As we all know garden furniture comes in all shapes and sizes and prices! Outdoor furniture can convert an otherwise boring space into your outdoor living room so you need to choose wisely. In this article I will run through some useful tips to consider when choosing your garden furniture and also some pointers on caring for your furniture once you have purchased to make it last as long as possible.
Where you live in the world will play a large role in choosing your garden furniture. For instance I am based in Europe on a small island that might get 5 weeks of real sunshine during the summer months and most of the time is it cloudy or raining and damp, no weather for sitting outside. On the other hand my best friend lives in Sydney Australia where as you are probably aware the sun never stops shining and his life revolves around the outdoors, at this home he has a small pool so the garden is the main focal point where they spend most of their time eating, playing and just generally relaxing, so for him investing in or having good durable garden furniture is a must.
No matter what the weather conditions some basic points still apply for anyone buying outdoor furniture – some of them are just common sense but could be easily overlooked.
Before purchase from either your local garden center or a bespoke outdoor garden furniture specialist consider these few things:
What space you have: When choosing know what space you are going to be filling with the furniture and how many people it will have to accommodate. For small spaces individual folding chairs or compact furniture will suit best. For larger spaces you need to choose cautiously also. Perhaps larger outdoor sofa sets or garden furniture sets and for all cases the material will dictate the style. Remember to leave enough room for people to move around comfortably also.
The Furniture’s purpose: What is the outdoor space going to be used for? For entertaining? Just for relaxing in the sun or by the pool? For garden decoration or aesthetic purposes? For dining Al fresco? Whether you like to sip a coffee outdoors or relax and read a book pick the furniture based on the use of the space. This will dictate what you buy and how much you spend.
Design & Style: I said earlier that the material will dictate the style you choose. But also try and have the overall design or look of your outdoor furniture (especially if you have a large outdoor space with a sofa set) consistent with the design or architecture of the house. Indoor space should try flow well with the outdoor space.
Which material: Personal preference is a main decider when choosing garden furniture as well as durability and price. Try pick a durable one. Depending on where you live weather conditions can be extreme, too hot or too cold. Moving furniture in and out is not feasible so when buying go for the furniture that will last the longest with little maintenance and at the end of the day give you more bang for your buck. There are natural materials like, Hardwood, softwood and stone and then man made like, vinyl, wrought iron, aluminium and rattan all of which have pros and cons.
Maintenance: following on from the above point – maintenance should pay a huge part. You want something that can cope with the conditions where you live. After investing in your garden furniture you don’t want to be spending too much time maintaining it as it is either falling apart or not weathering well.
Comfort: Sit on all the furniture before you buy. Pull the chairs in to the table as if you were eating – is the seat height right for the table height? Is there enough leg room/space under the table? If the chairs have armrest are they designed for comfort or affect? Are the chairs back slanted at a comfortable angle? Can these be adjusted? Generally metal furniture comes with seat cushions and wood doesn’t – how good are the cushions – do they fit the seat well and have enough padding? Is the furniture rigid or does it wiggle and shake when you eat – this really bugs me when you are cutting your food and the whole table starts to shake and vibrate! It’s no good having garden furniture that ticks every box except the most important – comfort.
Storage: With the various temperate variations the furniture has to withstand, and especially from my perspective being able to protect your garden furniture from the harsh winter weather is very important so when choosing your furniture make sure that you will be able to get garden furniture covers to fit your choice, or that the furniture can be moved or stacked neatly to enable it to be covered thoroughly.
Do you have the time and the skills to keep your garden furniture in tip top condition? Or do you prefer minimum work? Wooden garden furniture is popular and versatile and has some great styles and choices but buyer beware that it will require regular maintenance and treatment.
Caring for your wooden garden furniture isn’t as scary as you may think and I will quickly outline what is involved below:
To remove any stains or mildew Oxygen bleach is best to use mixed with some hot water and scrub with a soft bristle brush. To remove rust stains and to remove back to original colour before staining or painting sand lightly along the grain with a fine grit sandpaper and rinse.
Once you have sanded also to dry and touch up with paint if needed and then seal the wood. Apply a clear water repellent preservative, which contains a mildewcide. In general you will have to do this every 2 years. Never power house your wooden furniture this can cause damage.
Metal garden furniture is as popular as wood and much easier to maintain but not as versatile. Most metal outdoor furniture is finished with paint, varnish, or powder coating to prevent rust. And, while aluminium doesn’t rust—hence its recommended use in areas near salt water—it can oxidise (which can dull the finish).
Metal garden furniture is best cleaned with a cloth or sponge using water and mild, non-detergent soap and wiped dry. When cleaning keep an eye out for scratches or any signs of rust, especially at furniture joints. Apply touch-up paint to scratches, once sanded, to prevent rust. When not in use try lean the chairs against the table to avoid any water building up or pooling. Try not to cover metal garden furniture with a table cloth – this can trap water and cause humidity and excess heat that can damage the metal.
The main player on the market at present appears to be Rattan garden furniture and I must admit I have had some garden envy when I have visited some friends in their lovely houses with their lovely garden furniture sets – but what is Rattan garden furniture and why is it so hip at the moment?
Originally, much wicker garden furniture was made from material taken from Rattan Palms, trees originating in Africa, Asia and Australasia. This material looked great, but was never very good for garden furniture, as the weather soon takes its toll – especially in changeable climates. The Natural becomes brittle and discolours over time, eventually loosing it’s shape.
Enter the modern synthetic woven rattan which makes the furniture you see here totally weatherproof. The woven material is:
1) Super durable
2) UV stable – it won’t fade over time
3) Waterproof – won’t absorb moisture
This means you can leave the furniture out in the garden year-round if you wish, and with a hose-down in the spring, your rattan garden furniture will look as good as new again.
You don’t need to stain or treat the material at all, so it’s pretty much maintenance free!
If anyone who knows me is reading and looking for some gardening gifts for me, Rattan garden furniture please! wink wink.
Keep in mind these General Outdoor Garden Furniture Care and Cleaning Tips:
- Always start with a light cleaning, sweeping surfaces as needed with a soft brush or cloth. Then assess if further care and cleaning is needed.
- When it comes to cleaning products, non-detergent liquid soap (think dish soap, Fairy Liquid!) is your friend. For tougher stains and mildew, use water and white vinegar.
- Read the manual. All outdoor furniture should come with instructions.
- Sunscreens and bird droppings should be cleaned off as soon as possible. They can be particularly damaging and lead to permanent staining and corrosion.
- Consider covering your furniture when not in use for long periods of time (and during bouts of inclement weather). Even if it can stand up to the elements, this will extend its life and make cleaning easier after the outdoor season begins again.
- If you live in an area with especially harsh winter weather, try storing your furniture indoors if possible.