The great British summer is but a month or so in and we’ve already faced record temperatures and torrential downpours. Is it any wonder we have a preoccupation with talking (and complaining) about the weather?
The fact we can see such varied conditions, sometimes all in one day, means that our outdoor furniture has to be designed to stand up to all that mother nature can throw at it.
I don’t know about you, but here at Lazy Susan we’re happy to store our outdoor furniture during the winter months just to keep it clean, however, in the summer, we want it on our patios and ready to use.
Time in our gardens is precious (and often fleeting), if the sun comes out, we want to get out there and use it and enjoy a bite to eat. But which outdoor furniture material is best suited to the ever-changing moods of the climate here in the UK?
Hopefully, that’s something we can answer in this article. We will take a look at each of the popular outdoor furniture materials and look at their main pros and cons.
Now you could argue we're biased towards cast aluminium, after all, that is what we sell, and you'd have a point. It would be folly of us to do some fluff piece stating that cast aluminium is best and it has no cons though. Plus, that is simply not true.
However, what we will put forward is our case for it being the best outdoor furniture material for the weather we see during the British summertime and our reasons why.
We chose to utilise cast aluminium as our core material because it is a great all-rounder, the pros outweigh the cons, and many of the negatives are easy to mitigate.
The advantages and disadvantages of popular outdoor furniture materials
Let us start by looking at the advantages of the current popular outdoor furniture materials:
Wood Outdoor Furniture
- Natural material
- It will last for many years if properly maintained
- Easy to recycle
- Heavy so can withstand strong winds
- Low heat transfer in direct sun
- Requires regular maintenance
- Prone to rot, warping and splitting
- Larger pieces can be heavy and difficult to move
- Watch out for splinters (or ‘spelks’ as my old Mum used to call them)!
There’s a reason wood continues to be a popular material across our industry, it is both sturdy and long-lasting if properly treated/maintained. Plus, it looks great and is perfect for those looking for a natural/sustainable material.
However, you very much get what you pay for. Softwoods such as cedar for example won’t break the bank but even with regular maintenance, they will quickly show their age from rain and UV exposure.
The more pricey hardwoods such as teak will naturally ‘weather’ to protect themselves from the elements. They contain a much higher level of natural oils and a tighter grain so are better suited to sun and rain exposure but that comes at a much higher price.
All that said, if you don't mind a day of DIY or two, you can easily restore to new by sanding and re-staining.
Plastic Resin Outdoor Furniture
- Low cost
- Environmentally friendly if made from recyclable materials
- Low maintenance
- No heat transfer in direct sun
- Lightweight and easily blown over in a light wind
- Can look and feel a little cheap
- Can warp/fade in the sun
Plastic garden furniture is the best option if you’re on a tight budget. The designs are getting a lot better too and, as an outdoor furniture material, it definitely lends itself more to the wide range of more modern designs that are very popular at the moment.
One of the big advantages of modern plastic outdoor pieces is you can get them in a wonderful array of colours too, from vibrant oranges to on-trend muted earth tones.
However, whilst 100% waterproof it is lightweight and lacks durability and stability. If left in direct sunlight it can also fade and potentially warp.
Whilst easy to keep clean, you can’t easily repair it though, and it will generally speaking only last a few years or so. But with a lower purchase price, if you want the latest furniture trend, then it could be the perfect material for your patio.
Rattan Outdoor Furniture
- A timeless design that doesn’t go out of style
- UV resistant
- Difficult to clean and maintain
- The weave can easily split and stretch
- Natural wicker pieces can be expensive
Rattan refers to the method of weaving but there are two types of material used to make it - natural wicker and synthetic poly/plastic/resin.
Whilst the natural has greater strength it is not weather-resistant (better suited to conservatories and summer rooms) hence why the synthetic resin versions have become popular in the UK in recent years.
The resin weave looks great and has much higher weather resistance, plus it is significantly cheaper than the real thing. However, even though it is generally wrapped around a metal framework, it can be light and the weave is prone to fading in the sun and splitting over time (especially on the corners of chair arms, etc).
Stainless Steel Outdoor Furniture
- Durable & long-lasting
- Has a high-quality look and finish
- Prone to rust if not properly maintained
- Conducts heat in the summer
- Heavy & can be difficult to pick up and move
Personally, I’m a big fan of Stainless Steel Outdoor Furniture, some of the brushed and wood pieces, in particular, look great. It is extremely durable and heavy so has probably the best wind resistance.
It is generally more expensive than many of the cast aluminium and wrought iron pieces but, much like the latter, rust can be an issue.
Again, it is often a case of the more you pay the better the grade of steel alloy used. The better the alloy, the higher the level of chromium, and that means better rust resistance.
Unfortunately, a higher grade of alloy will also make it more expensive, and whilst that weight is great for high winds, it’s not so good if you want to move it around your garden/patio.
The biggest disadvantage of stainless steel over iron and cast aluminium is that it’s the highest conductor of heat. In direct sun it can get incredibly hot to the touch.
Cast Iron Outdoor Furniture
- Heavy and robust so less likely to get blown over
- Classic timeless look and feel
- Requires regular/routine maintenance
- High conductor of heat
There is no denying that wrought iron has the heritage, tradition and quality of craftsmanship. It is heavy and sturdy so great in high winds, and if maintained properly highly weather-resistant.
As a metal, iron is easy (for those with the skills) to work with and can be formed into beautifully intricate designs. It has a classic timeless elegance.
On the flip side, it will require regular maintenance to protect it and prevent it from rusting, and that weight and craftsmanship mean it's expensive and difficult to pick up and move.
If rust does take hold, it can be repaired but again this is often expensive. However, if you’re happy to pay up and look after it, then it could be an investment worth making?
Cast Aluminium Outdoor Furniture
- Attractive but low cost
- Durable & long-lasting
- Won’t rust or corrode
- Can be compromised if the protective finish is damaged
- Conducts heat
If you’re looking for something that’s low maintenance and durable, then cast aluminium could be the material for you. Of all the materials, it is the one that feels best suited to outdoor furniture.
It’s sturdy and fully weatherproof but is significantly lighter than steel and iron. The casting process allows us to achieve the same intricate and timeless designs you see with iron pieces but at a fraction of the cost.
On the downside, it can conduct heat although generally less so than steel and iron. It requires significantly less cleaning and maintenance than all but say plastic pieces but will definitely last much longer.
Why do we think cast aluminium is the best material for the UK?
Now as we stated in our intro, we are biased. Our outdoor furniture collection is constructed primarily from cast aluminium. We won’t sit here and write that it's perfect. Other materials have advantages over them and it has a few cons.
However, if we are honestly answering the question of which outdoor furniture material is best for the UK climate, then we believe it is the best all-rounder.
This is a subject we covered in detail in last month’s Can our outdoor furniture be left outside? article, and in that we stated that:
Designed to live in the heart of your garden, no rust, no rot, whatever the weather sounds like something many in our industry would say. I suppose weatherproof is a pretty critical feature of outdoor furniture, and whilst any item sold as such should be able to sit outside in all weather, there are numerous caveats and compromises to that. For a starter it depends on the material the furniture is made from, how it is constructed, the condition it is in, how well it has been maintained, what extra protection you’ve given it, and even the microclimate in your garden.
Many of the materials above are weather-resistant but not fully weatherproof, and if they are, they require significant maintenance to keep them so. We went on to say that:
Each material has its pros and cons, of course. When we started Lazy Susan we selected cast aluminium as our core material because it ticked the least cons and the most pros when it came to sitting in our gardens all year round. Rigorous testing showed that it was not only the most durable outdoor furniture material but it was also the easiest to maintain and, if you keep it well-maintained (thanks to our protective painted finish) fully weatherproof. The material you decide to buy, be it metal, wood or plastic, will determine not only how long it will last, but how much you need to do to keep it looking like new and, if you need to store/cover it when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Doing some research into the different outdoor furniture materials is the key to finding a set that is right for you and your outdoor space. By understanding the pros and cons of different options you can ensure you select a material that will meet all your needs.
Our furniture has a protected painted finish that prevents it from rusting or ‘pitting’ to give it the correct term. In terms of the cons, we would advise your store or if the wind gets above blustery but other than that you can leave it outside all year round.
When deciding which outdoor furniture material is right for you, think about the space you have and how you intend to use it. For example, if you don’t have a shed or garage to put it in during the winter months, then you want a set that can sit outside in all weather with minimum maintenance.
How you use your garden, how it will be stored, and how easy it is to maintain are often overlooked in terms of style.
Now, of course, you have to like the look of the furniture first and foremost, however, if you have a garden that is open and exposed, then maybe lighter plastic pieces are not suitable. Alternatively, if you want to move the pieces around your garden or into storage heavy maybe isn’t the way to go.
The high-grade cast aluminium that we use in the construction of our garden furniture range gives us furniture that is both beautifully crafted and maintenance-free.
We have created a range of dining table-style sets that not only look great on your patio but are designed to stand up to the elements, and will live at the heart of your garden and family life.
Our outdoor furniture is constructed from high-grade sand-cast aluminium that’s powder-coated to produce a beautiful yet highly durable finish. It won’t rust or rot and can be left outside, uncovered, even through winter.
You can read about how we make our outdoor furniture on our How It Is Made page.
Outdoor furniture made from cast aluminium has numerous benefits over the other materials discussed in this article:
- It will not pit, rot or rust
- Low maintenance
- Long-life guarantee
- Designed to be left outside all year
- Protective painted finish
- UV & water-resistant
- Easy to assemble
- Safe to ship
- Aesthetically stylish and sophisticated
- Ergonomically designed
- High-quality look, finish and feel
It is, in our honest opinion, the best garden furniture money can buy, and our recent What garden furniture is best for the UK climate? article goes into much more detail about why we truly believe that statement.
As for those aforementioned cons of it becoming compromised if the protective finish is damaged and conducting heat, we can easily mitigate that by adding a parasol, and outdoor cushions and if you see a chip or scratch in the painted finish, apply our Touch Up Paint.
Shop our full Outdoor Furniture Collection today.
If you’ve got any photos of our outdoor furniture in your garden then we’d love to see them for our Do Some Good charity campaign.
Maybe your garden will be featured in our next article or on our website!