What Causes Outdoor Furniture to Fade and Breakdown

Faded outdoor furniture patio set

Outdoor furniture is often more susceptible to damage than indoor furniture. It happens so due to its exposure to outdoor elements, which can cause the pieces to fade and deteriorate over time. Often, there are varied causes that lead to the breakdown of the furniture.

Outdoor furniture’s life span is reduced by sun, rain, extended temperatures, temperature swings and wind. Furniture material used decides which adverse component will shorten the furniture’s life. However, UV rays from the sun are the leading cause to material breakdown & failure in all cases.

One of the major reasons outdoor furniture fades is because it is exposed to the sun. The UV rays originating from the sun can break down materials in furniture such as plastics, paints, and textiles, which results in fading colors.

The resin in the furniture will completely break down when exposed to UV rays from sunlight over a long period of time. In rare cases, salt water from ocean spray can also cause this type of deterioration when it combines with moisture from rain and snowfall during the winter months.

Let’s dig deeper into the causes of the fading and deterioration.

UV Rays from Sunlight on Outdoor Furniture

Everything is at the mercy of UV rays from the sun. Humans have to worry about sunburn and your patio furniture needs to worry too.

The most common cause of outdoor furniture fading and breaking down is a result of UV rays in sunlight. The sun’s UV rays will penetrate the surface material, break down the glue in the wood, and discolor it. This process takes years and can even go into decades, depending on the type of wood used.

In addition to fading materials from UV rays, furniture also gets damaged from harsh weather conditions such as hailstorms or high winds that can cause scratches on the surface of the piece.

Since UV rays are unbalanced and unstable, they are the leading cause of outdoor furniture’s fade and breakdown. The UV rays can damage colors, make them change or disappear altogether, char the paint on the furniture, break up the molecules in the wood, which causes it to crack or warp.

Plastic surfaces crack or peel away. It happens because UV rays are made up of high-energy photons (a subset of light waves) that penetrate deep into materials like plastics, woods, or coatings where they break down chemical bonds.

Solar Heat on Your Backyard Furniture

The solar heat in the sun is not good for outdoor furniture. The sun can have an adverse effect on outdoor furniture, causing it to fade and break down.

Fading tops as one of the greatest challenges that outdoor furniture faces. It usually happens when the sunlight gets through the dyes in the fabric and heats them, causing them to break down.

When material is heated it is more susceptible to breakdown at a component level. An example may illustrate this better; imagine sitting on a hot cushion, the fabric will stretch and thin ever so slightly. Now sit on the cushion on a cooler day, the weaker point may allow for a rip or tear to start.

Wear and Tear on Your Patio Set

Outdoor furniture is exposed to the outdoor elements on a daily basis, which makes it more likely to break down. These are caused by environmental factors that are difficult to predict, such as sun damage, rain, snow, ice, and even frost.

Other than UV light, just plan sitting down on your furniture creates stress load on the structural design. Each material has a life expectancy and can be designed to last a lifetime. However, the cost of a life proof patio furniture would be astronomical.

The average patio owner is happy with 10 years of outdoor furniture life typically because styles change. Or they move and don’t want to take their patio set?

Here is a quick table to show materials and the weakness for outdoor use.

Quick Table Of Affect From Sun & UV Rays

Affects Of Sun & UV RaysSteelAluminumPlasticWood
Color FadingXXXX
Material CrackingX
Heat RetentionXXX
UV Mat’l BreakdownX

The sun can cause metal parts of outdoor furniture to oxidize and corrode, which leads to the fading of colors. It is also essential to store your outdoor furniture, so snow and rain don’t damage it.

Even though these cause great harm to your outdoor furniture, the most common form of damage is fading due to prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays. This can also cause cracks in the paint or varnish coating on your furniture, which can lead to more damage during future weather conditions.

It is proven that the all-weather protection of aluminum garden furniture will shield your investment from wear and tear caused by outdoor conditions. See below for more info on this

What If My Patio Set Is Made Of More Than One Material

Let’s face it, most patio sets are a combination of multiple materials. Aluminum tubes, plastic mesh or cloths, steel supports, and we typically add cushions on top most times to boot as well.

This is when picking the best materials based on your geographic area is best. Knowing if you plan on buying covers, using cushions and taking them in, or storing the set say in the garage over winter.

If you plan on buying covers, the covers will take the brunt of UV rays and last about 2-4 years, prolonging your patio set life.

If you have inside storage area for your cushions, that alone will prolong the life of your cushions exponentially. Or, the furniture itself, storing them in the garage or basement will double there life on average.

We may set our patio set out sometime in late Spring and put them away in early Fall, but UV rays happen all year. And Winter months have extreme temperatures and moisture with laying snow.

Can You Fix Sun Faded Patio Furniture?

Yes, there are Some things you can do. Dependent on the material, you can paint, stain, apply a renew solutions. Yay!

For Wood, a quick power wash and a good quality semi-transparent, or semi-solid stain. Baer at Home Depot is usually always good, but so is Valspar at Lowes. Check there Colors out…Home Depot, Lowes.

