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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Outdoor Furniture Materials

 

By Jessica Earley
August 27, 2021

Ready to finish your deck or patio with beautiful and comfy outdoor furniture, but not sure what to choose? We want to help you make the most of your investment, so we researched all the best outdoor furniture materials so you know exactly what to look for when you go shopping.

plastic and synthetic resin outdoor furniture comparison chart
outdoor fabrics olefin vs. sunbrella vs. polyester comparison chart
steel, wrought iron, and aluminum outdoor furniture comparison chart
Teak vs. Wood outdoor furniture materials comparison chart
concrete outdoor furniture benefits & characteristics chart

All-Weather Durability—Outdoor Furniture Must-Haves

Whether you’re looking to lounge comfortably on your back deck or host your neighborhood barbeque, choosing durable furniture materials that stand up to the weather is a must. Here are all the qualities you should look for before you purchase any outdoor furniture set.

Water Resistance—Prevents Stains, Rust, and Mold

It’d be a waste to put furniture outside just for it to quickly be damaged by rain, humidity, and other moisture. That’s why water resistance is a must-have feature for any outdoor furniture!

Many outdoor furniture materials are used specifically for their ability to withstand moisture and prevent warping, watermarks, or rotting. If you’re in the market for new outdoor fabric, keep in mind that water resistance is a major factor in stain resistance. Thankfully, if the material you choose is not naturally water resistant, you can get water-resistant covers.

A secondary concern with the moisture that could accumulate on your furniture is mold and mildew. However, some materials (like polyester) aren't water resistant but are either chemically treated or naturally resist mold and mildew. Especially in extremely humid climates, it’s important to check that the material you choose for your outdoor couches or chairs is chemically treated to resist mold and mildew.

Lastly, no one wants rusty furniture, so make sure if you choose metal furniture pieces look for anti-rust features so it stays beautiful no matter how much moisture builds up.

UV Resistance—Prevents Colors from Fading

Even with covered patios or decks, quite a bit of sunlight will hit your outdoor furniture every day. UV or fade resistant materials won’t be bleached easily by the sun, so your furniture will stay as vibrant as the day you brought them home for a significant amount of time.

Weight—Determines Wind Resistance & Ease of Arrangement

Especially in windy locations, heavy furniture is great for keeping things from flying away. But if it’s too heavy, rearranging your furniture can be nearly impossible. Make sure to buy something in the middle—heavy enough to stay on the ground by light enough you can move it.

Temperature Resistance—Keeps Your Furniture Comfortable & Stable

Your outdoor furniture is going to experience all kinds of weather changes, so you want to find materials that are resistant to changes due to temperature. Metal is great at maintaining shape in both hot and cool weather, while wood and some plastics can swell or crack with changing temperatures.

Also, look for options that don’t get hot. Consider buying lighter colored materials and use umbrellas or other sun-shields to prevent your furniture from getting hot enough to burn your skin.

Easy to Clean—Helps Furniture Last Longer & Look Better

Windblown debris like dirt and dust will accumulate easily on the surfaces of your outdoor furniture, so it’s important to choose materials that are easy to clean and maintain. Additionally, it helps to find furniture with earthy colors or patterns that can disguise any dirt or other blemishes between each clean. Our guide to cleaning outdoor cushions and other outdoor furniture can give you an idea of how to maintain patio furniture, especially fabrics.

Best Metal Materials: Aluminum, Steel, & Wrought Iron

Metal outdoor furniture comparison chart

Metal is one of the most durable and versatile materials you can use in outdoor furniture. Because it’s extremely malleable, it can be formed into a great variety of shapes and styles to match any aesthetic. Most metal furniture is combined with other furniture materials—like fabric cushions and backrests—to add comfort.

Lots of manufactures have found techniques to produce metal furniture without the need for bolts or screws, reducing how likely it is to break and need repair or replacement. Some metals can get really hot in the sun, so it’s important to consider that before you make your purchases. Let’s look closer at the unique characteristics of each type of metal furniture.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a great material for outdoor furniture because it’s rust resistant, lightweight, and highly versatile. Out of all the metal outdoor furniture options, this is one of the most popular because of its price, style, and durability. Here are some of the top pros and cons of aluminum.

