Title: Metal Outdoor Furniture - Explained
Author: Debbie Rodgers
Mention metal patio furniture and you probably think of the
light, fly-away aluminium loungers of your youth or that
half-ton cast iron table and chair set on your neighbour's lawn.
But metal outdoor furniture has come a long way. Here's a quick
primer on the available types and their care.
Construction Methods Metal is fashioned into furniture in one of
three main ways: extrusion, casting, and welding.
Extrusion forces melted metal through long pipes and forms long
narrow tubes of metal, sometimes solid, but often hollow.
Casting metal involves a form, or cast, shaped like the finished
product. The molten metal is poured into the form and then the
form is removed when the metal has solidified. Cast pieces are
almost always solid.
Forging, a process in which metal is heated and hammered into
shape produces the type of furniture known as "wrought" metal.
It uses pipes and various solid pieces of the metal and joins
them together by welding or bolting.
Common Materials The most common metal outdoor furniture is made
from iron or aluminium, although the use of steel, especially
stainless steel, is growing.
Iron is a chemical element that is naturally malleable and rusts
easily. Vintage pieces, usually in black or dark green, can be
found at premium prices and must be carefully maintained to
prevent further rusting. Modern reproduction pieces will usually
have a rust-resistant finish or coating that protects against
chipping, scratching and corrosion. There are a variety of
finishes available such as primer and paint, powder coatings and
galvanizing. They are available in a range of colors and styles.
Since iron is heavy and solid, it is well-suited for windy spots
where light furniture might be blown away. Don't expect it to be
highly portable, though. Well-cared for, iron furnishings can
last for 100 years.
Much of the iron furniture available today is wrought iron,
rather than cast iron. When you're buying wrought iron, look for
pieces made with solid metal rather than hollow tubing, and that
are welded, rather than bolted, together. Generally, the better
furniture is North American made.
Iron furniture requires more maintenance than other types of
metal furniture. Clean it regularly with warm soapy water and
then dry it thoroughly. Wax the smooth surfaces and apply
mineral or baby oil to textured surfaces. Oil springs and moving
parts once per year. Immediately touch up any scratches or rust
by lightly sanding the spot with a fine steel wool. Then apply
several thin coats of metal paint, letting each coat dry well
before applying the next. If you're using a spray paint, apply
with short light stokes.
Aluminum is a silvery, lightweight and easily worked metallic
element that never rusts. Much of the early aluminum furniture
from the 1960s was made from hollow-core extrusion tubing. Such
furniture was extremely lightweight but not exceedingly
wind-stable. Such pieces are still available today and are best
used around a pool area. Cast aluminum is better used in outdoor
dining or sitting areas.
Whether you're looking for extruded, cast or wrought aluminum
items, there are a few items that indicate a quality piece. As
with wrought iron, joints should be welded (preferably
full-circumference welds) rather than bolted. If bolts are used,
for example to connect webbing, they should be made of aluminum
or stainless steel. Otherwise they will begin to rust even
though the main frame does not.
Best quality aluminum pieces have a powder-coated finish, which
determines the final color of the piece and the durability of
the metal. Powder coating is a process in which colorful
polyester powders are applied and then baked onto the frame.
If you're buying aluminum furniture with vinyl webbing or
straps, look for vinyl that has been processed with mildew
inhibitors and ultraviolet stabilizers. Any wooden pieces
mounted on aluminum frames should be treated with a finish to
Suntan oils, human perspiration, car exhaust and salt spray can
all eat away at the powder coating on aluminum furniture. To
ensure long life, clean your aluminum furniture twice a month
with a solution of mild dish detergent and warm water. Rinse
well. You can then apply paste car wax to any smooth finish
Steel, a hard tough metal, is an alloy of iron and various small
percentages of metallic elements. The alloys produce hardness
and resistance to rusting. Galvanized steel has been plated with
zinc; stainless steel has been alloyed with chromium and is
virtually immune to rust and corrosion.
Before the production of aluminum furniture in the mid 20th
century, steel furniture was common, dating from popular
French-made items manufactured in the later half of the 1800s.
American companies used solid steel until the Second World War
when the heavy military demand for steel dictated the use of
lightweight tubular (hollow) steel in outdoor furniture. Vintage
steel sets can still be found at flea markets.
If you're looking at modern steel furniture, be sure the product
is either stainless or powder-coated and that any hardware used
is also rust-resistant.
Metal outdoor furniture in its many shapes and designs can be a
wonderful addition to your outdoor living space. Choose wisely
About the author:
Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise
Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living
spaces that nurture and enrich them. Her latest how-to guide
“Attracting Butterflies to Your Home and Garden” is now
available on her web site. Visit her at www.paradiseporch.com
and get a free report on “Eight easy ways to create privacy in
your outdoor space”. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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