It’s a common question. One many of our customers regularly ask... Which garden furniture is best?
For the team here at Lazy Susan, the answer is simple, cast aluminium garden furniture. However, let us continue this debate with a small caveat.
There is no such thing as the perfect garden furniture material. There is the perfect material and set for you, but what’s right for one person, isn’t necessarily so for the next.
Be it a wood, plastic, wicker, iron or cast aluminium piece, there is always an element of compromise. A trade-off if you will. So the question you really need to ask is which garden furniture is best for you?
If you’re looking to purchase new garden furniture, and we would assume anybody reading this article is looking to make a more informed purchase decision, then there are a few simple questions you need to ask yourself before you buy:
- How do you use your outdoor space?
- What’s your budget?
- What type of garden furniture?
- What style of garden furniture?
- What material should you purchase?
- How much care and maintenance will it require?
- Will it fit?
- Will it stand up to the elements?
- Is it easy to store?
- Is it easy to assemble?
- How comfortable is it?
We covered each of these questions in great detail in our Garden Furniture 101 post, so I won’t go into too much detail in this post.
However, answering these questions will help you to establish which material is best for you. Provide you with the opportunity to weigh up the pros and cons, understand the aforementioned compromises and purchase with confidence that you’ll be getting furniture that works for you and your family. That ‘fits’ with your home and garden, and functions with how you like to use your outdoor space.
So, back to the original question…
To answer and justify why we believe cast aluminium garden furniture is the best material, we first need to detail the pros and cons of each of the common/popular garden furniture materials on sale in the UK.
Metal Garden Furniture
When we are talking metal, if it is not cast aluminium, then in the UK it will probably be constructed from either steel or iron. Whilst all metals, the properties of each are very different.
Ignoring cast aluminium for a moment, we will come on to that in the summary of this post, steel garden furniture pieces are known for their strength and durability.
Much like cast aluminium, it is easy to maintain and clean. It is less prone to cracking and scratching than iron, however, it is important you purchase pieces that have a protective coating applied to help prevent them from rusting.
The pros of steel garden furniture are that it is not only waterproof but fireproof. It is extremely strong and is available with a high shine or satin stainless finish, and therefore provides a more natural metal-coloured finish than the often painted cast aluminium and iron.
As for the cons of steel, it is a very heavy material so it can damage timber decking for example. Rust is also a constant issue with regular steel, so you need to make sure you purchase sets that have a protective or powder-coated finish.
The other option is of course stainless steel, which is sufficiently ‘reactive’ so that it essentially protects itself from further corrosion. However, it is very expensive.
Of all metals, steel will absorb the most heat in summer, so it needs to be paired with cushions as it can become very hot to the touch. It can also feel hard and cold to the touch too.
Wrought iron on the other hand has a heritage. Along with timber, it is one of the original garden furniture materials, known for its strength and durability.
Also available in a cast form, the more common in our industry is the traditionally styled wrought iron. The main disadvantage of wrought iron is that it needs significantly greater maintenance than steel or cast aluminium.
It is also extremely vulnerable to moisture, which can cause rust and corrosion, so you’ve got to keep it clean and painted, and it is easily chipped/scratched.
Wrought iron is also quite a heavy material and difficult to move. On the other hand, this can be viewed as a positive, making it less likely to blow over. One thing there is no denying though is that is just screams classic style and sophistication.
Many wrought pieces are hand made and they feature a very high degree of craftsmanship and intricate design details. For that reason, they are often incredibly well-made, strong and durable.
With that comes that weight, they are difficult to move around the garden and could again damage patio materials or decking. And wrought iron has the propensity to rust if exposed to the elements, meaning it is a little more high maintenance.
It all comes at a cost too, much like stainless steel, wrought iron furniture is very expensive.
Wooden Garden Furniture
Most people will agree that you can’t beat the look of natural timber, it is stunning in the right setting, and that’s why it remains such a popular patio furniture material.
However, as with most things, there is good and bad wood. You often get what you pay for. Go for a plank of good wood and you’ll have a strong and sturdy piece that will stand up to the elements. Go for something of poor quality and you’ll have a lot of maintenance on your hand.