Pros

✅ Fits Any Style—Aluminum furniture is available in so many styles it’s hard not to find something that will look great outside your home. This flexible yet sturdy metal can be manipulated and extruded into almost any shape.

✅ Budget Friendly—Many homeowners choose aluminum over other outdoor furniture materials because you get a lot of value for your money. It’s the least expensive of all outdoor furniture made from metal and generally affordable compared to other outdoor materials.

✅ Low Maintenance—Aluminum furniture doesn’t require intense maintenance because it is resistant to nearly all weather-related concerns. It’s easy to remove dirt and other outdoor messes from your aluminum furniture.

Cons

❌ Lightweight and Prone to Toppling—Aluminum is fairly lightweight, which makes it easy to move and rearrange on your patio. But it’s so lightweight that on windy days your aluminum furniture is likely to tip over.

Care Tips

  • Cover or store inside when not in use
  • Address spills immediately
  • Dust regularly with a dry cloth
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners with ammonia, acid, vinegar, or lemon
  • Protect furniture from sharp items with coasters, trivets, and placemats

Steel

Steel is an extremely strong, durable metal that is great for heavier furniture pieces like tables and sofas. It’s resistant to damage from extreme temperatures (though it still gets hot to the touch) and is resistant to rust and corrosion. Steel offers a sleek modern style that can add class to our outdoor spaces. Here are the top pros and cons you should consider with steel.

Pros

✅ Low Maintenance—Steel resists most types of rust or corrosion, so you won’t have to buff or deep clean your furniture as often.

✅ Resists Wind—Many homeowners choose steel because it’s too heavy to be blown over in windy conditions, but it’s still light enough to be moved easily.

✅ Eco-friendly—Steel is often made with recycled material.

Cons

❌ Price—If you’re looking for something budget-friendly, steel isn’t always the best option. However, because it’s so durable, it lasts longer than most other outdoor materials.

Care Tips

  • Cover or store inside when not in use
  • Address spills immediately
  • Dust regularly with a dry cloth
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners with ammonia, acid, vinegar, or lemon

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is popular for outdoor furniture because it’s highly workable and is often handcrafted into a variety of intricate designs. Wrought iron is the strongest metal used in outdoor furniture, but it’s often  heavy and requires more maintenance to keep it rust-free.

 

Pros

✅ Durable—Wrought iron is strong and won’t buckle under weight. With proper care it can last up to 100 years. However, because of its vulnerability to rust, we do give iron a 2 out of 3 for durability when considering all-weather conditions.

✅ Resists Wind—Wrought iron is perfect for windy areas because it’s so heavy. However, that can also make it very difficult to move.

 

Care Tips

  • Clean dirt and debri regularly with mild soap and water and dry immediately
  • Periodically inspect for rust or chips
  • Remove calcium build up with 1 part vinegar 9 part water solution

Cons

❌ High Maintenance—Rust can easily accumulate on wrought iron furniture, so it’s important to remove it from puddles after it rains and cover it when it’s not in use. Some newer varieties of wrought iron are treated with weather-resistant finishes to mitigate rust. Letting dirt accumulate on your chairs or tables can make it difficult to remove later.

❌ Uncomfortable—Because wrought iron is so rigid and uncomfortable, many furniture sets will also include fabric seats and backrests. Wrought iron also absorbs the same temperature of its environment, making your furniture hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Pros

✅ Durable—Wrought iron is strong and won’t buckle under weight. With proper care it can last up to 100 years. However, because of its vulnerability to rust, we do give iron a 2 out of 3 for durability when considering all-weather conditions.

✅ Resists Wind—Wrought iron is perfect for windy areas because it’s so heavy. However, that can also make it very difficult to move.

 

Cons

❌ High Maintenance—Rust can easily accumulate on wrought iron furniture, so it’s important to remove it from puddles after it rains and cover it when it’s not in use. Some newer varieties of wrought iron are treated with weather-resistant finishes to mitigate rust. Letting dirt accumulate on your chairs or tables can make it difficult to remove later.

