You’ve got your new deck all stained, sealed, and ready for an al fresco lifestyle. Almost. Now you need some furniture for you and your guests. The good news: there are more types and styles of deck furniture than you can shake a bratwurst at. The still pretty good news: Each type comes with good, better, and best price points and varying degrees of maintenance. Here’s what you need to know.
Wood is homey and relaxed, ideal for a deck. Note that all wood turns gray with prolonged exposure to sunlight. If you periodically refinish your furniture—at least every other year—with a high-grade furniture oil, you’ll stave off grayness for several years while your furniture slowly darkens. You’ll want to store your wood deck furniture inside or under wraps during winter.
• Pine is temptingly inexpensive but doesn’t hold up to elements well unless it’s fully painted—and repainted at the first signs of peeling or chipping. We’re not big fans of pressure-treated wood furniture; the wood itself is usually an inferior grade that tends to crack and split over time. (48-inch round table with four bench seats, $450)
• Cedar makes handsome outdoor furniture that resists weather—to a point. To keep your cedar furniture looking great, you’ll want to refinish it at least every other year with a quality penetrating sealer. Some sealers have a light tint that helps fend off harsh UV light. (7-piece dining set; $800 to $1,200)
• Teak. Now we’re talking. Expensive? Sheesh, yes! But gorgeous and long-lasting, the preferred decking material for wooden sea-going boats. (7-piece dining set, $1,500 to $5,000)
Wrought (and cast) iron
Iron is a tough metal and certainly one of the heaviest. If you live in a windy area, you’ll probably appreciate the stubborn mass of iron deck furniture. It’s prone to rusting, so you’ll have to clean it now and then, rubbing lightly with fine steel wool. To seal and refinish iron, use auto wax. If it’s painted, touch up when needed. It’s metal and gets very hot when left in direct sun, so watch out for that one. You’ll need outdoor cushions for butt and back—iron is hard. (7-piece dining set, $1,000 to $5,500)
The modern (and cost-effective) alternative to classic wrought-iron outdoor furniture, cast-aluminum is lightweight, weatherproof, durable, and runs the style gamut from sleek modern to Industrial Age swirls and flourishes. Powder-coated aluminum deck furniture resists corrosion. It’s a hard surface, so plan on adding cushions for chair seats and backs. (7-piece dining set, $800 to $6,500).
Powder-coated steel is a good compromise between price and durability. It’s not as tough or maintenance-free as the other metals, but it’ll set you up in fine style at a reasonable price. (7-piece dining set, $800 to $2,000)
An outdoor icon, wicker is relaxed, classy, and cool. It’s a general term applied to any furniture item made of woven fibrous materials, and it’s been made into a variety of styles, from filigreed Victorian to sweet and simple. All-wicker dining tables are rare; look for amble support underneath. Pair chairs with fat cushions for Gatsby-like comfort.
• Natural wicker is made from rattan, cane, bamboo, or seagrass. After a piece is sanded and stained, the wicker is sealed with lacquer. It deserves good care, which (unfortunately) means keeping it out of sun and rain, so it’s best used under a covered portion of your deck. (7-piece dining set, wood table, $1,500 to $6,000)
• Synthetic wicker is woven from fibers made from vinyl and resin. It’s impervious to moisture and rot, which makes it tough to beat outdoors. Cheapo version are out there, so check reviews for quality products. (7-piece dining set, $500 to $1,200)