Choosing Decorative & Functional Furniture For Your Front Porch

Furniture for outdoor use spans the designs made popular through the centuries. You can select benches similar to those used in Versailles, Adirondack chairs, antebellum wrought iron inspired by Victorian New Orleans, and myriad other choices. A word of caution: just as decorative birdhouses won’t last outdoors, some furniture with outdoor looks may not stand up to weather. Check warranties, and read directions on the furniture for care and maintenance. Then match your choices to the possible weather exposure of the furniture itself. It may be made of one or more materials.

Wood: Naturally weather-resistant woods, such as cypress, teak, or redwood, require little upkeep and don’t need staining or preservative coatings. Treated wood is decay resistant and may have a greenish-brown color; it can be painted, stained, or left natural and protected with a clear water-resistant finish. Other wood should be treated with a moisture-resistant preservative, either clear or pigmented.

Wicker and Rattan: Check that the frame is weather resistant, such as aluminum with a baked-on finish. If the location is protected, some bamboo frames are porch-suitable. Synthetic wicker and special finishes on natural wicker materials offer various levels of resistance to sun and rain.

Iron: Its weight makes iron a good choice for windy areas, but it is heavy and difficult to rearrange. Either cast or wrought iron will rust unless treated with special rust-retarding paint and touched up or repainted over the years.

Aluminum: From budget tubular furniture to wrought or cast frames, aluminum is rustproof and lightweight. Pieces designed to look like ironwork often have a baked-on enamel or textured finish. Look for finishing details such as smooth seams on welded parts. Cast-aluminum pieces and those of thick, heavy-gauge alloys are top of the line in aluminum.

Plastic and Fiberglass Furniture: Buy the best quality you can afford, because inexpensive polymer pieces that break easily will decorate the dump for decades to come. Warranties are a guide, but test pieces by sitting on them and rocking around. Tubular parts made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) can sometimes be disassembled for storage, depending upon how they are joined. Resin pieces are molded into a variety of shapes. Both come in a range of colored plastics; some are not able to withstand direct sunlight without discoloring.

2009, Rhonda Morin.

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