Natural rattan is definitely a brilliant choice for your rattan garden furniture. It’s durable, comfortable, malleable and it looks great. There’s no wonder that it’s such a popular material for making fantastic furniture, for both indoors and out.
And yet you may have noticed in recent years that there has been more and more synthetic rattan furniture being sold in the UK. People interested in buying themselves some all-weather outdoor furniture (as well as comfortable, durable indoor furniture) are frequently deciding between natural and synthetic rattan furniture. This leads plenty of first-time buyers to wonder: why is there a need for synthetic rattan? There aren’t any obvious weaknesses to natural rattan… are there?
Well, the simple answer is: no, not really. But there are some advantages that synthetic rattan furniture has over natural rattan. Firstly, and foremost on many people’s minds, is the cost. With the growing popularity of rattan garden furniture, many manufacturers and suppliers are interested in providing great quality rattan furniture at a fraction of the price. Therefore, many use synthetic materials such as plastics to recreate the look and feel of natural rattan, which ends up being much cheaper to produce, and therefore much cheaper to buy.
What is the difference between Rattan and Wicker?
It is quite easy to get rattan and wicker confused since they are both weaving material that looks quite similar in appearance. However, while the look and feel of them might resemble each other to a certain point, there are some major distinctions that set them apart.
• Rattan is obtained from a jungle wine that is native to Asian countries. Wicker is obtained from the core of cane or rattan stalks, bamboo or reed.
• Rattan is essentially a material. Wicker is mostly used when referring to a specific type of weaving or products made with that particular type of weaving.
• A rattan chair is made out of that specific material, but a wicker chair can be made from a variety of material.
• Rattan is a natural material. Wicker can be synthetically produced as well.
Rattan is a very popular material for making furniture. The vine of the plant that is native to tropical forests of the Far East is highly flexible and extremely light yet exceptionally strong and durable. This along with its highly appealing look makes it ideal for all sorts of furniture with the exception of garden furniture. Unfortunately, rattan furniture does not perform well in outdoor settings and is vulnerable to the outdoor elements, most notably moisture and ultraviolet light. Protective finishes and coatings help extend its durability but even if treated, natural rattan furniture does not withstand the outdoor extremes particularly well nor long. Those beautiful pieces of rattan garden furniture that you can see in showrooms and online galleries are therefore made from synthetic rather than natural rattan.
Synthetic rattan looks and feels almost identical to its natural counterpart and it is woven in the same manner. But in contrary to natural rattan, the synthetic fibres are engineered to withstand the exposure to the outdoor extremes including the damaging ultraviolet light and moisture. Not all all weather garden furniture, however, is the same and not all all weather garden furniture withstands the outdoor conditions as well as its manufacturer promises.
Most pieces of all weather garden furniture are made from PE which is abbreviation for polyethylene. It is the most widely produced plastic and is used for all sorts of products including packaging, bottles and bags, plastic films, etc. but it is also a popular material for making outdoor furniture because it is weather-proof. However, there are different types of polyethylene and their ability to withstand the exposure to the outdoor extremes, most notably ultraviolet light varies greatly from one type of PE to another. But how can you tell which PE rattan furniture is a good choice and which is not?
First of all, it is important to be aware that polyethylene can generally be categorised into three types – high-, medium- and low-density polyethylene. The higher the density the better the resistance to the outdoor conditions as well as to the everyday wear and tear. Why? Because low-density PE (LDPE) has more branching, and weaker intermolecular forces and strength than high-density PE (HDPE). At the same time, HDPE is also harder and can withstand higher temperatures than LDPE. As a result, all weather weave garden furniture which is made from HDPE performs much better in harsh outdoor conditions than that made from LDPE. Every PE rattan is a better choice than PVC for instance, however, pieces of furniture which are sold simply under the name “PE Rattan” are typically made from low quality polyethylene.