For Plastic, a quick pressure wash and apply this restoration solution with a rag. Check it out here on Amazon.

For Steel, as before, a quick pressure washing, and apply a good quality paint in the color of your choosing. Some items may have been powder coated. Powder coating may need to be removed entirely to get prolonged paint job. Otherwise, it will keep getting moisture under it and keep lifting off. As far as paint, Rustoleum at Home Depot has plenty of options.

For Aluminum, you can apply a restore solution to it and help remove the oxidizing from the aluminum. If the aluminum was powder coated the same as above will be present, but the oxidizing is not as bad as rust on steel, it will take longer to deteriorate the powder coat. Here is what I recommend for Aluminum patio sets that have oxidized, click here to check it out.

Always let it dry completely before trying to add a finish to your material. Wood you should let it dry at least 24-48 hours before applying stain.


Interior Lighting Effects On a Patio Set

The most common problems being addressed are the fading of outdoor furniture, the weathering of the material, and the breakdown of cushioning. The primary cause for these problems is exposure to ultraviolet light.

UV damage is also caused by gas discharge lamps or fluorescent lamps that emit UV radiation in addition to visible light. If you have a deck or patio with gas discharge lamps, fluorescent lamps, or both types of lights on it, it’s essential to be aware that they will contribute to your furniture’s potential for fading and breakage.

However, the Sun is the gorilla in the room when it comes to UV rays. One way to avoid this problem is choosing outdoor furniture that has strong pigments that resist UV rays. Another way is covering your deck or patio with some form of sunshade during hours when UV radiation peaks (10 AM – 4 PM).

Pollutants On Patio Sets

Pollutants can cause outdoor furniture to fade and break down. And, since outdoor furniture is essential for any outdoor living space, it is the one thing that most people don’t consider when purchasing a house, but outdoor furniture can make or break the look of a backyard.

However, the great outdoors can be both good and bad for your outdoor furniture. Pollutants in the air, such as pollen and water residue from plants or trees, cause your outdoor furniture to fade or break down.

Most of the time, outdoor furniture is at risk because of its exposure to the elements, both natural and man-made. Pollutants in the air can cause outdoor furniture to fade and break down.

The main reason for this effect is because pollution contains salt particles, which are corrosive and will shorten the life of an outdoor piece of furniture. The other common threat to outdoor furniture is rainwater. Mildew can form on wet surfaces that are not regularly cleaned or dried, which will break down materials over time.

To prevent your beautiful investment from fading away, it’s important to clean with a soap-free cleanser twice a year and treat with a UV sealant after each heavy rainstorm.

Affects Of Humidity On Your Outdoor Furniture

Humidity is a natural environmental variable that affects the way outdoor furniture looks over time. When talking about the effect humidity has on outdoor furniture, and what you can do to prolong its life, you should pay keen attention.

Many people are not aware that outside humidity can affect their outdoors’ furnishings. It can cause metal patio furniture to lose its luster, wicker baskets to turn brittle, and wooden benches to dry out and crack.

Being aware of what effects humidity has on your outdoors’ furnishings is the first step in taking care of them. One of the best thing to do is use a sealant on metal products every year before being exposed to humidity, making them fade and eventually break down.

Therefore, the need for a good quality outdoor furniture cover comes from the fact that humidity is a natural environmental variable that affects how outdoor furniture looks over time. The higher temperature and humidity in the air cause moisture to form on objects, which leads to wood swelling and losing its durability.

The high temperature also accelerates the oxidation or rusting of metals in the metal parts of furniture such as bolts, screws, hinges, etc. It would be noble if you were considerate on your patio to prevent the furniture from fading and eventually breaking down.

Bottom Line On Fading Of Patio & Outdoor Furniture

The materials most commonly used in furniture are wood, aluminum, plastic, steel, and copper (not so much copper because of its expense) Plus, Copper patina looks awesome, at least in my opinion.

Each of these materials has its pros and cons. For instance, plastic is durable, but is often used around a metal frame to make outdoor furniture because it cannot withstand the elements and stress of use.

And, because outdoor furniture is subjected to environmental factors like rain, snow, sun, and dirt, which cause it to fade over time. It would be best to consider having furniture made from durable materials to avoid fading colors and breakdown because of the varied causes.

This is why most middle to higher end patio furniture is a hybrid of the best of all worlds, at least when it comes to Earth. With covers to protect a higher end patio set, the covers take the brunt of the elements.

Keep in mind that the outdoor furniture is exposed to various elements that can cause it to break down or fade away. Weather, exposure to UV rays, and exposure to the sun are the leading causes of deterioration for outdoor furniture. Owners of outdoor furniture need to use a high-quality finish on their surface so that it will not break down as quickly, amongst other preventable measures.

Will Montgomery

Will, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, aspires to be your trusted source for all backyard essentials. Passionate about frugal yet stylish outdoor living, he leverages his engineering background and hands-on experience to guide you in creating your family's dream outdoor space, all while staying budget-friendly.

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