Find outdoor furniture that withstands the elements

Consumer Reports News: May 12, 2011 03:48 PM

The family is moving outdoors and taking the kitchen and dining room with it. Patios, porches and decks are being turned into “outdoor rooms” with places to cook, dine or just enjoy the garden. Buying the right furniture can help you transform your outdoor space into a place you’ll want to hang out all summer.

Our report on outdoor furniture materials showed that to get a well-made set you don’t need to spend top dollar, but you have to know what to look for. You’ll also want to consider upkeep, so check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Here’s a look at the six most common materials.

Cast aluminum. The higher-priced sets are powder-coated rather than painted and offer a more uniform appearance. The set should have unobtrusive welded joints, or even better, welds that have been ground smooth and coated to match the set. Look for stainless-steel or aluminum fasteners, which won’t rust, and pass on sharp, unfinished edges.

Resin plastic. It’s a good choice for poolside or in salt air, but strong winds can knock lightweight pieces around so choose sturdy chairs, and ones that are wider, allowing guests to get comfortable. Some are stackable, and armchairs are especially cozy. The table should have a solid top and stainless-steel or aluminum hardware.

Teak. Check for smoothly sanded wood with a well-matched grain and color and tight-fitting joints. No cracks and splinters, and metal welds or parts should be painted or covered.

Tubular aluminum. Pick pieces that are lightweight and rigid, with solid construction, uniform finish, and neat welded joints. Sit in the chairs. They’re meant to be springy, but they shouldn’t flex too much. Avoid sets with sharp, unfinished edges, or messy finishes.

Wicker. Choose untreated natural wicker only if it will be protected from the elements. Otherwise go with outdoor plastic wicker. Look closely at the set, passing on pieces that are loosely wound on the frame or unraveling.

Wrought iron. Inspect for paint drips and missed spots. Joints should be unobtrusive and fully welded, or look for sets that have capped or hidden nuts and bolts—the caps keep moisture out.

Whatever you select, before you buy sit in the chairs and pull them up to the table. Check that the seat height is fine, and your knees don’t touch the table. You’ll want chairs that are roomy with comfortable armrests. Cushions should be well padded, water resistant, and fit well. And be sure the legs of the table don’t get in the way.

Kimberly Janeway

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