THE INS AND OUTS OF PATIO AND OUTDOOR FURNITURE
Materials

Teakwood is easily worked and has natural oils that make it suitable for use in exposed locations, where it is durable even when not treated with oil or varnish. Teak cut from old trees grown slowly in natural forests is more durable and harder; teak from young trees grown in plantations is more prone to splitting and water damage, however kiln drying allows for sustainable, plantation-grown teak to perform nearly on par with old-growth teak. Teak consumption encompasses a different set of environmental concerns, such as the disappearance of rare old-growth teak. However, its popularity has led to growth in sustainable production throughout the seasonally dry tropics in forestry plantations. The Forest Stewardship Council offers certification of sustainable grown and harvested teak products. Another popular trait of teakwood is its weathering tendency. Over time, teak furniture will attain a handsome silvery-gray patina. This process takes approximately nine months, depending on the amount of sunlight and rain exposure. During weathering, a slight lifting of the grain may occur on the tops of the arms and legs, and you may even see a few cracks. This is not considered a defect, but a natural expanding and contracting of the wood. The grain will return to its original smooth finish after the weathering process is complete. Treating teak with oils or other preservatives is not necessary for protection, and will not extend the life of your furniture. However, if you prefer to keep your teak furniture at its original golden color instead of letting it weather to a silvery-gray patina, oil will help maintain the wood's natural hue.

Other Woods such as pine, oak, cypress, teak, jarrah, mahogany, cedar, maple, birch and beech, as well as an array of exotic African, South American and Asian hardwoods, with names such as bubinga and shorea are all viable for exterior use. Once limited to clunky redwood sets and splintery sawbuck picnic tables, outdoor wood is now fashionable, durable and in demand. Wood may be stained, oiled or painted. Each type of wood and finish offers a unique look and specific benefits. Whatever wood is chosen should be from sustainable production with The Forest Stewardship Council certification. Antique stores are good sources for wood exterior furniture.

Natural Wicker is hard woven fiber formed into a rigid material, usually used for baskets or furniture. Materials used can be any part of a plant, such as the cores or canes of rattan stalks, or whole thickness of plants, as with willow switches. Other popular materials include reed and bamboo. Often a frame is made of stiffer materials, after which more pliant material is used to fill in the frame. Wicker is light yet sturdy, making it suitable for furniture that will be moved often. It is often used for porch and patio furniture. Whether it's kept indoors or outdoors, it requires occasional cleaning and care. When wicker is not properly cared for it becomes dry, it can rot, and it must be properly cleaned in order for it to last.

Rattan is the name for the roughly 600 species of palms. Generally, raw rattan is processed into several products to be used as materials in furniture making. The various species of rattan ranges from several millimeters up to 5-7 cm in diameter. From a strand of rattan, the skin is usually peeled off, to be used as rattan weaving material. The remaining "core" of the rattan can be used for various purposes in furniture making. Rattan is a very good material mainly because it is lightweight, durable, and to a certain extent, flexible. Cut into sections, rattan can be used as wood to make furniture. Rattan accepts paints and stains like many other kinds of wood, so it is available in many colors; and it can be worked into many styles. Rattan is as beautiful as it is durable, so most rattan furniture needs only basic cleaning and care to preserve its natural strength and color. Keep the furniture indoors. While rattan certainly likes humidity, it is not outdoor furniture. Keep your rattan indoors and preferably out of direct sunlight and the furniture will last long and look better.

Tubular Aluminum is considered to be one of the most versatile metals for furniture use. Not only is it durable, but it is virtually carefree. We all know that aluminum does not rust. This is because aluminum when exposed to air will develop a microscopic layer of oxide on its exterior, which protects the metal from rusting and corrosion. This is the most important factor to choose aluminum as outdoor furniture. It will weather any storm and rain and shine. You do not need to worry about covering your aluminum outdoor furniture the next time you are out and it starts to pour. Most aluminum furniture is made from hollow tubing, often with internal reinforcing ribs for added strength. The tubing is cut and bent to form the elements of the furniture frame, which are then welded or bolted together by skilled craftsmen. Once assembly is completed, the piece is coated with a baked-on powder finish.