The big advantage of wood over metal is that it doesn’t retain heat, so it won’t get too hot in the sun. Not so much of an issue in the UK, and not so much of an issue for us as our cast aluminium is coated to prevent this.
The downside of timber, it is heavy, and therefore difficult to move around the garden or patio. And as we’ve already touched on, you will definitely need to maintain it.
Timber pieces often need an annual coat of stain or oil to protect them from the elements. On a larger set, that’s no five-minute job too. Even the most weather-resistant timbers like cedar or redwood for example will need to be maintained more than our cast aluminium sets.
On the plus side, that weight means they won’t blow over, and if they are protected and maintained, they’ll last a lifetime. Damage is easy to repair, repaint, etc.
Plastic Garden Furniture
Plastic resin-style garden furniture has made big strides in recent years. Gone are the days of the cheap white plastic patio set.
Improvements in resin technology and production now mean pieces don’t really look like plastic anymore and you can choose from a variety of incredible colours and textures/finishes. It generally feels, well, more substantial.
The advantages of plastic garden furniture are that it will not rust, is lightweight, and is relatively inexpensive compared to the other materials above. It needs very little in the way of maintenance.
In terms of the cons, I still feel it has that perception of cheap/low quality. Whilst many of the modern pieces look great, I suppose they still feel a little like that when you compare them to timber or metal.
Also, most plastics, unless otherwise specified, are easily bleached in the sun. They also tend to be unable to hold as much weight as other materials and will snap or warp when that weight limit is exceeded too. But the biggest problem of all, is that lack of weight means they’re easily blown over and scuffed/scratched.
Wicker & Rattan Garden Furniture
First off, let me clarify something before we continue… Wicker is the technique of weaving strands and can be constructed from a number of different materials, Rattan is the type of material (traditionally grasses etc) used to weave wicker-style furniture and baskets, etc.
Sorry, I just felt it important to clarify as that often confuses us too. However, that said, when we’re talking wicker and rattan today, we are often talking synthetic. The plastic poly-rattan weaves have become very popular in the UK, offering the look at a fraction of the cost.
In fact, synthetic Rattan is probably the garden furniture style that has seen the biggest growth in the past decade or so. And even though it is lower in cost than natural materials, it still retains that natural stretch or give, making it comfortable to sit on.
On the downside, that plastic weave is highly prone to stretching and splitting, and whilst the poly-rattan itself is comfortable, many of the cheaper sets are wrapped around poorly constructed metal frames that can be uncomfortable and prone to rust It is also a difficult to clean, as dirt easily gets trapped between the weave.
Why cast aluminium garden furniture is best?
Before I continue to justify why I think cast aluminium garden furniture is best, let me clarify why we as a business decision to focus on it as our core material.
When Michael Scott started Lazy Susan, he wanted pieces that would be low maintenance. Furniture that would stand up the elements without the need to apply a regular coat of stain to protect them.
Of course, no outdoor material is 100% maintenance free but we wanted the required TLC to be as minimal and as simple as possible.
He weighed up all the aforementioned pros and cons to establish which material gave the best of the best in terms of the UK climate and the styles that best fit with our lifestyles and homes.
Cast Aluminium is easy to clean and easy to maintain. An occasional wash with warm soapy water, rinse and dry is all it needs. Maybe the occasional light coat of car wax to add a little extra protection and bring back the lustre of the painted finish.
You can, if you so wish, leave it outside all year round too. Me, personally, I pop mine in the shed over winter, but that’s more to keep it clean than to protect it from wind, rain and snow.
The important thing to watch out for with our cast aluminium is chips or scratches in the paint. This if you like is the small caveat. If moisture gets under the paint, it can compromise the metal.
The feet of garden chairs and tables are susceptible to chipping if you have them on a stone/paved patio too. As they’re moved around, over time they could get a chip.
However, the solution is simple. You just keep an eye on them and touch them up with a Lazy Susan Touch-Up Kit. The application is simple. And trust me when I say it is much easier than sanding/staining wood. The video below shows how to apply: