How to Choose Outdoor Furniture That Will Last


| Apr 20, 2023

Choosing furniture in an outdoor public space needs extra consideration as there is a higher traffic use. You will want the furniture to be low maintenance yet highly durable. All these extra considerations come down to your chosen materials and design. The materials will need to have longevity and be safe for the public. Outdoor furniture also needs to be bolted in some cases and its function considered. For example, a recreation area will have different furniture than an outdoor civic center event. 

Some spaces require a picnic table set up and others need benches and accessories such as bins or umbrellas. There are also the conditions that the furniture will have to withstand. For example, materials react differently to being in the sun than in the shade.

Commercial furniture, in general, needs to be more resistant and durable. It must be able to hold different weights and withstand harsh weather conditions. But it also needs to meet the look and feel of your design. A lot of outdoor furniture comes in a range of finishes. Some products can also have images of logos or corporate designs.

But before diving into colors and coatings, let’s look at the outdoor furniture and materials involved.

Table of Contents:

Why Buying High-Quality Outdoor Furniture Is Important

Cheaper options always seem attractive until they break three months down the line and need to be replaced. It is better to ensure you get quality products from the beginning. Why is getting the most durable outdoor furniture important?

The following are the benefits to outdoor furniture:

  • Inspire people to get active: If people know there is a spot to sit outside for their lunch or break, they will go there. Having a spot to relax is a great way to encourage people to move from their work to outside.
  • Provide visitors a space to exercise: Benches can be incorporated into spaces where people enjoy exercising. They can either use to take a short break or a place to wait. They can also use the bench to stabilize them during lunges and core exercises.
  • A place for interaction: People might meet and chat with someone who is enjoying the same hobbies as them. Two people drinking coffee or enjoying lunch will naturally start up a conversation. 

Quality Furniture Is Durable

Quality furniture will be made with care and precision, resulting in a better-finished product. The finishes and coatings will be even and consistent, protecting the raw materials underneath from rot, corrosion and insects. 

Other materials, such as recycled plastic lumber, will be an option to use as well from a quality supplier. The construction of the furniture will be done by experts and experienced artisans. 

Quality Furniture Will Save Costs in the Long-Term

The costs of investing in quality outdoor furniture might seem high initially. But due to the durability, longevity and lower maintenance costs, you will actually be saving costs in years to come.

Quality Furniture Has Better Appeal

You can tell almost immediately which products have been made by a team of experts and which haven’t just by the look. Quality products involve materials that have an even, uniform finish. The shapes all fit smoothly, the drill holes, bolts and screws are precise and tight and the result is balanced and sturdy. 

The end result is something that invites you to use it — you will want to sit at the bench and have your lunch at the table. It is the finishing touch to any outdoor public space and will draw people in to interact with the area.

What Is the Best Material for Outdoor Furniture?

Outdoor furniture technology has advanced in the last few decades. Those old cracking, peeling benches have been updated with recycled plastic options that resist moisture and rot. Here is a quick guide to what outdoor materials can offer you. 

Outdoor Wood Furniture

There is something iconic about wooden furniture in general. Wooden furniture in an outdoor environment makes you immediately feel like you are on holiday. However, wood furniture requires a lot of maintenance as it needs to be sanded and restained or varnished every few years. If the wood gets damaged and the outside coating is compromised, moisture will get in and cause rot. 

But if care is taken and general maintenance is done, then wood can last for years. It also holds up to heat and sun damage and therefore is still comfortable even on a hot day. Ensure that the wood you choose also is practical for outdoor use — for example, softwoods like cedar and pine work better indoors. 

Outdoor Aluminum and Cast Aluminum Furniture

Aluminum outdoor furniture is a popular choice. It is durable, cost-effect and has a nice finish to it. Cast aluminum tends to be slightly heavier than regular aluminum because the metal is poured into a cast mold.

Both types are still lightweight, making it easy to create portable furniture. Portable options are good for public spaces that need to be set up or changed for events. The material is cost-effect and can have a powder coating, making it resistant to harsh weather conditions.

Aluminum can be used for a complete piece of furniture but is often paired with another material. This is because it is aesthetically pleasing as a frame and can carry decent weight. 

Outdoor Recycled Plastic

Recycled plastic is fast becoming one of the most versatile building materials. It is often used in house construction and has expanded to furniture. Here are just some of the many features that repurposed plastic material has to offer:

  • It is eco-friendly
  • It resists cracking, warping and fading
  • It does not corrode or rot
  • It is lightweight
  • It comes in a range of colors and patterns

Recycled plastic can be made to mimic wood textures and even metal. You can also customize certain products by printing logos and corporate designs onto the material. 

The material is ideal for a picnic table or bench. It is also an economical material that requires very little maintenance. Recycled plastic is fairly lightweight and is a great option for portable outdoor furniture.

Outdoor Steel Furniture

Steel is another traditional material used for outdoor furniture. It is known for its durability and weight-bearing capacities. Often the material is used to create the framework of picnic tables and outdoor benches. It is also the most common material as it is immune to corrosion and rust.

A Combination of Materials

Most outdoor furniture is created with a combination of materials. For some designs, there will be a steel frame with seating created from recycled plastic. This makes a lot of sense as some materials are better suited for different situations. For example, after the rain, water will collect on top of a table and on the surface area of a seat. Recycled plastic is a great option for these spaces as it is moisture-resistant and is not affected by rot and corrosion. 

How to Choose Outdoor Furniture That Lasts

There are a handful of questions that you should ask your manufacturer about outdoor furniture to ensure that you get good quality. Here are some of the top questions to ask before investing.

What Outdoor Furniture Can Be Left Outside in the Winter?

Different regions will have different climates during winter, from rain to frost and snow. Porous materials, such as wood and the fabric on umbrellas, will be vulnerable to rain and snow. They absorb moisture and take a long time to dry out. During the rainy season, there is very little sun, and it might be hours or days before they are completely dry. During this time, the material will weaken and be prone to cracking, breaking and disintegrating.

Metal is also vulnerable to moisture but for a different reason. The longer it is subjected to water, the quicker the oxidation process will start. Oxidation results in rust and corrosion on metal surfaces. Recycle plastic can withstand the wet season but is vulnerable to cold and frost. Freezing temperatures cause the plastic to become brittle and will start to crack in the long term.

Items that have fabric should be stored during harsh weather conditions. Most outdoor furniture can endure if the furniture is properly maintained and extra attention is given. Hardy materials such as steel, aluminum and recycled plastic are more durable and suited during winter.

The best solution is to be mindful and proactive during this time period. Store what you can in a dry space and remove furniture that is portable during harsh conditions. Here are some tips for furniture that is bolted or permanent outdoors:

  • Check care instructions or consult with the supplier about caring for the furniture in your specific region
  • Wash and dry after rain
  • Do a visual inspection after hash weather and repair any damage
  • Check bolts, screws and brackets are tight
  • Paint or reseal if necessary
  • Add extra protection, for example, a wax coat on any metal furniture or frames

Can It Withstand Sunlight?

Outdoor furniture is built to withstand long periods in the elements. They are coated with protective layers that should resist ultraviolet (UV) light. Talk to your supplier about concerns if your area gets more than average amounts of sun or heat.

Your supplier could provide additional coats to the materials or suggest certain products better suited to your specific needs. High-quality outdoor furniture will have been crafted carefully and have all the correct specifications to ensure they withstand UV.

How Durable Is the Material?

A supplier will be able to give you brochures and resources about their products, which will give you information to the durability of the materials. Each situation has different requirements, from amusement and entertainment areas to public parks. Each space will also be different regarding the amount of shade, sunlight, moisture and rain.

Most high-quality materials can last a lifetime if properly maintained. Find out what maintenance is required to ensure you get the maximum life span from your outdoor furniture choice. 

Do You Have Wheelchair Accessibility for Your Products?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforces that facilities for businesses have a 5% accessibility for wheelchair users. Ensure your supplier has Commercial Grade ADA furniture available for you to meet this requirement.

Picnic tables with ADA grade should be comfortable for wheelchair users and be at a specific height with the correct spacing. This is achieved by having spacing built-in or the option to remove a seat to create the proper space.

Tips for Maintaining Commercial Outdoor Furniture

Maintaining outdoor commercial furniture will increase its life span and keep them in good condition. Good quality and maintained furniture will result in higher use and satisfaction from people visiting the space. 

Here is a quick guide on how to care for your outdoor furniture:

Verify the Material Type

Materials such as wood and metal need to be wiped down after wet conditions. Fabrics should be removed during harsh weather conditions. Each material type has a different set of maintenance. Check instructions and maintenance information from your supplier to see how best to care for your outdoor furniture.

Maintain Products Differently

Benches and picnic tables have different surface areas and requirements. There are more curves, nooks and crannies in picnic tables where grime or moisture can accumulate. Benches in popular spaces will have more wear and tear. Take into consideration the different products and also the different uses each one has.

Keep a Service List and Schedule

After the design, installation and grand opening of your public space, there will be a long maintenance list. This will include the grounds themselves, but it also should consist of the furniture that has been implemented. Ensure information has been passed over on how to care for the different products in the long term to create a maintenance checklist and schedule.

Consistent maintenance and care will mean the products will have a longer life span. Longer life span results in fewer repairs and replacements, which will save costs. 

Get the Commercial Outdoor Furniture You Need From Wabash Valley Site Furnishings

Our experienced team has worked with architecture, landscape architecture and design firms to assemble site amenities and furnishings for a wide range of commercial outdoor projects. Our outdoor picnic table product range offers a number of colors and materials. We also have a wide selection of commercial-grade ADA picnic table designs.

We also offer children’s picnic tables for kids’ zones and spaces. These tables are also portable and can be stored when not in use. Each product comes with its own design, color options and even patterns. 

Wabash Valley Site Furnishings will work with you to create a bulk order that fits the specifications, design and budget. Browse our website to see all our outdoor furnishing options