By Erin Larson, Inbound Marketing Manager, HotSpring Spas and Pool Tables 2.
Creating a beautiful, outdoor living space is a rewarding experience. Sadly, many don’t enjoy their backyard furniture as vague product descriptions have led them astray. Their once pristine wicker chair now feels like last year’s Christmas tree. The white painted side table is most frequented by squirrels since becoming too shakey to balance a beverage, and lets not forget lounging chairs notorious for fading their first summer and flipping over in our strong, Midwestern winds. Fortunately, I work with people who have taught me quite a bit on the subject. From an inside perspective, here’s how to spot outdoor furnishings that will stand the test of time.
1. Look for Style Type
Here on the plains, wind is the No. 1 cause of damaged outdoor furniture, so the first thing I’d look for is style type. Whether it’s a table, couch or chairs, look for items with low centers of gravity (bulk of weight close to the ground). This creates an anchor effect so the furniture does not easily tip over. This means a sophisticated Parisian bistro table with skinny, long legs is a no-go. Instead, look for wide-set, heavy bases paired with thicker seat cushions to compensate for lost leg room. Additionally, it’s best to avoid cloth-backed seating. The wind gives heavy-topped furniture with wide pieces of cloth backing a parachute effect. We all know how much damage in dings, bent legs and tearing this can cause. Try opting for breathable mesh, grated or low-rise back and side styles that allow the breeze to flow through or around them.
2. Opt for Durable Fabric
The second biggest outdoor furniture problem is weathering from the sun and precipitation. Vibrantly colored cushions turn dull and even translucent from UV rays. Meanwhile, the rain, snow, heat and pounding winds tatter threads, peel paint and rough-up surface areas.
For fabrics, the most favorable option for preventing fading is to buy cushions that
are tight-knit and UV-resistant. The tight-knit weaves don’t allow as much UV ray or precipitation penetration. To have this with a naturally UV-resistant fabric gives you double protection. Personally, I’d also make sure I can flip over the cushions so when I do eventually notice some fading, they’ll look new again. Examples include solution-dyed acrylic material, polyester and polyethylene blends.
Note: Some companies rename common materials like these with their own special name in an attempt to seem exclusive. In this case, just ask what is in the material.
There are also many styles of cushionless outdoor furniture that are weather resistant and maintenance- free. My favorites include synthetic materials such as polyethylene (a faux wood often used to make faux wicker) and aluminum. Neither will weather or corrode. As a bonus, if aluminum furniture is powder- coated (see above), this is ideal.
“Powder-coated” means instead of using an industrial spray painter, a dry, colored powder was applied and then heated to “cure” it onto the metal. Due to this process, items are less prone to peeling and wearing.
3. Test It Out
Lastly, there’s nothing more annoying than a new piece of furniture that looks perfectly sturdy on the packaging, but ends up wobbly in reality. To counter this, the easiest thing you can do is test it if it’s on display. Sit on the seat or set something on top. Do the legs or arm rests wiggle even a little? Odds are if it wiggles a little inside of a showroom building, it will only be worse outdoors.
If you’re still unsure, check out how the furniture is put together. In general, the more screws and bolts that you need to assemble at home, the bigger the opportunity for something to come loose or irreparably fall apart.
Arguably, the sturdiest outdoor furniture will be welded (see above) or molded. Welded furniture parts are bonded via fusion, which melts the base metal to join two metals together. This creates a strong bond that does not easily break or warp. Welded outdoor furniture o en comes in large welded segments that are then assembled with minimal hardware. Molded outdoor furniture is formed when a manufacturer pours liquid metal or a synthetic material like polyethylene into a furniture-shaped mold and lets it harden to become one solid piece. This can create an even stronger bond than welded furniture.
At the end of the day, the most important factor here is that you enjoy using your outdoor furniture.