Did it ever bother you when you heard terms referencing different types of resin furniture and you did not know what they meant? Well, you’re not alone. Terms such as all-weather wicker, resin wicker, Poly wicker, PE wicker, Plastic, wicker, PVC wicker, outdoor wicker, patio wicker and other such names are very common, but can be very confusing. Over the past 20 years or so, the market has inserted a number of new terms into our vocabulary that we live with but don’t fully understand. Commercial and marketing terms have snuck into our lives derived from the material sources or uses of these products.
The short answer to the question is, that all the terms are referring to nearly the same thing. It’s plastic furniture designed primarily to be used outdoors. But wait, can I use resin furniture indoors you ask? Yes, except for PVC wicker. Read on to find out why.
In as much as we refer to resin wicker furniture in this article, the reality is that our references apply to nearly all resin furnitures. In the case of wicker furniture and related products, we have entered into the world of long lasting outdoor furniture as a result of modern advancements in plastics. Prior to the advent of modern resin technology, these products were made of willow, rattan, vines and other natural materials. But natural materials needed to be sealed with paint or some other sealer to ensure they could withstand the elements so that they would last more than a few rains and other elements.
In today’s world market, outdoor patio furniture is made of resins, mainly manufactured in China and distributed world wide. Generally, the better the quality of the resin, the more you will pay for the product.
Synthetic Resin is a plastic-like material that is made by a process called polymerization. The choice of and quantity of chemicals you combine to form the resin determines the kind and quality of resin used to make wicker or any other resin furniture. In addition to the base resin chemicals, additives are combined to the resin for color, flexibility and to allow the resin to resist ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light deteriorates plastics faster than anything else. So, choosing furniture that you want to last a long time that is used in the direct sunlight is an important consideration.
Some resins have proven themselves to be good or not so good for outdoor use. Some resist fading quite well while others show signs of the surface oxidation process the strip the color right out of the resin and weaken it to the point where it becomes ugly and brittle.
You may have heard of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic. This resin is used in lower grade furniture. It generally has a shiny surface and if burned, gives off deadly fumes. PVC furniture is not recommend for indoor use. In the event of a house fire, fire fighters can be overcome quickly by the fumes given off of the PVC. This type of resin does not have a long life exposed to the sun.
A highly desirable type of resin that is being used today for higher grade wicker furniture and other outdoor products is polyethylene PE. PE wicker presents a higher quality texture, durability and flexibility than other resins which is why it is used for higher end wicker and other furniture products. Depending on the amount of inhibitors and additives in the resin, the longer lasting and higher quality of resin. PE wicker is recommended for both indoor and outdoor use. In fact, many people are now furnishing their homes with PE wicker. PE wicker is great for four season rooms, sunrooms and family rooms. Its durable and available in colors that lend to the indoors.
Polypropylene resin is another popular resin that is used to make outdoor furniture. This resin is not bad but degrades faster than Polyethylene resin.
How can the common person know the quality and type of resin they are getting if they buy wicker furniture. Unless the product is marked from the manufacturer, or can be confirmed by the sales representative, you probably won’t know. The likelihood of a sales clerk knowing what kind of resin the furniture is made from is slim to none, unless you are dealing with a reputable wicker furniture dealer.
So, to sum it up, regardless of the colloquial name given or inference to outdoor resin furniture, it means that it is typically designed where the majority of the materials used in constructing the furniture is resin and acceptable for the outdoor use. However, with the caveat, that there are different grades of resin components that are better suited than others to structurally last and look better longer. Contact your wicker furniture dealer for more details on resin wicker furniture.
Check back for our next article where we discuss caring for and using glass tops for tables.