A guide to buying garden furniture: choosing the right type of garden furniture

Choosing the right garden furniture requires lots of thought and consideration. The right garden furniture can help to transform your outdoor space but making the wrong decision can leave you disappointed.

Whilst appearance is important when choosing garden furniture, there are more factors that need to be taken into account to avoid disappointment. Let’s take a look at how you can choose the right garden furniture for your outdoor space and give you an idea of what’s available.

Avoid making these mistakes when buying garden furniture

Types of garden furniture

Firstly, we’ll cover the different types of garden furniture available. Knowing the different materials and styles will stand you in good stead when making your decision. We’ll cover the 5 most popular materials, including pros and cons.

Rattan

Rattan garden furniture (sometimes referred to as weave) uses materials that are woven together to create a weave design. While traditionally made from natural fibres, many rattan garden furniture items today are made using synthetic wicker material.

Natural rattan is made using fibres from plants, such as palm trees. Natural rattan is prone to the weather, such as fading in direct sunlight or rain damaging. Colour fading is also a big problem.

As a result, a synthetic material was made to combat these problems.  Synthetic rattan, made from polyethene, mimics the same stylish design as natural rattan, but without all the drawbacks. You can enjoy the same stylish rattan design without worrying about the weather thanks to its UV-resistant properties!

Synthetic rattan is an ideal garden furniture choice for both outdoor and indoor spaces. Weave is also a popular style for creating egg chairs and hanging chairs.

Pros:

 - Durable and resilient material.

 - Weatherproof.

 - Versatile designs and appearance.

Cons:

 - Could be uncomfortable without cushions over long periods of time.

 - Weave can loosen over time or with excessive wear. Can be avoided though by taking care of the furniture.

 - Requires more maintenance compared to other materials to prevent damage.

Aluminium

Another popular garden furniture material is aluminium. Aluminium has grown in popularity due to the benefits it provides, along with its sleek and modern designs.

Unlike other metals (such as wrought iron), aluminium can withstand the unpredictable British weather! It’s all thanks to the anti-rust properties of the metal. The aluminium we all know in everyday items, such as tin cans or cars, is an alloy that’s combined with elements to give it durable qualities.

The same aluminium alloy is used to make garden furniture, to help create a strong but lightweight material that (providing it’s maintained) can stand the test of time. What’s more, many aluminium sets come with a firepit too!

Pros:

 - Easy to clean and maintain.

 - Lightweight and can be easily moved around.

 - Not prone to rusting.

Cons:

 - Needs covering or storing away during the wet winter months to prevent damage.

 - With the lightweight properties, a good strong gust could blow it away!

 - Constant exposure to damp or salty environments could cause corrosion.

See how you can clean and maintain aluminium garden furniture

Metal

As well to aluminium, other metals can also be used to make garden furniture. These include wrought iron and stainless steel. Which material you choose is entirely down to personal preference.

Wrought iron offers more decorative styles. Stainless steel on the other hand offers more modern and simplistic designs. Both wrought iron and stainless steel are excellent materials for alfresco dining sets.

Stainless steel (just like the kind you find in your kitchen) is an iron alloy that is treated to resist rust and corrosion. Unlike aluminium, however, stainless steel is not as lightweight. You can get different grades suited for different areas, such as 316 grade that is suited for coastal areas.

Wrought (or cast) iron is a traditional garden furniture material that is commonly used in classic styles, such as Victorian designs.

Pros:

 - Stainless steel furniture does not easily rust.

 - Wrought iron offers classic designs that have stood the test of time.

 - You won’t find sturdier garden furniture material than iron.

Cons:

 - Protective treatment and repainting will be required to maintain wrought iron.

 - Stainless steel can sometimes come with a higher price tag due to the manufacturing processes.

 - Wrought iron furniture is heavy and can be difficult to move. Wrought iron can also rust when exposed to moisture or air for prolonged periods and requires extra care and maintenance.

