Decorating & Design

March 12, 2009

How To Choose Outdoor Furniture

Here’s a handy guide to choosing the kind that’s right for you.

In this article:

Natural materials



Teak, the most expensive of all woods used for outdoor furniture, is a deciduous hardwood tree from south-east Asia. It has a naturally high oil content which makes it both stable and resistant to rotting when exposed to climatic extremes. These special qualities have made teak wood the preferred choice for marine decking and construction for centuries, making it one of the best choices as timber for outdoor furniture. Left untreated, teak will take on beautiful silvery grey finish. To preserve the original look, apply teak oil or wood stain when the furniture is still new to maintain the warm wood colour. Teak furniture should also be thoroughly cleaned once a year with soapy water to remove dirt.


Cedar is actually a member of the pine family and is naturally found in North America. It is highly resistant to weathering and will last many decades outdoors without being susceptible to rotting and decay. Cedar can be left unfinished and untreated. The natural weathering process will transform this beautiful wood into a silvery-gray colour, similar to teak. Adirondack-style chairs are typically constructed from cedar and can be left unfinished, stained or painted. To maintain the original rich colour of the cedar wood furniture, apply a protective furniture oil annually.

White pine

White pine is the most weather resistant variety of pine wood and while often used for outdoor furniture, it does not weather as well as teak and cedar. Make sure your pine outdoor furniture has been treated with a protective finish to ensure its durability as well as to prevent discolouration.


Wicker refers to the twigs, canes or reeds woven together to make baskets or chairs. Wicker can be made from a variety of materials, including cane, willow and rattan. Wicker is typically treated with at least one clear coat of varnish or lacquer to increase its durability, and should be touched up with either clear varnish or paint seasonally, depending on the existing finish.

Man-made materials


Cast aluminum

The process of casting aluminum furniture has been around for centuries. It begins with the carving of a wooden model of the piece to be created. The model is then used to make metal molds, achieved by pressing the wooden models into the casting sand in order to make an impression. Molten aluminum is poured into the sand mold and once the aluminum has hardened and cooled, the sand is knocked away. The result is the desired piece in cast aluminum. Cast aluminum furniture can be created with fine detail, a characteristic which helped cast aluminum become a very popular choice for both indoor and outdoor seating.

Wrought iron

Wrought iron means the metal is hammered, twisted or bent into shape. Instead of pouring a molten metal into a cast the iron is heated to the point when it becomes soft and malleable. This is also known as hot forged metal as the metal is heated until it reaches a red-hot state.

Wrought iron has a natural resistance to corrosion, due to its high glass content. All ferrous metals are susceptible to rusting, but wrought iron holds up better than most. Instead of the spotty rusting that other metals can acquire, rust tends to spread out on iron to give the whole piece a brownish colour. Today’s wrought iron is typically powder-coated to make the metal more durable and is available in a wide variety of styles and patterns.


Plastic lumber

Made of recycled plastic milk containers, this material is eco-friendly, easy to maintain, UV protected and extremely durable. Outdoor furniture made of this material is available in a variety of wood-look styles such as Adirondack chairs, cedar benches or picnic tables and comes in a wide variety of colours. The furniture itself is also recyclable.

Clean by wiping furniture with a mixture of warm water and mild dishwashing detergent and hose down to rinse.


Resin is used to create a range of outdoor furniture including wicker-look furniture that is more durable, fade-resistant and easier to maintain than natural wicker. Resin wicker is also mildew and rust resistant and is available in a wide variety of styles and colours.