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Outdoor Furniture. Getting it Right, Getting it Green.

It’s that time of year when, after flipping through the home magazines, you realize you are in desperate need of outdoor furniture – either replacing the old or starting from scratch. It seems a long time ago that a couple of nylon webbed lounge chairs and a picnic table with benches were the norm.

Today – it’s the full blown “Outdoor Room” with a list of essentials that can seem a bit daunting. There are the sofas and side chairs, side tables, coffee tables, the fire pit, gas heaters, the large elaborate gas barbecue, umbrellas, outdoor rugs and pillows, lanterns, torches, planters, garden décor items, and did I mention the center of the universe… a large fine furniture quality dining table with substantial chairs… this is getting expensive! Nevertheless, an outdoor room, with all it’s creature comforts and ambiance, lets you enjoy the summer like a yacht – right in your back yard.
 
Unless you live on a farm (which you might!), if you’re planning the full meal deal, there is a very slim chance you’ll have anywhere to put these large pieces once fall has fallen. You should therefore carefully consider the materials and construction if you require an all-weather/all-season application. If you’re willing to look at them all winter, furniture covers can help protect these pieces. But – depending on location, they can be a real eyesore. A covered patio area solves all. But, there are pieces today that can merely be left outside… no protection, no cover. Just get the pressure washer out in the spring and you’re good to go. Here’s the rundown:

 

Teak
Sustainably harvested teak – that’s what the big brands say. So what does this mean? Well, it should mean one of two things: that it comes from trees grown in certified plantations, or comes from a natural forest that is well managed and certified as such from a reliable custodian. The preeminent certifying organization is the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).   Their certification process sets growing and harvesting guidelines and certifies each participant in the chain of custody to assure you that the furniture you’re buying is, in fact, the same wood under the program. In other words, it helps eliminate “greenwashing” -  the practice of certified wood being replaced somewhere along the supply chain with a non-certified less expensive substitute. 
 
As mentioned, teak can come from either a natural forest or a plantation. The old trees from the natural forest are more durable and harder than the teak from the plantation trees. However, careful kiln drying of the plantation teak can make it nearly as durable as the old tree variety. Old tree teak is called Grade A. All other teak is graded from B to D.
 
The story of teak’s durability are not exaggerated. 20 year old pieces that have been left in the weather all year round can be in near perfect condition. Teak develops a beautiful grey patina in its first year of use. 
 
With most teak coming from Southeast Asia, you can imagine its carbon footprint is huge. However, given it’s longevity, this should be viewed against its useful life. Teak also tends to be less prone to style trends which can make less otherwise useful furniture dated and before it’s time, replaced. Teak outdoor furniture is truly timeless. 
 
Cedar
It deserves mentioning… the classic Adirondack chair. In cedar, they age gracefully, they are light, but rather delicate. Made properly with a curved back, large arms, and profiled seat, even without cushion, a very comfortable sit. 
 
 
 
All Weather Wicker
This is certainly the latest thing. It is attractive and nearly bulletproof. Polyethylene resins are used to create a fiber molded to the traditional natural wicker profile. The color is in the resin, so no fading, peeling, or flaking. It can be hosed off for cleaning and can be left in the weather year-round. The aluminum frame won’t rust, warp, or stain.

 

Aluminum
Same rust, warp, and stain free material. Cast and welded. Not typically raw aluminum, usually either powder coated or special metallic coating such as bronze.  Again this is a very durable furniture line that can remain outdoors. Powder coating can chip over time. And – unlike wood and wicker, the aluminum can be cold to the touch where not cushioned. 
 
 
Wrought Iron
Iron, yes. Powder-coated… please! As any chips can turn to rust, this is somewhat more temperamental than it’s counterparts above. But true wrought iron with its artisan curves is a classic look.
 
Cushions
The leader in cushion material is “Sunbrella”. There is no other word for this fabric than ”amazing”.   Year after year, no water damage, no fading, takes nearly any kind of abuse, totally washable. 
 
There are any number of variables to consider in making a “green” decision on your outdoor furniture:
  •  Teak, assuming it is truly sustainable, still has a large carbon footprint but a long useful life and not prone to fashion changes.
  •  All Weather Wicker is a petro product and the aluminum frame consumes large amounts of energy in its production. But, again, it lasts many years.
  • All Aluminum again is an energy hog but also bullet proof.
  • Cushions… well, you have to have them. And, even they are built for speed.   
 

All of today’s high quality outdoor furniture is made to last, and that is a most important contribution to our environment. 

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Re: Outdoor Furniture. Getting it Right, Getting it Green.

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Re: Outdoor Furniture. Getting it Right, Getting it Green.

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Re: Outdoor Furniture. Getting it Right, Getting it Green.

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