Outdoor Furniture Materials Guide

What is the best material for outdoor furniture?

When evaluating outdoor furniture, you’re probably going to look for many of the same characteristics that you value in indoor tables, chairs and sofas – durability, comfort and style (and of course price). The primary difference, however, is that patio furniture has to endure exposure to the weather outside. While there is virtually no 100% weatherproof patio furniture, there are big differences based on the materials used.

Before you decide, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various material options. Determine how well each aligns with the requirements of your residential or commercial environment, as well as your personal preferences and priorities. Choosing the “best” material for outdoor patio furniture is dependent on matching your specific needs with the inherent qualities of each substance, since each situation is unique.

Factors to Consider for Outdoor Materials

Outdoor furniture frames, tabletops and upholstery need to retain structural integrity and their appearance over many seasons, and through a variety of weather conditions. Additionally, the time and effort needed to maintain materials throughout the year, as well as their “green-ness” and costs are important aspects to examine.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Rain & Moisture

Rain & Moisture

If you live in an area where there are frequent rainstorms, or that has high humidity, you want to be sure that your furniture is resistant to damage from various water-based issues. Standing water or retained moisture can not only physically degrade material, it can lead to health risks.

Mold, Mildew & Rot

Humid or moist conditions create an environment where various fungi thrive. Organic materials that retain water are susceptible to mold and mildew, which can cause respiratory problems, irritation and other health issues. However, they typically don’t damage the material and can be cleaned off. Rot, on the other hand, leads to biodegradation and decomposition (decay) of the material.

Rust & Corrosion

Metals that contains iron or steel are vulnerable to corrosion, when they are continually exposed to water and oxygen. The corrosive oxidation process slowly weakens these metals, resulting in visible rust and other discoloration. Salt in the air and water accelerate the chemical process, so rusting is often more prevalent in coastal regions.


Materials that allow water penetration can dry unevenly, resulting in warping (twisting or bowing) of the original shape. Initially, it may be imperceptible, but over time it can noticeably distort the material, misalign seams and loosen screws and other fasteners used to hold the furniture together.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Sun & Temperature

Sun & Temperature

If you live in a sunny area or one with dramatic seasonal climate shifts, you’ll need to look for outdoor materials that can withstand damage from harsh UV rays and fluctuations from extreme heat to cold.


Constant exposure to the sun can cause many materials to fade and lose their luster over time. The aesthetic change can be appealing (e.g. patina) or simply a decreased vibrancy of color or uneven spotting.


Some materials noticeably expand and contract when they are heated or cooled. They can crack, split, warp or become brittle when exposed to extreme temperatures or drastic fluctuations. Dry air can also cause furniture to bend and crack.

Heat Retention

The heat can also lead to other logistical problems. Patio furniture that is left out in the sun can heat up, making it uncomfortable (or unsafe) to touch. Nobody wants to burn their skin when they sit down in or attempt to reposition a poolside lounge chair.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Wind


If you live in an open and extremely windy area, it’s important that your outdoor furniture is heavy enough that it doesn’t tip over or blow away. It doesn’t take much to damage a beautiful light weight deck chair or dining table when challenging Mother Nature, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise, you’ll need to continually store or secure your items when they’re not in use.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Durability


Some outdoor materials may last for years under ideal conditions, but might need to be replaced every couple seasons when exposed to inclement weather. Others can withstand a myriad of elements for a lifetime and still look new. Another variable that relates to durability is usage. If you eat outside on your patio dining table only a few times each summer, then it will have less wear and tear than sun loungers and daybeds that line the poolsides of popular upscale resorts and hotels. The more frequent the use, the more durable the materials should be.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cleaning & Care

Cleaning & Care Difficulty

Aesthetic and functional durability is also affected by how well you take care of your patio furniture. Some materials require very little attention season after season, and are quick and easy to clean with simple soap and water. Others require more time-intensive care and special products to keep them looking great and working properly. If your time is at a premium, or you just don’t want the hassle, you may want to opt for lower maintenance materials.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Eco-Friendliness


Today, everyone is aware of the environmental impact of production processes and the raw materials that go into products, even if they don’t know the specifics. All things being equal, most people (hopefully) prefer to be ecologically responsible. Fortunately, most luxury brands of outdoor furniture have adopted “green” manufacturing practices and utilize materials that are biodegradable, recyclable or certified by eco-friendly organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). That said, different outdoor materials do vary in their renewability.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cost


At the end of the day, most everyone looks at the financial implications of choosing one material over another for furniture. You need to stay within your budget, but it’s also important to understand how expensive materials are in the long run and their price versus benefits value. Will it need to be replaced frequently? Does it take an inordinate amount of time and effort to maintain? These are key cost considerations that you might not immediately think of when evaluating alternatives.

