When buying furniture for your garden, you generally have 4 choices – rattan, plastic, teak or softwood. Which is best for use in your garden? This article will explain your choices and walk you through the pros and cons of each.
Rattan garden furniture
Rattan can be natural or synthetic. Natural rattan is made from the stems of palms from rattan trees – a group of tree species found in tropical parts of the world. It has a ‘weaved’ appearance that looks like wicker. Synthetic rattan has a similar appearance but is made from plastic. This type of garden furniture is very popular in the UK due to its resistance to wet conditions. The weaved rattan material is usually combined with metal and glass, giving it a contemporary look that is very much in fashion at the moment. This is appealing to some, whereas other people prefer more traditional wooden garden furniture.
Plastic garden furniture is lightweight, cheap and cheerful. Although it can sometimes break after several years or months of use, it is extremely weather resistant. Unlike wood or metal, it is immune to rot, rust or other weather damage and can easily be cleaned with a sponge and soapy water. The obvious drawback is that it looks cheap! – Wood and rattan certainly have a more premium look.
Teak is a tropical species of hardwood. It’s very durable and is traditionally used in shipbuilding as well as both indoor and outdoor furniture. When used indoors teak often has oils applied to its surface to preserve its appearance. Outdoors, it tends to be left to weather and adapts a silvery color. There are two main disadvantages to teak garden furniture – it’s heavy and comparatively expensive.
Compared to teak, softwood garden furniture is lighter and more affordable but is also more prone to weather damage if left untreated. There are two ways to combat this – dip treatment and pressure treatment. Dip treatment applies a layer of preservative agents to the surface of the wood, offering a limited amount of protection. Pressure treatment, on the other hand, uses a vacuum tank to force the preserving liquid deep into the fiber of the wood, offering a superior level of protection (here’s a great article explaining how pressure treatment works).
If you prefer very modern looking garden furniture then rattan might be best for you. If you’re on a very tight budget I would suggest going for some cheap & cheerful plastic garden furniture. If you prefer wooden garden furniture, teak is certainly high quality but that quality comes at a cost. I believe that pressure treated softwood combines the best of both worlds – it’s aesthetically pleasing, lighter and cheaper than teak, and (as long as it is pressure treated) will last for several years.