Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Outdoor Wicker 101 : Real Cheese or Velveeta?

When choosing outdoor wicker for your particular setting, one of the first dilemmas you may be confronted with is whether to purchase an all natural product or one of the many synthetic forms on the market today. The term "outdoor" wicker is no more than a couple of decades old -- just ask your parents or even grandparents. I will guarantee that when they were coming up they never heard the term "outdoor" wicker. So why the new term? With the increased desire for the homeowner to bring the indoors out, wicker furniture manufacturers began to create outdoor wicker products that were "stepped up" in their ability to handle the elements for the various outdoor settings being created by the homeowner.

Today there is a myriad of manufacturers developing various kinds of wicker furniture that can handle the elements, but all of them can be categorized under two headings -- Natural or Synthetic...Real Cheese or Velveeta. Now all you purists may have an inclination to go for the Natural product -- the REAL cheese. But let's face it; there are many situations that warrant the use of Velveeta. It really depends on your particular setting and attraction to one or the other when making your choice. Let's discuss some of the pros and cons of each to help determine which is best for you.

Lane WeatherMaster Ernest Hemingway

Natural wicker has been around for hundreds of years, and in most cases has always weathered fairly well outdoors as long as it had at least partial protection from the elements. Despite repeated attempts from various manufacturers, however, there is no natural wicker product that can take direct abuse from years of precipitation and sun. There are some that will hold up very well, but they require more maintenance than most homeowners are willing to provide. This brings us to the first con of Natural outdoor wicker -- it needs an overhead covering. Many consumers I work with, however, hastily choose to go with a synthetic wicker whether they have an overhead covering or not -- simply out of fear that natural outdoor wicker won't hold up as well. On the contrary, a fine natural outdoor wicker such as Lane Venture WeatherMaster will easily last for many years with no maintenance needed.

One defining characteristic of Natural Wicker is that it will always have a painted or stained finish. Your first thought may be that this is a con, however, it can be a pro. Consider the possibility that down the road you may have a mishap causing minor damage to your wicker. Natural wicker is easily repairable and you can touch it up, or completely refinish the surface. This is not an easy task with synthetic wicker. The woven areas are harder to repair because they are typically made of resins and vinyls, and synthetic wicker is impossible to paint or refinish.

If your outdoor space has no overhead covering, then you will by necessity want go with synthetic wicker. Synthetics are pretty much worry free in terms of maintenance. Most synthetics have one of two types of frame construction -- Resin/Dexin or aluminum. Resin and Dexin frames are plastic products that are durable as long as they aren't abused in any way or sustain any hard impact. The stronger of the two is aluminum framing which most often provides a more sturdy structure. There are a variety of woven products used over the framing -- the most common being resin, cellulose wrapped wire, polyethylene, and virgin vinyl. Cellulose wrapped wire is the only one of the four that has a painted finish -- the other three all have color added in the extrusion process.

Whether natural outdoor wicker or synthetic both types, depending on the brand, have special finish applications with UV inhibitors and advanced polymers to protect the product from the elements. Be sure to talk with your sales person when researching for your outdoor wicker to compare the differences between each brand.

Lloyd Flanders Monaco

There is one last thing to consider when choosing an outdoor wicker product. Quality products that last for many years will sometimes require more of an investment -- hence the old addage "you get what you pay for". Decide whether you want a better product that is going to last for many years or a product you most likely will want to replace in one or two years. Home improvement and big box discount stores offer various synthetic wicker products that most likely will not offer a long life. At , we offer the best name brands in the industry, and we discount our products at 40% - 60% off retail.

I hope this has been informative and assisted in helping you decide between "real cheese" and "Velveeta". In my April blog we will take a look at the different cushion and fabric components available on various outdoor wicker products. If you have any specific question regarding your outdoor wicker choice, please feel free to contact me via email at .

- Jae Ellenburg,