Furniture: maintaining garden seats and tables

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Most garden furniture needs some care and protection over the winter. Products made from hardwoods or plastic are less likely to require maintenance, but those produced from softwoods and metals need more care and attention if they are to give many years of enjoyment.
Suitable for... All garden furniture will benefit from some maintenance.

When to care for garden furniture
Carry out any maintenance and storing of furniture at the end of summer season in dry weather. However, maintenance can be carried out at any time when the furniture is dry.

How to care for garden furniture
The care and maintenance used for garden furniture depends on the materials they are made from. Here is a guide to the most common.

Plastic furniture
Plastic furniture is easy to maintain; just clean it regularly with soap and water, especially if the furniture is light coloured
Store garden furniture for the winter at the back of the garage or in a garden shed, if space is available. Plastic furniture left out over winter or exposed to strong sunshine can become brittle over time

Hardwood furniture
Hardwood furniture is the most durable. Among the woods commonly used are: teak, courbaril, roble, cumaru, iroko and eucalyptus, all of which contain high levels of natural oils. This makes them weather resistant and able to be left out over winter (if space under cover is at a premium).

The only maintenance required is washing the furniture using a brush and soapy water once a year. This will remove algae and lichens where required
Tilting furniture and keeping the feet off wet ground can help prevent rotting. Alternatively, heavy-duty waterproof covers will keep out the worst of the winter weather

Teak will turn from a golden-brown colour when new to a silvery-grey when weathered. If the original colour is preferred, teak protector can be applied, but this removes the natural patina. Good quality teak can last for many years with no treatment at all.

Softwood furniture
Treated softwood such as pine is cheap and readily available.

To keep it in good condition, wash down surfaces regularly with a wood-cleaning product and treat with a wood stain or paint containing preservative. This is ideally carried out each year, or sooner if needed
Apply the preserving stain or paint in dry weather
When applying a preservative, pay particular attention to horizontal surfaces, areas that collect water and those in contact with damp soil
Many wood-staining products suitable for garden furniture come in a range of colours

Metal garden furniture
Metal furniture needs to be cleaned.
Checked for rust. This can appear in plastic-coated metal furniture where there are cracks in the plastic
Treat any damage with rust-preventing paint after removing loose material
Joints and fixings may need oiling to allow free movement
Repaint every two to three years to ensure the barrier to weather is maintained
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