Home Home-improvementFurniture Choosing between Timber, Metal and Plastic Outdoor Furniture

Choosing between Timber, Metal and Plastic Outdoor Furniture

by Alex Harris
Teak Outdoor Furniture

Whether you’re looking to set up an outdoor dining or entertaining area or you just want a nice space to sit in the backyard and relax, it’s important to carefully choose your outdoor furniture.

When it comes to outdoor tables and chairs there are plenty of options to choose from at a wide range of price points. Selecting the right furniture material will be one of the primary considerations. The most common materials are plastic, timber and metal. Each material comes with its own pros and cons and making the right choice for you will depend on a number of factors including climate, budget, aesthetics and more.

So let’s have a look at the three main furniture materials and some of their pros and cons.

Plastic

If budget is your main consideration, then plastic outdoor furniture might be the way to go. Plastic is cheap to manufacture and is therefore the most budget-friendly option to buy. It is generally much more lightweight than timber or metal furniture so it’s easy to move around, stack and store. This makes it a great option if you plan on moving your furniture around a lot.

Plastic furniture also requires very little maintenance. It won’t rot or corrode and doesn’t require sanding, oiling or painting like some timber furniture.

But, and there’s a big but! Plastic outdoor furniture comes with some serious downsides. Because it’s cheap and mass produced, it can be poorly manufactured and you can’t expect much in terms of durability. It will flex, crack and break much more easily than metal or timber furniture.

Plastic furniture generally isn’t very strong so if you need your tables or chairs to support a great deal of weight, plastic may not be the way to go. It can also be physically unstable and because it’s so lightweight it can get blown away with the wind.

Finally, it’s not particularly aesthetically pleasing. If you’re trying to create an outdoor space that looks great, maybe give plastic a miss.

Metal

Metal outdoor furniture, like wrought iron tables and chairs, are the ultimate in durability. Incredibly strong and sturdy, you can expect good quality metal furniture to last a long time. Metal furniture is a great option if you need to support a great deal of weight. Available in a range of styles and metals of different qualities and strengths (e.g. wrought iron, aluminium) there is a wide variety to choose from across a range of price points.

When properly treated (i.e. powder coated or painted), metal furniture will stand up to most weather conditions with no problem. However, if the coating is damaged, chipped or starts to flake off, it can expose the metal underneath, which can lead to corrosion.

There are some downsides to metal outdoor furniture. One major consideration, especially in Australia, is the heat. Metal readily conducts and stores heat, so metal tables and chairs can quickly heat up under the Aussie sun. In some cases metal furniture can get so hot in direct sunlight that it’s unusable.

Metal furniture, especially wrought iron furniture, can also be quite heavy, which makes it impractical to move around.

Finally, metal is not the most comfortable material. Metal chairs can be extremely rigid, uncomfortable and unforgiving, especially if you’re sitting in them for long periods of time. While metal outdoor furniture is incredibly durable and practical, you will be making a trade-off in terms of comfort, especially on those hot summer days.

Timber

When it comes to outdoor furniture, nothing beats timber. However, it’s important to note that there is a huge range of timber to choose from and that different timbers will have very different properties. Pine furniture for example, will be fairly affordable but not very durable. Teak outdoor furniture, on the other hand, will be more expensive but will be incredibly durable. For the sake of comparison with metal and plastic, we’re going to focus on the pros and cons of high-quality teak furniture.

First and foremost, if you want furniture that looks great, nothing beats quality timber. The natural beauty of the timber combined with quality craftsmanship ensures that timber is unsurpassed when it comes to aesthetics.

Timber, when sourced correctly, is by far the most sustainable and environmentally friendly option. It is a renewable resource that will continue storing carbon even after it has been turned into furniture.

Compared to metal and plastic, timber is much more comfortable. It breathes better than plastic and metal and doesn’t get nearly as hot in the direct sunlight.

Quality timber furniture ages beautifully when properly maintained and when well made is very strong, sturdy and durable.

There are, however, some downsides to timber outdoor furniture. The price point will be a consideration. Quality teak furniture will be more expensive than most other options, but you’re paying for premium furniture that should last a lifetime. While there are budget timber options, they will be much lower quality and not as durable.

Timber also requires some maintenance to keep it in good condition. It may require annual oiling to help the timber retain its colour and to prevent moisture damage. Lesser quality timbers can also be susceptible to rot and pests.

Ultimately, the choice of outdoor furniture type will come down to your budget and your lifestyle. And remember that the cheapest option is usually not the best option!

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