❌ Uncomfortable—Because wrought iron is so rigid and uncomfortable, many furniture sets will also include fabric seats and backrests. Wrought iron also absorbs the same temperature of its environment, making your furniture hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Care Tips

  • Clean dirt and debri regularly with mild soap and water and dry immediately
  • Periodically inspect for rust or chips
  • Remove calcium build up with 1 part vinegar 9 part water solution

Best Wood Patio Materials: Teak & Eucalyptus

best outdoor wood furniture materials comparison chart

While you can find outdoor furniture made from almost any wood, by far the most popular are Teak and Eucalyptus. Teak is sourced from Asian countries like Burma and Thailand while Eucalyptus comes from Australia and surrounding islands. One important thing to always look for with any wood furniture is its FSC rating—the degree to which it uses recycled wood or is harvested from sustainable sources.

Though they come from different regions of the world, these two woods have similar style, strength, weather resistance, and maintenance needs. Both varieties need to be oiled or stained about once a year to maintain their original colors and prevent other damage.

Teak

Teak outdoor furniture offers a unique modern and minimalist style to your deck or patio. The great thing about using teak instead of other woods is it’s natural resistance to weather conditions because it has a high resin content. Let’s take a closer look at some pros and cons.

Pros

✅ Durable—Teak is an extremely durable, dense wood that makes it great for outdoor use. It naturally resists pests and generally doesn’t rot easily. Like any wood it will crack and swell with use, but that doesn’t generally affect the integrity of your furniture.

✅ Strong—The dense nature of teak plus its binding resins make it super strong. It’s great for making both chairs and tables.

✅ Temperature Resistant—Don’t worry about your teak furniture getting too hot or two cold! This wood naturally moderates heat in all seasons.

 

Cons

❌ Color Fades—Under the sun and weather changes, the natural color of teak fades to a silvery-grey hue. It’s not a complete con because the color is beautiful and a natural part of teak’s aging process, but if you prefer the original color of the wood it requires more care like oiling and staining your furniture regularly.

❌ Not Always Eco-friendly—Over the years, the rise in popularity of teak has increased the amount of clear-cutting happening in Asian forests. It’s difficult to find teak furniture that has been sustainably sourced. Recently, however, companies like Reforest Teak have started reforestation efforts to sustainably source all their teak furniture.

❌ Price—The popularity and environmental factors play right into the price of teak. Because demand is up and the material is becoming more scarce as deforestation continues, teak is one of the most expensive options for outdoor furniture.

Care Tips

  • Address spills immediately by wiping with a soft, dry cloth
  • Clean with warm soapy water, then dry with a soft, clean cloth
  • Avoid the use of harsh cleaners and abrasives
  • Avoid letting water stand on the surface of all teak furniture
  • Cover when not in use
  • If the finish starts to peel away, gently remove with a soft bristle brush

Pros

✅ Durable—Teak is an extremely durable, dense wood that makes it great for outdoor use. It naturally resists pests and generally doesn’t rot easily. Like any wood it will crack and swell with use, but that doesn’t generally affect the integrity of your furniture.

✅ Strong—The dense nature of teak plus its binding resins make it super strong. It’s great for making both chairs and tables.

✅ Temperature Resistant—Don’t worry about your teak furniture getting too hot or two cold! This wood naturally moderates heat in all seasons.

 

Care Tips

  • Address spills immediately by wiping with a soft, dry cloth
  • Clean with warm soapy water, then dry with a soft, clean cloth
  • Avoid the use of harsh cleaners and abrasives
  • Avoid letting water stand on the surface of all teak furniture
  • Cover when not in use
  • If the finish starts to peel away, gently remove with a soft bristle brush

Cons

❌ Color Fades—Under the sun and weather changes, the natural color of teak fades to a silvery-grey hue. It’s not a complete con because the color is beautiful and a natural part of teak’s aging process, but if you prefer the original color of the wood, it requires more care like oiling and staining your furniture regularly.

