Originally Published on February 17, 2020. Last Updated on May 10, 2023.
Is your cabin in need of new outdoor furniture, but you’re unsure which materials work best in woodland environments? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve done the legwork so you can start shopping with confidence and pick the perfect products for your secluded sanctuary.
We’ll discuss function—not form—because while tastes vary, some materials are simply better suited to rural life. Selecting well-built furniture made from high-quality materials will save you money, time, and stress in the long run.
How to Select Materials Based on Environmental Conditions
Log cabins started cropping up in Northern Europe around 3500 B.C. as early settlers and hunters did the logical thing and built homes where roads and construction materials were easily accessible. Scandinavians brought the idea to North America in the 1600s when they settled on the east coast in what is now Delaware. Today, cabins can be found in wooded areas across the country, from mountaintops to low-lying plateaus.
While conditions vary by location, there are some that many share, including wildlife, cooler and humid climates, wet weather, tree debris, pollen, and sap. The furniture materials you choose should be able to handle them without much heavy lifting on your part. Some will be up to the challenge, while others may be better used elsewhere.
Leaves, branches, and entire trees will fall after storms blow through wooded areas. Since cabins are situated right in the thick of nature, the likelihood of sustaining damage from falling debris is high.
It can get breezy in the woods, and the winds increase at higher altitudes. While the trees surrounding your cabin act as natural barriers, gusts can still sneak through.
Forest environments are cooler because the trees block sunlight from reaching areas below the canopies. Plus, trees stay cool through a process called transpiration. When the weather heats up, plants release excess water from their leaves which evaporates into the air. This lowers the plants’ surface temperatures and that of the surrounding landscape.
On top of that, air pressure decreases as altitude increases. The atmosphere is thinner in higher spots like mountains, so the pressure is reduced, translating to lower air temperatures.
Stain, Corrosion, and Rust Resistance
When exposed to plant byproducts like pollen, sap, and resin, certain furniture materials are more susceptible to damage.
- Pollen: When dry, pollen is harmless to outdoor furniture. However, when it gets wet, a chemical reaction occurs that can cause stains and corrosion if not quickly removed.
- Sap and resin: These substances adhere to anything—siding, cars, furniture, you name it—and are difficult to remove. If sap and resin aren’t cleaned up, they can lead to stains and discoloration. On top of that, dirt, dust, and other debris will stick to sap and resin, creating a bigger mess.
Living in the woods means some of your closest neighbors are the creatures that inhabit them. While they’re often exciting to see, animals don’t understand property lines and will roam into your backyard in search of food, shelter, or nest fodder. This can lead to extensive and expensive repairs that your home insurance policy may not cover.
Damages caused by large animals like bears are usually covered, but many insurance companies view small animal damages as “preventable situations” and typically don’t offer reimbursement in these cases.
Weather conditions differ based on location, but they all have one thing in common: water. Cabins in colder climates contend with blizzards and ice, while those in warmer locales experience rainy seasons yearly.
Outdoor Furniture Materials for Cabins, Ranked
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE took the top spot because this durable plastic can handle just about any weather or environmental condition with very little upkeep, making it ideal for cabin furniture.
- Weather-, rust-, and corrosion-proof.
- Resistant to wind, fading, and stains.
- Requires minimal cleaning and upkeep.
- Can be more expensive than other materials.
Synthetic wicker is woven out of man-made resin, resulting in durable cabin furniture with a rustic appeal.
- Resistant to moisture, humidity, stains, and insects.
- Heavier than natural wicker but still easy to move.
- Higher durability than natural wicker.
- Cleaning can take time due to the weave’s nooks and crannies.
Hardwood received a respectable ranking as it needs more upkeep to protect it from the elements, but your efforts will be rewarded with beautiful, durable cabin furniture.
- Easy to clean.
- Requires periodic refinishing to protect it against stains, moisture, and pests.
- Weather- and wind-resistant.
- Stays at a comfortable temperature in any climate.
Though it cannot stand up to the elements like HDPE or hardwood, injection-molded plastic is a budget-friendly option for cabin owners.
- Warps and cracks in extreme temperatures.
- Water-, corrosion-, and rust-resistant.
- Low-maintenance, but can stain and discolor from pollen, sap, and animal droppings.
- Susceptible to strong winds and fading.
Aluminum is durable and impervious to rust and pests. But it received a lower ranking because its lack of wind-, corrosion-, and heat- resistance can create more work for cabin owners.
- Light and easy to maneuver, but cannot stand up to strong winds.
- Naturally resistant to pests and rust, but needs treatment to resist corrosion and stains.
- Requires little upkeep or cleaning.
- Can become uncomfortable if left outside on warm, sunny days.
Wrought iron is a tempting choice for cabins because of its rustic appearance, but be prepared to put in a lot of elbow grease to protect your investment.
- Needs regular maintenance to prevent rust.
- Pest-, corrosion-, and wind-resistant.
- Retains heat and cold, making it uncomfortable in hot and chilly climates.
- Its heft makes moving difficult.
Log cabins are often built from softwoods like pine or cedar, so having furniture made from the same material seems like a natural fit. But softwoods are not without their drawbacks and need a lot of maintenance to protect them from the elements.
- Lighter than hardwood but heavy enough to resist wind.
- Stays comfortable in hot and cold weather.
- More affordable than hardwood.
- Needs regular upkeep to resist moisture, humidity, stains, and pests.
Though beautiful, natural wicker is not a good fit for cabin settings. It received the lowest rating because too much upkeep is required to keep the elements at bay.
- Lightweight and susceptible to strong winds.
- Does not get too hot or cold in extreme temperatures.
- Needs constant upkeep to prevent breakage and dirt buildup.
- Poor resistance to weather, fading, and stains.
What kind of patio furniture can stay out all year?
Patio furniture made from durable materials like HDPE plastic, teak, and powder-coated aluminum can stay outside all year long. These materials can handle inclement weather and harsh climates and don’t require a lot of upkeep to maintain their good looks. That being said, covering furniture when you aren’t using it is always a good idea. This prolongs its life and makes future cleanups quick and easy.
What kind of furniture is best for a screened-in porch?
Screened-in porches offer more protection than other outdoor spaces, so you can be more lenient in your furniture choices. However, you must still contend with outdoor temperatures, and UV rays, wind, and humidity can sneak through screens. Knowing this, look for furniture made from durable materials like HDPE or synthetic wicker. Choose rocking chairs and Adirondacks in these materials to get the classic look you love without the upkeep.
What is the best outdoor furniture for rainy weather?
Outdoor furniture made from non-porous materials works best in rainy weather. Since HDPE and other plastic materials can’t absorb moisture, they’re impervious to rust, corrosion, and water-induced warping.