Should I Cover my Outdoor Patio Furniture?
Outdoor items are made to last; that’s their entire point. They are designed (and built) to withstand the elements without decay. Logically, that extends to patio furniture—or does it? Why are covers even a thing? Should I, or should I not, cover my outdoor patio furniture in my seating area? The short answer is yes; and here, we will explain why.
What Types of Patio Furniture Do I Need to Cover?
If you own anything made in wicker, then you are quite familiar with how easily it can be affected by moisture (rain especially) and sunlight. Outdoor cushions, contrary to what many may think, are also vulnerable to rain, prone to getting soaked if left outside during a summer shower. And it doesn’t end there: let’s go over how other popular materials for furniture can get affected by varying conditions.
Outdoor Wood Furniture
Aside from sunlight usually making it fade, if left out in the rain for long enough, moisture can cause it to start rotting. In the winter, water that makes it into smaller nooks can expand as it freezes, making the whole thing crack.
With this one, you don’t need to worry about rains. Sunlight, on the other hand, can eventually weaken the plastic, making it develop cracks. Same goes for snow—in other words, extreme temperatures can be bad for plastic.
How can wicker be all-weather? By being synthetic. This variety will comfortably endure rain and sunlight, without suffering damage.
Winter is a different story: if water makes it into the weave and is allowed to freeze in there, it can quickly begin creating cracks all over. It is also possible for snow to pile on top, weighing the furniture down beyond its bearing capacity.
As most of us know, moisture is this material’s worst enemy.; which is why, in case of rain, one should be quick to wipe as much water as possible off the surface. For similar reasons, iron furniture should not be left out in the open during winter, as snow and ice can cause a lot of damage before long.
This one is a common favorite due to its ideal combination of appropriate bearing capacity, light weight, and resistance to the elements. Aluminum has little to nothing to fear from rains—unless there are holes in the structure, as is often the case. If water seeps inside, and remains there come winter, it can freeze, and… well, you know the rest.
Finding the Perfect Patio Furniture Cover
The problem of keeping outdoor furniture protected is not new; there is an entire market segment dedicated to providing adequate shielding against the elements.
Most of them are made in fabrics with high water resistance (such as polyester), and in several cases they incorporate vents, so the wind will flow right through instead of potentially blowing the cover off position. This also helps ensure that any minuscule amount of moisture seeping through will evaporate before causing any unwanted effects.
As for sizes (and even shapes), there is nothing to worry about: you can find covers for single chairs, for tables, and even for entire furniture sets. All you need to do is know your specific piece, your measurements—and also, for best results, keep in mind the following recommendations.
Tips for a Better Use of Your Outdoor Cover
Strong though your cover may be, there are certain steps you can take so that its performance will be optimal, and your furniture will obtain the protection it needs.
How to Secure an Outdoor Furniture Cover
Aside from vents to promote air flow, some covers come with strings to tighten the cover around the furnishings within.
If yours lacks either feature (or if you simply want some additional peace of mind), you can improvise a gust guard with a few tarp clips and some bungee cords.
Secure the clips to key points on the cover, and tie them together by hooking the bungee cords around the clips’ loops.
How to Keep Water Off
The strongest, sturdiest, most heavily waterproofed fabric in the current market is still that: a fabric. This means there are still tiny holes in the weave which, while perfectly capable to ward off smaller splashes, might eventually allow the water through if a larger quantity is sitting on top—which will cause damage to your furniture while you’re not even looking.
Pooled water can also cause your cover to degrade over time, and mold might even start appearing; nobody wants that.
To solve this problem, a common solution is a specially made air bag. Inflate it, place it on top, and that way you make the center stand out, preventing the water from gathering there. It is usually recommended to match the bag’s size and shape to that of the furniture it will be sitting on. Too small, and the slope might be insufficient; if too large, there might not be any slope.
Tips for Placement, Removal and Storage
When the cover is particularly large, it is a good idea to enlist the aid of at least one other person, so that each of you is in charge of one side when getting the cover into position. Same goes when you’re taking it off. For the latter, here are a few pointers:
- Rolling it off the furniture will make the cover easier to handle.
- Most likely—especially after months of duty—, your cover will be fairly dirty. Shake it off to rid it of the most outstanding debris, hose it down, then apply a mild soapy solution all over it with a sponge. Rinse thoroughly, then towel it off or let it dry in the sun. Once it is completely dry, you can proceed to store it.
- For folding, lay it out on a flat, sufficiently expansive surface. Fold in all elastic parts, or the angles, so it turns into a square. Fold the cover until it is of appropriate size, then store in your cabinet or shelf of choice.
How to Protect Patio Furniture in the Spring or Summer
Two are the main concerns for the warmer half of the year: rain, and sun. Here’s how to mitigate them.
Consider Your Cover
Here, we’re using the word in a different context—a roof of some sort. If at all possible, your furniture should be situated in a place where the worst of the sun and rain won’t get to it, such as a gazebo, a deck, a covered porch or something similar.
Mind the Weather
Some areas are known for torrential rains that can easily get into areas that, while covered, may not be walled off; in cases such as this, it might be best not to use the furniture—and to keep it covered, of course.
Same goes with wind: aside from potentially bringing in more dust and leaves onto your chairs and tables, it could blow off some lighter pieces if it is strong enough. A few weights strategically placed can help prevent this.
An important—though often overlooked—point, is the cushions. If for any reason you choose to leave your furniture out there under the rain (for example, if it’s synthetic wicker or aluminum), any padding present should be brought inside, lest it be drenched by the rainfall; it could take days or weeks for it to dry out. To make this move easier, it is always possible to invest in a deck box, for you to dump the cushions into until you can use them again.
Keep Them Clean
Even if kept away from rain and sunlight, your chairs and tables are still in the open. This means (aside from the occasional drink spill) leaves, twigs, dust and the like. Give your furniture a good cleaning every once in a while, to keep it in good shape.
In case of tougher blemishes such as bird droppings or tree sap, don’t fret, for there are products that tackle those.
Seal Them Off
Certain vulnerable materials, such as wood and iron, can be further protected from moisture and rainfall, with a sealer or a rust inhibitor respectively; outdoor paint is another good alternative, if you want to give your pieces a different color. This will make them more resilient, and keep them looking good for longer. Products like these should preferably be applied over clean (this includes rust-free) surfaces, for best results.
For cushions, there is something that can help them endure the rain better: water repellent spray. As always, remember to apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions (some may require several applications), for optimal results.
Fall and Winter Patio Cover Tips
This section will be shorter, as you will likely be putting your furniture away rather than using it; and quite a few of the measures we will be suggesting here have been covered in previous sections. Still, a proper recap doesn’t hurt.
It begins with the main topic of this article: the cover.
Use one, and remember to use an air bag at a proper location on top of the piece so that no water or snow will gather on top. If at all possible, bring the furniture into a shed or garage; but even in this case, the outdoor cover should be used, to help mitigate moisture and freezing temperatures.
Prior from bringing the furniture into storage, it is a good idea to clean it, and seal it as appropriate for its material; you won’t be checking the furniture for a while, and these additional protections will help ensure that the weather conditions won’t affect your chairs and table, no matter how harsh the days get.
Should you cover your outdoor patio furniture? Yes, yes you should. Use an appropriate waterproof cover whenever you bring it to storage in the winter, and utilize the cover as often as possible between furniture uses, at the peak of summer. Rain, sunlight, snow, ice can cause the worst damage, but there’s also dirt, debris and even bird droppings to think about.
Aside from the cover, remember to keep your furniture clean, and seal it appropriately if you can. With this additional diligence, you’ll be enjoying your seats and tables for quite a while.