If you’re looking for new furniture, you may be wondering whether to go with metal or wood. Both are popular and, if they are well-made, are sturdy enough to stand the test of time. It’s tough to choose between them.
So, which is better? Is metal furniture or wood furniture better? Metal is durable and can last for years, whereas wood is more likely to be damaged. Between the two, we like metal furniture better. One benefit to metal is that it can be less expensive than wood.
We’ll go down the list of pros and cons for both metal and wood furniture and discuss several items related to each. Read below for the definitive guide on wood versus metal furniture.
Pros and Cons of Metal Furniture
Let’s discuss metal furniture first. Metal furniture has become much more popular in recent years, not least because of the durability it offers. It’s also easier to clean so it can be more hygienic, something that should be considered for the elderly or health-challenged among us. Let’s run down the pros of metal furniture:
- Easy to Clean
- Visual Impact
- Easy to Clean
There is no evidence that metal furniture deters pests or bedbugs better than wooden furniture. However, it is easier to clean, and it doesn’t absorb pest fighting chemicals as wood furniture does. With proper cleaning, metal furniture can help fight pests in your home better than wooden furniture.
It can also handle virtually any cleaning product you choose to use on it. Metal will not warp or suffer damage from cleaning agents. You can even use water on metal furniture and have no problems, as long as the water doesn’t remain sitting on the furniture for too long.
Metal furniture is the workhorse of the furniture industry. It can take tough punishment and still remain standing. This makes it perfect for kids or a group home environment, like dorm rooms or hospitals. Metal furniture is generally well-sealed, so it can withstand:
- Drink rings
- General heavy use
Metal furniture can also be refurbished. There are do it yourself patch kits that can make metal furniture look brand new in a very short time.
The strength of metal furniture is superior to that of wood. Most steel frames can support over a thousand pounds. You do want to make sure you check the gauge of the steel before you purchase metal furniture. Some cheaper brands use a lower grade gauge that won’t hold up as well as the heavier gauges. We recommend at least a 16 gauge foundation for a very sturdy frame.
Metal furniture, especially the good, quality metal furniture, can be more expensive at the outset. However, metal furniture can last 10 to 15 years longer than wooden furniture, so the overall cost savings is significant.
Many metal furniture manufacturers offer a warranty that will cover any problems from normal wear and tear for 10 years or more. Prices will vary depending on the quality of the furniture, but you should be able to find affordable pieces of furniture in both metal and wood.
Since metal is such a durable material, the fabric and stuffing on your furniture will wear out before your metal furniture will. Metal furniture is generally well-sealed and offers resistance to humidity and corrosion.
For instance, even outdoor furniture, if it’s aluminum, will last up to 30 years. On average, good quality metal furniture should last you at least 30 years. If you take care of it properly, it could last you a lifetime. We emphasize good quality. Most metal furniture will be coated with a final metal coat, perhaps of steel or aluminum. If the manufacturer has done a good job, you should have durable, stylish furniture that will last for years. If they’ve done a shoddy job, you could soon see wear and tear on your furniture. The same is true for wood furniture as well. Always go for quality.
In addition, if you need to replace some parts on metal furniture, it’s most likely going to be nuts or bolts, either of which you can easily find cheaply at any hardware store. It’s also far less likely to be destroyed by pets and accidents than wood furniture.
5. Visual Impact
You want the wow factor when people walk into your home or on your patio. Metal furniture has a contemporary, modern look to it. It comes across as very clean, with sleek lines. Many people are moving to the modern look in their homes. It’s become trendy to design in that minimalist vibe and people flock to it.
In addition, with steel frames, you can get a lot of customization options. Steel frames come in a variety of different colors and you can also paint your own color, using a paint that adheres to metal.
Metal furniture is often seen as uncomfortable, but if you add the right cushions and paddings, it’s as or more comfortable as any other furniture in your house. Scratches can be polished out or painted over so you really don’t have to worry about wear and tear over time.
Now that we’ve gone over the pros of metal furniture, let’s list the cons, as we see them:
- Welding Can Be A Weak Point
- Prone To Rust If Paint Sealing Is Damaged
- Normally Very Heavy
- Welding Can Be A Weak Point
Many manufacturers take pride in their work and will weld the joints of metal furniture so that the piece can take substantial weight and abuse. However, some don’t. This is why we always stress quality. Always ask about the quality of the piece you are buying and get a warranty. Buying a cheap piece of furniture is not a good thing if it will break up under you in 2 years.
