How to Choose Outdoor Furniture


Each day, we use an enormous  variety of plastic products in our home and workplaces: bags, bottles, keyboards and even the furniture we sit on.  Ever been even the slightest bit curious about how we can have a transparent sheet to wrap goods in and a sturdy table to work on and both are ‘plastic’?

It is pretty obvious that all plastics are not created equally.  Let’s look at an everyday – well, in the summer, anyway – piece of patio furniture.  One of the most popular choices is the synthetic resin wicker look because it is  stylish, low-maintenance, lightweight, and highly durable.

Yet, customer beware.  You usually get what you pay for.  The durability depends upon the type of plastic used to construct it.  Less expensive pieces made with the stiffer less flexible polyvinyl chloride wicker will soon fragment and crack.

Look, instead, for items which are labelled with the HDPE Wicker.  HDPE is a polyethylene designed deliberately to bend and stretch under pressure. This softer plastic adjusts more readily to body movement and, therefore, not only provides more comfortable use; but, it lasts much longer.

The same quality concerns apply to the cushions used on outdoor furniture pieces.

Choices, here, range from traditional natural fillings to a today’s wide range of man-made fabrics.

Many of these are foams and soft plastics.  Each has characteristics which affect the comfort and longevity of the cushion.

What should you look for in outdoor furniture cushions?

  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Flexibility
  • Cleanliness

Cushions always look — and feel—  inviting in the showroom; but, how do we know what they will feel like over a long hot summer?  Here, again, the basic cushioning material plays a critical role.

Many cushions and chair pads are filled with foam; and, the denser the foam, the better the comfort level. Both denser foam materials and other materials offer support and the ability to sink into them. This is what makes them comfortable.

Foam, like many of the natural fillers, however, has two qualities which detract from its value: it will bottom out (collapse) over time completely destroying the comfort factor.  It also absorbs water, and, therefore, develops mildew and other unpleasant properties.  Both of these elements significantly affect the durability and longevity of the cushion.

Some of the newer materials, on the other hand, are based on polyethylene technology and because of their branching structure, stretch and move with the user.  Since the entire cushion is supporting all the person’s weight, there is no tendency to get the dips and bumps associated with long term use of foam and other materials.

They also have the added advantage of shedding liquids.  That means that even if they are left in the rain, the water will simply pass through them without lingering, so, no mildew can form.

It also means that if you drop your soda on it, it can be quickly rinsed under a shower and be as good as new.

So, they appear to be the clear choice for comfort, durability, flexibility and cleanliness. Enjoy them for a long time.