What is the most durable type of outdoor furniture? Experts reveal the best material to buy

We break down the most hard-wearing materials for garden furniture, from aluminium and steel to hard and soft woods

Black decking area covered with pergola
(Image credit: Nkuku)

Before you go investing in a new set of garden tables and chairs, it's important to get clued up on the different materials outdoor furniture is made from, and which of these is going to last the longest. Having a clear answer to the question, 'What is the most durable type of outdoor furniture', will help you invest wisely.

The best garden furniture is worth every penny if it allows you to enjoy your garden during the warmer months for years to come. But with so many different outdoor furniture options to choose from, from beautiful wooden garden furniture sets to ornate metal designs, it's hard to know which of these is going to stand the test of time.

'Researching the best materials for garden furniture is essential when transforming your outdoors with a new dining or lounging set,' says Francesca Hadland, Interiors Expert, Bridgman. 'What's inside is just as important as what's out, and quality is key.'

What is the most durable type of outdoor furniture?

We've asked the experts to tell us what is the most durable type of outdoor furniture, so you can choose wisely. We'll look at the four most common materials used to build garden furniture sets, which are aluminium, powder-coated steel, hardwood and softwood. The best rattan garden furniture tends to have a base frame made from one of these materials, so don't worry, our list doesn't exclude this popular choice. 


Patio with white metal table and four matching chairs

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

When it comes to metal garden furniture sets, or rattan furniture with metal bases, aluminium is by far the more durable option. The metal forms a barrier that prevents moisture from penetrating the surface, so you won't see signs of rusting or damp. 

There's some debate whether you should invest in outdoor furniture covers or not, but when it comes to aluminium garden furniture, it's safe to leave it outside all year round. Many manufacturers will still recommend sheltering it from the worst of the elements to prolong its lifespan even further, but for the most part, it's fine to leave outside because of its rust-resistant nature.

GoodHome Moorea Aluminium 5-Seater Coffee Set, £545 at B&Q

GoodHome Moorea Aluminium 5-Seater Coffee Set, £545 at B&Q

Made from powder-coated aluminium, this contemporary outdoor lounge set is lightweight, low-maintenance, and rust-resistant. The 5-seater set includes a 3-seater sofa, 2 armchairs, and a rectangular coffee table, but if space is tight then there's also the more compact Moorea 4-Seater Coffee Set

Powder-coated steel

Patio with two black metal chairs and small coffee table

(Image credit: Dobbies Garden Centres)

The most affordable garden furniture tends to be made from powder-coated steel, but unfortunately this material isn't the answer to what is the most durable type of outdoor furniture.

Steel is highly corrosive when it comes into contact with water, so it's protected from the outdoor elements by way of powder-coating the surface with a protective paint barrier. This works, but means steel-based outdoor furniture is likely to have weak points at joints and fixings where moisture can penetrate and gradually form rust, and any chips in the paint surface will need repairing promptly to maintain durability.  

So if you're thinking of buying new garden chairs made from powder-coated steel, you're going to want to learn how to weatherproof garden furniture pretty quickly if you want it to maintain its good condition.

M&S Loft Lois 4 Seater Dining Table & Chairs, was £399 now £299.25 at M&S

M&S Loft Lois 4 Seater Dining Table & Chairs, was £399 now £299.25 at M&S

Available in teal or grey, the powder-coated steel frame makes this 4-seater set relatively affordable. There are plenty of matching lines in the wider Lois garden furniture collection to create a coordinated look.


Patio with wooden table and picnic style benches

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

If you're wondering which is more durable out of metal vs wood garden furniture, know that not all woods are created equally. Timber is the main source of material for wooden garden furniture, and this can be either a hard or softwood depending where it's sourced. Hardwood trumps softwood in terms of durability.

Teak is the hardwood most prized for its strength and durability outdoors. As well as offering an extremely dense grain that prevents moisture from penetrating, teak retains high levels of natural oils in its timber once cut, which further helps to prevent the wood from weathering. 

