Snow will damage garden furniture. The degree of the damage will depend on the type of garden furniture (wood, metal, plastic), the amount of snow and the length of time that snow remains on the garden furniture.
Depending on where you live in the UK, you may or may not experience any snow during the winter, but given how weather patterns seem to be constantly changing, nothing can be taken for granted.
Last winter you may have had a few mild months, but this year you measured two to three inches of snow, which lay on the ground for a couple of weeks. Regardless of whether you expect any snow during the winter, you should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The time to prepare your garden furniture for winter is during the autumn months. You know winter is just around the corner when the leaves on the trees start to change colour, the evenings start to draw in, and the temperature begins to drop. Now is the time to start preparing your garden furniture for winter.
Isn’t garden furniture designed to be left outdoors?
The simple answer to that question is YES, but although the manufacturers say you can leave your furniture outdoors all year long, all garden furniture sets are not created equally. The quality of manufacturing and the choice of materials can make all the difference to the robustness of the furniture and, more importantly, if it can be left outdoors.
If garden furniture is left outside all year round, what damage might be done if it snows?
When you’ve spent a couple of hundred pounds on beautiful furniture, and you have been entertaining friends and family during the summer in your garden, it would be a shame if you didn’t protect your table and chairs, etc., from damage caused by the unpredictable British weather, and your hard-earned money just “went down the drain”.
Depending on the material used, here are a few of the possible consequences of your leaving garden furniture out in the snow.
Furniture made from wood can, in theory, be left outside all year long. If hardwood is used, then it stands a better chance of survival than if it has been made from softwood.
- Softwoods are pine, cedar, fir, spruce etc.
If the furniture has been constructed using any type of softwood, then it is likely to be severely damaged if left out in the snow. To begin with, the cold weather that precedes a snow fall is usually dry, which leads to cracks appearing in the timber. Then you get snow, which gets into the cracks and then melts. Now what you have inside the wood is water. Overnight, the melted snow can freeze and expand making the cracks bigger, allowing more snow to penetrate, melt, and freeze again. If this cycle continues for any length of time, then your wooden furniture is going to be ruined.
Hardwoods, on the other hand, are more resilient to the cracks, snow, melt, and freeze cycle as the grain of hardwood is much tighter than that of softwood, but nevertheless, care should be taken if you want to keep the furniture looking good.
- Hardwoods include elm, teak, oak, mahogany eucalyptus etc.
Teak is by far the most popular choice of hardwood garden furniture. It is an extremely fine-grained wood and is ideal for outdoor use. It has strength, and unlike many other kinds of wood, it doesn’t warp, or crack. The reason for this is because of the high content of natural oils, it will repel water, and therefore not suffer from expansion and contraction when drying. Even so, you would be well advised to apply a coat of sealant to prevent the wood from absorbing even the smallest amount of moisture.
Being cheaper that other types of garden furniture, you might be tempted to just leave it outside, regardless of what the weather is — but the cold of winter can take its toll on even plastic chairs, making them brittle. If any part of the furniture has cracks in it, then any snow that falls can creep into the cracks and the plastic will suffer the same melt, freeze, and expansion cycle that wooden furniture goes through.
Leaving any metal garden furniture out in the snow, will more than likely, have a detrimental effect on its life span. As you know, metal can suffer from rust if left in contact with water, eating away at the surface. Snow can be, and often is, worse that water, because of the melt, penetrate, freeze cycle. Think about your water pipes during he winter. If the water in the pipe freezes, it expands. When it thaws, the pipe bursts and water pours out. Although your metal garden furniture will not have water pouring out of the hollow tubing, they will crack, open up and look unsightly, not to mention the possible hazard to arms and legs if there are any sharp edges.
Aluminium furniture is probably the best choice you can make for garden furniture. It is very low-maintenance and is rust and corrosion-resistant. It is one of the few materials that should be capable of withstanding every weather condition. It does, however, generally cost more than other metal furniture sets.