❌ Not Always Eco-friendly—Over the years, the rise in popularity of teak has increased the amount of clear-cutting happening in Asian forests. It’s difficult to find teak furniture that has been sustainably sourced. Recently however, companies like Reforest Teak have started reforestation efforts to sustainably source all their teak furniture.

❌ Price—The popularity and environmental factors play right into the price of teak. Because demand is up and the material is becoming more scarce as deforestation continues, teak is one of the most expensive options for outdoor furniture.

Eucalyptus

Outdoor furniture chair made of wood

If you want a similar style and look to teak but don’t want the price tag or the environmental impact, eucalyptus is the way to go! It has nearly all the same benefits of teak but costs less and is more environmentally-friendly.

Pros

✅ Durable—Eucalyptus is just as dense as teak and has a similar resin content that helps keep pests away and the wood rot resistant. It will swell and crack with use, but remains strong. However, compared to teak, eucalyptus is slightly less durable which is which is why it gets a 2 out of 3 for durability from us.

✅ Environmentally Friendly—One of the biggest advantages that eucalyptus has over teak is that it’s more sustainable. There is a larger supply (nearly 75% of the forest in Australia has eucalyptus) and it grows quickly, so most suppliers harvest from replanted growth instead of cutting down established forests.

✅ Price—Because of the increased supply and better environmental impact, eucalyptus is much less expensive than teak.

Cons

❌ Color Fades—Just like teak, eucalyptus will fade to a silvery-grey hue if not sanded, oiled, and stained regularly.

❌ Not Ideal for Cold Climates—Eucalyptus may splinter and crack in cold temperatures. Be sure to store any Eucalyptus furniture items during the winter.

Care Tips

  • Address spills immediately by wiping with a soft, dry cloth
  • Clean with warm soapy water, then dry with a soft, clean cloth
  • Avoid the use of harsh cleaners and abrasives
  • Avoid letting water stand on the surface of all teak furniture
  • Cover when not in use
  • If the finish starts to peel away, gently remove with a soft bristle brush

Plastic & Synthetic Resin Patio Furniture Materials

plastic outdoor furniture comparison chart

Looking for something extremely durable, lightweight, and affordable? It’s time for you to check out the world of plastic and resin furniture pieces. Plastic and resin choices are a popular replacement for the bamboo, rattan, and willow that has been traditionally used to make wicker furniture. (Note: Wicker is often confused as a material name, but it’s actually the name of the weaving technique.) Let’s take a deeper look at the different kinds of plastic furniture and the benefits they offer.

Polyethylene Synthetic Resin

Polyethylene is a synthetic resin that is commonly used for wicker furniture because it can mimic plant fibers like rattan. The higher quality version of polyethylene is known as high density polyethylene or HDPE. This is one of the most popular plastics used in wicker outdoor furniture because it is lightweight, easy make into any style, and extremely durable.

Pros

✅ Fade Resistant—With polyethylene, there’s pretty much no worry that your sunbathing habits will fade your furniture! Some other plastics are painted which can chip or fade to unattractive colors under the surface. Instead of using paint, the color of polyethylene is embedded all the way through the plastic strands, so there’s no worry about sun damage or paint chips.

✅ Resistant to All Weather Concerns—Plastic furniture like polyethylene are resistant to water, mold and mildew, and other weather-related damage.

✅ Budget-Friendly—The advantage of buying this synthetic material is that it’s one of the most inexpensive outdoor furniture materials on the market.

Cons

❌ Not as Eco-friendly as Natural Fiber—As with any plastic or resin, polyethylene isn’t as compostable as natural fibers or materials. However, HDPE is one of the more eco-friendly plastic and resin options available because it is made of 100% recycled material.

Care Tips

  • Use mild cleaners like dish soap
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbing tools
  • Mix water a bleach to scrub more stubborn dirt

Polypropylene Synthetic Resin

Polypropylene—more commonly known as poly—is a form of thermoplastic polymer resin. It’s derived from recycled plastic bottles, milk jugs, and other plastic containers, making it an environmentally-friendly choice for outdoor furniture. Because it’s easy to manufacture and is highly durable, it has become the most popular material for outdoor furniture. Let’s explore the pros and cons of poly!

