Mention metal patio furniture and you probably think of light, fly-away aluminium loungers of your youth or that half-ton cast iron table and chair set on your neighbour's lawn.
But metal outdoor furniture has come a long way. Here's a quick primer on available types and their care.
Construction Methods Metal is fashioned into furniture in one of three main ways: extrusion, casting, and welding.
Extrusion forces melted metal through long pipes and forms long narrow tubes of metal, sometimes solid, but often hollow.
Casting metal involves a form, or cast, shaped like finished product. The molten metal is poured into form and then form is removed when metal has solidified. Cast pieces are almost always solid.
Forging, a process in which metal is heated and hammered into shape produces type of furniture known as "wrought" metal. It uses pipes and various solid pieces of metal and joins them together by welding or bolting.
Common Materials The most common metal outdoor furniture is made from iron or aluminium, although use of steel, especially stainless steel, is growing.
Iron is a chemical element that is naturally malleable and rusts easily. Vintage pieces, usually in black or dark green, can be found at premium prices and must be carefully maintained to prevent further rusting. Modern reproduction pieces will usually have a rust-resistant finish or coating that protects against chipping, scratching and corrosion. There are a variety of finishes available such as primer and paint, powder coatings and galvanizing. They are available in a range of colors and styles.
Since iron is heavy and solid, it is well-suited for windy spots where light furniture might be blown away. Don't expect it to be highly portable, though. Well-cared for, iron furnishings can last for 100 years.
Much of iron furniture available today is wrought iron, rather than cast iron. When you're buying wrought iron, look for pieces made with solid metal rather than hollow tubing, and that are welded, rather than bolted, together. Generally, better furniture is North American made.
Iron furniture requires more maintenance than other types of metal furniture. Clean it regularly with warm soapy water and then dry it thoroughly. Wax smooth surfaces and apply mineral or baby oil to textured surfaces. Oil springs and moving parts once per year. Immediately touch up any scratches or rust by lightly sanding spot with a fine steel wool. Then apply several thin coats of metal paint, letting each coat dry well before applying next. If you're using a spray paint, apply with short light stokes.