If you're shopping for new garden furniture before the summer months really kick into gear, you might be stumped at whether to go with a metal or wooden set. Getting clued up on the pros and cons of metal vs wood garden furniture before you go investing is a smart idea, and will ensure you make a purchase you don't regret at a later date.
The best garden furniture looks different for everyone. Some gardens may benefit from a huge rattan sofa set with a matching coffee table, whereas small garden ideas may just need a simple table and chairs to allow the family to dine outside on warmer nights. Whatever capacity you need to cater for, metal and wood are two of the strongest contenders on the market.
But the question around metal vs wood garden furniture is a complex one; both materials have their benefits and drawbacks in terms of durability, maintenance, and price. Taking all the different factors into consideration before you spend any money will help you end up with the right garden furniture for your home.
'When deciding between metal and wood garden furniture, it’s important to consider functional elements such as comfort, durability, weather conditions, and ease of maintenance, but of course, you’ll also need to determine what aesthetic you’re looking to create in your garden,' says Laura Rich, Product Developer, Furniturebox.
Metal vs wood garden furniture
We've asked experts to weigh in on the metal vs wood garden furniture debate, and shared all the relevant info in this essential guide. Whether you're currently leaning towards the best wooden garden furniture or you're pretty confident you want a metal set, you'll be more sure of your choice after reading. Here's everything you need to know about metal vs wood garden furniture.
The pros and cons of metal furniture
Pro 1. It's durable
Metal garden furniture made from aluminium and stainless steel is more durable than most other types of outdoor furniture, making it a wise choice if you're planning on keeping your garden table and chairs outside.
'As a versatile metal, aluminium does not rust as it contains no iron, (apart from in some particular alloys),' says Paul McFadyen, Chief Executive and Metals Specialist, metals4U. 'Aluminium does react with oxygen in water or moisture, but the aluminium-oxide coating acts as a corrosion-resistant defensive layer, protecting the metal from damage.'
Pro 2. Styles are more versatile
Don't make the mistake of thinking metal garden furniture is monotonous or boring. Designers have a lot more freedom when working with metals, thanks to the flexibility of the material. They can be bent and combined to create an array of interesting furniture pieces that make stunning additions to any garden. Some of the best egg chairs are made from metal, and there's lots of lovely metal garden benches to choose from too.
Con 1. It's uncomfortable in the sun
Perhaps the biggest caveat of metal garden furniture is that it's a big insulator of heat. On hot days it will likely be too uncomfortable to sit on, so you'll need to invest in other furniture pieces like sun loungers for relaxing on in peak summer.
Con 2. Some metals are vulnerable to rust
Not all metals are created equally; while aluminium is a strong and durable material, iron is susceptible to rusting and corrosion. Metal garden furniture made from iron therefore requires a lot more maintenance and upkeep, and though it can be kept clean, it's a chore you'll have to undertake every few weeks or so to keep it in good condition.
'Rust is generally a tough type of corrosion to clean from metal surfaces, and therefore must be treated with the right care as to not damage your furniture,' says Paul. 'Fortunately, you can easily remove rust by pouring white vinegar evenly over the surface of the furniture. Give it some time to settle, then wipe away with a cloth.'
The pros and cons of wood garden furniture
Pro 1. Many people prefer the look
In the metal vs wood garden furniture debate, for many people wood has the edge in terms of aesthetic and appearance. Wooden garden furniture has a more natural look that creates a rustic, authentic vibe in the garden. It also ages beautifully, without compromising on durability.
'Wooden furniture has a natural appearance and a more contemporary look in any garden space,' says Andy Baxter, Managing Director, Maze. 'More recently we’ve seen wood paired with rope weave which is proving to be extremely popular this year.'
Pro 2. It's comfortable whatever the temperature
Wooden furniture retains a lot less heat than metal, so on those hot summer days, you'll still be able to use your garden table and chairs comfortably. Sweat doesn't cling to wood either like it does with metal, so you won't need to wipe it down after each use.
Rowlinson Plumley 6 Seater Hardwood Dining Set | £499 at Robert Dyas
This wooden garden furniture set from Robert Dyas is perfect for alfresco dining. Complete with six matching chairs, the table is large enough for all your crockery and glassware, so no need to balance plates on knees while you eat.
Con 1. Durable woods are pricier
Teak and redwood are good choices for wooden garden furniture as they're more durable than materials like cedar, but they're also more expensive, and will cost more than a typical metal furniture set. Teak patio table and chairs can cost anything between £600 and £1,500 - maybe even more depending on the size.