Pros

✅ Fade Resistant—Just like polyethylene, polypropylene is colored all the way through the plastic so it won’t chip or fade.

✅ Resistant to All Weather Concerns—Poly checks every box when it comes to weather-related outdoor furniture concerns. It’s waterproof, mold and mildew resistant, fade resistant, and damage resistant. Poly is so strong it can’t withstand a lot of force and pressure before it breaks.

✅ Lightweight—If you think you’ll rearrange your outdoor furniture frequently, poly is the way to go. Though more prone to toppling in the wind than steel or iron furniture, compared to PVC and other resin or plastic furniture options, poly is usually weighted enough to withstand heavy winds.

✅ Budget-Friendly—This is one of the most inexpensive materials on the market!

Cons

❌ Rigid and Inflexible—There’s almost no downsides to poly—except that it’s so rigid it can be uncomfortable at times. Make sure to buy a set that has adequate cushion and pillows to make them comfortable. And remember, being so rigid also adds to poly’s durability!

Care Tips

  • Use mild cleaners like dish soap
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbing tools
  • Mix water a bleach to scrub more stubborn dirt

PVC

PVC plastic outdoor chairs arranged around a fire

PVC is one of the most widely used plastics out there. It’s really versatile—you’ll find it used for plumping, packaging, toys, and more. It’s even used in outdoor furniture, but unfortunately it’s not always the best material to be used outside. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this material.

Pros

✅ Budget-Friendly—You won’t find a less expensive outdoor furniture type than PVC!

 

Cons

❌ Not Durable—Unfortunately, with a small price tag you also sacrifice a lot of durability. PVC can bend easily and doesn’t hold up well against weather conditions.

❌ Highly Flammable—Summer is the time you want to use outdoor furniture the most, but with PVC you can run the risk of a fire if it gets too hot! Even if it doesn’t go up in flames, extreme heat can cause PVC to release toxic fumes.

Care Tips

  • Use mild cleaners like dish soap
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbing tools
  • Mix water a bleach to scrub more stubborn dirt

Pros

✅ Budget-Friendly—You won’t find a less expensive outdoor furniture type than PVC!

 

Care Tips

  • Use mild cleaners like dish soap
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbing tools
  • Mix water a bleach to scrub more stubborn dirt

Cons

❌ Not Durable—Unfortunately, with a small price tag you also sacrifice a lot of durability. PVC can bend easily and doesn’t hold up well against weather conditions.

❌ Highly Flammable—Summer is the time you want to use outdoor furniture the most, but with PVC you can run the risk of a fire if it gets too hot! Even if it doesn’t go up in flames, extreme heat can cause PVC to release toxic fumes.


Best Outdoor Fabrics: Sunbrella, Olefin, & Polyester

outdoor fabrics comparison chart featuring sunbrella vs. olefin vs. polyester

Almost all the outdoor furniture materials listed above will be combined with some sort of outdoor fabric on a seat cushion or outdoor cover. Because your furniture will be outside and exposed to the weather, you can’t use just any fabric. Check out how these three outdoor fabrics hold up on your outdoor furniture!

Sunbrella

Chair featuring outdoor fabric material

Acrylic fabrics have long been a favorite for outdoor furniture, and Sunbrella is one of the best kinds! Sunbrella is one of the most versatile outdoor fabrics and comes in many colors and styles. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons!

Pros

✅ Fade-Resistant—Sunbrella is one of the most fade resistant outdoor fabrics there is because it has UV resistant properties. This means that it will last longer than most other outdoor fabrics.

✅ Water and Mildew Resistant—Fabric is more susceptible to water damage and mildew than other outdoor materials, which is why Sunbrella is so great! You don’t have to worry much about water and mildew damage with Sunbrella cushions and pillows.

