Aluminum outdoor furniture does not rust, is very durable, requires little maintenance and has the ability to take on any look or style that a furniture designer has the imagination to create. Aluminum patio furniture may be categorized into different construction methods: tubular, cast and wrought aluminum.
When looking at these three primary aluminum furniture construction methods, it’s important to remember that each method has characteristics, advantages and features that are unique to that particular type of aluminum furniture construction. The basic method of selecting one over another is to choose the design style that pleases you and is comfortable for you. Further thought, however, should be given to the area in which you will use your furniture and the particular needs for your lifestyle.
Powder Coat Finish
The state of the art finishing technique used on most metal frames is called powder coating. Dry paint particles are ionized and sprayed onto the frames. The paint is then baked, resulting in a very durable and thick finish that gives a more comprehensive coating than a wet paint finish. This painted finish is the barrier that keeps aluminum from oxidizing (although it will not rust). A good quality powder coat finish is extremely resistant to chipping, peeling, cracking and fading.
In tubular aluminum furniture the frame is made from extruded tubing that is formed when molten metal is forced through a die which shapes it into a hollow tube. The variety of shapes that can be created is unlimited, ranging from simple round tubing to wide “racetrack” extrusions and everything in between.
Tubular aluminum construction typically includes vinyl straps, fabric slings or cushions for the seat and back portion of the outdoor furniture. All three are replaceable over time if the need arises. On a good quality aluminum frame, the metal frame will far outlast the softer material used for the seat and back. When investing in this type of furniture, it is a good idea to ask how easy it is to purchase these replacement parts when needed. An outdoor living specialist will usually supply parts for any furniture purchased from them.
In this construction method, molten aluminum is poured into molds and cooled. Parts of the whole are cast separately and welded or bolted together to form the piece of furniture.
With the ability to create any shape or detail in a casting, this manufacturing method is unlimited in the realm of design creativity. Designs are often made in traditional styles because of the ability to achieve great detail in the castings. However, contemporary designs that are sleeker and reflect more modern tastes are being manufactured as well.
It is very important to maintain the finish on cast aluminum. During the molding process, little air pockets form in the cast metal. Any moisture that gets into the bare metal can cause blistering and peeling of the paint around it. If you are selecting this type of outdoor furniture for an extreme climate condition (such as the beach) where sand and/or salt will abrade the finish, it would be wise to purchase the best quality you can afford as the powder coat finish will be thicker and of the highest quality.
Wrought aluminum outdoor furniture is essentially like wrought iron with aluminum used in place of iron. Aluminum stock is hammered, forged and welded into a design in the same method that has been used for thousands of years with iron. The welded frames are cleaned and finished with a powder coat paint process to give protection from the elements.
What To Look For
- Stainless steel nuts and bolts on those frames which are not fully welded
- Smooth welds that do not appear globular or like “gumballs”
- Heavy weight, solid feel without rattles
- Comfortable cushions that will not flatten out quickly and are covered in solution-dyed outdoor fabric
Care and Maintenance
In general, aluminum outdoor furniture requires little maintenance. However, although aluminum outdoor furniture will not rust, exposed, unfinished aluminum will oxidize. Therefore, maintaining the finish is important in lengthening the life of your outdoor furniture.
Check the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations before performing any maintenance. It is very important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines so as not to negate any warranties provided.
Cleaning may be as simple as washing with a mild soap and water solution. For tougher cleaning issues, a specialty cleaning product, such as the Feron formula 1-For-All Cleaner, can make your job a snap.
Any areas missing paint, or having fissures in the paint, must be repaired. It is recommended to sand these areas with 400-600 grit sandpaper, clean the frame, allow it to dry completely and then apply touch up paint. If the finish is smooth, an application of a mild auto wax every six months will help preserve the furniture’s original luster. You may also use the Feron formula 1-For-All Gard, a cleaner and protectant.
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