Materials for Outdoor Furniture Frames and Tabletops


Wood has been a popular raw material for furniture for a millennia. It has a natural beauty, is generally easy to work with and provides a sturdy framework for tables, chairs, benches and other furnishings. However, not all woods are created equal when it comes to outdoor usage. Many softwoods, such as pressure-treated pine, cedar and fir are inexpensive and widely used for indoor furnishings, but do not stand up well to the elements and need constant protection when not in use. Hardwoods, on the other hand, are much heartier, resist weather damage and can last decades if treated properly. On the down side, they are often more difficult to shape and are typically more expensive than softwoods. But, there are major differences between hardwoods too.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Wood - Teak

Teak (a.k.a. tectona grandis) is a deciduous hardwood tree, from the plant family Lamiaceae, which is indigenous to tropical forests


Teak is easily the most popular wood choice for outdoor furniture. Its high demand, coupled with limited availability, has pushed the price of this fine grained hardwood extremely high. Fortunately, teak has many characteristics that make it ideally suited for outdoor use. It is incredibly strong and doesn’t warp, crack or become brittle like many woods. This is because teak repels most water and does not expand or contract in the drying process. It has a high natural oil content, which makes it highly resistant to damage from rot, decay and insects. This durability against the elements enables teak to last the longest – up to fifty years! Its gorgeous honey brown appearance can be maintained with minimal oiling, or it can patina into an attractive silver gray over time, if left untreated. Most patio furniture brands have at least a few pieces made from this handsome wood. Scandinavian manufacturers like Skagerak and Skargaarden embrace teak’s natural beauty and utilize its inherent strength to design artistic graceful collections of outdoor lounge and dining furniture. It’s relatively easy to care for and can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

  • PROS – Durable, strong, resistant to weather, decay and insects, no cracking or warping and it’s easy to care for
  • CONS – High price


This reddish gold Southeast Asian material is one of the few hardwoods that is stronger and heavier than teak. Exposure to heat actually improves its strength (modus of rupture) and flexibility (modus of elasticity) [Noh & Ahmad 2017]. Harvesting shorea (a.k.a. meranti) is highly regulated to ensure that it is sustainable, like many of the other hardwoods used for outdoor furniture. It also has a high oil content that protects it against insects, minimizes rotting and resists weather damage. Like teak, shorea becomes a silver gray patina if it is not oiled regularly and lasts up to fifty years. However, it has a much lower price. The only major drawback for shorea is that, due in part to public unfamiliarity, few retailers sell it.

  • PROS – Strength, weather and insect resistant, eco-friendly and cost effective versus teak
  • CONS – Limited commercial availability


This strong Australian hardwood is fast-growing, lasts a long time and offers significant cost savings versus teak. Its natural washed appearance has rustic appeal, which will develop into a silver patina unless oiled regularly. It is weather and rot resistant and its oil acts as a natural insecticide. But, a sealant is recommended to improve the resistance of eucalyptus to pests and minimize the negative impact of uneven moisture retention.

  • PROS – Durable, insect and rot resistant, eco-friendly sustainable growth and cost-effective
  • CONS – Susceptible to marine and pinhole borers and vulnerable to cracking if untreated with a sealant


Central and South American ipe (a.k.a. ironwood), unlike many of its hardwood counterparts, has a deep rich colored grain which fades slower when exposed to weathering [Jankowska, Reder, Gołofit 2017]. It has a high natural oil content, which helps it resist insects, decomposition and various forms of fungi. Its hard, dense structure fortifies it against physical damage such a denting, warping and cracking. Though it can last up to forty years, ipe requires much preparation when cut and glued together.

  • PROS – Durable, strong and resistant to pests and fungi
  • CONS – Difficult to work with

White Oak

This abundant wood is stronger and harder than most and lasts for decades. It has long been used to build boats, due to its structural ability to repel water, which also helps it resist rot. However, it doesn’t possess much natural oil and needs paint or a sealant to retain its durability. Over time, untreated white oak develops an attractive gray patina.

  • PROS – Water-proof, rot resistant and strong
  • CONS – Low oil content

Other Hardwoods

There are a number of other hardwoods that share some of the positive qualities of teak at a much lower price point. However, they also have drawbacks relative to the hardwoods mentioned above. Reddish brown acacia (a.k.a. locust) is readily available, but is more likely to warp or crack than shorea or eucalyptus. Roble is scarce, light weight and lasts half as long as teak, while African iroko is very hard to work with, easily splinters and blunts woodworking tools. Mahogany has a beautiful reddish tint, but is coarse, requires a lot of maintenance and doesn’t handle rot as well as teak.

