What’s the best Garden Furniture

Looking for garden furniture but don’t know your hardwood from your powder-coated aluminium? Here we’ll help you narrow down the furniture that’s best for you and your family.

Softwood v hardwood Garden furniture

Most of us love the look and feel of timber, but why is one wooden bench several times more expensive than another?
In part, this will relate to whether the timber used is softwood or hardwood. As a general rule softwoods come from coniferous trees whilst hardwoods come from deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves in the winter). To us, the wood probably doesn’t feel any softer or harder – the main difference is the time that the wood takes to grow and mature. Softwoods are generally cheaper because they grow much faster than hardwoods – for example, think how quickly the coniferous forests spring up compared to an oak tree.

At one end of the spectrum are benches made from softwood – pine is probably the most commonly used – and they will last happily in your garden for about 10 years. By comparison, hardwood garden furniture can last up to 35 years, depending on the type of hardwood.  Of course, these are simply estimates and the lifespan will be determined by the conditions and the care the furniture is given.

Metal Garden furniture

The common metals used in garden furniture are cast iron, aluminium and stainless steel.

Cast iron has the advantage – or disadvantage (!) – of being very heavy. Reminiscent of lovely old-fashioned garden furniture, it certainly won’t blow away, but it will require maintenance.

Aluminium in garden furniture will be either be extruded aluminium or cast aluminium.
Cast aluminium has all the aesthetic qualities of cast iron, but has the significant advantage of being relatively lightweight – a great benefit when you need to move it around!
Extruded aluminium is often used on frames where the lightness of aluminium is an advantage.

Stainless steel is well-known for its strength, robustness and durability. In terms of weight, furniture constructed in stainless steel will usually fall between cast iron and aluminium.

Powder coating is seen as a green alternative to paint as it does not involve the use of solvents.  It is used to colour and enhance the finish of the visible metal components.

Rattan/Wicker Garden furniture

A really popular material, perhaps because it can be used both outdoors and indoors.  Synthetic rattan is more readily available that natural rattan or wicker since it is often more durable and easily maintained than the natural equivalent.
But not all rattan is the same, so read on!

There is a vast spectrum of quality on the market in synthetic rattan, so check the type of warranty you’re getting and that’ll give you a quick indication of the quality you’re buying.  We also suggest that you check the material that the frame is made from, and whether any warranty covers all parts of the furniture.

The cost of synthetic rattan also varies depending on the size and shape of the weave.  There are 3 main profiles – flat, half-round and round.  The flat is the least expensive, the half-round is, as the name suggests, flat on the underside and rounded on the top side, whilst the round is the most expensive but arguably the most realistic-looking.

One last check is the UV rating.  Good quality furniture should be able to remain outdoors all year round without losing colour or integrity; again, if the UV rating isn’t specifically detailed on the furniture you’re buying, the warranty is always a good indication of quality.

Sustainability

As a garden centre, we believe very strongly in our responsibility for the environment and we check the credentials of our manufacturers closely before purchasing furniture for sale. We do not stock timber furniture unless it has been made with wood from a sustainable source.
Trees play an important role in cleaning and purifying our atmosphere, providing habitat for animals, preventing erosion and maintaining valuable agricultural land. It’s therefore important that as older trees mature and are felled, they are replaced with young trees.
The way to be sure if your furniture has been made with timber from a sustainable forest is to check for the FSC symbol – if there’s no symbol, it means that a replacement tree has not been planted, and the environment will suffer for that.
Although there is growing awareness of the importance of sustainable forestry, sadly there are still some countries in the world who are cutting down the rain forests for hardwood without replacing this important environmental resource.