Finding the right outdoor furniture can be a tricky task, especially with the sheer volume of different products on the market.
Traditionally, wood was always the favourite for classy outdoor furniture, but in recent years this has been toppled by the rise of polywood – a new, unique material that offers much in the way of benefits, both to the homeowner and yard.
But which material works better for outdoor furniture?
Which Material Is Best?
While this choice is obviously subjective and comes down to personal preference, most will agree that poly lumber is the superior choice of material for outdoor furniture – and the reasons for this are numerous.
What Is Poly Lumber?
Poly lumber is a polyethylene polymer made from recycled plastic – the same kinds of plastic used for milk jugs, water bottles, and other waterproof receptacles.
It is heavy-density and can be compressed and moulded into shapes, which can then be sliced into planks and used for construction purposes – or, in this case, outdoor furniture.
Is It A Type Of Wood?
No, poly lumber is not a type of wood, despite the misleading name.
The term ‘poly lumber’ comes from the shape and applications of the material, in that it can be sliced like planks of lumber and used to make structures and products.
What Are The Benefits Of Poly Lumber?
When it comes to poly lumber, there are many benefits that make it a popular, and regularly used material – both within the construction and in outdoor furniture.
As we mentioned above, polywood is largely waterproof – thanks to the high-density composition the material has.
In the same way, that water bottles don’t leak, and milk jugs don’t spill, this material can stop water from permeating the surface, making it a great product for outdoor furniture that will be exposed to the elements.
Polywood is also extremely durable, making it perfect for resisting the kinds of accidental and environmental damage that can befall products when they are left outside.
This gives more value for money, as consumers can keep the same outdoor furniture for longer periods of time, safe in the knowledge that it can withstand anything you throw at it.
Somewhat related to being waterproof, polywood is also extremely weather resistant, offering good resilience against all types of weather conditions – including the extremes at both ends of the spectrum.
While it does get hot from the sun’s heat, it does not become warped like weaker plastics, nor does it fade easily – meaning it remains looking good and serving its purpose for much longer than other materials.
The same goes for frost and snow, with the non-permeable nature of poly lumber offering great resistance against the coldest of cold weather.
The same thing that makes it waterproof means that frost and ice crystals cannot permeate the surface – ensuring rot doesn’t set in.
The highly dense material also means that it can be weighty, something that comes in handy against regions that experience high (and potentially dangerous) winds.
Part of the durability that makes polywood so good is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to dent, chip, or crack.
Even if you did manage it, the very nature of the material means that the surface colour runs all the way through, leaving no exposed layers where water can get in, and avoiding any unsightly colour differences that can make it look untidy and cheap.
Poly lumber is also environmentally friendly, due to the fact that it is made from recycled plastic.
This means that plastic wasn’t placed in landfills and dumps, instead being used to make consumer products that are long-lasting and strong.
This makes polywood attractive to a lot of people, as it is a more sustainable product than others.
Also, due to all of the things above, polywood is incredibly long-lasting and has longevity much more impressive than other, similarly used materials.
Does Poly Lumber Have Any Downsides?
Now, before we start, it is worth saying that while poly lumber does have downsides, they are nothing when compared to similarly used materials – such as wood, plastic, or wrought iron.
However, all things do have downsides, and poly lumber has a couple that is worth mentioning.
First and foremost, poly lumber can be an expensive product to purchase, depending on the quality and how much you decide to buy.
This is because the process of producing poly lumber is more expensive and time-consuming, meaning that this expense trickles down to the consumer level when it comes to purchasing.
Depending on the financial resources you have, this could, however, prove to be a real saving, as the longevity that poly lumber provides means that it outlasts most other types of furniture, which would ultimately have to be replaced far sooner.
While the weight of the material can be useful in windy environments, this does not make it good for transportation, or for moving around the property.
This is especially true if the customers in question are elderly, or if they have conditions that make them unable to lift heavy objects.
This is only a small downside, but one that might be important to certain kinds of customers.
While it is environmentally friendly to produce – in that it uses recycled plastics – the furniture itself is still non-biodegradable, meaning that if it should ever be disposed of, then it will not naturally rot away – something that is bad for the environment.
For this reason, it is still not considered totally environmentally sound, even though it is miles ahead of similarly used materials like wood, wrought iron, aluminum, and other forms of cheaper, non-recyclable plastic.
Despite not breaking down after use, poly lumber can be recycled. Meaning it can be reused countless times before ending up in a landfill. Reducing its impact on the environment.