Wood

Benches anyone? Wood is another garden furniture material that many will associate with the humble garden bench. However, you can also get dining sets, swinging chairs and gazebos made from wood. There are also a variety of hardwoods used to make garden furniture, each offering different designs and characteristics.

Teak wood is known for being one of the strongest and most durable hardwoods. With a dense grain that prevents moisture, and the retention of natural oils, teak is perfectly suited to prevent weathering. However, the slow growth of teak does give it a high price tag.

Other hardwoods, such as acacia and eucalyptus, are much faster growing to allow for greater yield quantities. These hardwoods are also considered more sustainable making them a popular material for garden furniture without such a high price tag.

Garden furniture that is listed as a wood or timber build is made from less weather-resistant woods, meaning you’ll need to make extra effort to preserve the wood. The same also applies to softwood. Maintaining wood garden furniture in the Spring can help preserve the wood.

Pros:

 - Offers a stylish choice that can blend seamlessly into any outdoor space.

 - Easily paint to suit your design needs or preferences.

 - Easier to store and takes up less space, particularly folding garden furniture sets.

Cons:

 - Requires preserving and painting to prevent wood rot.

 - Can be expensive for more weatherproof woods, such as teak.

 - Softwood regularly requires maintenance to prevent damage.

Plastic

Another type of garden furniture is plastic. Solid plastic (or synthetic resin) is easy to mould into shape. Once very popular, preference for plastic garden furniture has waned over the years as other materials, such as synthetic rattan, grew more favourable.

However, plastic garden furniture is both lightweight and affordable. As most plastic garden furniture sets don’t contain additional materials, such as metal, it can be left outside without sustaining any damage from the weather.

Pros:

 - Extremely easy to clean and maintain

 - Low cost

 - Weather resistant

Cons:

 - Many consider plastic garden furniture to be unattractive

 - Plastic can easily break or become brittle

 - Not much choice or flexibility for design

See how you can care for your garden furniture

Finishing touches

Parasols

A parasol is a stylish addition to any garden furniture set and they are ideal for providing you with some extra shade on a hot day.

There are two types of parasols; traditional and cantilever. Traditional parasols require a base that stands upright through the middle hole of a table. Cantilever parasols stand separately from the table. These have a base attached to allow the parasol to ‘hover’ over your furniture.

More often than not, you’ll need to buy a base for traditional parasols separately. The size and weight of the base will be determined by the size of the parasol. For example, a 3.5m parasol will require a 50-kg base.

To prevent damage make sure the parasol is firmly attached to the base. When not in use, store the parasol away to prevent it from breaking in the wind. Always make sure the parasol is dry before folding it up.

Covers

Covers are a great way to protect your garden furniture during the cold and wet months. When your garden furniture is not in use, covers help to protect it from the rain, snow, and whatever mother nature tries to throw at it!

Covers can even come with UV protection to prevent fading. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so you’ll need to make sure the cover fits before you buy it. Correctly measuring your garden furniture will help here.

Tuck the chairs all the way under the table and include them in your measurements! Many have made the mistake of not including chairs when measuring up for a cover. The shape of your furniture, as well as width and length all need to be considered when buying a cover.

Cushions

Not only do cushions help to provide additional comfort, but they also increase the style and appeal of your garden furniture sets. Depending on the garden furniture set, base cushions may be included.

The base cushions are usually made in an accompanying style or design to match the set, giving a seamless design. Nowadays, these usually come with zip covers that can be removed and machine washed.

Additional cushions, or scatter cushions, are not included. Some considerations for buying scatter cushions include:

 - The size

 - Whether cushion ties are needed to prevent slipping

 - If the fabric is UV protective or waterproof

 - The filling, such as polyester or foam

It’s best practice to store your cushions away when not in use. That way, you can prevent wear and tear, and the possibility of mould.

Choosing the type of garden furniture to go for is not an easy decision. With pros and cons for each type, ultimately your choice will be down to personal preference. Considering the pros and cons for each type though should help you choose the right garden furniture for you.

Browse our range of garden furniture available at Hilltop