Cast aluminum is strong, non-rusting, and lightweight and retains its good looks through blistering summer sun and drenching thunderstorms. All of these features make it a premium choice for outdoor patio furniture, patio furniture or just outdoor furniture. Aluminum exposed to the elements will not rust. It will, however, oxidize over time. Cast Aluminum outdoor furniture is molded into style and shape and then put together. As cast aluminum is solid, the furniture is much more heavier as compared to Wrought and Tubular Aluminum furniture.

Cast Iron is the essence of romance and nostalgia. Heavy and ornate, it is often identified with the South. Think of an elegant white bench with an exquisite floral design, gracing a well-manicured garden or curving around an ancient elm. Weighing three times more than an identical piece in cast aluminum, cast iron is popular for public areas because it weighs too much to be easily pilfered.

Wrought Iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale. Many products described as wrought iron are made of mild steel. They retain that description because they were formerly made of wrought iron or have the appearance of wrought iron. Classic wrought iron styling with its appealing curves and elegant design is hotter than ever. Originally hand-made (wrought) by blacksmiths, wrought-iron furniture is constructed from solid half-inch round bars formed into timeless designs - simple or ornate, the choice is yours. Wrought iron is extremely strong and durable, making it a tremendous value because you will enjoy years of comfort and low-maintenance. Because of its weight, wrought iron furniture is not as susceptible to wind and weather conditions as other types of materials. Welding joints are very important to the overall strength of wrought iron furniture since wrought iron will rust when it is exposed to the elements. Keeping the furniture properly painted should solve this problem.

Wrought Aluminum marries the centuries-old craft of hand forging to the high tech performance of aluminum. Though wrought aluminum cannot duplicate the more intricate wrought-iron styling, some believe that it represents the ideal wedding of art and technology. With wrought aluminum, you can enjoy the traditional elegance of a wrought-iron look in a material that is lightweight, low maintenance and rustproof.

Stainless steel , in metallurgy, is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10% chromium content by mass. Stainless steel does not stain, corrode, or rust as easily as ordinary steel (it stains less), but it is not stain-proof. A better term for it is "highly stain resistant". Generally, an increase of chromium content improves the corrosion resistance of stainless steels. The addition of nickel is used to raise the general corrosion resistance required in more aggressive usage or conditions. The presence of molybdenum (Mo) improves the localized corrosion resistance, such as against pitting (scarring). Other alloying metals are also used to improve the structure and properties of stainless steels, such as Titanium, Vanadium and Copper. Non metal additions typically include natural elements such as Carbon and Nitrogen, as well as Silicon. High-carbon stainless steel contains a minimum of 0.3% carbon. The higher the carbon content, the less formable and the tougher the steel becomes. The weakest points in stainless steel furniture are the welds.

Synthetic Wicker and Rattan outdoor furniture uses polyvinyl, resin or fiberglass materials to create strong, long lasting, and weather proof furniture for decks or patios. Most of us can't easily tell the difference between the high quality synthetic wicker and the real thing. The new resin wicker outdoor furniture is reinforced with polypropylene resin, a synthetic agent that can stand up to heat, fading, cracking and yellowing. It also expands and contracts with changes in temperature to withstand rotting, rusting, and the need for repainting. Even in northern climates, synthetic wicker outdoor furniture will not peel or flake like painted natural wicker because its dyes are mixed directly into the resin. Like teak outdoor furniture, aluminum, and wrought iron, wicker look resin outdoor furniture is sturdy, durable, and moisture resistant. Usually synthetic wicker pieces are built over a powder coated tubular aluminum frame.

Synthetic Wood made with natural organic elements, replicates the beauty of teakwood with a durable material that is easy to maintain - at a fraction of the cost.

