When setting up your venue you might come across furniture that is deemed ‘indoor furniture’ and some that is deemed ‘indoor/outdoor furniture’. When placed outside, furniture comes into contact with the elements, and, in Australia, that means intense heat and freezing cold. Our climate is a diverse one, and a brutal one. For this reason, all hospitality furniture suppliers will warn you against using some furniture outdoors as it could cause it to crack, break or be damaged.
Some materials are simply non-negotiable when it comes to putting them outdoors. For example, solid timber should never be put outdoors. Heat will cause the timber to expand, and cracks will form. The changing temperatures will encourage the timber to expand and contract and therefore your tables or chairs will end up cracked or bowed. There are some slatted timbers that can be used outdoors, but these do need attention and maintenance to keep them looking nice. For more information on timber maintenance, read our blog on the topic here.
Other materials are fine to be used outdoors, such as polypropylene, as long as it has been UV treated. Polypropylene that hasn’t been UV treated will fade and become brittle in the harsh Australian sun. However, polypropylene is one of the more preferred materials for outdoor chairs because it is lightweight, hardy and can easily be cleaned.
Lots of metal products are also great outside. Properties such as powder coating and galvanising help to protect the furniture against the elements. Stainless steel bases are the best to be used outdoors because of their anti-corrosive properties. If your furniture is placed by the sea, you may want to look at the level of the steel to ensure that the sea salt spray off the ocean doesn’t break down and corrode the furniture.
What chairs should I use in my outdoor dining areas? If your furniture is fully outdoors under the sun or rain, you may want to consider using polypropylene or metal chairs. Timber chairs or upholstered chairs will become easily damaged in the sun and rain. Timber cracks in the heat and the upholstery will deteriorate and fall away from the chair. These types of chairs are designed to be used in indoor settings.
Alternatively, you could opt for metal chairs. However, ensure that these are strong and can withstand your environment. If you are by the sea, you may want to check the grade of the chair as the salt spray that comes off the ocean can damage and corrode metal products. Another thing to consider is the heat. If metal chairs are out in the full sunshine, they may heat up to very high temperatures and could cause harm to your patrons.
Possibly the best option for your outdoor chairs would be polypropylene. However, even within polypropylene products, there are differences in what is sold across the industry. You want to ensure that the polypropylene is injected with glass fibres to make it strong. This mix has to be right to ensure that there isn’t too much glass fibre in the mix as this will cause the chair to become brittle and snap easily. You will also want to make sure your polypropylene chairs are UV stable as chairs that aren’t UV stable will fade and crack in the harsh Australian sun.
What chairs can I use in my indoor dining areas? This is entirely your choice! Anything goes inside and you can go crazy with your design. If you are wanting to match your outdoor areas, you could continue the polypropylene chairs inside, or if you are wanting something a little classier, you could look at a timber or upholstered option. The choice is yours!
What tables should I use in my outdoor dining areas? When it comes to your tables in your outdoor areas, these are very important to get right. Not only does the material matter, but the colour does as well. Dark colours don’t go well outside as they tend to trap the heat and can cause problems either with patrons hurting themselves or with table tops bowing or becoming discoloured.
Timber tables should only ever be used outdoors if they are slatted timber and are cared for and maintained with a regular oiling schedule. Rather than coated in a 2-pak coating, outdoor timbers will be oiled and therefore will need to be kept oiled to maintain their beauty. However, timber is always alive and is always moving. For this reason, it is inevitable that your timber tables will crack at some point – this is the beauty of a natural product!
Alternatively, you could go for a laminate table top outdoors, however you will need to ensure it is compact laminate that you are using in your outdoor spaces. Pre-laminated table tops can’t be put outside. Compact laminate tops are hardy and weather-proof making them the perfect top for your outdoor areas. They can be a little more costly than your other options, however.
The most cost-effective table top that you can use in your outdoor areas would be the resin ones. We call them Gentas Table Tops; however, you may have seen them advertised elsewhere as SM France table tops or Isotops. These are a very popular choice for outdoor tables across the hospitality industry. However, the one caution we offer is not to use dark colours outdoors as the sun’s heat will cause the tops to warp and discolour.
There aren’t many rules when it comes to the table bases you use outdoors – as they are all made from metals ranging from standard steel to aluminium, to cast iron, to stainless steel. These are all perfectly fine to be used outdoors. We would only ask you to consider the protection on your bases if you are placed by the sea as the salt can cause damage to certain metal products.
What tables can I use in my indoor dining areas? Just like your indoor chairs, the choice is a free one. Anything works indoors with your tables.
When it comes to indoor vs outdoor, any furniture is fine to be used indoors, but not all furniture can be used outdoors. As outlined above, there are many things to watch out for. The main things being the materials that are used to create the furniture.