Skargaarden Skanor Lounge Table

Skargaarden Skanor Lounge Table

Mamagreen Aiko Comfort Module

Mamagreen Aiko Comfort module

Cane-line Square 3-Seater Sofa

Cane-line Square 3-Seater Sofa


Metal is typically the strongest and most durable material for outdoor garden furniture. Because of its strength, metallic frames can be thinner and shaped into more complex designs than other options, giving manufacturers greater style flexibility. Metal is also a great choice when used in combination with other materials that have their own functional and aesthetic benefits. Various production techniques can create metal chairs and tables that don’t require bolts, screws or other fasteners that make other types of furniture more susceptible to break down. However, metal has its drawbacks as well. It heats up in the sun, making it uncomfortable to touch. Certain metals are very heavy and hard to move, while all metals are vulnerable to rust and corrosion to some degree. But each type metal has its own unique set of characteristics.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Metal - Stainless Steel

Stainless steel (a.k.a. inox) is a chromium rich steel alloy that is extremely strong, corrosion resistant and 100% recyclable

Stainless Steel

This sturdy metal alloy is extremely strong, which makes it a great material option for large weight-bearing outdoor dining tables, sofas and sectionals. Its high density helps prevent dents and other damage from frequent use. While it does get hot to the touch when exposed to the summer heat, stainless steel endures extreme temperatures better than most metals. Its composition makes it virtually immune to rust and corrosion, but a powder coating is recommended for added resistance, especially in coastal areas where salt air and water are present. If you are comparing types of stainless steel, the higher the Chromium content the more resistant the alloy is to atmospheric corrosion. Similarly, the presence of Molybdenum prevents red rust and reduces the depth of surface pitting [Mameng, Pettersson & Leygraf 2017].

Garden and patio furniture made from stainless steel is heavy and will not tip over or blow away under windy conditions. It’s a great material choice for high end modern outdoor furniture, since its sleek silvery metallic finish has a chic contemporary look. Though it’s expensive, stainless steel is worth every penny. Not only is it relatively easy to clean, but it’s often made using recycled metals, making it an environmentally responsible choice.

  • PROS – Durable, strong, resists rust, wind resistant and easy to clean
  • CONS – Expensive and retains heat


Aluminum is the most popular metal for outdoor furniture. Despite its light weight, it is strong, durable and can easily be worked into a variety of intricate shapes. Aluminum is relatively inexpensive, low maintenance and never rusts. Although it is highly weather resistant on its own, a polyester powder coating is recommended. This electrostatic process not only increases protection against the elements and scratching, it allows you to added color to the mix. While you can buy painted aluminum, powder coating adheres better to the metal and is much more resistant to fading. This is also helpful if your deck or poolside is exposed to salt air, which tends to eat away at paint and untreated metal. Like other metals, aluminum heats up, so it’s best to have seat cushions to keep you cool and comfy.

  • PROS – Strong, light weight, weather resistant, inexpensive and low maintenance
  • CONS – Hollow tube frames may blow over in high winds and it retains heat

Wrought Iron

Throughout history, iron has been used for tools, buildings and furnishings because of its strength and durability – it can last a hundred years if properly cared for. It’s among the heaviest of metals, which makes it difficult to move wrought or cast iron furniture. However, it certainly won’t blow over in the wind. It is extremely malleable when heated and hammered into shape. This allows wrought iron to form ornate hand-crafted designs with an upscale artisan feel. Cast iron, on the other hand, is melted and poured into molds, but it’s heavier and harder to manage than wrought iron.

While it is long lasting, outdoor iron frames and tabletops can require a lot of care to clean, maintain and protect against rusting. Fortunately, the best contemporary wrought iron is treated with weather resistant finishes to seal out damaging moisture. Additionally, the metal tends to match the prevailing temperature – its gets very hot in summer and freezing cold if left out in the winter. Wrought iron outdoor furniture is hard and can be uncomfortable without upholstery to cushion seat and back rests.