Con 2. It requires more maintanence
To maintain the honey-brown colour of wooden furniture, you'll need to learn how to weatherproof garden furniture. Furniture sets made from wood often suffer from sun bleaching, so it's a good idea to apply a protective treatment such as the Cuprinol Hardwood Garden Furniture Protector, £18 at Homebase. The extra maintenance required is enough to put some people off wooden furniture for the garden in favour of metal, which doesn't require any special treatments to stay in good condition.
Metal vs wood garden furniture: which is easier to clean?
Metal garden furniture is generally easier to keep clean than wood. 'Look for metal outdoor furniture with a powder-coating to ensure absolute rustproofing and a lovely finish,' says Francesca Hadland, Interiors Expert, Bridgman. 'It's incredibly easy to maintain and requires very little cleaning.'
Note that metal garden furniture is only easier to maintain if you opt for powder-coating or rust-resistant materials like aluminium and stainless steel. Any furniture made with iron will require a lot of upkeep to stop it from rusting. If you're wondering should you invest in an outdoor furniture cover? the answer is more likely to be yes when talking about iron garden furniture.
Wooden garden furniture requires a more thorough cleaning routine and you'll need to take the time to learn how to clean garden furniture properly. 'No matter what type of wood garden furniture is made from, it does need seasonal care to maintain it', says Fiona Jenkins, Gardening Expert, MyJobQuote. 'Even hardwoods and pressure-treated timber need help to prevent cracks and rot. It may need wiping over with soapy water before use, but you do need to dry it thoroughly in the sunshine.'
It's also a good idea to sand down wooden furniture once every few years, to get rid of any rotting wood layers and keep it looking smooth.
Metal vs wood garden furniture: which is cheaper?
In general, wooden furniture is more expensive than metal furniture, especially if you're opting for more durable types of wood like teak and redwood. Because it's also less durable than metal, there's also the added cost of treatments and sanding equipment.
'A table and chair set that’s made from metal is the most affordable option,' says Fiona. 'A small metal furniture set typically costs around £200 and a large set between £400 and £700.'
The more costly metal furniture sets on the market, like the Venice 6 Seater Dining Set, £599 at Dunelm, are usually better value for money than many wooden sets. This one comes with a dining table, six chairs, a side table, two stools, and a parasol, so you're getting a lot from your purchase.
Metal vs wood garden furniture: final verdict
If you're looking for budget garden furniture that requires minimal maintenance, metal is probably the route to go down. The main caveat with metal furniture is that it's often too hot to sit on when it's really sunny, but you can always invest in the best outdoor cushions to counter this.
On an aesthetic level, the metal vs wood garden furniture debate really comes down to personal preference. Though many prefer the more natural look of wood, metal can still bring a real contemporary feel to the garden, and at a lower cost. 'Metal furniture creates a contemporary look with full flexibility between your garden and home.' says Lynsey Abbott, Senior Buyer, Dobbies. 'It’s not only gorgeous to look at but is also lightweight, easy to maintain, durable and weatherproof.'
'Ultimately, I’d recommend you discover the look and feel you’d like to achieve in your garden space, ensuring that your furniture selection works with your planting and pots, paving or decking, so you have a considered and well-thought-out space.'
Is metal a good material for outdoor furniture?
'Metal garden furniture is incredibly strong and thanks to metal’s mouldability, there’s plenty of ergonomic and attractively designed options to choose from,' Fiona says.
With metal garden furniture, you're investing in outdoor pieces that are durable and naturally weather-resistant. They're easy to clean but generally require less maintenance than other materials if you opt for pieces made from aluminium that is. Iron furniture is susceptible to rusting and corrosion, so you might want to steer clear of this.
'While wood is durable, metal is even stronger and can last decades in a home if properly looked after,' says Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director, Juliettes Interiors. 'Metal also offers a great variation of finishes, such as copper, gold and steel, which can make a true visual impact in the home.'
What type of furniture is best to leave outside?
If you're looking to leave your furniture outside all year round, and aren't investing in a cover, aluminium is the best choice because it is a durable, weather-resistant material. There are some types of wood that are fine to leave outside too, but they'll cost considerably more than aluminium furniture sets.
'Timber is an incredibly durable material for outdoor furniture,' says Martin Young, Founder, Sitting Spiritually of Lyme Regis. 'Metal might initially seem like a sturdier choice, but once it starts to rust it begins to weaken - a process that can be slowed but not stopped. In contrast, a relatively small amount of maintenance can see high-quality wooden benches, tables, and swing seats lasting for decades with minimal wear and tear.'
The type of metal Martin is talking about is iron, which as we've mentioned, isn't a durable choice. Wooden furniture made from teak and redwood is fine to leave outside without a cover, but we still recommend applying a protective treatment to it so it stays looking fresher for longer.
After reading all the information we've shared on metal vs wood garden furniture, which do you think you'll be investing in?
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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.
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