Home Improvement Outdoor Improvement

A Guide To Choosing Garden Furniture


From swings to dining sets, benches to gazebos – good quality furniture can really transform your garden and help you get the most out of it.

When it comes to outdoor furniture, you generally have four options – plastic, rattan, softwood and hardwood. In this guide we’ll talk you through the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Plastic garden furniture is fun, colourful, light weight and low cost. It may not look as stylish as timber or rattan, but it’s an excellent choice if you are on a tight budget. As it’s so light, it’s very easy to transport, assemble and move around. Plastic garden chairs are also easy to stack and store away, which is perfect if you don’t have much space. It’s practically zero maintenance and can’t rot or rust – although it will need a good clean with soapy water every now and then. Aside from looking cheap, the other main drawback is that it can become weak and crack with rigorous use – something to consider if you have children or pets.



Rattan garden furniture is made from a combination of metal, wicker, and sometimes glass. It’s very much in fashion at the moment and has a very contemporary look. Traditionally the wicker material is made from palm leaves, although most modern rattan sets will use synthetic materials.

The positives of rattan furniture is its trendy looks and comfortable cushions. The frames are usually made from rust-proof aluminium. On the negative side, the uber-modern style isn’t for everyone, and natural rattan is susceptible to mould and rot, especially in wetter climates. You may need to remove the cushions during the winter and occasionally wash them.


Softwood comes from evergreen trees such as spruce and pine. It’s relatively easy to work with, allowing manufacturers to create garden furniture with comfortable curves and soft edges. Softwood grows faster than hardwood and is lighter, which makes it better for the environment. The major drawback of softwood garden furniture is that it won’t last long out in the elements without being treated. Good quality wooden garden furniture will be pressure treated, which will protect it from rot for several years.



Hardwood comes form deciduous trees. It is naturally weather resistant, and therefore doesn’t need any special treatment to be used outdoors. It is historically used for things like shipbuilding and barrel making because it is so hard wearing. Compared to softwood, hardwood is more durable, has a darker colour, is heavier, and tends to be cut thinner. Hardwood trees grow more slowly and tend to come from tropical regions of the world, which should be taken into consideration if you are concerned about the environment. The main drawbacks of hardwood garden furniture are cost (it’s more expensive than softwood) and weight.

So which is best?

It really is a matter of your personal taste, your budget and the type of garden you have. Plastic is a great solution if money & space are tight, rattan is ideal if you are going for a contemporary look, and timber is perfect if you have a little more money to spend and you prefer the traditional style.  Ultimately the choice 

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