The unpredictable and sometimes hostile Canadian climate — with its extreme temperature swings and precipitation ranging from snow to sleet to hail — can leave your outdoor patio furniture looking worn and aged in a matter of a season or two.
Even the summer months can take a toll on outdoor furniture, whether that’s from damaging UV rays or a hungry raccoon scrounging for June bugs. But innovative, high-tech products and materials are designed to stand up to the Canadian climate and protect the investment consumers make in their outdoor furniture.
One way to ensure longevity in your outdoor pieces is to invest in commercial-grade products designed for the hospitality industry, says Richard Bockner, owner of ARD Outdoor. They come with a higher price tag, but they’re designed to be long-lasting and won’t end up in a landfill next season.
“Consumers should always be looking for aluminum as opposed to steel; it’s better quality and more durable,” Bockner says. Most outdoor furniture uses tubular (hollow) aluminum, and quality is based on the thickness of the aluminum, the type of paint used and the placement of drainage holes.
Cheap paint can peel, and water can seep into screw holes and stress cracks. That’s why ARD Outdoor uses a commercial-grade outdoor powder coating, the same type that is used on fire hydrants, stop signs and construction vehicles.
But buyer beware: Some powder coatings are of lesser quality, and “that’s going to fade and peel over time,” Bockner says. If scratched, they will start to flake. A commercial-grade paint will help to keep outdoor furniture looking new, season after season.
Stephanie Hauser, owner and director of marketing at Hauser (whose head office is in Waterloo, Ont., with a number of stores in Ontario), agrees the trend is shifting to aluminum, with more contemporary designs. “Be sure you are purchasing fully welded UV-stable, powder-coated furniture. When the goods are fully welded there is no risk of the joints loosening. Sling-style chairs without cushions are an excellent low-maintenance alternative.”
Teak is another popular material — and for good reason. It contains natural rubber content, which naturally repels water. “Every pirate ship in the world was made of teak,” Bockner says.
But buyers should do their homework, since there are different grades and quality of teak. “We buy commercial-grade, sustainable teak from plantations in Indonesia that specialize in providing a better quality raw material,” Bockner says. He recommends buying unstained teak and letting it weather naturally to get that coveted silvery look. A product that is already painted or stained, however, will peel in the first year or two.
The same goes for synthetic wicker. Made with resin pellets, this type of furniture varies in grade and quality, depending on the resin used. Higher-quality resin is designed to be UV-resistant and can expand and contract with temperature changes, making it much more durable. ARD Outdoor’s Solartex wicker products are also sustainable, made from 100-per-cent recycled resin.
“All of the wicker fibre we sell is solid extrusion with UV-stable inhibitors, so it retains its colour over time. There are different grades of wicker and frame integrity so beware — you get what you pay for,” Hauser says.
Hauser’s recycled polypropylene Adirondack chairs and accessories are heavy, durable and can be left outdoors year-round, making them ideal for windy areas and extreme temperatures. “The poly products have really developed into exceptional designs over the years and now bring style and durability,” Hauser says.
For outdoor barbecue areas, Dekton (distributed in Canada by Cosentino) is a new high-tech, ultracompact, fireproof material that is highly scratch-resistant, UV-resistant, and can undergo freezing and thawing, with virtually zero water absorption. It can be installed in one piece, with no joints or cuts, providing a uniform and durable surface.
When it comes to accessories, such as upholstery, cushions and awnings, consumers should look for high-tech fabrics to ensure longevity. ARD Outdoor uses Sunbrella fabric, made with quick-dry fibres that prevent mildew and fading. Bockner also recommends cushions made with quick-dry foam, which allows water to pass through and thereby deters mildew.
These days, homeowners are building bigger patios, complete with landscape architecture, firepits and outdoor TVs. “We want to be outdoors,” says Dave Beaton, owner of studio b. As a result, people are more willing to spend on quality outdoor furniture that will last for years, not a couple of seasons.
Beaton recommends investing in premium brands such as Kettal or Dedon, which are pioneers in outdoor furniture. Dedon, for example, was first to weave synthetic fibre into outdoor designs, setting the industry standard. “Other companies tried to copy Dedon’s designs but with cheaper materials,” Beaton says. “They look good from afar, but they’re far from good.”
The best way to make outdoor furniture last? “Buy the good stuff the first time,” Beaton says. “It’s the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine.”
To cover or not to cover?
High-quality outdoor furniture is designed to withstand the elements, but it still requires some upkeep. Breathable covers protect furniture from weather and animals (racoons are a major problem in the Greater Toronto Area and will eat through cushions or wicker to get at edible bugs).
For those who would rather not have to cover their furniture during the summertime, Richard Bockner, owner of ARD Outdoor, recommends using a large outdoor umbrella, such as an Uhlmann’s commercial-grade umbrella, which is made in Germany and guaranteed to withstand up to 125-kilometre-an-hour winds.
Homeowners don’t necessarily have to store their outdoor furniture indoors during the winter months. “Teak, aluminum and wicker can all stay outside in the winter,” Bockner says.
Winterized covers are also available so outdoor furniture can stay outdoors, making upkeep even easier.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.