Stainless Steel Furniture
A strong, sturdy metal alloy, stainless steel garden furniture will withstand most of what the British winter can deliver. It is almost impervious to rust or corrosion, but any areas where there are rivets or bolted joints could be a problem if left out in the snow during winter. It is a good idea to check those areas for any sign of deterioration during the autumn, and if you see any signs of damage, then treat them straight away to prevent any further decay.
Wrought Iron Furniture
Wrought iron or cast iron has been around for centuries, and is one of the heaviest metals known to man, which explains why it is so difficult to move wrought or cast iron garden furniture. If properly cared for your wrought iron furniture will last for years, but it is extremely susceptible to rust, so leaving it out in the garden over winter in the snow is asking for trouble. You may be able to obtain weather-resistant coated furniture which will go a long way to extending the life of the furniture, but you should still take care to clean and maintain it.
In spite of its cost, real rattan furniture should not be left outdoors all year — not in Britain at least. The truth is, you will find it difficult to buy real rattan garden furniture in this country or Europe for that matter. If you see rattan advertised, it will more than likely be “faux” rattan, made from plastic and steel frames, which will withstand the British inclement weather better than the real thing, but should still not be left outside during the winter or when conditions are damp.
If you are determined to buy genuine rattan, you should always bring it indoors before the end of autumn and when you’re not using it during the spring and summer, it should be covered, because rattan will quickly disintegrate in the rain. Imaging what would happen if you left it out in the snow.
If it is a particularly harsh winter, do you want to take the chance of damaging your expensive garden set? Irrespective of what material the furniture is made from, whether it is wood, rattan, plastic, or metal, it’s prudent to protect it from the elements.
If you absolutely cannot bring your furniture indoor for the winter, then there are steps you can take to help protect it from the cold, rain and snow.
Protect your wood furniture during the winter
Your wooden furniture might look good in your back garden, but it is one of the most difficult to preserve. Wood is by its nature, porous, and as such will soak up moisture even without actually getting wet. Wet wood can warp and start to rot, so before the winter sets in, apply a liberal coat of sealant, specifically made for the type of wood your furniture is made from. You might have to give the wood a light sanding before applying the sealant to ensure a good coat.
Protecting Your metal furniture
First of all, look for any signs of rust. Bubbling paint, orange or red patches could be an indication of rust. Use a mild abrasive pad, wet/dry emery cloth or a paste of baking soda and water to remove the rusted areas. Once you have removed all signs of the rust, apply a coat of clear, rust-preventing spray over the exposed metal. If your metal furniture is coloured, then you should try to match the colour as near as possible.
Your plastic furniture can crack if too cold
Although your plastic garden furniture could be left outside all year long, if the temperature drops below freezing, then there is a possibility that parts of the furniture could crack. Depending on the structure of the actual plastic, for example, if it was manufactured using polypropylene and/or PVC, then it will become very brittle when the temperature reaches freezing and below.
Cushions and soft furnishing
It goes without saying that any cushions and other soft furnishings should never be left outdoors especially during the winter, unless you want to throw them away in the spring.
Outdoor fabrics are designed to be somewhat weather-resistant, but you should still treat them as though they are not. Clean cushions, pillows, and umbrellas with a mild detergent, using a soft brush then wipe dry. If your cushions and pillows have removable covers, then you can put them in the washing machine on a cold wash, and let them air dry. DO NOT DRY THEM IN THE DRYER.
Cover up your garden furniture
If you must leave your furniture outside, then invest in dedicated winter garden furniture covers. They are made from breathable fabric, designed to allow air flow and allow any moisture to evaporate. Some covers fit the individual pieces of furniture and have mesh air vents to allow circulation of air.
Taking everything into account….
Having a beautiful set of garden furniture, whether it is wooden, aluminium, stainless steel, or plastic, rather than seeing it deteriorate over the winter months due to getting covered with snow, wouldn’t it be a good idea to protect it by whatever means you can. Store it away in a shed or garage, if you can. If you don’t have room and can’t bring it indoors, then invest in a good set of breathable covers. At the very least, your furniture will have a modicum of protection from the elements, because you just never know what the British weather is going to throw at you.
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