When the first warm rays of sunshine announce the arrival of spring, it’s time to consider your garden equipment needs. Of course, garden furniture that entices you to get comfy is essential – but comfort alone isn’t everything. TÜV SÜD’s furnishings expert, Michael Weber, knows what to watch out for in buying and caring for garden sets to make sure they give long-lasting enjoyment.
Garden furniture should naturally be designed for a longer life than just one season; it should be an attractive focal point of your garden for as long as possible. To make sure this is the case, before making your purchase it’s wise to consider a few points that will help you make the right decision. A little thought beforehand will increase your likelihood of finding the perfect garden furniture for your needs. For example, consider exactly where in your garden the furniture will be placed – sun or shade – and whether you have enough space in the house to store the furniture in winter if necessary.
Garden furniture made from wood is particularly popular with consumers. As a natural material, however, wood needs appropriate care and attention to ensure it can withstand all kinds of weather. When autumn and winter come, the furniture should be stowed in a cellar or garden shed to avoid moisture attacking the wood and causing cracks or splits. “The type of wood should be suitable for outdoor use; larch, oak, Douglas fir and teak are all fine”, explains Weber. Tropical wood products should be carefully checked to ensure the wood comes from sustainably managed forests and is correspondingly certified. Quality marks such as PEFC and FSC provide guidance here.
Outdoor furniture made from plastic has various advantages. These extremely easy-care products are available in a wide range of colours and designs, and are generally available at lower prices than furniture from other materials. However, they are not very weatherproof, and do not offer great stability given their lightness. The effects of ultraviolet rays or summer heat can cause plastic to become soft or brittle. Many types of plastic furniture are made from polypropylene (PP), which deteriorates as a result of heat and UV light and may become brittle in frost – an important point that underpins the need for winter protection. In addition, coloured plastic furniture quickly fades or discolours in bright sunshine, and is therefore best confined to shady spots.
Consumers considering furniture made from wrought or cast iron must bear in mind that these materials require a lot of care. Iron furniture must regularly be treated with rustproofing or paint. Given its propensity to rust, winter storage is strongly advised. If cellar space for the furniture is lacking, a garden table made from aluminium or stainless steel is an ideal choice. “These materials are not susceptible to rust, so that the furniture can stay outside in the garden throughout the winter”, explains the TÜV SÜD expert. However, buyers should check for a smooth, flawless finish when shopping for their garden equipment; poorly finished riveted joints will quickly rust.
In addition to care and looks, the ergonomics and comfort of the furniture play a key role in purchasing decisions. To ensure the items are comfortable as well as attractive, the best advice is simply to sit on them! The best approach is to try out as many different chair types as possible in-store and carefully examine garden tables.
Parents of small children should take into account that kids love to clamber over furniture. Weber warns, “To avoid increased risk of injury, it’s important to choose furniture that’s stable and solid, and preferably without rollers or castors.” In addition, moving parts like arm rests and backs must be free from any crushing and shearing hazards. As small children love to lick and chew whatever is put in front of them, the furniture should have been thoroughly tested for perspiration and saliva-resistance; in certain circumstances, these bodily fluids may dissolve paint or coatings. To be on the safe side, check that the product bears a TÜV SÜD “Tested for harmful substances” certification mark.
Further helpful guidance in choosing new garden furniture is given by the GS (Tested Safety) mark or the TÜV SÜD Octagon. Furniture for outdoor use should comply with the European standards EN 581, Part 1 and Part 2 (Outdoor furniture - Seating and tables for camping, domestic and contract use), thus meeting requirements such as structural stability, strength and durability, resistance to heat and cold and freedom from sharp edges and corners.
For more information, visit http://www.tuv-sud.com/industry/consumer-products-retail/hardlines/furniture-testing.
Press-contact: Heidi Atzler