Do I need to cover my outdoor furniture in the winter?

As the days shorten and the crisp air of autumn settles in, many of us turn our thoughts towards cozy nights indoors. But before you completely neglect your outdoor space, consider the fate of your patio furniture. Does it need to be tucked away for the winter, or can it withstand the elements?

The answer depends on a few key factors: your climate, the type of furniture you have, and how much effort you’re willing to put into protection.

Climate Concerns

For those in regions with mild winters, where freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall are rare, leaving your furniture outside with minimal protection might be okay. However, even in these areas, persistent rain or strong winds can take a toll.

However, if you live in a place with harsh winters, covering your furniture becomes more critical. Here’s why:

  • Freezing temperatures: Water can seep into cracks and crevices of furniture, then expand as it freezes. This expansion can cause wood to warp, metal to rust, and wicker to crack.
  • Snow and ice: Heavy snowfall can put stress on furniture frames, potentially causing them to bend or break. Additionally, the weight of accumulated ice can damage cushions and upholstery.
  • Harsh sun (even in winter): While not as strong as summer rays, winter sun can still fade fabric cushions and dry out wood furniture.

Material Matters

The type of furniture you have also plays a role in deciding whether to cover it. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Wood: Solid wood furniture with a waterproof sealant can fare reasonably well in milder winters. However, regular covers are recommended for extended periods of harsh weather.
  • Metal: Wrought iron furniture is generally quite durable, but rust can become a concern. Covers will help prevent this.
  • Wicker: Natural wicker should be brought indoors during winter as it’s susceptible to water damage and freezing. Synthetic wicker with good weatherproofing might survive outdoors with a cover, but bringing it in is still ideal.
  • Plastic: Plastic furniture is generally winter-hardy, but covers can protect it from fading and brittleness caused by extreme cold.
  • Cushions: Fabric cushions are mildew magnets in damp winter conditions. Store them indoors throughout winter.

Cover Up for Protection

If you decide to cover your furniture, choose a cover specifically designed for outdoor use. These covers are typically made from waterproof and breathable materials that allow moisture to escape, preventing mold and mildew growth.

Here are some additional tips for using furniture covers effectively:

  • Ensure a proper fit: A loose cover can billow in the wind and damage furniture. Choose a cover designed for your specific furniture set or use tie-down straps for a secure fit.
  • Clean before covering: Don’t trap dirt, leaves, or debris under the cover. Brushing off furniture and allowing it to dry completely before covering is essential.
  • Clear snow buildup: Heavy snowfall can weigh down the cover and damage furniture. Regularly brush off snow accumulation to prevent this.

The Indoor Alternative

If you have limited space outdoors or simply prefer not to deal with covers, bringing furniture indoors for the winter is a perfectly viable option. A garage, shed, or even a spare room can offer a suitable winter home for your patio furniture.

Final Thoughts

Taking the time to properly protect your outdoor furniture during winter will ensure it’s ready to be enjoyed again come spring. Consider your climate, furniture materials, and the level of protection you’re comfortable with when making your decision. With a little planning, your outdoor furniture can survive the winter and continue to be a welcoming part of your home for years to come.