Teak, aluminum, and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are the three best materials to make patio furniture. If you are looking for high-quality patio furniture, you have likely seen these materials as the main frame material options across many different brands and retailers. But, which one is the better material? Should you always choose one over the other?
In this post, we compare these materials against each other along the common outdoor furniture dimensions (moisture, sun and heat, price, etc.) to help you understand the differences.
So read on below to learn more!
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Bottom line: you cannot go wrong buying a piece of patio furniture made with teak, aluminum, or HDPE. Because they are all highly weather-resistant and long-lasting, these materials are some of the best materials used to make patio furniture. In most cases, the deciding factor comes to your preferred style: do you want wood or metal? What color do you prefer? Luckily, these materials are found in a wide range of style options that you are sure to find the piece of patio furniture for your backyard.
Teak trees are a type of hardwood naturally found in south and southeast Asia in nations like India, Myanmar, and Indonesia. Teak is known for its high density, close-grain, high natural oil content, and its natural golden brown color. Teak’s high density and natural oil content make teak outdoor furniture some of the best patio furniture available because of its natural weather resistance and high durability.
Aluminum is a silvery, white metal that is one of the most plentiful metals on the planet. Aluminum is lighter and less dense than other metals such as steel. Aluminum is a great material for patio furniture because it is strong, weather-resistant, and easy to maintain. Additionally, aluminum furniture is typically more affordable than other high-quality materials like teak and some wicker options.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a plastic material. You may come across the terms synthetic resins (you may find some wicker patio furniture labeled “synthetic resin”) and plastic as you research outdoor furniture. HDPE is a durable, weather-resistant plastic that can withstand rain, sun, cold, heat, and the wear and tear of your backyard while still looking good for many years. Not only that, but it can be used in many stylish outdoor designs for patio furniture.
Teak, aluminum, and HDPE are some of the best materials used to make patio furniture because they are all highly weather resistant and durable. Each material can be expected to last for many years in your backyard with minimal maintenance. Additionally, you can find these many outdoor furniture brands and retailers that offer a wide range of outdoor furniture made from these materials.
The main difference between these materials is price. Typically, you will find teak as the most expensive patio furniture option, whereas aluminum and HDPE will usually cost less than a comparable teak furniture piece. Any advantages or disadvantages that we list in this post are slight: teak, aluminum, and HDPE are the best materials to choose from when buying patio furniture.
- You will find HDPE furniture in two forms: HDPE lumber (plastic furniture that looks like wood, like POLYWOOD furniture) and HDPE wicker. HDPE wicker furniture will have a metal inner frame that is usually powder-coated aluminum or steel.
- If you are buying aluminum patio furniture, make sure that it is powder-coated or e-coated. Powder coating enhances the durability of aluminum and other metal materials. Read more about why powder-coating is important in this post.
Winner: Slight edge to HDPE over teak and powder-coated aluminum
HDPE is waterproof because it is nonporous, which means it will not absorb water or moisture. However, teak has been a popular choice as a boat and marine material because teak’s natural oils protect the wood from moisture taking hold and causing it to shrink, swell, decay, or dry out. Aluminum will not rust, but it can still corrode (especially near saltwater and chlorine) if it is not powder coated – this is why you will find nearly all aluminum patio furniture pieces are powder coated. In all, these are all great moisture-resistant materials. HDPE gets the nod as the winner because it is waterproof.
Sun & Heat
Winner: Too close to call
Most HDPE outdoor furniture is treated with UV-inhibiting stabilizers to prevent the material from fading in the sun. Also, the way most HDPE outdoor furniture is made, the material’s color is constant throughout HDPE material. This makes it harder for the sun to fade the material.
Teak’s natural oils provide excellent protection from heat and UV rays. The oils prevent the wood from drying out over time which stops the wood from cracking and becoming brittle. The only effect the sun will have on teak will be the change of color in the natural beauty teak has from a golden brown color to a light, silver-gray color. But the change in color does not mean the wood is degrading.
The sun will not cause discoloration or damage to aluminum. The only downside with aluminum in the sun is that it may become hot to the touch if left in direct sunlight for too long.
Winner: Too close to call
These are all very durable materials that can last many years in your backyard under normal conditions. However, in some cases, each of these materials can not hold up as expected. A strand of HDPE wicker can occasionally break (but not as likely as PE Rattan Wicker). Teak wood can break or crack in rare circumstances (although not as likely as acacia or some other outdoor woods might). And if the powder coating on aluminum gets chipped, you might see some corrosion (but not rust; aluminum does not rust). But all-in-all, these cases are more the exception than the rule, and you should expect a long worry-free life from patio furniture made from HDPE, teak, or aluminum because these are some of the most durable materials on the market.
Maintenance & Care
Winner: HDPE and aluminum have a slight edge over teak
Both HDPE and aluminum require very little maintenance year-round. At most, these materials will just need mild soap, water, and a soft-bristle brush to clean away any dirt or debris that might be on the patio furniture. Teak, too, is very low maintenance. The wood’s high density and natural oils make it a very durable material for outdoor furniture that does not need much care. However, if you want to make sure that the wood maintains its naturally warm, brown color, you will need to regularly apply teak sealant or oil.
Winner: Too close to call
Teak, aluminum, and HDPE are all recyclable materials, meaning that you can recycle these materials after the furniture has reached the end of its useful life.
Most of the teak furniture that you will find from outdoor furniture retailers and brands is FSC- certified. FSC-certified is a Forest Stewardship Council certification that signifies that the teak wood used in the outdoor furniture was harvested from a sustainably managed teak tree forest or plantation.
Also, there are plenty of HDPE patio furniture options made from recycled plastics like milk jugs, detergent bottles, or other HDPE bottles and containers.
Winner: Aluminum and HDPE have the edge over teak
These materials are usually the choice materials in premium outdoor furniture because of their superior weather resistance and durability. So, you will usually find that these materials can carry a higher price to comparable patio furniture pieces made of other materials like acacia wood, PE Rattan Wicker, or powder-coated steel that don’t typically have the same weather resistance or durability as teak, HDPE, and aluminum.
However, our analysis typically found that teak was often more expensive than comparable aluminum and HDPE wicker and lumber options. Sometimes the price difference was slight; sometimes, it was significant. But, many other factors contribute to a piece of patio furniture’s price than just price: style, workmanship, warranty, service, brand quality, etc. In some cases, the higher price may be worth it to you.
Winner: HDPE with a slight edge
When deciding between the right piece of outdoor furniture, it’s common to think about how the piece will hold up during the rain and heat of spring and summer. But what about the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures of winter? Should you leave your furniture inside or protect it? For all materials, we recommend that you either protect your furniture when you are not using it during the winter with a cover or store it inside.
However, teak, aluminum, and HDPE are known to weather winter conditions reasonably well. Some manufacturers may state furniture with these frames may be kept outside during the winter. But the one that we constantly find recommended as being able to handle conditions year-round, especially winter, is HDPE. The high-density and nonporous characteristics of HDPE make it strong enough to withstand the snow and ice without breaking or cracking from winter conditions. So, if you are looking for furniture that can go all year with minimal maintenance, consider patio furniture made with HDPE lumber (note: HDPE wicker furniture will have a metal frame that may require extra care to protect during winter).