So although it's highly durable, teak isn't a great choice if you're looking for budget garden furniture, but there are more affordable hardwood options that still offer a good level of durability. Acacia and eucalyptus may need a fresh coat of wood preservative each year to retain their weather resistance, but they're fairly low maintenance and they'll keep in good condition for several years.

Barker & Stonehouse Beach 6-Seater Dining Table Set, was £2739 now £2175 at Barker & Stonehouse

Barker & Stonehouse Beach 6-Seater Dining Table Set, was £2739 now £2175 at Barker & Stonehouse

You can have the best of both worlds with this set of table and six chairs from Barker & Stonehouse. The table is made from a beautiful but hard-wearing teak and the lightweight but durable chairs are rust-resistant PE-rattan and aluminium-framed.


Patio with wooden table and chairs and cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Softwoods like cedar and pine are the least weather-resistant materials, and while they create some beautiful garden benches, they won't be the most durable and long-lasting.

'In the UK, garden chairs and tables, as well as fences and decking, are often built using softwoods like larch, pine and cedar because they are more versatile, lightweight and cheaper than hardwoods,' says Jonathan Kirby, Gardening Expert, Safeguard Europe. 'While they produce beautiful furniture, softwoods are absorbent, which makes them vulnerable to moisture ingress, algae, warping and rot, as well as woodworm.'

If you do opt for garden furniture made from softwood, it would be best to apply a waterproofing treatment, like the Roxil Wood Protection Cream, 3L for £54.99 at B&Q. This will prevent your furniture from retaining water, which often leads to mould and mildew growth.

Pine Wood Chairs with Middle Table, £95.99 at Amazon

Pine Wood Chairs with Middle Table, £95.99 at Amazon

This set is made from solid pine, but it is delivered pre-oiled to make it more weather-resistant. Its affordable price point means you could invest in a wood protective treatment and apply this every year to keep in good condition.

Final verdict

Experts' answer to what is the most durable type of outdoor furniture tends to be either aluminium or hardwoods, particularly teak. Aluminium is rust-resistant and hardy, and teak is known for its durability and resistance to rot. 

'If your budget allows, then I always recommend looking for garden furniture constructed from lightweight and rust-resistant aluminium or weather-resistant hardwoods like teak, acacia, or eucalyptus,' says Amy Lockwood, Ideal Home's Ecommerce Editor for Furniture and Homeware. 'These materials are more of an investment, but will weather the elements for years to come so are good value over the longterm.'

Amy adds, 'powder-coated steel or soft woods offer a budget solution, but these materials are less weather-resistant, so you'll need to factor in somewhere to store the furniture over winter, or opt for an outdoor furniture cover in order to prolong your furniture's lifespan.'

If you're looking for the most low maintenance option, an aluminium furniture set requires no protective treatment and can be left outdoors year-round. To prolong the lifespan of wooden garden furniture, experts recommend treating every so often to prevent sun bleaching.

'Both metal and wood garden furniture tend to be pretty hardy, although metal garden furniture is generally more durable and better at withstanding wear and tear,'  says Laura Rich, Product Developer, Furniturebox. 'Wood furniture, particularly if not properly cared for, is prone to weather damage, and it may need to be treated at least once a year.'


What is the best outdoor furniture that holds up to weather?

The best outdoor furniture that holds up to weather are any sets that are made from aluminium, or rattan sets with an aluminium frame. 'A powder-coated aluminium or powder-coated steel frame will give you absolute rust resistance and year-round protection,' says Francesca Hadland from Bridgman. 

Aluminium is a metal that naturally prevents moisture from getting in, making it highly resistant to damp and mould. Hardwoods are also naturally weather-resistant, and materials like teak, acacia, or eucalyptus make hardy outdoor furniture sets.

'Products made from high-quality timber are fantastic outdoors and are both strong and durable,' says Agata Choma, Head of Production, Tiger Sheds. 'Pressure-treated timber (sometimes known as tanalised timber) requires even less maintenance than standard timber as it has been through a special treatment process to make it more durable. This is often more expensive but as the timber lasts longer it can prove useful.'

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.