Shopping for outdoor furniture can be a dizzying experience, with an incredible array of furniture styles, material types, and designs to choose from. With Pinterest and Instagram, it’s easy to see what styles of furniture look great together, but it can be often difficult to tell whether the patio furniture pieces will stand the test of time. Identifying durable outdoor furniture frame materials can be challenging, and in this post, we hope to shed some light on the most robust materials choices for patio furniture.
Patio frames can last a lifetime, but many don’t. If your current set is wearing out, and you want to be sure that the new set you purchase will look great for years to come, be sure you take the materials into account when picking your furniture set.
What is the most Durable Outdoor Furniture Material?
In this article, we will look at eight different materials that are commonly used on outdoor furniture frames. All of these are strong, robust choices for outdoor furniture materials, and will last a very long time if properly cared for.
If we had to choose one material, we would go with resin plastic wood (poly wood), as long as the fasteners are Marine Grade.
Durable Outdoor Furniture Frame Materials
All of the materials on this list are excellent choices for outdoor furniture frames. There are caveats for some of the materials on this list, and we cover the advantages and disadvantages of each below.
- Resin Plastic (CPVC)
- Cast Aluminum
- Stainless steel
- Wicker (Woven)
- Wrought Iron
Wood is the classic outdoor furniture material, and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime. There are many wood-framed houses that are several hundred years old, which shows that properly-maintained wood can be a viable option for long-lasting outdoor furniture. Wood framed outdoor furniture can look amazing, and last for years.
Several species of wood are commonly used in outdoor furniture, such as Teak (our favorite!), Cedar, Pine, Eucalyptus, etc. Virtually all of these will require some care and maintenance over time, such as painting, staining, or sealing, which can be a significant effort.
Another concern is that wood can rot if exposed to the ground, so it’s a good idea to not leave wooden furniture on a lawn for a long period. Also, be sure to always use furniture covers to keep your furniture looking as clean as possible.
Resin Plastic (Poly Resin Wood)
Resin plastic has become one of the dominant outdoor materials over the past twenty or so years. Generally made of wood pulp and recycled plastic, these eco-friendly materials are formed to look like wood, color is added to the material, and they are designed to last outside essentially forever! Common brand names of this material are Trex and Polywood, but there are countless manufacturers of the material, and of furniture based on the material.
Many manufacturers use PVC resin materials in conjunction with aluminum or steel frames, though some manufacturers make their furniture completely out of resin plastic wood, such as the dining set shown here by Polywood. In conjunction with marine grade fasteners, these furniture pieces can go almost anywhere and are ideal in beachy, salt water conditions where other materials might rust or degrade. These pieces are perhaps the most durable outdoor furniture.
Aluminum is a material that is commonly used in furniture frames, either as the exterior frame of a metal furniture set, such as this Trex Aluminum Framed Dining Set or as the inner frame of a PE wicker or HDPE wicker patio furniture set.
Aluminum has a few qualities that make it a good choice as a durable outdoor material. It does not rust, is lightweight, and is fairly inexpensive to produce. It is a great choice for sectional furniture because the individual pieces are generally pretty lightweight and easy to reconfigure.
Aluminum framed furniture can be light enough that it can blow away, which is obviously a problem! If your patio is in a windy area, be sure to check out our guide to weighting down your patio furniture.
Cast Aluminum is very similar to standard aluminum, but cast aluminum is created by pouring molten aluminum into a mold (or cast), which, when cool, forms a furniture piece that is a single unit. Typically there are no joints, welds, or anything like that.
The end result of this process is a very formidable material that is rustproof, sturdy, relatively lightweight, and often shaped in interesting ways.
Typically, standard aluminum furniture is hollow, while cast aluminum pieces are usually significantly more weighty and solid. That solidity results in a more durable frame material, while still keeping prices fairly low.
Cast aluminum is generally fairly inexpensive, though usually priced higher than standard aluminum.
Like aluminum, Stainless Steel is commonly used on both the exterior frame of “metal” outdoor furniture pieces and as an interior frame which is then wrapped by PE Wicker.
Stainless steel is a bit stronger than aluminum and is certainly heavier, but it can rust, especially in spots where there are poor weld joints. Often, steel is powder coated for extra protection, but if the powder coat scratches off, rust can invade and damage the steel.
It’s wise to keep an eye out for scratches where bare metal is visible and to re-spray those spots with Rustoleum paint.
Additionally, poorly welded steel can fail over time, and often these welds are the location where rust starts to creep in.
The good news is that stainless steel is generally fairly inexpensive. It’s a good idea to keep your stainless steel furniture covered when not in use, which will help keep the finish looking as good as possible for as long as you can go.
Wicker (HDPE or PE Resin Wicker)
Resin wicker has taken the outdoor furniture world by storm over the last decade or so, due to the great design possibilities of this material, and the robust nature of resin wicker. Resin wicker is very different than rattan wicker, which is a natural fabric that is not suitable for outdoor use (which we learned the hard way years ago by accidentally leaving a rattan chair outside for longer than we should!).
Resin wicker is available in PE-wicker and HDPE wicker. HDPE wicker is higher quality but is less commonly used in patio furniture.
Resin wicker is a synthetic fiber that is colored and woven around a metal frame, typically aluminum or steel. The resin wicker is essentially plastic, and the color goes all the way through the material, as opposed to sitting on top. This makes for an extremely strong outdoor material that is capable of being left out, exposed, even in snow (though we don’t recommend it).
It’s still best to cover resin wicker furniture, though it is not required. Covering your PE Wicker furniture will keep it has as strong as possible, and will also help keep it clean.
Wrought iron is a fairly common outdoor furniture material, though it is more and more being supplanted by cast aluminum, stainless steel, and other materials, rather than actual iron. That said, there is still some wrought iron furniture being produced, and one of the interesting aspects of iron is that it has a very low carbon content, resulting in a finish that has a grain, almost like wood.
Wrought iron is fairly corrosion resistant but still can rust over time. If you choose to go with genuine wrought iron furniture, consider purchasing furniture covers in order to protect your furniture from the elements as much as possible.