Look at the furniture and make sure all the rough edges have been sanded away. If you see any rough edges or anything that can snag clothing, this is a good indication that the manufacturer did not do a good enough job in building the furniture.
2. Prone to Rust If Paint Sealing Is Damaged
Metal rusts. If left out in the elements or if it is constantly exposed to spills or humidity, it can cause the paint to crack and the underlying metal to rust. If left untreated, it will eventually rust through the entire metal and ruin the furniture.
Fortunately, metal just needs a good polish every once in a while, or a new paint job to keep it protected and looking brand new.
3. Normally Very Heavy
Good quality metal furniture will normally not be light. You’re looking for sturdy quality that will last a long time and, in metal furniture, that means weight.
While the weight may indicate quality, it can also mean that the piece is too heavy for you to move by yourself. If you are someone that likes to frequently change the layout of furniture, you may want to think twice about getting a metal piece, no matter how attractive it is.
The weight of metal furniture can also harm linoleum or wooden floors, especially in the process of moving them. You’re going to want to be very careful not to scrape this furniture along your floors. There are felt moving pads you can buy to put under the legs of metal furniture to help alleviate this problem.
Pros and Cons of Wood Furniture
For years, wood furniture was really all you could get. Now that there is a choice, people still gravitate towards wood furniture, for good reason. Wood furniture has a lot of good aspects, and the higher quality furniture you get, the longer it is going to last. Below, find our list of the pros of wooden furniture:
- Strong and Sturdy
- Retains Value
- Has Enduring Look and Appeal
- Strong and Sturdy
Here’s the thing with wooden furniture: it is very strong. While not quite as strong as metal furniture, good quality craftsmanship on wood furniture can make it extremely durable.
The problem is that most of the wood furniture you see today is made of cheap:
With all of the above materials, you’re going to get what you pay for. These are the materials that give wood furniture a bad name. Instead, go with a hardwood. Oak is the most common hardwood used for good quality wood furniture. Other quality hardwoods that can be used for furniture include:
Any of the above would make for a good piece of wood furniture. Using these types of wood in every bit of the furniture, and not just the part that people see makes for very strong furniture. Because of the joints in wood furniture, it will not be able to take the weight metal furniture can, but a piece of wooden furniture made from a good hardwood should be able to support normal adult weights.
2. Retains Value
Good wood furniture can be passed down from generation to generation. In fact, that wardrobe you inherited from Great Aunt Sally could be worth a fortune today. Quality wood furniture retains value to a point where you could conceivably sell it for more than you paid for it.
Wood furniture, a century or more old, can still be found in usable condition. There are antique stores all over the world that bank on the fact that wood furniture not only retains its value but also can increase in value.
3. Has Enduring Look and Appeal
Wood furniture has been in fashion for centuries and it will not go out of fashion any time soon. Solid wood, when it is finished correctly, has a luster that brings warmth into any home. Even distressed wood is attractive, which is why it’s become such a design feature in the past few years.
Damaged wood furniture can be repaired and restored to the original glory, with the right tools. Scratches can be sanded away, and new finishes can be applied, making the furniture look like new.
Wood furniture is always trendy but tends to look more rustic and country than does metal furniture. It can make a house look like a home.
Wood furniture has a lot of benefits, which is one of the reasons why it has been popular for so long, even with other materials available. Still, wood furniture does have cons, including:
- Vulnerable to Water
- Vulnerable to Sunlight
- Can Be Scratched or Damaged by Sharp Objects
- Repairs Take Skill and Patience
- Vulnerable to Water
Moisture will damage wood finishes and could potentially soak into the wood underneath. This makes the wood swell and split. Over time, with no moisture protection, the wood will be ruined. This is especially true in coastal areas.
Wood is absorbent, so just being in a high humidity area will cause damage to the furniture. If you’ve ever seen a piece of wood furniture left out in the elements, you know what we mean. It can crack and warp, losing the integrity it once had. If caught early enough, it can be repaired but if it is left too long, it can mildew and rot.
