Savvy Consumer: Outdoor furniture rated by materials, durabilityThinking about buying a new outdoor table and chairs in the spring? To help you get started, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute researched five of the most common materials. While many sets are designed to be left out all year, it’s best to cover all furniture when you’re not using it.
By: Associated Press, INFORUM
Thinking about buying a new outdoor table and chairs in the spring? To help you get started, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute researched five of the most common materials. While many sets are designed to be left out all year, it’s best to cover all furniture when you’re not using it.
Pros: This metal won’t rust or fade, particularly if it has a powder-coat finish. It’s also lighter and lower-maintenance than steel.
Cons: Quality doesn’t come cheap: High-end sets can cost upward of $1,500.
Tips: Clean furniture with soapy water and rinse well. Finish with a coat of car wax to help repel water and stains.
Pros: This woven wood or synthetic is lightweight, yet durable.
Cons: Many wicker furniture pieces take up a lot of space. Sets can be pricey.
Tips: Choose weather-resistant wicker, which can be hosed off or sudsed up with mild soap if needed; rinse well. A paste wax can fortify the non-weather-resistant kind.
Pros: Sturdy wood doesn’t hold the sun’s heat like metals and plastics.
Cons: Most wood is best stashed indoors during winter (cedar and teak can stay put but will fade).
Tips: Wash with soapy water; rinse. Don’t put on grass or dirt: Wood can absorb moisture and rot. Paint, sealant or other finishes help keep water out.
Pros: Often the least pricey, plastic furniture is very portable. Some are made from recycled materials. Chairs may stack for storage.
Cons: It’s not as long-lasting as other materials, and can look like, well, plastic.
Tips: Store inside to prevent fading and pitting. Clean with soapy water and a scrub brush, if needed.
Pros: Super-tough and durable, steel makes for very substantial furniture.
Cons: Heavy steel can be hard to move. When it’s not finished or specially treated, it can also rust if left out year-round.
Tips: Wash with soapy water, rinse well, and towel off. Apply a special protective coating or spray wax to help prevent rust.
- Comfy chair cushions
Outdoor chair cushions should be hardy – resisting water, stains, abrasion and fading – but also softly supportive. Of the 15 the Good Housekeeping Research Institute evaluated, these three proved backside- and backyard-worthy. For longest-lasting enjoyment, store them inside when they’re not in use.
- Hot seat
JCPenney’s Outdoor Oasis Double-Welt Seat Cushion ($40 for two) bounced back on the compression test and didn’t fade from UV light. It dried fast after dousing — it’ll be sit-ready minutes after a summer shower. Most of the eight common picnic stains tested came out with a sponge and soapy water.
- Preppy comfort
Solid-colored with contrasting edges, the Lands’ End Piped Chair Cushion ($49.50) adds a traditional look to a dining set. All stains except mustard washed out readily by hand; its soft padding proved resilient. The fabric won’t fade in the sun but will pill over time. Also, the Velcro ties may be too short for some chairs.
- Dual designs
A good value, Kmart’s Outdoor Wicker Seat Pad by Country Living ($25) gives you two looks (floral and striped) for the price of one. It won’t easily flatten, fade or stain, and dries quickly. The fabric pilled a bit. Its “dimples” are machine-sewn, not secured with buttons; if one unravels, you’ll end up with a lumpy seat.
On another matter...
Are heirloom tomatoes worth the extra cost? Good Housekeeping Research Institute’s Food Director Susan Westmoreland says yes! These “hand-me-down” varieties, passed from gardener to gardener, are edible legacies that warrant the splurge. Unlike their supermarket cousins, which are picked green and artificially ripened, heirlooms are allowed to ripen naturally, so they’re succulent and full of flavor. You’ll recognize them in farmers’ markets by their bulges, stripes and array of colors — from bright green to almost black. Use within a few days in simple salads and sauces to showcase their flavor.