  • PROS – Durable, solid, stylish classic look and great for windy areas
  • CONS – Rusts easily, requires more maintenance, can be uncomfortable, difficult to move and retains heat or cold
Skagerak Reform Bench - Aluminum

Skagerak Reform Bench – Aluminum

Cane-line Copenhagen Chair

Cane-line Copenhagen Chair

Skagerak Mira Table - Rectangular

Skagerak Mira Table – Rectangular

Resin & Plastic

Man-made synthetic materials, such as resin and plastic, are becoming more and more prevalent in the world of outdoor furniture. New manufacturing processes and hybrid compositions enable these polymers to take on shapes and sizes previously unattainable. Synthetics are typically light weight, inexpensive and can be molded into any decor style imaginable. Because color is inherent in the chemical make-up, they are fade resistant and don’t require paint or sealants used by other materials. They’re also a breeze to clean and maintain. There is a growing number of plastics and resins, but here are a few of the more common ones currently in use.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Synthetic - Resin

Synthetic wicker (a.k.a. all-weather wicker) looks like natural wicker, but it’s made from polyethylene resin that is stronger and more durable

Synthetic Resin – All-Weather Wicker

Virtually all outdoor wicker furniture is made from synthetic polyethylene resin. Natural wicker is made from a variety of organic sources such as rattan, seagrass, bamboo, banana leaf and even willow. While strong and aesthetically pleasing, plant-based wicker is susceptible to damage from rainy weather, moisture and humidity – a poor material choice for outdoor chairs, sofas and coffee tables.

High quality resin is very dense, resistant to weather damage and eco-friendly. High density polyethylene (HDPE) does not emit any chemicals, is highly puncture resistant and can be exposed to UV rays for decades without experiencing any degradation [Topliff 2018]. Synthetic all-weather wicker is also strong, light weight, fade resistant and easy to clean. There are lower quality synthetic wickers made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which tends to become brittle and crack over time. Most outdoor wicker patio furniture is constructed over an aluminum frame, which increases the weight it can support. Synthetic wicker can be colored an organic shade, making it virtually indistinguishable from natural wicker. It can also be given a vibrant tone that adds a pop of color to your lanai or hardwood deck.

  • PROS – Extremely weather resistant, easy to clean, can look like natural wicker and HDPE wicker is 100% recyclable
  • CONS – Not heavy enough for many windy environments

Recycled Plastic

Eco-friendly recycled plastic (i.e. made from milk cartons, shampoo bottles, etc.) is a great option for stylish outdoor patio furniture. It’s extraordinarily strong, durable and resistant to moisture, mildew, insects and saltwater. It can be heavier than other plastic materials, but is still susceptible to high winds. Recycled plastic doesn’t peel, crack or require much maintenance. It is stain resistant and cleans easily with soap and water.

  • PROS – Strong, weather and fade resistant, easy to clean and “green”
  • CONS – May be too light for extremely windy conditions

Other Plastics

Polyethylene (PE) is the most common form of plastic used to make deck furniture. It’s cost effective, but the high-density version (HDPE) is required for outdoor applications, since it is far more durable and weather resistant. Polypropylene (PP) is lighter weight and highly resistant to chemical degradation and heat. Polycarbonate (PC) is a very tough material that is impact resistant, although it is susceptible to scratching. It’s the preferred choice of plastic when transparency is desired. Acrylic – Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) is similar to polycarbonate in that it is clear. However, this less expensive alternative is not as strong and is vulnerable to cracking.

Cane-line Moments LoungeChair

Cane-line Moments Lounge Chair

Cane-line Peacock Lounge Chair

Cane-line Peacock Lounge Chair

Cane-line Connect 3-Seater Sofa

Cane-line Connect 3-Seater Sofa

Miscellaneous Outside Furniture Materials

In addition to wood, metal and plastic, luxury outdoor furniture utilizes a number of other durable materials in a variety of applications. Patio dining tables, for example, may have metallic or wooden frames with a tabletop made from another material. These substances have different qualities that are appropriate for specific functional and aesthetic requirements.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Miscellaneous - HPL

High pressure laminate (a.k.a. HPL) is a layered resin and cellulose composite, which is compressed and heated to create a durable material

High Pressure Laminate (HPL)

This composite is usually comprised of kraft paper that is impregnated with resin and aluminum, and then heated under high pressure to create a layered contemporary material. HPL has a sleek look and is extremely hard, helping it resist stains and scratches. Melamine can be added to increase this laminate’s durability. It’s flame retardant and possesses antibacterial properties. HPL made with pine kraft lignin is especially good for outdoor applications, as it has a low affinity for water which can cause swelling, internal stress and cracking [Ghorbani, Mahendran, van Herwijnen, Liebner & Konnerth 2017]. High pressure laminate works well as an elegant tabletop for modern styled outdoor dining and bistro tables, although is can be pricey relative to other material options.

  • PROS – Sleek modern look, and resists bacteria and superficial marks from spills or impact
  • CONS – It can cost more than alternative materials

Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is often used for outdoor tabletops, because of its resistance to temperature changes. Lacquering glass increases its protection against the effects of the elements, while acid washing inures it to smudges and finger prints. Its smooth surface provides an elegant touch, while the clarity creates an open and airy feel. Glass is a great choice for sunroom or screened in porch dining and coffee tables, where there is some shade to prevent the sun from reflecting off it and blinding guests. Depending on the thickness, glass can be very heavy and hard to move.