Resin Furniture: 100% UV resistant prime resin. It's a material naturally impervious to salt air, chlorine, and most common food and environmental stains. Low maintenance - no refinishing, and easy to clean with soap and water.

PVC is pipe furniture, usually very cheap. Color should be all the way through the pipe.

Coatings for Metals

Powder Coating is a type of coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder over aluminum or steel. The main difference between a conventional liquid paint and a powder coating is that the powder coating does not require a solvent to keep the binder and filler parts in a liquid suspension form. The coating is typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a "skin." A big advantage of powder coating is powder coatings emit zero or near zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) as opposed to conventional paints.

Plastic Coating is corrosive-free, maintenance-free, outdoor furniture. Usually applied over over Tubular or Cast Metal. The ability to have soft, rounded corners makes this combination a good choice for childrens play equipment. It won't rust, resists fading and staining, and remains cool in the hot sun. The plastic coating can crack over time.

Rust Inhibitor Paints inhibit the formation of hydrated iron oxide. Different types of paints perform different functions. Some have better moisture resistance, some have better color and gloss retention, etc. Used to finish Cast Iron or Wrought Iron Furniture.

Seats

Sling patio furniture offers a very stylish look, complimented by comfort and easy maintenance. While there are a number of different slinging configurations, the most common type sling outdoor furniture has two metal or aluminum frame rails on each side of the chair or chaise that stretches a piece of material for you sit on. A patio sling is the actual material that is being stretched by the two rails. Patio slings are made using heavy-duty fabrics and materials that are specially made for slinging applications. Only patio slings should be used to replace old slings that are tearing and deteriorating. Aside from common accidents like sitting on your sling furniture with sharp objects in your pockets or children mistaking patio sling furniture for their own personal trampolines, patio slings are extremely sturdy. It is recommended that you replace your patio slings every 2 to 3 years or when they begin to become brittle and dry and begin to tear to avoid any accidents. Sometimes people get bored with the same patio furniture colors and a change in style is the only reason for replacing their slings. There is no way to tell exactly how long a patio sling will last. If your furniture remains outdoors your slings can last from 2 to 5 years depending on where you live. However, storing your patio furniture indoors while it is not in use or during the winter season can dramatically increase the life of your patio slings. Several companies manufacture replacement slings and offer many different colors of replacements.

Cushions should be made with medium density foam. Cushions are not waterproof. Fabric and foam are water-resistant. When cushions get wet, they should be turned on their sides to allow drying. Fabric for exterior use should be 100% solution dyed acrylics or spun polyester outdoor fabrics. There are several brands on the market. Always review the specifications for the specific selected fabric. Fabrics rated for outdoor use should always be fade resistant, mildew resistant, and stain resistant.

Vinyl Straps should be of virgin material. The key factors to shop for in strap furniture is double wrapping at the ends for durability. The thickness of the straps determines comfort and longevity. The vinyl should contain mildew inhibitors and UV stabilizers.

Table Tops

Glass Tops should be tempered.

Acrylic Tops should be formulated with UV inhibitors.

Stone Tops must be sealed if they are to be used for food service. Granite, marble, and travertine are all acceptable if sealed. However, granite is the preferred stone if you have a choice. Marble, limestone, and travertine will etch if they come in contact with acids, including acidic rain. The ancient marbles of the Greek temple, the Parthenon, as well as other ancient landmarks using marble and similar materials have this problem. But it is important to point out the Parthenon has been in existence for over 2500 years and survived numerous wars and skirmishes without modern day sealant. If you choose marble or limestone or travertine for your tabletops, it is safe to say your tables will outlive you. Granite will not etch under normal use.

Teak Tops - See above

Metal Tops - Aluminum and Steel - See above

Fiberglass Tops comes in several colors, weather resistant. Should be heavy. Fiberglass is over some other material for a base.

Ceramic Tops - Tile, mosaic, or monolithic.