Aluminum, Iron or Stainless Steel Furniture
Metal casual furniture is normally manufactured from aluminum, iron, or stainless steel. In general, quality metal patio furniture needs little to no maintenance, and has a very long life. Aluminum furniture tends to be the most lightweight of the three, iron the heaviest. Look for powder-coated frames to ensure scratch-resistant finishes.
See some of our beautiful aluminum, iron and stainless steel furniture in our gallery below:
What is the difference between aluminum, iron, and stainless steel furniture?
Lets start with aluminum furniture:
- Aluminum has the best weight/strength ratio of the 3 types of metal furniture. For the most part, it is relatively corrosion-resistant. In salt air environments, pitting can occur. Aluminum can be used in different manufacturing methods for furniture.
- Cast aluminum is made by pouring molten aluminum into molds, allowing pleasing details and forms to be created.
- Extruded aluminum describes a process where the soft metal is forced thru a cross-sectional form, or die, transferring its shape characteristics to the metal coming out of it.
- Wrought aluminum is when aluminum bar stock is formed into furniture.
- Tubular aluminum furniture is when aluminum tubing (which is extruded) is shaped into furniture. Early metal furniture was made from tubular aluminum. Tubular is the most inexpensive of all the methods. On some pieces, there can be a combination of cast and extruded combined.
Typically, aluminum furniture is powder-coated or otherwise painted. Powder-coating involves electrostatically charging the pieces to be coated, and spraying them with powdered color pigments. Then the pieces are baked, and the powdered coating melts and flows into the profiles of the metal, giving a very durable, scratch-resistant finish.
Iron furniture is much heavier than aluminum. It varies from the traditional black old-world look to contemporary, sleek pieces with bright colors powder-coated on them. If wind is a significant issue, iron is the best choice because of its weight. Sometimes pieces referred to as iron are actually mild steel. Subtle difference, but there it is. Iron will rust if not sealed. Iron is not a great choice in salt air environments either.
Stainless steel furniture is the most costly of the three, and the most corrosion-resistant. It is the best choice for a salt air environment. Stainless steel comes in different varieties, which describe the mix of the alloy, or recipe, if you will. Chromium and other metals are mixed in to the steel to change the susceptibility to corrosion, reduce stress cracking, etc. There is a lot of engineering in stainless steel. There are different types of stainless steel, such as type 304, 308, 316 (marine-grade).
In better grades of metal furniture, different pieces are put together by welded joints. Welded furniture is melted together. Inexpensive metal furniture comes flat-packed in a box, and is bolted together. Over time bolts can loosen, and the piece becomes wobbly. The best furniture has welded seams, and the welds are a joy to look at and touch. Inexpensive furniture is ‘spot welded’, or tacked with just a few welded spots, whereas better furniture is welded completely around the circumference of the joint, and is then ground down, smoothed, and polished. This results in a very strong joint, and something that will not cause an injury from a sharp edge or worse, a collapse.
How should we care for metal furniture?
Most metal furniture is very low maintenance. Just keep it somewhat clean, so dust does not get ground into it. Hose it off once in a while. If it has removable cushions, its a good idea to not leave them exposed during the rainy season. Although fine patio furniture typically has a reticulated foam core (water is not absorbed), and Sunbrella outdoor fabrics, Over a period of a few years you will be able to see a difference in furniture that is left out year round vs furniture that is taken care of. For people who just do not or can not cover or shelter their furniture, the most trouble-free no-maintenance solution would be powder-coated aluminum sling furniture. Always make sure you get Sunbrella fabrics or other similar fabrics with a strong fade warranty.