  • PROS – Resists temperature and looks elegant
  • CONS – Can cause glare in sunny areas and may be too heavy to move easily


While some minimalist modern environments may incorporate solid concrete outdoor furniture into their permanent design, this composite is more frequently employed in conjunction with other materials. It can serve as a sturdy base for glass top dining and lounge tables, or as an imposing tabletop sitting upon a substantial metal frame. Concrete is strong, timeless and can withstand the harshest elements for years. It can be poured into a variety of shapes and, when reinforced with fiber, molded into thinner constructions. Fibers may be comprised of glass, steel, synthetic or organic material and they increase the structural integrity of the concrete. It also helps the material withstand water and frost better.

  • PROS – Long-lasting, strong and can take on many shapes
  • CONS – It can be too heavy to move quickly or easily
Sifas Kwadra Square Side Table

Sifas Kwadra Square Side Table

Mamagreen Zix Dining Table - HPL

Mamagreen Zix Dining Table

Mamagreen Bono Dining Table

Mamagreen Bono Dining Table

Materials for Outdoor Furniture Upholstery, Slings and Pillows


Outdoor furniture cushions, slings and accent pillows require fabrics that can withstand the stringent demands of constant exposure to the elements. Natural fibers tend to lose vibrancy and break down over time. Consequently, fabrics made from synthetic thread, infused with plastic, are much better options for outdoor upholstery covers. They are more resistant to climate issues and hold their color longer. Each synthetic fabric has its own set of benefits, drawbacks and ideal usage.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Fabrics - Acrylic

Acrylic fabrics are flexible, quick-drying, easy to clean and often solution-dyed, which helps the textile hold its vivid color under harsh UV rays

Acrylic Fabric

Outdoor fabrics made from acrylic fibers are strong and resistant to both weather and use damage. It’s mold and mildew resistant and can hold up against rubbing and tearing. This is especially important for outdoor upholstery in active residential and commercial applications. Acrylic fabrics are solution dyed, which means that the threads are dyed before they are woven. This allows the textile to retain its color longer, even when exposed to direct sunlight. While it is water resistant, acrylic fabric is more breathable than other options, allowing it to stay cooler in hot weather. It’s also easy to clean with mild soap and water. All things considered, acrylic fabric is best all purpose textile for outdoor furniture cushions, throw pillows and patio umbrellas.


Sunbrella® is generally recognized as the “gold standard” of acrylic outdoor textiles. The company has products that range from soft and suitable for urban home use up to marine grade materials that can survive the rigors of salt water, wind and sun on yachts and catamarans. You get what you pay for, and premium acrylic fabrics have a much higher price tag than other materials.

  • PROS – Strong, durable, weather and moisture resistant, doesn’t fade and is easy to clean
  • CONS – High cost

Olefin Fabric

Olefin is another solution dyed synthetic fabric that is durable, quick drying and fade resistant. It stands up to mold, moisture and heat and is less expensive than acrylics. Olefin is light weight and smooth, but it can lack the softness of some other textiles. It resists stains and abrasions and is easy to clean. It’s a great choice when acrylics are outside of your budget.

Etisilk – Texsilk®

Etisilk’s Texsilk® is one of the better known brands of olefin outdoor garden and pool furniture fabric. It’s stain resistant and strong enough to be cleaned by bleach or chlorine. Texsilk® is environmentally responsible and certified as a safe textile by OEKO-TEX.

  • PROS – Durable, quick drying, fade resistant, easy maintenance and affordable
  • CONS – Not as soft as alternative materials

Polyester Fabric

This synthetic material is typically coated with either an acrylic or vinyl (PVC mesh) to protect it from the elements. Polyester is strong, flexible and resists water damage and staining. It’s tear resistant and dries quickly, but most outdoor polyester fabrics (at least the non-treated average grade options) fade faster than other synthetic textiles. Unlike, solution dyed alternatives, polyester hybrids are dipped in color or have the color painted on after the threads are woven. You can achieve brighter colors and more intricate patterns, but it won’t last as long when exposed to UV rays. Consequently, they do much better in shaded environments, when there is less direct sunlight.

Acrylic coated polyester works well for accents and pillows, while vinyl coated polyester has a plastic-like feel that is better suited for self-supporting seat and back slings, screens, umbrellas and backing, where there is less skin contact. Two of the most renowned manufacturers of high-end PVC-coated polyester textiles are Ferrari and Twitchell.

