True outdoor furniture is manufactured to resist the rigors of radical temperature fluctuations and the onslaught of moisture. Although some of these durable pieces are better suited for covered areas, such as porches or gazebos, many deck products now are made to withstand direct exposure to the elements.
Arrange furniture for your deck just as you would any room. Create groupings for various activities. Place seating close enough for easy conversation, but not so close as to invade personal space. Allow for traffic to flow easily between furniture groupings.
Certain materials are designed to withstand the weather. Here are some durable options:
Aluminum patio furniture, either wrought or cast in molds, is ideal for capturing contemporary style. It's rustproof, lightweight, and generally more expensive than iron. Most aluminum furniture comes with tough, baked-on enamel finishes. When shopping, look for thick, heavy-gauge alloys and smooth seams on welded joints. Less expensive versions feature hollow, tubular frames.
Cast- or wrought-iron furniture is heavy and durable yet prone to rust. It also requires periodic touch-ups and repainting if exposed to the elements. Iron pieces are available in many styles, but the material recalls the graceful, ornate Victorian style of the late 1800s. This type of outdoor furniture is appropriate in windy climates, where its considerable weight makes it less prone to being shifted around by gusts.
Plastic and resin furniture is inexpensive and offered in limited styles and colors. However, a low-cost set of stacking plastic chairs adds flexibility for entertaining. When buying plastic furniture, look for quality—top-grade plastic furniture has a 10-year warranty. Some plastic furniture is made from recycled materials. It's thick, heavy, and looks like wood, but never needs to be painted.
Synthetic wicker Synthetic wicker is typically is made from moisture-proof polyester resins and rustproof aluminum framing. Colors mimic those of natural wicker, but the furniture can be placed outdoors and exposed to the elements without damage. Synthetic wicker is slightly more expensive than comparable pieces made of natural wicker.
Twig furniture Twig furniture is usually constructed from green willow branches that are bent into sweeping curves and curlicues to form the arms, legs, and backs of the pieces. The frames are weather-resistant, but keep twig furniture sheltered to prolong its life. Exposure to direct sun may cause the branches to shrink, which tends to loosen fasteners. Twig furniture has a carefree, rustic appeal that works well with pillows in bold colors and patterns. It's often produced locally—look for good prices at area crafts shops, farmer's markets, and roadside stands.
Wicker furniture Wicker furniture has long been synonymous with gracious outdoor style. Elegantly shaped and comfortably familiar, wicker has been popular in outdoor living areas for more than a century. Natural wicker is produced in warm browns or stained with accent colors, traditionally black or green. Natural wicker may be unfinished or sealed with marine varnish. Painted wicker is usually white. Wicker furniture should not be exposed to the elements. It should only be used under a sheltering roof and brought indoors for storage before cold weather sets in.
Solid wood furniture Solid wood furniture made of teak, redwood, and cypress is weather- and rot-resistant and does not require paints, stains, or other protective coatings. Left to age naturally, these handsome pieces mellow into a silvery gray within a year. They can be left plain or spruced up with mildew-resistant cushions and pillows. Look for brands made from woods harvested on tree farms that are systematically replanted. Pieces made from average-quality, furniture-grade woods, such as pine, fir, and oak, need to be updated yearly with fresh coats of stain, paint, or sealer. Oil-base paints are tougher than latex. Gloss finishes last longer than semigloss or flat finishes.