Wood can also exude moisture. This give and take, the absorption of water and the exudation of water will cause the wood to expand and contract, which can loosen the joints holding the wood furniture together. If you have a wardrobe, this expansion and contraction can cause the drawers to swell and stick, making it difficult to open.
While wood is more vulnerable to water, it’s worth noting that wood is more vulnerable to fire than metal furniture.
2. Vulnerable to Sunlight
Ultraviolet rays are not good for wood furniture. Just as sunlight can wreak havoc on the skin, it can also cause damage to wood furniture. Ultraviolet rays break apart chemical bonds in wood, causing the furniture to change color.
Sunlight damage can be repaired, but usually only by a skilled craftsman. However, if you have a good finish on your wood furniture, it should resist sunlight for a few years. Touching up the finish every few years will go a long way towards keeping ultraviolet rays from harming your wood furniture.
3. Can Be Scratched and Damaged by Sharp Objects
Wood is naturally soft, so any sharp object can cause damage to it. If your child decides to write on your dining room table with a sharp pencil, expect a groove in that table. Once the top finish is damaged, the heavy wood underneath may be damaged, too. Other household objects that can damage your wood furniture include:
- Dinner knives
- Toys with sharp edges
- Glasses with a heavy bottom
Even regular dust can harm wood furniture. Dust is granular, which can scratch a finish that is not protected sufficiently. If you don’t use the right cleaning materials, you may be scratching the finish yourself, or grinding the granular dust further into the wood.
One way to combat this is by using a paste wax on your furniture at least once a year. The wax will help prevent scratches and damages and could save you some headaches in the future.
4. Repairs Take Skill and Patience
If you’re not a professional woodworker, it may be hard for you to repair your damaged wood furniture. Even something as simple as filling and fixing scratches can require a craftsman. If you try to sand or remove stains, you are going to need a lot of time and patience.
Attention to detail is important when dealing with wood. Although it can be repaired, it’s not as easy to do as repairing metal furniture. Whereas metal furniture may just require a new screw or bolt, or perhaps a new paint job, wood furniture will require extra skill.
If you sand too much on wood furniture, you risk sanding away some of the hardwood underneath the finish. Repairing a scratch often requires a steady hand filling the scratch with a wood putty and re-staining the entire piece.
Wood also gets darker with time, so regular varnishing and polishing are needed. If the furniture gets a lot of use, you may have to polish on a regular basis. Also, softer wood tends to lend itself to:
There are many advantages to wood furniture, but you do need to weigh the disadvantages before purchasing an expensive piece of furniture.
Types of Metal and Finishes
There are common metals and finishes that are used in furniture. For the metals themselves, the below are the most common:
- Stainless Steel
- Wrought Iron
Aluminum is a light-weight metal and used very often in outdoor furniture. While it is similar in appearance, it is more affordable than steel but not as strong as steel. It doesn’t rust in bad weather. It will, however, oxidize, creating a chalky white residue.
Aluminum was first extracted over 190 years ago and was quickly adapted into a wide range of uses. It’s very easy to manipulate and melts at a low temperature, allowing designers and craftsmen to form their own one-of-a-kind items. It is also very easy to recycle.
Copper is most often found on lighting and sinks, rather than furniture you sit or lay on. However, touches of copper can be found on all types of furniture. It is antimicrobial and resistant to corrosion. Like aluminum, it also oxidizes and can acquire a greenish-blue hue over time. You can prevent this oxidation by:
- Coat the copper with a layer of beeswax
- Buff with a clean cloth
- Apply a coat of oil, preferably linseed
- Cover it in lacquer
Copper is another soft metal and very easy to work with. Copper is melted and allowed to cool, at which point coppersmiths will alternately heat and hammer it into the preferred shape, even cutting it into the desired shape. Besides using it for lighting and sinks, copper or copper plating can also be used for:
- Coffee tables
- Dining tables
Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc alloys and can be made in different colors, such as:
Brass is usually corrosion resistant and antimicrobial and is typically used on faucets or doorknobs. Solid brass is expensive, and cracking can occur if harsh chemicals are used for cleaning it. Plated brass is more budget friendly.
4. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is perhaps the most popular metal used to make furniture, due to the metal’s strength and anti-corrosive properties. Stainless steel is an alloy of carbon, iron, chromium, and other metals and is incredibly strong. It doesn’t rust or oxidize but it can be very heavy.
With just a light polish, stainless steel can last you for years and it will look fresh for the entire time. It provides not only strength but also decoration. Due to the neutral color, it’s in high demand for designers.
Although people most often think of appliances as being stainless steel, you can also see stainless steel in the following furniture:
- Coffee tables
There are many more applications for stainless steel and it is one of the sought-after metals for furniture.
5. Wrought Iron
Wrought iron is iron that is not poured or cast but hammered or bent into shape. It is durable and corrosion-resistant but has a rough finish, so it is most commonly used for outdoor furniture.
Iron furniture is heavy and durable but will rust when left out in the elements. To prevent this, it needs to have a semi-annual coating of liquid car wax applied liberally. If you do see rust, you will need a wire brush and some touch-up paint.
Finishes are a coating of metal on the surface of other metal. There are many reasons to put on metal finishing, including:
- Limits impact of corrosion
- Strengthens the underlying metal
- Increases wear resistance
- Removes or polishes defects in the underlying metal
- Improves appearance
To the average consumer, the aesthetic of the finished metal is the most important part. Luckily, there are several finishes to choose from and they all have their own appeal:
- Antique finish – Often looks darkened or tarnished, creating an “old” look
- Brushed – A matte finish, looking brushed on
- Hammered – Has many small indents
- Satin – Smoother than brushed, this is between a matte and polished
- Polished – Has almost a mirror-like surface
The finish depends on the decor of your home and the look you’re going for.
Types of Wood Used in Furniture
There are over 100,000 species of trees on earth and many of those make great furniture. Furniture made from a solid piece of wood can be a great addition to a home. However, many manufacturers now use veneers, a thin layer of hardwood about 1/8 “ thick that is glued on to a solid piece of wood.
Sometimes using veneer is a good thing, if manufacturers are trying to produce lower cost furniture but are still using a solid piece of wood underneath the veneer. Sometimes it is not, as when manufacturers use fiberboard underneath a thin layer of veneer. This type of wood furniture is rarely durable.
Below are some of the most popular choices of wood used in furniture:
Pine is a fast-growing softwood that creates a wood great for building. It has many benefits, including:
- Resists shrinking
- Resists swelling
Pine is most often used in rustic pieces of furniture and makes good cabinets and coffee tables.
Maple is a hardwood and is a great choice for furniture. Maple is often creamy white but sometimes has reddish overtones. It is extremely durable. You can stain maple dark to produce a rich color and add warmth to a home.
Maple is extremely good for the following furniture:
Maple will still gleam after years of use, with only a little polish applied regularly.
Oak is a very versatile hardwood. You can store liquor in it or build a bed. It’s extremely grainy and comes in either red or white oak. Red oak is either light brown or reddish, while white oak is more yellowish.
Oaks are great for:
- Dining Room Tables
- Dining Chairs
Oak is one of the most popular woods used for furniture and can be very heavy and quite sturdy.
Cherry is a hardwood ranging from reddish brown to blonde. It is rich in color when polished and looks best when darkened with age. It tends to be more expensive, so it is normally used only as a veneer. A solid piece of cherry furniture would be very expensive.
Walnut is a wonderful wood, especially for decorative furniture, since it’s perfect for carving. It looks best when it’s clear coated or oiled to bring out the rich chocolate brown or yellow tone. It tends to be on the expensive side of the spectrum.
Walnut is very good for the following furniture:
- Dining room tables
Walnut is a luxurious, rich wood and adds class to a home.
Ash is a gorgeous hardwood but is in danger of extinction. It’s very strong but also very bendy so it’s easy to work with. Ranging in color from creamy white to dark brown, it’s most often used in veneers or tables.
There’s so much great furniture out there and you can have your choice of great materials in your home. For our money, we would choose metal furniture if our decor allowed it, because it is cheaper than quality wood furniture and will last an incredibly long time. However, to bring warmth into a home, there’s nothing like a good piece of wood furniture that you can pass down through the generations. Whatever you do, choose quality.