Comparing Outdoor Furniture: Which material is right for you?

Thinking about buying new patio furniture? Enjoy your outdoor living space to its fullest potential by finding the perfect design and materials to match your style and climate. Here’s our take on the most popular types of outdoor furniture.

Cast Aluminum

Ballard's Amalfi Collection

It’s hard to beat the versatility and carefree qualities of cast aluminum. No wonder it’s always on our best-seller list for outdoor furniture. Cast aluminum shares the same sophisticated look and feel of wrought iron and matches it in durability, yet it’s lightweight and easy to move around. So if you like to rearrange your furniture to suit the needs of the occasion, then cast aluminum belongs on your shortlist.

It’s also a malleable metal and easy to work with, making it easy to find a variety of ornate styles and finely detailed designs to suit your outdoor aesthetic.

Better yet, cast aluminum is extremely resilient and low maintenance, requiring little more than a good washing with soapy water once a year. Cast aluminum won’t corrode, rust or fade, so you can enjoy your furniture outdoors all year long.


Cafe Collection

Solid steel is what makes those pretty petite bistro tables and chairs so stable. It’s naturally heavy and substantial — must-have personality traits for stationery objects in an outdoor space, like a garden bench, that you don’t plan on moving around very often. And a great fringe benefit is that your furniture won’t be knocked about in a storm.

If you choose steel, make sure it’s specially treated with a powder-coated finish, or it can rust over time, requiring annual application of a protective coating. Otherwise, simply wash with soapy water yearly to keep it clean.

Wrought Iron

Castellon Collection

Wrought iron is, quite simply, timeless. From simple to more decorative in design, you can find wrought iron furniture in a wide range of styles to fit just about any outdoor space. Not only is it resilient, but heavy, so it’s ideal if you live in a blustery climate.

Most new wrought iron furniture is powder-coated to resist moisture, chipping and rust. Older painted sets, however, can chip and rust over time and require refinishing on an annual basis. Harsh winters can be tough on your wrought iron furniture, so it’s best to keep it covered when not in use.


Giardino Collection

The beautiful natural finish and relaxed elegance of solid teak wood is perfectly suitable in both contemporary and traditional settings. Naturally strong and resilient, teak wood furniture is an investment your family can enjoy for decades.

The highly prized tropical hardwood is sustainably grown and harvested from teak plantations. It gets its durability from its very fine grain, which also produces natural oils that protect it from rot, decay and pests. And you won’t ever have to worry about it chipping, breaking or corroding like some metals. Plus, it doesn’t absorb the heat, so it stays comfortable, even when the sun is out.

If left untreated, teak will develop into a warm silvery gray patina over time. This natural weathered look is desirable for many people. But if you prefer that your furniture keep its true golden hue and sheen, you will have to treat it yearly with teak oil. 



Sharing many of the same characteristics as teak, tropical eucalyptus is a great, cost-conscious alternative. It’s also an environmentally friendly choice: this fast-growing, FSC-certified hardwood is harvested from renewable plantations.

The natural washed look of eucalyptus lends rustic appeal to an outdoor space. However, it’s best used in a covered area, since it’s not as water resistant as teak.  The Ceylon Collection (shown) is also available in teak, which is suitable for uncovered, outdoor areas.

All-Weather Rattan

Ballard's Sutton Collection

Think of all-weather rattan as a modern update to wicker. It blends sophistication and outdoor durability with the relaxed warmth and texture of the classic woven style. Synthetic outdoor rattan is crafted from rustproof aluminum frames wrapped in UV-resistant resin strands. The construction is lightweight and ultra comfortable, so if you entertain often or you like the flexibility of moving furniture from patio to poolside, then all-weather rattan is a great choice.

Another benefit? All-weather rattan is super low-maintenance. Simply rinse off with a hose when it gets dirty. It dries quickly and resists mildew, making it an all-around winner for outdoor entertaining.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    February 28, 2013

    This is a great article. I’m convinced that teak is the right investment for me!