There's more to finding the best outdoor furniture than just what it's made of. Where you live and how you use your outdoors are important factors, too.


There are plenty of material and style choices for outdoor furniture -- but how do you find the one that's best for your space and needs? Here are some lifestyle and material considerations to review. Before you purchase any outdoor furniture, ask yourself:

• Where will you use it? If your outdoor fabric is intended for use in a covered area, you may have more options -- and provide more protection -- for pieces made of high-upkeep materials such as wood.

• What's your climate like? Outdoor furniture in four-season climates should probably be stored in a covered, indoor spot during cold weather. If you don't have storage space, that may affect your decision.

• How much upkeep are you willing to do? Any outdoor furniture requires some general maintenance, but some materials require more attention than others.

• What types of outdoor furniture do you need? There are plenty of options -- dining and side tables, chairs, chaises, sofas, and more -- for any style and space requirements. Take some time in advance to plan out both your space and the intended function before investing in outdoor furniture.

Types of Outdoor Furniture Materials

• Aluminum

A popular, affordable option, aluminum is lightweight enough to be easily portable and is also fairly resilient, compared to some other metals, to inclement weather and moisture (make sure to find aluminum outdoor furniture that's powder coated). Aluminum outdoor furniture is also easily cleaned -- just soap and warm water -- and comes in a range of styles. Typically, aluminum outdoor furniture is available in three types: tubular (hollow pieces bent into shape), wrought iron (welded), and cast (solid and formed from molds).

• Resin/Vinyl/Plastic/Acrylic These man-made materials are molded or colored, and can be formed to resemble other natural materials—say, resin wicker, for example. As with any other outdoor furniture material type, there are different grades of resin/vinyl/plastic/acrylic furniture; some are heavier-duty than others, and the cost will reflect that. Most have fairly good durability, are often fade-resistant and require minimal care—just soap and water to keep clean.

• Wood Wood outdoor furniture may be made from any number of different species of wood types, some of which are harder than others. Cedar, teak, and ipe, for example, have tremendous hardness and are more weather-resistant than others. Wood outdoor furniture also comes in a range of styles and types and can be stained, painted, or left to weather gray. No matter the finish, wood outdoor furniture is best stored indoors, and treated wood outdoor furniture must have the finish reapplied ever few years to maintain its look. Sunlight may also excessively fade wood outdoor furniture, and humidity may cause warping. In general, wood outdoor furniture can be cleaned with warm, soapy water.

• Cast or Wrought Iron A classic material that's been in use for decades as outdoor furniture, cast or wrought iron outdoor furniture offers durability (especially when treated with powder coating), weather- and tip-resistance, and a range of styles and forms. It can also be painted, which may help make it more resilient to rust. But this outdoor furniture type is very heavy, so is not easily moved and is also more comfortable for seating when outfitted with cushions. Cast or wrought iron outdoor furniture typically has a long life and requires simple cleaning with mild soapy water. Rust spots may occasionally appear; those can be sanded and sealed with a similarly colored finish. In general, this outdoor furniture type may also be stored outdoors or indoors.

• Wicker A classic outdoor furniture material, natural wicker is woven and lightweight and may be made from rattan, cane, or bamboo. Synthetic wicker (see above) is more resilient than natural wicker, and the natural version may also be more costly. Natural wicker outdoor furniture can be cleaned with soapy water but should be protected during inclement weather. Covered or screened porches, which offer moderate protection during warm weather, are good spots for natural wicker.

• Steel Steel, typically treated with a powder coating, is durable and long lasting, with a tip-resistant weight that may also make it more difficult to move. It, too, comes in a range of styles, and should be cleaned regularly with soap and water.

• Tile/Mosaic Tile Slate, marble, or terra cotta tile, including mosaic accents, are sometimes used as decorative elements on tabletops or other pieces of outdoor furniture. These elements should be sealed to resist inclement weather and prevent cracks, cleaned regularly, and stored indoors during cold weather.

• Outdoor Fabric Many outdoor furniture pieces come outfitted with fabric cushions or accents; outdoor furniture fabric is generally UV resistant and made from acrylic, olefin, or polyester. The type of outdoor fabric determines the care requirements. Cushions should periodically be shaken out well to remove dust and dirt and stored when not in use to prevent fading and mildew. The cost on outdoor fabric differs by the weave, the fabric type, the style, and the pattern.

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