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Outdoor Furniture: Types of Materials

by Alex

Ah, Spring! It awakens in all of us the desire to spend time outdoors. Perhaps your springtime thoughts this year are about grilling steaks on a new BBQ or maybe it’s roasting marshmallows on an outdoor fireplace. Perhaps you have grandeur designs and dream of recreating the comfort of your indoor living room in an outdoor setting?

If indeed your plans include purchasing outdoor furniture, read on for some useful information on the different materials used for its production, along with the benefits and drawbacks. Good to know before you begin your quest to find that perfect set!


A classic, but there are 2 types available today, natural and synthetic. Below is a description of each detailing their unique features.

Natural Rattan

Rattan furniture adds a tropical flair to your yard and is usually found only in specialized stores. It can be used with or without cushions, but cushions do add that extra touch of luxury. Being on the heavy side, natural rattan is well suited for windy areas, although most people will opt to put it in their solarium.

Ratana San Bernado Rattan Living

San Bernado Collection from Ratana

Premium natural rattan is very smooth and its soft finish resists snags on clothing. The weaving is tight, even and the frame is strong. Ask your salesperson for more details or read the tags, if any, to make sure the furniture is made of genuine rattan and not cane, which is not as resistant.

If used outdoors, rattan must be treated every year with wood varnish. Because weathering will cause it to fade over time, I suggest that you purchase all your pieces at the same time to ensure that the change in colour remains even throughout. Furthermore, you must avoid direct exposure to the sun and, of course, store it for protection during the harsh winter months.

If you intend to use your rattan furniture outside, you will need to clean it every day with water and mild soap. By following the manufacturer’s care instructions and taking certain basic precautions, you’ll be able to enjoy your rattan furniture for many years.

Synthetic Rattan

Since natural rattan requires some special maintenance, a disadvantage for some, more people are turning to a synthetic alternative. Combining style with a touch of country, the synthetic variety is more expensive but can take just about anything Mother Nature throws at it. It’s heavier than natural rattan so it withstands the wind well. Its only disadvantage is that it cannot be stacked when being stored during the winter. It can also be difficult to move because of its weight. Those things aside, it will last for years with a little bit of proper care.

Ashley P300 Loughran Sectional

Loughran Collection from Signature Design by Ashley

To determine the quality of synthetic rattan furniture, examine the weaving and the frame. Look for the Hularo fibre and the woven vinyl called Textilene, a guarantee of quality since they are resistant to UV rays and chlorinated water. Make sure the frame is made of galvanized aluminum or steel.

Care of synthetic rattan is easy. Simply clean it with water and mild soap occasionally and store during the winter to keep it looking new for years to come.

Ashley P360 Abbots Court

Abbots Court Collection from Signature Design by Ashley

Oh yes, there’s a growing trend of using the outdoor furniture indoors and this is also true with rattan. Comfortable and warm, it is available in a wide range of colours that can be integrated seamlessly inside your home when winter comes.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel furniture is often considered to be a mid-range product. If you’re going for a contemporary look, then this choice of material may be just perfect for you.

Ratana Casa Vigo Living

Casa Vigo Collection from Ratana

Heavier than aluminum, stainless steel furniture is more likely to stay in place in windy conditions. Most models are foldable or stackable making storage a snap, but you might want to avoid placing it in direct sun since the furniture will rapidly absorb heat and become hot.

Stainless steel will not rust, so it requires little maintenance; however, as with rattan, storing it during the winter is recommended.

Before you buy, check the quality of the furniture by making sure the paint was baked (and not sprayed), the welds sanded and the materials treated to be water and UV resistant.


If you are looking for furniture that requires little care and can be left outside all year long, you may want to consider aluminum furniture. Lightweight, this type of furniture is ideal for condo and apartment living where storage is limited. Its only drawback is that it’s not well suited for windy areas because of its weight.

Ratana Park Lane Living Room

Park Lane Collection from Ratana

Aluminum sets are either made of tubular or cast/die-cast aluminum. Tubular aluminum furniture is resistant, practical and often has a contemporary look. It is foldable and stackable, which makes it easy to store. It is usually in the mid-range price segment. Cast or die-cast furniture is heavy, resistant, elegant and comes in many styles. This type of furniture is often in the high-end range.

Finally, when checking for the quality of the set, look at the paint and the welding. Screws and bolts should be of rust-proof galvanized steel.

This completes our overview. I hope this information will be helpful when you go shopping for patio furniture.

Alex, Your Furniture Expert