Should outdoor furniture be covered in winter?

At that time of year when the leaves have fallen and the festive season is fast approaching, you may be pondering the issue of storing your outdoor furniture. Do you need to put it away in safe, dry place, such as a garage or shed? Should you just cover it up, or can you simply leave it outside as it is?

The elements

Firstly, consider what you are exposing the furniture to. Winter may well bring repeated periods of snow and ice, so the weather is one factor to consider. The other consideration is dirt. Whether this consists of bird or other animal droppings, fallen leaves, dust, tree sap or insects, it could threaten the finish of your favourite garden seats and tables.

The materials

What is your furniture made from? Some materials are far more weatherproof than others, so this is a key consideration.

Plastic or resin

Plastic garden furniture is cheap to buy and easy to maintain, but it may be prone to cracking, fading and peeling. In general, plastic garden furnishings made from resin or recycled plastic are more durable, and may therefore resist mould, mildew, fading and staining. This kind of furniture can be cleaned fairly easily, either with plain water or a specialist mould and mildew cleaner if necessary.

Wood

Wooden garden furniture is strong and solid, and rarely gets too hot or cold to sit on – unlike metal. Some hardwoods like teak are more robust and can resist swelling, shrinking, warping and rotting. Eucalyptus is another good choice, but does need retreating from time to time. Most wooden outdoor furniture requires more maintenance, as products such as wood preservatives, oils and brighteners may need to be applied.

Rattan or wicker

Natural or synthetic versions of rattan or wicker make lightweight furniture that is flexible and comfortable. They are sometimes used interchangeably as indoor and outdoor furniture too. How weather resistant this furniture is really depends on the exact material used; generally synthetic rattan is more water and weatherproof than the natural version.

Metal

Metal garden furniture tends to be made from iron, steel or aluminium. Iron and steel needs to be treated if it is to resist rust, either by the manufacturer or post-purchase. Powder-coated metal furniture is the best choice, as it has already been given a protective finish.

Should I cover my outdoor furniture in winter?

Furniture that is left outside all year round is more exposed to all kinds of contaminants, so there is more chance that damage such as cracks, warping, rotting and rusting will result.

Your outdoor garden furniture will last longer and require less maintenance if it is stored or covered for the winter season. If you don’t have indoor space to store it, a good option is to buy appropriate covers. Many manufacturers make these to fit their own furniture ranges, while others such as Garland garden furniture covers are universal. Such products will fit your chairs and tables snugly and make sure no vulnerable areas are exposed.

If you are investing in good quality outdoor furniture, then protecting it during the colder months will ensure it gives you as many years of pleasure as possible.