Choose Materials to Meet Site Needs
When selecting furnishings for a park or other site, it's important to find the best options that will accommodate the most typical uses of your site, from picnics and playtime to just sitting and watching the view. You should pick quality furnishings that are inviting and comfortable for users. A big part of the selection process is determining the best materials to meet your site needs.
Q: What should we know about the various materials available for site furnishings?
A: Furnishings are available in a wide variety of materials, including various metals, concrete, wood and recycled plastic. The best choice for your site will depend on your needs.
Metal furnishings are most often made from aluminum or steel, both of which are popular choices. Be sure to look at the gauge of the metal used; the lower the gauge number, the thicker the material. Aluminum furnishings are affordable, durable, naturally corrosion-resistant and light enough to be moved about easily.
Steel is a sturdy, durable material, but is susceptible to oxidation. The corrosion is abated with variety of coatings also referred to as finishes. The two most popular finishes are galvanized and thermoplastic. Galvanizing is a process of electrostatically applying zinc. The results vary from almost chrome shiny to a muted gray. Over time both will exhibit a look that is termed spangled. Typically with thermoplastic finishes the steel is pre-galvanized, a thinner coating of electrostatically applied zinc than what would be termed a galvanized finishing, prior to a thermoplastic application meaning heat applied plastic-the most popular are powder-coating and polyethylene. These finishes are available in a vast array of color options.
Concrete is versatile and durable, and its sheer weight makes it an excellent choice when theft or vandalism is a concern. Textured or smooth finish options are available, and custom looks can be achieved with special finishes, such as a polished terrazzo finish. For a greener choice, concrete table tops and seats can be found in a polished terrazzo containing 100 percent recycled ground glass aggregate, available in a variety of vibrant colors.
Combined with metal or concrete foundations, wooden furnishings are among the most popular in parks, providing a beautiful and classic feel that can be easily customized. Different wood species and stains are available, and they can be sealed to keep them looking new, or allowed to weather over time. Pine is the most affordable, but requires annual maintenance. Cedar, on the other hand, will weather more slowly and hold its structural integrity, turning to a silvery gray as it ages.
Recycled plastic furnishings are also a fantastic choice, durable, sustainable and maintenance-free, constructed with a minimum of 96 percent post-consumer/industrial materials such as milk jugs, pop bottles and plastic bags. Recycled plastic is graffiti resistant, won't crack, fade, rot or splinter, and is an eco-friendly solution for indoor or outdoor amenities.
Q: What else should we know?
A: Your site and needs are unique, and you should talk with your manufacturer before making a decision, taking into account your ability to handle routine maintenance, as well as the prevailing climate in your area.
If your furnishings will be exposed to the weather all year, be sure to choose materials that can take it. Concrete and metal with a thermoplastic coating can stand up to most any weather. If you're looking at wood or non-coated metal, consider options that can be easily removed and stored for the winter.
Don't forget about the importance of regular maintenance. If you don't have the time or budget for regular repainting of wooden picnic tables and benches, look for hard-wearing materials like recycled plastic or coated steel.
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