Shopping Guide

Building 101: Buying Garden Furniture

Durability should be your top consideration when buying garden furniture


Choosing furniture for the garden is similar to choosing furnishings for your house. There are several factors that can influence your choice—one of first to come into mind is comfort and use. Depending on the degree of comfort you are hoping to achieve, your choice can vary from the classic garden bench to a swimming pool lounge chair and even to a hammock where afternoon naps can take place.

Design is another factor in choosing outdoor furniture. Garden furniture with simple lines and basic forms complement classically designed gardens while rustic furniture blends well with tropical or country-inspired gardens. Size can also influence your choice since spacious gardens may accommodate a wider range of furniture as compared to pocket gardens.

However, the most important factor that you should consider in choosing furniture for your garden is durability. Exposure to sun and rain can take its toll on all kinds of furniture materials. Wind can also have bad effects on lightweight materials. Even insects can be detrimental to furnishings made of wood. Any of these elements can destroy your investment in a matter of months unless you carefully choose the right material.

Styling by Issa Villar. Photographed by Miguel Nacianceno.

Read the original article ("For the Great Outdoors") in the November 2007 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details.  

Metal (wrought iron, aluminum)

Wrought iron and aluminum are probably the most durable and inexpensive materials used in garden furnishings and yet their characteristics are completely opposite each other. Wrought iron is heavy and this contributes to its stability especially in the garden where there is a lot of uneven ground. Aluminum on the contrary is very light and could be knocked over easily, sometimes even by strong winds. But this lightweight quality is occasionally preferred because it makes the furniture easily relocated from one area to another. Therefore, the choice between wrought iron and aluminum is dictated by personal preference. Both are readily available at major hardware stores and the furniture section of department stores.

Tip: Wrought iron, although more durable than aluminum, is prone to rust and would need an annual treatment of anti-rust compound and paint (ask your local hardware store).

Plastic / Resin

The advent of plastic as an inexpensive material has allowed it to be used in garden furniture as a cheap alternative. The artificial look of plastic, however, does not complement the garden well, though there are now woven plastic furnishings that mimic the look of rattan. With plastic being lightweight, it tends to easily topple over in strong wind, especially during storms. On uneven ground, plastic furniture tends to become wobbly and unstable, making it highly unfavorable for al fresco dining. On the other hand, plastic has the advantage of being highly transportable, with most of them designed to be stackable.

Tip: If you do decide to go for plastic garden furnishings, make sure that they have been UV-treated so that they will not crack and break from too much exposure to the sun. Also, this will protect the color from fading too quickly. Choose colors that are dark so that staining will not be too visible.


Wood is the most commonly used material for garden furniture, and has a natural patina that blends well with the garden environment. This holds true particularly for wood that has not been treated or painted. However, not all types of wood are ideal for outdoor use. Narra, kamagong, apitong, and tanguile are known to be strong types of wood ideal for indoor furniture but when used outdoors, they have been observed to warp, crack, and rot under alternating exposure to sun and rain. For garden use, yakal, mahogany, molave, cedar, and teak are the best types of wood to choose from. These offer superior resistance to the elements with cedar in particular, containing naturally occurring pesticides to ward off hungry termites. Although furniture made from yakal, mahogany, and molave are locally available, the others are harder to find. Teak however, is increasingly becoming popular locally, available at stores like Komodo, Designs Ligna, and The Red Room.

Tip: In order to protect your wooden garden furniture investment, make sure you brush the wooden pieces with soap and water once a year. Avoid situating them in places where the legs will be in direct contact with the ground to prevent termites from reaching them. Avoid using wood oil as a moisture sealant because this promotes the growth of molds and mildew. To seal out moisture, give them a dose of all-weather wood sealant just before the onset of the rainy season. For painted furniture, a yearly repainting is all you will need to keep it looking good.


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