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Outdoor furniture can last for years with proper care
Local experts advise on keeping patio furniture permanent fixtures outside
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Outdoor chairs made of recycled milk cartons sit on display at Lakeside Home and Hardware in Gainesville. The recycled milk carton furniture is created with the color infused into the material. Therefore, if the plastic chips, another color will not be exposed underneath. - photo by Erin O. Smith

When weather warms up, windows open, the grill fires up and patio furniture hits the deck as families spend more time outdoors, lounging in Adirondack chairs and hammocks to enjoy the spring and summer sun.

But before outdoor relaxation begins, the furniture to recline in must be checked for durability and made weather-resistant. And each type of furniture has different qualities, deeming it appropriate for different weather situations.

“Outdoor furniture needs to be protected from winter and summer,” said Craig Shoemaker, manager of Lakeside Home and Hardware in Gainesville.

Shoemaker said the sun’s harshness fades color and finish of some furniture. To combat the sun’s rays, some furniture needs to be coated to ensure it lasts through the season.

Water can also rot or rust out patio furniture, creating an unappealing look and unsafe seating situation.

“Even though it may say so, nothing is ever truly ‘weather proof,’” Shoemaker said.

Use sprays to revitalize metals

Ultraviolent-resistant sprays made for furniture can protect the finish and prevent flaking, rust or weather damage.

“The tendency with metal is to say ‘oh, it’s been painted; it’s fine,’” Shoemaker said. “But in places where it’s been welded together or places with joints, it will get rust spots.”

A type of sheen on outdoor furniture will disappear over time, revealing a dull look.

“A protective UV coating can help prevent rust in spots and keep the sheen from fading,” Shoemaker said.

Sit back and relax in chairs of recycled materials

For people who do not want to refinish furniture or desire a lower-maintenance option, Shoemaker suggests “recycled” furniture. Made from recycled milk cartons, these heavy plastic pieces are almost as durable as they come.

“Today they are doing a phenomenal job with recycled outdoor products because it seems to be impervious to everything,” Shoemaker said.

He purchased four recycled-material chairs for a home up North. While he was away, two of the chairs fell into the water and stayed for weeks.

“When I finally got up there to get them out, they were basically brand new,” Shoemaker said.

Recycled-material pieces are also resistant to sun damage because the color is infused throughout the product and not painted.

“What’s amazing is that even nicks in the chair or damage doesn’t show as much because the color runs throughout the chair,” Shoemaker said.

Recycled products are more costly than some of the cheaper synthetic pieces at home and garden stores, but will last longer than simple plastic pieces as well.

Shoemaker noted higher-end outdoor furniture is more likely to withstand the summers and winters because of its quality.

“Basically, you get what you pay for,” he said.

Replenish wood pieces with top coat

Wood is most susceptible to damage in the summer and winter. In the winter, wet snow may linger on wooden furniture, causing it to break down. In summer, the sun’s heat can dry out wood, causing cracks while long rains will warp and bend the material.

“Wood is … always trying to expand and contract by balancing moisture content with its surroundings,” Shoemaker said. “Moisture has to go somewhere or come from somewhere, so even if they’ve sealed it well, the product will move and create pockets where moisture can get into it.”

Wood is usually sealed with a stain, top coat or outdoor paint, but to ensure its longevity, it’s best to repaint wooden furniture periodically or replenish the top coat. Keeping wooden pieces under a shelter during rain is also beneficial.

“A good outdoor finish for wood would be like a varnish or a good quality outdoor paint,” said George Kim of Kim’s Wood Specialties in Gainesville. “A lot of products are periodically repainted, but the key is to not leave them out all year.”

Kim’s shop specializes in revitalizing and refinishing wood products. This process can be costly for pieces not maintained. Oak, teak, pine and other wood pieces should be cared for based on manufacturer directions.

“Well, if you are dealing with Teak furniture, periodically the surface needs to be refreshed. So you clean it and put a coat of teak oil on,” Kim said. “Otherwise you should consult with the maker.”

Refinishing wooden surfaces will make the product last longer, but Shoemaker warns it can be a tedious process. Replacing the finish requires cleaning, sanding and putting on a new top coat to protect the product and color.

“A lot of companies produce a UV top coat, and it’s a lot of work, because you have to do some preparations, such as rough it up enough so that the new top coat will adhere to it,” Shoemaker said. “But you will get more years out of the product and it will be better looking.”

Outdoor decks should also be refinished every couple of years to prevent water damage and rot. The process is similar to protecting wood furniture, but a wider range of products is available.

“It has to do with applying a finish on top of (a deck) every couple of years,” Shoemaker said.

Keep fabrics out of the rain

Outdoor fabrics for rugs and chair covers have advanced in recent years. However, they still quickly break down after a rain or lots of sunshine.

The labels state the fabrics are “waterproof” or “weatherproof,” but some precautions still should be taken to help them last longer.

“We’ve got a lot of things that we sell here that we say it’s not going to hurt if it gets wet, but you don’t want to leave leaves and things on it because it will begin to rot,” Shoemaker said.

The hardware store manager said rugs and hammocks need to be kept clean and leaves need to be kept off.

“They have a lot of moisture and can also stain the product,” he said.

Removing the spots is extremely difficult. Plus, mold and mildew can grow on it when enough moisture has been in contact with the fabric.

“The only way to protect against sunlight is to keep it out of sunlight,” Kim said. “As far as putting anything on fabric or vinyl to protect it, there’s not much that I know of to do that.”

Some water-resistant fabric sprays exist, but the best way to protect cushions and hammocks is to bring them inside during heavy storms and rain.

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