Ferrari – Batyline® Mesh

Batyline® mesh is a premium synthetic outdoor fabric that is extremely strong and tear resistant. Its open design allows air flow that helps the material stay cool and dry quickly. It is an ideal choice for self-supporting sling seating like poolside sunloungers, patio dining chairs and bar stools.

Twitchell – Textilene® Mesh

Textilene® mesh is similar to Batylene® in its applications. It’s used by many luxury outdoor furniture brands like Sifas® for the seat and back slings of high end lounge chairs and sofas. Twitchell also manufactures a variety of mesh grades that are appropriate for sun screens, awnings, tarps and fencing.

  • PROS – Strong, resists tearing and water damage, quick drying and comes in bold colors and patterns
  • CONS – Tends to fade fast than other fabrics
Sifas Decorator Pillow

Sifas Decorator Pillow

Mamagreen Stripe Casual Chair

Mamagreen Stripe Casual Chair

Mamagreen Natun High Back Chair

Mamagreen Natun High Back Chair

Core Foam

Cushions and accent pillows for outdoor furniture are only as good as the materials that go into them. At some point, they’re going to be exposed to rain, sleet, wet bathing suits or damp beach towels. Even if they have the most weather resistant premium acrylic cover, some water will find its way in through seams and zippered closures. Consequently, the foam core of your upholstery must not only hold its shape and comfort level, it must be able to dry quickly and prevent damage from moisture too. Foam varies in quality, based on the material, production technique and treatment.

Outdoor Furniture Materials - Core Foam - Open Cell Foam

Open cell foam is antimicrobial, quick drying and comfortable, but it is often much more expensive than cheaper, less resistant options

Open Cell Foam

Open cell foam has pores that allow water and air to easily flow through it. It’s comfortable and cool, but more expensive than most alternatives. It is constructed with an antimicrobial agent that protects the foam from mold and mildew growth that can occur in the drying process.

Urecel – QuickDry® Foam

Urecel’s QuickDry® is the premium brand of open cell foam. It is an advanced, high performance foam that is specifically engineered for outdoor upholstery. QuickDry® is produced using a sophisticated process known as Hydro-Blast Reticulation, which makes the foam durable, strong and extremely comfortable. It also incorporates Uregard anti-microbial technology to keep it free from biological problems. QuickDry® is used by luxury outdoor furniture brands like Mamagreen® and Cane-line.

  • PROS – Quick drying, comfortable and resists mold and mildew
  • CONS – Expensive

Closed Cell Foam

Closed cell foam (a.k.a. floatation foam) repels water and is buoyant, making it a good choice for boat seating and life vests. It can be made from a variety of plastics including neoprene, polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. Each version has its own unique characteristics and applications. Spongy neoprene, for example, is flexible and provides thermal and moisture insulation for wet suits.

  • PROS – Repels water, floats and variations have benefits for specific applications
  • CONS – Expensive

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Foam

PET foam inserts are durable, recyclable and provide optimum support for outdoor upholstery. They are firm and do not flatten out or lose their shape like some materials. PET dries quickly, preventing moisture build up that can lead to mildew and mold.


Dacron® is a leading brand of hypo-allergenic PET foam and it is often wrapped around other foams to provide an additional layer of protection.

  • PROS – Durable, supportive, eco-friendly, quick drying and resistant to mold and mildew
  • CONS – Premium brands can be costly

Polyurethane Foam

This common affordable seating foam has medium firmness and will soak up water if it gets wet. Most polyurethane foam is treated with a biocide that prevents fungus, mold and mildew from growing as the wet foam dries out. It’s often wrapped in plastic for extra protection before being inserted into an outdoor cover.

  • PROS – Low price and resistant to biological issues
  • CONS – Soaks up water, dries slowly and is more flammable

Polyester Foam

Compressed polyester is an inexpensive alternative to traditional foam. It dries relatively quickly and is easy to wash. It works best in low to moderate use outdoor environments, since it compresses over time and frequent use will cause it to lose shape quicker. Polyester fiberfill is another low cost option that is machine washable and resistant to mildew. It is usually stuffed into an inner pre-sewn cover that is then covered in outdoor fabric. One drawback is that the loose fibers tend to bunch up during laundering and may need reshaping after heavy use.