Cons

❌ Comfort—Sunbrella can be a bit scratchy, but usually doesn’t bother people too much.

❌ Static Shocks—Unlike olefin, Sunbrella transmits static electricity and may shock you!

❌ Cost—Most acrylic outdoor fabrics like Sunbrella are expensive, but they last a long time.

Care Tips

  • Cover when not in use to increase longevity
  • Use mild stain removers and blot stains and spills
  • Machine washable with cold water when needed
  • Always allow to air dry

Olefin

If you’re not ready for the monetary investment of Sunbrella, olefin fabrics are another fantastic choice! Olefin fabrics are synthetic and made from plastic compounds like polypropylene or polyethylene and can be just as beautiful and versatile as Sunbrella.

Pros

✅ Incredibly Durable—Olefin is even more durable than Sunbrella, especially when it comes to resisting abrasions or scratches.

✅ Water Resistant—Just like acrylic fabrics, olefin is water resistant.

✅ Fade Resistant—Olefin is not quite as fade-resistant as Sunbrella, but it still has a significant lifespan under sunlight.

✅ Environmentally-Friendly—Even though olefin is a plastic, it often uses recycled plastics and process results in very little waste, making it environmentally-friendly.

Cons

❌ Melts in Extreme Heat—Like a lot of plastics, olefin fabric tends to melt in extreme heat. This might not be the best material to choose if you live in a warmer climate.

Care Tips

  • Iron fabric on low to release wrinkles
  • Machine wash on gentle cycle then tumble dry on low heat
  • Spot clean as needed
  • Store or cover when not in use

Polyester

Polyester is a widely used fabric for anything from clothing to furniture—especially outdoor furniture. Polyester can be a good choice if you are looking for something that’s resistant to moisture and weather but don’t want to spend as much to get Sunbrella or olefin.

Pros

✅ Quick-Drying (Though Not Waterproof)—Outdoor furniture gets wet a lot, especially when used outside a backyard pool. Polyester is great because it’s quick-drying to help you get back to using it without getting wet. However, polyester is still less water resistant than Sunbrella and olefin and may be more likely to stain.

✅ Budget-Friendly—Polyester is the most budget-friendly outdoor fabric available.

Cons

❌ Not Very Durable—Polyester doesn’t hold up as long as olefin or Sunbrella will. When looking at polyester outdoor furniture, you have to pay careful attention to the GSM number, which tells you how thick the fabric is. The higher the number, the thicker and more durable the fabric is.

Care Tips

  • Wash with soap and water
  • Allow to air dry
  • Stain remover may used on stubborn stains
  • Cover when not in use to reduce fading

Trending Outdoor Furniture: Concrete

characteristics of concrete outdoor furniture

One last outdoor furniture material to talk about is concrete. Yes, the same material we use for sidewalks is used in outdoor furniture—often as tables rather than chairs or benches (though you will see it used for everything.) Concrete is usually a great statement piece when paired with wood or the bright colors of plastic furniture. Let’s see what some of the pros and cons are of using concrete.

Pros

✅ Durable—Concrete is very hard and durable, so it will last long outside. It’s extremely resistant to weather and will last for a long time.

✅ Price—Concrete is going to be more expensive than plastic furniture, but might not cost quite as much as teak or eucalyptus.

Cons

❌ Comfort—Concrete is the hardest outdoor furniture material you can find, which is why it’s not usually used for chairs or couches. It works much better for tables.

❌ Heavy—Concrete is incredibly heavy, making it a great option for windy areas but less than ideal if you plan to rearrange your outdoor furniture often.

❌ Absorbs Water—You might be surprised to learn that concrete is prone to staining! Because the material is porous, concrete may absorb and stain if water and other spills are left uncleaned on its surface. For this reason, we recommend applying a sealer.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve taken a look at our outdoor furniture guide, it’s time to go shopping! Outdoor furniture is made with durability in mind, no matter your material, so we’re sure you’ll find something beautiful and long-lasting to complete your home’s look. Need more inspiration? Check out these 9 outdoor living space ideas for outdoor furniture styling tips and design inspiration.