Along with the fact that most poly lumber is made from recycled material.
What Benefits Does Wood Have?
However, there are still people who prefer the look and the feel of wooden outdoor furniture, despite the fact that it can often be inferior to modern polymer compositions.
Even though wood feels tough and hard, it does eventually give and wear away over time – something that can help to soften your favourite outdoor chair and make it fit the contours of your body, although this will take time.
This differs from poly lumber and similar materials, which are high-density and will not give in the same way.
This could be a selling point for many people, due to the correlation with strength and durability. However, for those wanting a more comfortable seat, wood might be the way to go.
Wooden outdoor furniture is also comparatively cheaper than poly lumber – although this comes with the fact that it is also nowhere near as long-lasting or resilient.
Trees that are still in the ground can more than withstand the natural elements, but dead wood that has been turned into furniture lacks the components that give it resilience and life, meaning that it can be subject to moisture buildup, rot, lichen, moss, and any number of other natural side effects that can cause them to break or crack.
Many people also find wooden furniture to be more visibly attractive than poly lumber equivalents, giving any yard that country living look that so many people long and strive for.
Wooden furniture also feels more natural than plastic and feels more at home in a lush, outdoor space.
While you can get poly lumber that has a built-in wood grain effect, it just doesn’t compare to the touch, look, and charm of the real thing.
What Are The Downsides Of Wood?
However, there are many downsides to wooden furniture that can put a lot of people off the products entirely.
For wooden furniture to remain resilient and looking good outdoors, it requires a lot of upkeep and treatment to continue looking its best.
This means applying things like waxes, stains, and coats of paint to help fight the elements and keep out things like moisture and frost.
However, this is ultimately a losing battle, and all wooden furniture has a distinct life expectancy.
While wooden outdoor furniture can still last 10-15 years with a dedicated treatment regimen, this is still less impressive than other, more modern materials like polywood. Genuine Polywood is warranted for 20 years not to deteriorate. That is just the warranty. It’s quite possible it will last even longer.
This means that many customers might avoid wood entirely in favour of something that will stand the test of time – even if it comes at a higher financial cost.
Wooden furniture is also prone to suffering from weather damage – at least if it is not properly covered or treated.
This means that it can be warped and dried out by hot climates – causing cracks – as well as tending to rot in colder, damper climates.
What’s more, those living in regions that see regular changes in weather and temperature are more at risk of their wooden furniture degrading earlier than usual as a result of these drastic meteorological changes.
It is also subject to physical wear and tear – including long-term weight damage from sitting, chips and dents caused by users, and cracks forming due to trauma.
This means that a greater level of care is needed when using them after long periods of time.
What Type Of Wood Is Generally Used?
When manufacturers make wooden furniture, the material they usually use is teak – although other woods are often used, depending on the company.
Some other types of wood include eucalyptus, Brazilian cherry, and robinia – but this is dependent on the calibre of furniture, and the price that is charged.
How To Treat Wooden Furniture?
If you do indeed have your heart set on wooden outdoor furniture, then there are various things you can do to ensure you get the most longevity from your purchase.
Firstly, proper cleaning is important.
This means removing any lichen as it forms, ensuring it is free from moss, and wiping away any food stains, liquids, and grime with a warm, damp cloth.
It is also to choose materials that are rustproof – this obviously doesn’t refer to the wood itself, but the screws and nails holding it together.
For this, you want to look for galvanized components which have been coated in zinc to prevent rust.
You should also treat your wooden furniture with specialized wax and wood stain – being sure to sand down the piece each time you apply a new coat.
This is to ensure that the wood has the best seal from the elements.
The same goes for when applying some outdoor paint to the furniture, and either of these methods can be good for ensuring long-lasting wooden furniture.
So, What Is The Verdict?
While it is clear that both types of outdoor furniture have their merits, the clear winner is the poly lumber material – especially if you are looking for a versatile, durable, and long-lasting set of outdoor furniture that can take anything you throw at it.
While many enjoy the look and feel of a fine piece of wooden furniture, the associated work and upkeep can be a major chore, as can the propensity for environmental damage and wear and tear.
For this reason, it is clear that poly lumber outdoor furniture offers the widest range of conveniences, not to mention a sense of reliability.
It also has the best pros-to-cons ratio, making a great, sensible choice for those looking for a piece of furniture that will not only look and feel great but will last years.
If you would like to learn more about companies that manufacture poly lumber outdoor furniture, click the link for some of the top brands of HDPE furniture.