  • PROS – Inexpensive, dries relatively quickly and is easy to wash
  • CONS – Loses its shape and usually require additional protective wrapping

Outdoor Furniture Materials Cheatsheet

Material Use Outdoor Furniture Materials - Rain & Moisture - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Sun & Temperature - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Wind - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Durability - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cleaning & Care - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Eco-Friendliness - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cost - Cheatsheet
Frames, Rests & Tabletops
Teak Frames, Rests & Tabletops Yes Yes Yes Yes Low Yes High
Stainless Steel Frames Yes Absorbs heat Yes Yes Low Yes High
Aluminum Frames, Rests & Tabletops Yes Absorbs heat May blow over Yes Low Yes Low-Medium
Wrought Iron Frames, Rests & Tabletops Rusts w/o treating Absorbs heat Yes Yes Medium Yes Medium-High
Synthetic Resin Frames & Rests Yes Yes May blow over Yes Low Yes High
Recycled Plastic Frames, Rests & Tabletops Yes Yes May blow over Yes Low Yes Low
HPL Tabletops Yes Yes Yes Yes Low No Medium-High
Tempered Glass Tabletops Yes Glare unless matte Yes Yes Low Yes Low-Medium
Material Use Outdoor Furniture Materials - Rain & Moisture - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Sun & Temperature - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Wind - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Durability - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cleaning & Care - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Eco-Friendliness - Cheatsheet Outdoor Furniture Materials - Cost - Cheatsheet
Upholstery, Slings & Pillows
Acrylic Fabric Upholstery & Pillows Yes Yes Yes Yes Low No High
Olefin Fabric Upholstery & Pillows Yes Yes Yes Yes Low No Medium
Polyester Fabric Slings & Pillows Yes Fades w/o treating Yes Yes Low No Medium-High
Open Cell Foam Upholstery & Pillows Yes Yes N/A Yes Low No High
Closed Cell Foam Upholstery & Pillows Yes Yes N/A Yes Low No High
Polyurethane Foam Upholstery & Pillows Needs biocide & wrap Yes N/A No High No Low

How do you clean and care for patio furniture?

The usable life of your outdoor furniture can be extended by keeping it clean and well-cared for during and after the Summer months. Each material has specific instructions for cleaning various types of spills, repairing damage and protecting it from the ravages of the wind, rain and sun. Here are a few articles that provide general guidance on keeping your patio lounge and dining furniture looking new and lasting for years.

Maintenance tips

  1. 4 tips for getting your outdoor furniture ready for spring
  2. Tips on Maintaining Your Outdoor Furniture
  3. 3 ways to protect your outdoor furniture this winter



  1. I want to get some new patio furniture this spring so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about how acrylic fabric is resistant against the weather. I’ll definitely consider some covers like this so nothing gets damaged in the storm.

  2. Rosemary

    Fabulous article ! My seaside NH powder coated heavy aluminum, 6 yr old set, has no rust or pitting. The full sun exposure has caused some some fading on the powder coating. Any suggestions on restoring color?

  3. Warren_riz

    Choosing the right material for your outdoor furniture can mean the difference between deterioration and durability. Here, you’ve laid out the most common material types found in outdoor furniture – and the benefits of each.

  4. Rajan Jangir

    Amazing blog – it’s a very detailed explanation of the material used for outdoor furniture. I have a lot of outside space and was searching for patio furniture. This was well worth the read and provided a lot of insightful information. I especially loved the material cheat sheet. Thanks.

  5. Taylor Anderson

    My home looks like a bachelor pad, so I’ve been wanting to spruce it up. It was helpful when you mentioned that metal makes for great outdoor furniture, as it is durable. These tips will help me decorate my patio and make things look more feminine. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Chief Merchandising Officer at Evine , “These days, they are making outdoor pieces look more like it could be an indoor item which means the world of opportunities is even bigger for the consumer who is in the market for new furniture.”

  7. Kit Hannigan

    Thanks for pointing out how glass table tops are excellent for resisting changes in the temperature outdoors. We do live in a pretty unpredictable climate in our area. Sometimes it can be sunny all day and then rain super hard in the afternoon. I think it would be wise for us to invest in these kinds of table tops for our exteriors so that we will be sure that it will last longer.

    • Kit, tables with glass tops can certainly handle changing weather conditions outdoors. However, you need to be careful if you’re considering adding a glass top to an existing table. Tempered glass is heavy and some table frames may not be designed to support that kind of weight. Before purchasing an a la carte glass tabletop, I would recommend contacting the table manufacturer to see if yours can accommodate the increased weight.

  8. It got my attention when you said that metal is prone to corrosion if they are constantly exposed to moisture and water, so it is not a good idea to put them outside. I am sure, though, that it will be perfect if I put them indoors. The house is pretty dry, so I am sure it will be fine. I will consider this type of material because I want modern looking furniture in my living room. To me, the most common way to do it is to use something metallic.

