Outdoor Furniture 101

If you’re thinking about buying new outdoor furniture, you might be wondering which direction is best. Here’s a little handy and quick primer on the upside and the downside to the available choices, which include:  Aluminium, Wicker, Wood, Plastic and Steel patio and deck furniture.


You should hear my British pal Zoe say “aluminium.” It’s marvelous – sounds like,”AL-LOO-MIN-EE-IM.” To which I always, say dumbly in Americanese…”What?” And now back to our article:

Upside: If Aluminium patio furniture is powder coated, it won’t rust or fade. It’s also lighter weight and lower maintenance than steel. Aluminium is also easy to care for. Simply clean with soapy water as needed and if you wish – you can coat with car wax to help repel water and stains.

Downside: You get what you pay for – high end aluminium patio sets cost $1,500 and more.


Upside: Lightweight and durable – whether in the woven wood or woven synthetic.

Downside: These pieces tend to be bulky and take up a fair amount of space. Also, quality goods can be pricey. Note: If you can, choose weather-resistant wicker which can be easily hosed off.


Upside: The nice thing about wood, other than its natural appeal, is that it won’t absorb the sun’s heat the way metals and wicker might, making it a nice choice for hot, sunny decks and patios. Easy care: wash with warm soapy water and rinse.

Downside: Wood patio furniture will not last “forever” without care to include staining and storage inside during the winter months. You can keep cedar and teak outdoors year round, but expect them to fade. Best not to place wood furniture on grass since wood will absorb moisture from the ground and can rot. You can use paint or sealants to help keep water out.


Upside: Generally, this is the least expensive outdoor furniture option. It’s generally quite portable and some is made from recycled materials. Chairs usually are able to stack, making for easy storage.

Downside: Plastic patio furniture is not as long-lasting as other choices. It also doesn’t look as great as other choices. You will spend less, yes, but it will look like you did. Please keep white plastic clean! It can look dingy and old rather quickly. You can store inside between seasons to help prevent fading and keep it in better looking condition.


Upside: Boy is this stuff strong and durable.  It makes for very substantial furniture.

Downside: Steel tends to be heavy and thus harder to move. Also, unless it is specially treated, it will likely rust if left out all year round. You can apply a special protective coating or spray wax to help prevent rust. Inquire at your outdoor furniture dealer or big box home center to learn more.

Like what you’re reading here?
Sign up for my monthly newsletter – not only will you receive great design tips, I’ll send you a gift for signing up! 
Click here to sign up for my newsletter