which can make some materials  too hot to sit on)

 

All these weather elements can quickly wear down outdoor furniture  that has been made with inferior materials. .

 

To help you navigate your options, I have compiled a table that summarises the pro’s and con’s of  the most commonly used materials. 

 

I have  also provided a definition for each material. I have tried not to become too technical , but is important to know, for example, that not all stainless steels are created equal. 

 

stainlesssteelpretty all weather wickerrattan chairteak bench

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's start with metal:

 

Metal 

Description

Pro’s 

Con’s

Mild Steel 

The most common type of steel

Carbon content  is up to 3%

 

 

Relatively Cheap

Weakest corrosion

resistance of all metals.

 

Must be painted/  treated/sealed to prevent

corrosion.

 

Ask whether its been galvanised. 

Wrought Iron

A  collective term for products ‘wrought’/shaped by hand. 

 

Historically also used to refer to a very low carbon steel (less than 0.08%) . 

Heavy - won't tip over in wind

 

Holds Rust protection treatments better than mild steel .(Can hold a galvanised layer  that is 25% thicker than mild steel).

 

Needs some care to prevent rust. 

Can get  quite hot on warm days and  very cold on cooler days

Stainless Steel

Contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium which  forms a film preventing surface corrosion.

 

There are different grades of stainless steel. Grades 304 & 316 are best for outdoors

 

 

304  Grade Stainless steel 

18% chromium

 8% nickel

At least 313 times more corrosion resistant than galvanised mild steel.

 

Stronger than 316 stainless steel 

Need to keep clean to avoid tea spots 

316 grade Stainless steel 

16% chromium

10% nickel

 2% molybdenum

At least  600 times more corrosion resistant than galvanised mild steel.

 

Molybdenum  helps resist corrosion to sea water and salts.

Most expensive kind of Stainless steel 

Aluminium 

 

rust proof

 

requires little maintenance

light - can move furniture easily

 

remains cooler in the sun (vs other metals)

Most  expensive of all

metals

Light - may tip over in wind

 

When it comes to wood, things are a bit more simple, and more obvious to the eye: 

 

 

Wood

Description

Pro’s 

Con’s

Hardwoods

 

eg. teak, redwood,   kwila (merbau), 

jarrah and

eucalyptus 

High natural oil content

dense grain structure

strong 

 

resist decay

 

repel water

 

dont shrink or swell

 

remain smooth to the touch 

 

resistant to termites and insects

 

remain cool in the sun

 

*Teak is the best hardwood because it is not as heavy as other hardwoods, and its leaching not as heavy.

More expensive than softwoods. 

 

Some hardwoods e.g. Kwila leach

Softwoods

eg pine 

less dense (than hardwoods)

Cheaper than hardwoods

 

 

Need to be pressure treated, sealed, varnished or painted.  

 

Less durable (than hardwoods)

 

Then of course, there are wickers, rattans and canes, both natural and artificial.  Remember that a lot of furniture made with these products, has a metal frame  so be sure to ask questions about the frame too. 

Wicker

 

 

 

Natural Wicker

Not a material but rather a weaving process and is typically  made from cane, bamboo  or rattan 

quick drying 

light - can move furniture easily 

Cooler  to sit on than metal

Prone to dirt and dust

Light - may tip over in wind

Will rot over time.

Rattan (reed)

 

 

The rattan reed comes from core of rattan palm.

 

 

Rattan Poles are sturdy enough to be used as a frame and steamed and bend.

light - can move furniture easily 

Cooler  to sit on than metal

Very porous (unlike cane)

Light - may tip over in wind

Cane

A  part of the rattan plant produced by peeling off the skin of the rattan vine. 

Typically wrapped around  solid hardwood, steel, or aluminium frames to create a furniture item.

light - can move furniture easily 

Cooler  to sit on than metal

Has a natural glossy finish so doesn't accept paint well 

Will rot over time 

Light - may tip over in wind

PE wicker

Polyethylene wicker. Can be made from resin or vinyl.

Several branded products on the market eg. Viroweave, Ecolene

Mould and mildew resistant

Often treated for uv degradation 

Easy to clean 

Lightweight 

Fabric is cooler  to sit on than metal

Quality varies across brands. Ask lots of questions about UV stability or go for one of the better known brands

Fabric

 

 

 

 

Outdoor fabrics have come a long way.

Sling Seating Fabric: Look for good brands like  Textilene and Batyline

Outdoor Sofa Upholstery 

Look for brands like Olefin or Sunbrella 

Good brands are: 

 

Porous for quick dry 

UV treated 

Holds shape over time

Mould and UV resistant 

Fabric is cooler  to sit on than metal

Needs cleaning 

 

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