Unlike what many people think, wicker is not a type of plant used to make baskets and furniture. It is actually a way of weaving plant fiber (like rattan, bamboo, willow, reeds, etc.) into things like baskets and furniture. Wicker is surprisingly strong, flexible and light, while the plants from which it is woven grow fast and are cheap to harvest. When the rattan or other plant material from which the wicker is made is properly treated, it can be remarkably weather-resistant. Depending on the design (or branding) and the method of manufacture, wicker furniture can be cheap or it can also be expensive. For example, you can often find cheap indoor and outdoor wicker furniture in South East Asia made from rattan woven around wooden frames, while wicker furniture in China and South Asia are often made from bamboo. On the other hand, outdoor wicker furniture (and indoor as well) in Europe and America costs a lot more. They often have to be imported from far away (e.g. Indonesia is one of the major producers of rattan and wooden furniture) while those made locally need expensive labor.

Fortunately for those who love wickerwork, modern technology has successfully created plastics and resins that can be woven to resemble traditional natural plant fibers. When wrapped around lightweight metal frames made from (chromed) steel or aluminium alloys, they can be made into relatively affordable wicker garden furniture. You can see many examples of this in hotels - these outdoor wicker furniture made from artificial materials are placed by the poolside. They remain in good condition despite being exposed to sometimes harsh conditions and are easy to keep clean by hosing them down with water. Such mass produced artificial resin wicker furniture look as good as the more expensive designer and handmade outdoor wicker furniture but can be bought at a fraction of the price.

Buying Tips For Outdoor Wicker Furniture

One manufacturer that is making its presence felt in the field of outdoor wicker furniture is Strathwood. They make very natural looking resin wicker furniture - including sofa sets, tables, chairs, even outdoor dining furniture sold around $300 to $500 a piece. Compare this to the $1000 and up being asked for designer brands of wicker furniture. While their designs may not be for everybody, they are certainly worth using as a baseline when you are looking to buy your wicker garden furniture. Any wicker furniture that is more expensive than Strathwood's should look and feel correspondingly better, while anything that cannot match its quality should cost much less.

Generally speaking, outdoor wicker furniture should not be bought online. You should visit the furniture stores in your area, and go even farther if needed. When you see a set of good looking wicker garden furniture, try to imagine how it would look on your patio or lawn. Sit on the chairs - sit on the edge of the seat, sit back on the chair or sofa, slouch on the wicker chair - just test it out in all the various ways you intend to use it. Do they need cushions? Do the seats come with cushions? Are the cushions too thin, too thick, too soft, too hard? When you are seated, can you easily reach out to grab a glass or book placed on the wicker table? These are all things you need to be able to feel in person - factors you cannot evaluate while shopping online.

One important factor to consider is how weather-proof these outdoor wicker furniture are. Can they really be left out in the sun, rain and snow without harm? Some high-grade outdoor wicker furniture are made from artificial resin wicker woven over aluminium alloy frames and have weather-proof cushions - these can be safely left exposed to the elements but will naturally cost a lot more. Lower-grade wicker garden furniture would be made of cheaper resin wicker where the colors can fade when exposed to intense sunlight. Instead of lightweight aluminium alloy frames, they may use a cheaper and heavier coated or chromed steel frame. Any provided cushions would also be made of cheaper materials and not weather-proof. Cheaper resin wicker furniture like these cannot be placed in the middle of your lawn - they would need to be placed in a sheltered patio and covered up when not in use.

Another important is how to maintain the outdoor wicker furniture you buy. No matter how much you like a particular design or set of outdoor furniture, ask the salesman and check the user manual on how to keep it clean and maintain it. Is it a simple hose it down with water as needed? Or are there more complex instructions like applying some special chemical or additive on a regular basis. You should also check the cleaning instructions for the cushions - some may require handwashing or washing in warm water. If you cannot just drop the cushion into a washing machine and turn it on, is it still acceptable to you?

Whereas rattan or bamboo wicker is used in Asia to make sturdy yet economical furniture, in the US and Europe outdoor wicker furniture is a statement of style and luxury. When buying wicker garden furniture, you need to know both your initial budget and replacement budget. Just because you can afford to buy that designer handmade wicker furniture made from rattan does not mean you can afford to replace it when it inevitably wears out in the next five years. If you do not have an unlimited budget, you may want to temper your desires and buy cheaper but less unique mass-produced resin wicker furniture. Remember to test for comfort and practicality - looks are important but not the only factor.