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Aluminum is a silvery, lightweight and easily worked metallic element that never rusts. Much of early aluminum furniture from 1960s was made from hollow-core extrusion tubing. Such furniture was extremely lightweight but not exceedingly wind-stable. Such pieces are still available today and are best used around a pool area. Cast aluminum is better used in outdoor dining or sitting areas.
Whether you're looking for extruded, cast or wrought aluminum items, there are a few items that indicate a quality piece. As with wrought iron, joints should be welded (preferably full-circumference welds) rather than bolted. If bolts are used, for example to connect webbing, they should be made of aluminum or stainless steel. Otherwise they will begin to rust even though main frame does not.
Best quality aluminum pieces have a powder-coated finish, which determines final color of piece and durability of metal. Powder coating is a process in which colorful polyester powders are applied and then baked onto frame.
If you're buying aluminum furniture with vinyl webbing or straps, look for vinyl that has been processed with mildew inhibitors and ultraviolet stabilizers. Any wooden pieces mounted on aluminum frames should be treated with a finish to guarantee durability.
Suntan oils, human perspiration, car exhaust and salt spray can all eat away at powder coating on aluminum furniture. To ensure long life, clean your aluminum furniture twice a month with a solution of mild dish detergent and warm water. Rinse well. You can then apply paste car wax to any smooth finish frames.
Steel, a hard tough metal, is an alloy of iron and various small percentages of metallic elements. The alloys produce hardness and resistance to rusting. Galvanized steel has been plated with zinc; stainless steel has been alloyed with chromium and is virtually immune to rust and corrosion.
Before production of aluminum furniture in mid 20th century, steel furniture was common, dating from popular French-made items manufactured in later half of 1800s. American companies used solid steel until Second World War when heavy military demand for steel dictated use of lightweight tubular (hollow) steel in outdoor furniture. Vintage steel sets can still be found at flea markets.
If you're looking at modern steel furniture, be sure product is either stainless or powder-coated and that any hardware used is also rust-resistant.
Metal outdoor furniture in its many shapes and designs can be a wonderful addition to your outdoor living space. Choose wisely and enjoy!
Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them. Her latest how-to guide “Attracting Butterflies to Your Home and Garden” is now available on her web site. Visit her at www.paradiseporch.com and get a free report on “Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space”. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org