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The best seat outside the house

When it comes to sitting pretty on the deck or patio, quality resin and aluminum are the popular picks.

By Elizabeth Bettendorf Front Porch
Published October 19, 2007


Here's the great thing about Florida: while friends and family in the North are packing away their patio furniture for that long stretch of icy winter, our beautiful fair-weather season is just beginning. Finally, the sizzling heat abates and balmy breezes blow. That means getting our decks and patios ready for months of enjoyment.

Selecting outdoor furniture in Tampa's subtropical climate can be tricky, especially if you live on or near the water or if your patio area is exposed to high winds.

"We really question our customers extensively," says Denise Bertucci, store manager for Elegant Outdoor Furniture at 7229 N Dale Mabry Highway. "We want to know where you're living at, what's your lifestyle like, are you here all year or just part-time. Down here, people have to think about the most durable furniture possible."

There are five types of basic materials, excluding cushions, from which to choose: iron, rattan or wicker, wood, resin and aluminum. Bertucci says quality resin and aluminum are the two top choices for this area.

Unless you have an enclosed sun porch, forget wicker and rattan, they generally don't hold up to the harsh Florida elements, either, she says.

Cross iron furniture off the list, too. "We don't even carry it in the store. We can get it for you if you have to have it, but I don't recommend it," Bertucci says.

"Iron is an ore and no matter how many salt baths or acid washes it's been through, when that sun beats down on the paint, the impurities will crack through and it will eventually rust."

Instead, consider heavier, better-grade cast-aluminum furnishings because they won't blow away in normal winds and they don't contain fillers like nickel, magnesium and zinc. Those fillers are what cause cheaper cast-aluminum to pit, Bertucci explains.

The other best-bet for patio furniture is a good resin with aluminum or stainless steel framing. Resin is just a fancy word for plastic and it's now woven to look like wicker, so you can get that cottage look even in an intense climate.

If you have your heart set on wood outdoor furniture, don't even think about mahogany down here because it won't hold up, Bertucci says.

"Cypress grows in the swamp, so it's okay, but teak is the best bet of the woods (for the Tampa Bay area climate)," she advises.

Just remember teak needs to be sealed every six months to a year or it will eventually turn an ashen gray, which you may not find appealing.

Cushions also need to be considered. For all-weather wear on a Florida deck or patio, your best bet is a marine-grade or large-pore foam filler in a cushion that's been covered in Sunbrella fabric that can be washed down with water and a little bleach.

If you're serious about your outdoor living furniture not only looking good, but actually holding up, you won't slide by on the cheap down here. Ultimately selecting the right materials that will withstand climate, humidity and wind is the best investment for long-term use.

Years ago, Bertucci recalls, customers wanting to buy furniture for their patio started off with a 48-inch table and four chairs.

"Now we're selling them much bigger dining tables and outdoor living room pieces to go with it," she says. "I think people are spending more and more time outdoors entertaining family and friends. It's a great thing."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at


Fast facts:

A few tips on furnishings

Home Depot offers these tips for choosing outdoor furniture:

e_SBlt Select large and inviting seats with arms. Small, hard, straight chairs seldom encourage people to sit for any length of time.

e_SBlt One large chair, chaise or hammock is fine if you are the primary user; however, two chairs are more companionable.

e_SBlt For entertaining, place four or more seats together. For convenience, include at least one low table for drinks and snacks.

e_SBlt Make sure chairs have comfortable, weather-resistant cushions.

e_SBlt Consider adding an outdoor fireplace- either portable or permanent - or a fire pit to ward off chills in the spring and fall.

For dining areas

e_SBlt Purchase new patio furniture, or use a coat of paint to spruce up your existing furniture.

e_SBlt Move dining furniture around to suit the seasons. Put it a sunny spot for lunch on a balmy spring day, but move it under a tree in the summer when temperatures mount.

e_SBlt Be cautious in setting your dining area close to shrubs and flowers that attract bees.

e_SBlt Consider adding a side table to hold food or to serve as a work space.


[Last modified October 18, 2007, 06:35:53]

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