Determining the best type of fastener to use for outdoor furniture construction

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If you want to learn more about selecting hardware for your next outdoor furniture project, read this article. In particular, I’ll tell you what type of hardware will perform best, why the type of metal used for fasteners and the finish used are important considerations, and how to properly protect or limit your furniture’s exposure to wet and winter conditions. can increase lifespan. After you have completed this article, you will understand that the best choice of hardware for your outdoor furniture project will depend on the furniture style, the material used for its construction, the selected location for the furniture, and the budget.

By choosing the right hardware for your furniture, you can ensure a long life and improve the overall appearance of your furniture. Part of the problem is knowing what hardware to select when there are so many options available at the hardware store. The quintessential Lowes or Home Depot has a huge selection of stainless steel, hot dip galvanized, bright galvanized, plain steel, coated steel and brass bolts, nuts, washers and screws. Each type of fastener is suitable for certain applications, but not all are ideal for outdoor furniture applications.

In fact, choosing the wrong fasteners can significantly shorten the life of your furniture, contribute to rotting of wood furniture, cause unsightly stains, and even make your furniture unsafe to use.

One thing to note in advance is: never use unprotected steel fasteners for outdoor furniture. They will rust very quickly and the steel will react with the tannic acid in the wood, creating streaks and spots. The tannic acid actually accelerates the corrosion of the fasteners. Have you ever seen a wooden fence with black stripes running along the planks of the nails? This fence was installed with the wrong type of fasteners. The same will happen to your furniture. Worse, if the fasteners rust, they will speed up the decay process of the wood around the rusted fasteners, ruining your furniture and potentially making it unsafe to use.

Galvanized

Screws and bolts treated by hot-dip galvanizing are specially designed for outdoor use. Galvanized galvanized or clear galvanized fasteners will eventually not hold up as well as the hot dip galvanized hardware. Zinc is used as a coating in both methods and acts as a barrier against the elements and the tannic acids in the wood.

However, I strongly recommend using only screws or bolts when constructing outdoor furniture. The galvanized finish of nails, whether galvanized or hot dipped, can be easily damaged during driving, exposing the nail head to the elements and causing them to rust quickly.

Sufficient caution must be exercised when installing galvanized screws. Drill pilot holes in hardwood, making sure to use a bit that is not worn out and prone to misfire in the screw head. For whatever reason, the galvanized screws don’t seem to be hardened as well as other steel fasteners and are more likely to break off or pull the heads out during installation. Due to the required surcharge for the hot dipped coating, galvanized bolts do not have such a tight tolerance on the threads and are more likely to strip if overtightened.

Hot dip galvanized fasteners are a great choice for many outdoor furniture applications, including Adirondack chairs, but are not the best choice for use in wood, such as teak.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is the best choice for use in wood with a higher tannic acid content, such as teak. Stainless steel is an alloy or mixture of steel, nickel and chromium. The ratio of the other metals to the steel determines the weather and corrosion resistance of stainless steel. Because the steel is mixed with other softer metals, the stainless steel is not as strong, so pre-drilling screw holes is highly recommended in all applications, and essential in hardwoods such as teak and mahogany. The added corrosion resistance far outweighs any shortcomings of the metal, especially in outdoor furniture applications.

While stainless steel fasteners are the most rust resistant, they are also the most expensive of the options we discuss. However, using stainless steel fasteners will add years of life to your furniture. In that respect, it is an investment that will pay for itself for years to come.

Brass

I’ve seen brass used in some commercially produced outdoor furniture, but don’t recommend it. While brass does not form red rust and is well suited to many wet applications such as toilets and sinks, it does tarnish and corrode. It is also very sensitive to the tannic acids in wood, which makes it more likely to succumb. Brass screws in particular are not strong enough for outdoor furniture applications.

Exterior or deck screws

In recent years, a number of manufacturers have launched outdoor fixing products specifically for the construction of terraces. These are usually green, gray, brown or brown. These screws are either ceramic or plastic coated to slow down the metal reaction with the wood acids. The specific coating methods are the property of each manufacturer and can be a combination of galvanized galvanizing and plastic, or baked on ceramic.

I have used these fasteners in furniture applications and they perform well. Unfortunately I have not come across any bolts with this type of finish. The brand of screw I used was Deck Mate and they were available in brown and tan so the color can be chosen to better match the wood used. These screws are ceramic coated and the manufacturer has provided a coated bit for installation, which is designed not to damage the ceramic coating on the screw head. If you choose this type of fastener, compare the cost with stainless steel as the price may vary. If the stainless steel is fairly comparable in cost, this would be the recommended fastener.

Always read the manufacturer’s specifications on the box to ensure the screws are suitable for your application.

Other Considerations

If you are building furniture that will be placed on a covered porch or patio where it will be protected from the elements, the concern will be the interaction between the wood and the fasteners, much more than the weather. Furniture that will be exposed to the elements all year round, such as a garden bench or an Adirondack chair in the corner of your yard, should be constructed with a lot more care and attention to ensure it lasts more than one or two winters.

Additional considerations need to be made beyond just choosing the type of fastener to be used, although this is very important. For example, fasteners should not be placed where water collects and remains on the fasteners for extended periods of time. The screws that attach the chair slats to an Adirondack chair are a good example – these screws are usually countersunk below the surface of the wood. This will allow water to build up in the screw holes, which will shorten the life of all fasteners except stainless steel and increase the exposure of the wood to water, which will increase the rate of decay. In applications where the furniture is exposed to the elements all year round, the screw heads should be screwed in flush with the surface of the surrounding wood.

Furniture construction and design are also important considerations. Are the horizontal surfaces of the furniture constructed in such a way that they can drain rather than collect water? Think of a picnic table with a slatted or plank top. The gaps between the shelves allow water to drain from the top and not accumulate.

Conclusion

Stainless steel is usually the best choice for outdoor furniture applications, although the cost can be prohibitive for some. There are other less expensive mounting options available that will perform acceptably. Never use unprotected steel fasteners for outdoor furniture applications. Know where and how you want to use your furniture and design it for the conditions it will be exposed to.

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