    • Dio, while extended exposure to water and moisture can cause metal to rust, that does not mean that metal furniture should not be used outside. Electrostatic stainless steel with high chromium content does extremely well, unless exposed to heavy salt air, while aluminum is perfectly fine when powder-coated. Likewise, wrought iron and other metals last a long time outdoors if they are treated with sealants and other protective coatings. Metal patio furniture is extremely durable outside with just a small bit of care and protection from the elements, especially when the deck furniture is not in use. To your point, metallic tables and chairs often have a very modern look. Many new metal lounge and dining sets have a sleek and sophisticated design that can be used indoors and outdoors, so you certainly have options in where to place them.

  9. Our patio’s newly renovated and my mom is thinking of having new furniture for it. According to this, when choosing outdoor furniture, it will be best to consider the temperature, weather, and materials. Furthermore, it’s recommended to hire professionals when planning to buy furniture sets.

    • Sariah, professional landscapers and designers can certainly provide some much needed expertise when putting together your outdoor setting. They’re especially helpful if you’re installing patio umbrella with fixed bases or elaborate outdoor fireplaces. However, you can certainly select deck furniture without hiring a consultant, although they can ease your mind if you are unsure or completely out of your element.

  10. Your list of common patio furniture materials and their strengths and weaknesses was really interesting to read. I remember that I used to go to a hotel that had wicker furniture for the outside seating and it held up pretty well. However, it makes me wonder how often restoration services were needed. Once I know that, I can decide whether to invest in some wicker patio furniture of my own.

  11. Thanks for the information on the different materials that can be used for outdoor furniture, such as how aluminum is lightweight and durable as well as easy to work into intricate shapes. When choosing furniture, you’d probably want to determine which material would be best based on where you live. If you consider your climate and available space, it could help you get something that will last and fit in your yard to keep you comfortable.

  12. Thanks for helping me understand that we should be aware of the materials that make up outdoor furniture. Like you said, the heat can affect the surface, which can burn the skin of the person using it. I’ll definitely keep this in mind, since I’ll be buying garden stools this weekend to decorate my backyard and small garden.

  13. I like how you point out that fabric made from synthetic thread tends to be a better option. My current patio furniture is rather uncomfortable and worn. I’d like to get it reupholstered, and I’ll just need to find someone who could use a synthetic thread fabric.

  14. Bruce N.

    What would be the best way to stain proof the fabric of my outdoor loungers? We’ve had issues with birds because I have a lot of trees in my back yard and once they get stained, we have a lot of difficulty getting them clean.

    • Well, that really depends on the specific textile. There are a variety of fabric guard sprays, which help prevent staining if the original treatment has worn off. Obviously, you want to keep an eye out for any “gifts” from your feathered friends and clean them off immediately. Most outdoor fabrics clean with soap and water, but you want to be careful with bleach, as it may degrade some materials or cause fading. On the preventative side, you might consider carrot and stick solutions. Set up a small bird feeder away from loungers or place a faux owl or snake in the vicinity of your furniture. Worst case, lay a weather-resistant tarp on them when not in use.

  15. This is a very detailed guide. I like the chart with the the comparisons. I have several sets with the sling material, the material has not faded in the ten years it has been outside. I do take it in during the winter months. One set on the front porch does not get sun all day. I like the idea of not having cushions to store when not needed to keep them from fading.
    Do you recommend storing outdoor furniture during the harsh winter months.

    • John –

      You’re correct that the synthetic textiles used in today’s patio furniture slings are fade resistant, but keeping them out of the sun when not in use will extend the life of their “vividness.”

      As far as whether or not to store outdoor furniture in the winter goes, I guess it depends on the materials and quality. Metal and wood framed furniture should be fine left outside, as long as you cover them with waterproof tarp or canvas. Some plastics tend to get brittle in colder temperatures, so you might want to move them to an enclosed garage, patio or storage unit. Likewise, synthetic all-weather wicker, is made to handle harsh condition.

      Like everything else, you get what you pay for, so some less expensive furnishings may not have the same “weather-proofing” as more expensive alternatives. Painted furniture has a tendency to flake and crack under temperature changes, which may leave the underlaying material susceptible to water damage from rain or snow. Cushions can be problematic during cold months if left unprotected, especially if they have not completely dried or are of a cheap foam variety. On the other hand, high quality upholstery with premium foam inserts require very little protection in cool weather (I literally just had a conversation with someone at Urecel about how to handle their QuickDry foam in winter).

    • It can still help you identify what to be on the lookout for as your furniture is exposed to the elements. With proper cleaning, care and protection, you can extend the useful life of your patio furniture, even if the material isn’t ideal for your climate conditions.

  16. Whit Spurgeon

    Totally helpful — so much great information to help make a decision on which materials are best for different situations!

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