Choosing Garden Furniture, A guide to Materials Used
Garden furniture is available in a variety of materials, including Softwood, Hardwood, Cast Iron, Cast aluminium, and Wicker.
The choice of material will depend upon durability, finish, strength and personal preference.
Softwood furniture is generally made from Pine. It is cheap, cheerful and functional. It lacks strength and durability and will deteriorate after 3 or 4 years if not treated. It is high in maintenance and ideally, needs dry storage during the winter months.
There are a number of different hardwoods used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture. The most common include Yellow Balau, Eucalyptus, Meranti and Teak.
Teak. The most durable and long lasting of all hardwoods, due to its high content of natural oils and rubber. Each piece of teak is kiln dried to less than 12% moisture content before being shaped and used to produce each piece of furniture. This prevents any changes in climatic conditions affecting the furniture when moved to different geographical areas. Every item is manufactured using traditional dowelled mortise and tenon joinery complimented with solid brass fittings and fixings. Naturally rich in oleoresin, teak is highly resistant to warping and rotting and will last for many years without any special treatment. However, after time, teak can show hairline cracks, especially in end grains. These are quite natural and do not detract from the wood's strength or durability.
Our furniture is sold untreated in its natural state. The untreated timber is a very pleasant yellowy-brown olive colour when still fresh. The furniture is fine sanded so that it will have only the natural colour of the wood coupled with the raw natural texture of the teak grain.
If your furniture is to be used indoors, and away from a lot of natural sunlight, over a period of time, perhaps six months to a year, the wood will gradually become a darker shade of brown.
If the furniture is left outdoors, the effects of the suns rays will 'bleach out' the timbers natural colour, gradually turning it a soft silvery grey colour. This silvery grey ‘patina’, which develops over time, gives Teak Furniture a distinctive appearance. The silver grey colour resulting from this natural ageing process is considered to be very attractive, and allows the furniture to blend in well with many outdoor environments. Teak furniture left in this state is easily maintained, and needs no treatment whatsoever to give many years of service. And this is about as easy a maintenance schedule as its possible to get!
Yellow Balau The appeal of Yellow Balau is its high density, fine graining and weight. The timber has a life span of 20-30 years. In comparison to other species, Yellow Balau has only a small tendency of warping or twisting and is therefore adaptable to weather change conditions.
Eucalyptus The Eucalyptus Grandis timber exceeds the requirements of durability and weather resistance that is required from modern furniture. In fact Eucalyptus is as strong and as durable as teak, and on average it is from 10 to 20 percent denser. With its density, straight grain, smooth finish, and honey colour with subtle rose highlights, Eucalyptus is an excellent material to produce garden furniture. The Furniture is finished with a high quality penetrating oil, to give the wood hydro-repellent property along with fungus and insect resistance. The wood should not need to be treated again after purchase and will fade naturally over time and can be left outside over winter
Meranti is kiln dried prior to use as an outdoor furniture material. As a natural resource it will, without ongoing maintenance, deteriorate on exposure to the elements. The grain on all hardwoods can open, or lift, causing slight roughness. Our recommendation is that although the timber is already treated, it should be given a further application of teak oil or hardwood protector on assembly, and then periodically. Even with careful maintenance, small cracks or splits can appear, and the grain can lift at any time. Although this should not affect the strength of the wood, we suggest that the timber is allowed to dry thoroughly and is then lightly sanded with glass paper before receiving an application of teak oil. Hardwoods can discolour in certain atmospheric conditions, and if you find this unacceptable, we suggest it is cleaned with warm soapy water, dried off and lightly sanded, before being given an application of a proprietary ‘hardwood protectors.’ (The type recommended for window frames and front doors.) These stains will colour and protect the timber, but still allow the grain to show through.
Meranti is one of the cheaper hardwoods currently available and is a very popular choice for budget hardwood furniture.
Cast Iron. The appeal of cast iron furniture is that it is ornate and heavy. It will not be blown around even in the strongest of winds. It is suited to furniture pieces, which are intended to remain in one place. Most cast iron furniture is powder coated to protect from rusting and to make it aesthetically pleasing. However, if the powder coating gets scratched or chipped, maintenance is required without delay to avoid rusting. Few modern furniture designers’ work in cast iron but there is a lively trade in antiques and in reproductions of antique cast iron furniture designs.
Cast Aluminium. This is an increasingly popular choice of material for outdoor furniture. It has many advantages over its rivals. It is lightweight yet sturdy enough to prevent it from being blown around. It is maintenance free. It will not rust even if the powder coating is damaged. It is easy to work with meaning that attractive styles and designs are available and affordable. Aluminium furniture can be welded or assembled but if assembly furniture is used, fixings should ideally be stainless steel.
Wicker. Also known as rattan. This material is most commonly used for conservatory furniture but is also a popular choice for covered terraces and balconies. Wicker furniture should not be left outside in the rain although an imitation wicker is now available. Made from hand woven polyethylene, it looks just like the real thing and is weather resistant. This synthetic rattan/wicker is fade, UV and weather resistant which allows the furniture to be left outdoors in any weather. It is also resistant to insect, termite’s fungus and mould. However it is recommended that the furniture be stored away in the winter months or used with a furniture cover
About the Author: Roger Wakefield is a staff writer at:
Teak Garden Furniture, (http://www.furnishmygarden.com), supplier of superior teak garden furniture.