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By Maureen Blaney Flietner

When choosing outdoor furniture for a garden room, outdoor kitchen or multi-level deck, some consumers prefer quality tables, chairs and assorted pieces that become an investment to protect. Quality furniture in good condition with good bracing can be refurbished at a substantial savings over replacing it, while less-costly furniture may be refurbished to avoid adding to the growing waste stream. In either case, the best way to keep outdoor furniture looking its best is regular maintenance.

Outdoor furniture comes in many materials, from exotic woods to metals to recycled high-density polyethylene to plastic, so check the guide that accompanied your purchase for how to care for your specific product. Most importantly, keep it clean and immediately wipe up spills or deposits. Here are some other tips for maintaining your outdoor furniture:

Replace materials or parts

Exposure to the sun, rain, pool, suntan lotions and body oils, and the outdoor casual lifestyle eventually take their toll on outdoor furniture. The vinyl strapping on chairs and lounges eventually fade, crack and break. Slings might rip or discolor. Glides can disappear.

When it comes to repairing or replacing materials or parts, there are options. Replacement parts are available that include anything from vinyl strapping to tires, custom-made slings to end caps, even chair glides to keep bare metal ends from scratching decks.

Chair Care Patio, based in Dallas, TX, is one business that caters to those caring for their outdoor furniture. “Most people are not aware that they can refurbish their lawn furniture,” says Lelia Brown. “Before I came to work here, I threw away a chair because I did not know you could replace the sling.”

Brown says Chair Care Patio is both a traditional business that offers patio furniture repair and refinishing at its Texas store as well as a web-based parts and materials business. Brown says the web-based portion of the business has grown astronomically.

Through do-it-yourself instructions on supplier websites, such as Chair Care Patio’s, customers can learn how to measure, cut and install vinyl straps, for example, using common installation methods such as single wrap, double wrap or slotted conversion.

Freshen up the finish

Wrought-iron
A fresh coat of stain or paint can work wonders in updating outdoor furniture. For wrought iron, touch it up with a rust-resistant primer, such as Rustoleum’s, whenever bare metal is exposed and it can look good for years. But if the rust has spread, consider having the piece sandblasted and powder-coated for a new look.

Aluminum
Aluminum furniture will resist rust but is subject to pitting that can dull the metal. Wash it frequently and wax it with automobile wax to keep it in good condition.

Wood
Most wood outdoor furniture will benefit from a mild scrubbing and rinsing at the start and finish of each season. Many pieces also work best with an annual sanding and a fresh coat of protectant, such as a good outdoor varnish, to prevent drying or cracking. Maintenance will vary depending on the type of wood.

Wicker
Today’s wicker furniture comes in both natural and synthetic. Organic natural wicker is best kept for short uses outside and in the shade. Its synthetic cousin of vinyl or resin better handles exposure. Rinse and scrub away dirt to keep a good-looking synthetic wicker surface.

Bamboo
Bamboo, another popular natural material, is fine on a covered porch or deck but tends to split and separate if left out to weather. Keep it looking good by bringing it inside when not in use.

Plastic
Putting a new face on plastic furniture has had its problems. It’s easy to scratch the surface when trying to clean it. Applying paint often results in a coating that beads up or peels away after it dries. Instead of sending a good but faded piece of plastic furniture to the landfill, there are options.

Krylon® Fusion for Plastic® is one. This is a no-prep, super-bond paint that works on most plastics as well as several other surfaces. Available in a variety of colors as well as “textured shimmer” shades and a clear “Mystic Prism Effect,” it is dry to the touch in 15 minutes or less and cures to full-chip resistance after seven days.

Care for fabrics

Keep cushions, pillows and other fabrics clean, smelling and looking fresh. Mold or mildew can set in older, cotton-batting fillings. Fabric colors can fade.

Among the options to consider are a fabric-protecting spray finish, such as Krylon’s Outdoor Spaces® UV Fabric Protector. It can be used on canvas — and everything from tents to table napkins — to keep colors or patterns looking good longer and water resistant.

Another option is to replace faded and smelly cushions and pillows with upgraded items. New fabrics include Sunbrella® that is made from acrylic fiber. It resists sunlight, mildew and rot and is coated with a soil- and stain-resistant finish for easy cleanup. New cushions can be filled with high-density, all-weather foam or fiber filling. If the cushions have zippers, remove the core for cleaning or replacement.

Dust furniture before washing in a solution of mild detergent and water. Avoid using ground water that may contain sulfur, iron oxide or other minerals that can stain the furniture. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Extend the lifespan

Here are a few quick tips for how to prolong and recycle your outdoor furniture:

  • Wipe up any beverage or food spills right away.
  • Wipe off furniture after it rains.
  • Remove any tree or bird deposits as soon as possible.
  • Remove any residue from suntan lotions and body oils that can stain or accelerate the breakdown of materials. Have towels available to provide an easily cleanable barrier between chairs and their occupants.
  • Store or cover furniture that doesn’t stand up well to constant exposure, such as bamboo.
  • Check all bolts and screws and tighten any that may be loose.
  • Replace broken, rusted or missing pieces.
  • Use a silicone lubricant on all wheels and hinges.
  • Bring the furniture inside during harsh winter weather or store under a breathable cover.
  • Look underneath chaises for damage to the glides from dragging. Replace if they are worn out or missing.
  • Aluminum is one of those great recyclable items. Strip this furniture to the aluminum only, removing webbing, hardware (if not aluminum) and glides. Recycled aluminum is made into cans, pie pans, small appliances and lawn furniture.
  • If the furniture is still serviceable but your design ideas have changed, donate the item to a local charity that sells used goods.
  • If the lawn furniture is made from No. 2 plastic, it also can be recycled into other durable products.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

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