What to avoid, and what to look for, when investing in outdoor furniture

Outdoor furniture should be made with materials that can withstand direct sun. Photo: Courtesy
Outdoor furniture should be made with materials that can withstand direct sun. Photo: Courtesy

Synthetic-weave furniture, also called all-weather wicker, can be an excellent investment for our sun-drenched homes.

It can last for decades, or collapse in a year, depending on how it’s made.

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers make synthetic-weave furniture from the right type of plastic. Some manufacturers use a cheap plastic that will crack and split in a year. That’s why it is critical to know what materials the manufacturer uses.

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Since we have harsh conditions including strong, direct sunlight and nearby salt water, it is prudent to ensure you buy your outdoor furniture with caution.

Synthetics are an excellent option for outdoor furniture. Buy the right kind, and your investment will last for decades. There are different types of synthetics. Each performs differently, and some are extremely toxic. The options range from cheap PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PP (polypropylene), PC (polycarbonate) and PE (polyethylene) to the best, which is HDPE (high-density polyethylene).

Many of the synthetics available on the market in the outdoor furniture category use PVC.

Not only is PVC a less durable choice because it will dry out and crack rapidly, but it also emits toxic compounds during construction and when it decomposes. What may appear to be a good deal at first will end up costing you financially and could potentially cause you and others health issues.

So why do some stores sell low-grade plastic furniture?

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Big-box stores and department stores compete on price. Outdoor furniture manufacturers who supply to these retailers, many of whom are offshore in China and Taiwan, wanting to maintain their margins, look for ways to save on costs. As a result, they often reduce the quality of the materials and manufacturing processes.

HDPE is the highest quality resin material. Its high density means that it will not break, scratch or chip. It is also stain resistant and 100 percent recyclable.

Most HDPE outdoor furniture pieces are also infused with UV inhibitors so that they will not fade in direct sunlight. One of the other advantages of HDPE over lower grades of synthetic rattans is that the furniture will not stick to your skin.

How can you tell if that piece of outdoor furniture is low-quality synthetic or high-quality HDPE? One clue that the item is cheap vinyl material or low-grade synthetic is that it is shiny. Good quality synthetics are matte/flat.

All HDPE items will display the HDPE code which is a triangle made up of three arrows pointing clockwise and the number 2 in the center of the triangle.

To be sure the manufacturer made the furniture from the right resin, check its plastic resin identification code. The code is generally located on the packaging of the product. All HDPE items will display the HDPE code which is a triangle made up of three arrows pointing clockwise and the number 2 in the center of the triangle.

The best option is to purchase your furniture from a company that is knowledgeable about all the options and takes the time to help find the right solution for you.

Sheryl Novak is an expat from Canada who has owned a home in Mexico for over 10 years. She is the owner of SOLutions Mexico, an online furniture store and an expert on sourcing all styles of furniture, for all budgets, in Mexico. Buying a home in Mexico? Email furniture@solutionsmexico.com to get a free home inventory list.

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