If you're shopping for new garden furniture, it’s more than likely you’ll have considered buying rattan furniture - however did you know that if you’re in the UK you're probably not looking at genuine rattan products? Thankfully, there's a good reason why.

When you invest in new garden furniture, you want it to last. This means genuine rattan probably isn’t a good investment. However before you make any decisions, let’s weigh up the pros and cons of natural and synthetic garden furniture.

What is Real Rattan?

Rattan is the name given to a type of vine that grows in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. It is one of the strongest woods around and has been a staple of garden furniture for many years now. This is because of its strength, flexibility and abundance.

Real rattan is the actual wood and material from a genuine rattan vine. However, it's rare to come across real rattan here in the UK (at least for outdoor furniture), because of its properties in inclement weather.

What is Synthetic Rattan Made From?

Synthetic rattan aims to improve on where real rattan falls short. By using materials like PVC, PU and PE, manufacturers can produce a highly-durable product that both looks and feels like the real thing.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and you can see it in a number of products and applications from doors and windows to car parts and blood bags. PU is polyurethane and is known as an imitation leather. PE is polyethylene and is the highest value material used in synthetic rattan furniture.

PE is also the hardest-wearing material used in synthetic rattan. It offers protection from UV rays so its colour doesn't fade easily, and it can withstand the UK weather better than its counterparts.

Can You Leave Rattan Furniture Out All Year?

Rattan furniture is not to be left out all year round, especially real rattan.

Real rattan will rot in damp conditions, so if you leave it in the rain, it will quickly start to deteriorate.

Our advice is to ensure you keep on top of protecting your rattan furniture outside.  If it's real rattan, then you should definitely bring it inside during autumn and winter. Even in the summer it should be kept sheltered or covered when not in use.

Does Rattan Furniture Fade?

Rattan furniture can fade, but that normally depends on the quality of the furniture you have bought. An expensive synthetic rattan furniture will eventually fade in the sun but will last much, much longer than a cheap set.

This is because cheap products are normally only surface-dyed whereas good quality furniture will have the dye immersed into the entire strand of the weave.

Real rattan furniture will not fade from the sun, but it will fade and rot in damp conditions.

Can Synthetic Rattan Furniture Be Left Out All Year Round?

Synthetic rattan furniture shouldn’t really be left out all year round. While it will hold up in inclement weather and last much, much longer than real rattan if you were to leave it out, it is still liable to damage if left in the rain for extended periods.

That said, as long as you cover it or keep it under some kind of shelter when it’s not being used, you should be okay to leave it outside all year.

Synthetic vs Real Rattan: Price

When it comes to our rattan garden furniture range, there’s one question that we field a lot: is real rattan expensive?

When it comes to the price of real rattan garden furniture, it generally is a fair bit more expensive than synthetic rattan. First of all, each piece is intricately made using quite an arduous process, and the raw materials themselves don’t come cheap.

However, as said, it’s rare that you’ll find major retailers selling real rattan furniture here in the UK; it’s also rare that you'll see people buy it. Thanks to the unpredictability of British summers, a synthetic rattan furniture set is a smarter option (unless you're buying for the indoors - genuine rattan is often used in conservatory furniture).

As for the price of synthetic rattan garden furniture, these tend to be designed to be modular, so prices vary massively. A good value synthetic rattan furniture set will probably cost in the region of £600 to £700. At the top end of the market synthetic rattan sets can go for over £2,500 quite easily.

Natural vs Synthetic Rattan: The Verdict

So, what’s better: real or synthetic rattan furniture? Unfortunately, it is not one or the other. The answer depends on how you plan to use it. Having said that, synthetic furniture will withstand and fare much better in British weather conditions than real rattan, and it will generally cost you less.

When it comes to rattan, most homeowners in the UK tend to choose synthetic rattan for the garden. Real rattan is a good option for a conservatory as rain isn’t a concern, and the material is resistant to fading from the sun.

For fantastic garden furniture sets, chairs, covers and more, head to the garden section of our website or visit us at our Grantham garden centre.