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Regular Care Can Extend Life of Outdoor Furniture

March 29, 1997|From Associated Press

"The moment of truth usually comes around Memorial Day," says Kevin Halpin. It can be even earlier in Southern California. "People get out the patio furniture and barbecue grill just before their first party of the season, and they don't like what they see."

If the furniture still has an aura of newness, cleaning usually brings it around, says Halpin, vice president of Fortunoff's, a retail chain in suburban New York and New Jersey that has hefty sales in lawn and patio pieces.

Halpin says if you follow a regular maintenance plan, your outdoor furniture can look good for 10 years or more. The plan includes preseason cleaning and protective coating, occasional care--mainly wiping off spots--during the summer and a post-season cleaning before storing.

But if the furniture is beyond maintenance or the homeowner's expertise, professional refinishing can often restore it to a good-as-new appearance.

One process useful for wrought-iron and aluminum furniture involves sandblasting and recoating the framework. The baked-on powder-coat color process is similar to that used for new metal outdoor furniture. The companies that refinish also replace straps, slings and cushions.

"Professional refinishing is fairly costly, so it makes sense only if you have top-quality furniture," says Tom Martinez, co-owner of Long Island Outdoor Furniture Co. in Bohemia, N.Y. "You might save 50% to 70% compared to buying new top-line name brands and about 35% for mid-line brands."

Besides restoring top-of-the-line pieces, Martinez says, the process is useful when you've added pieces to the furniture you already have and you want them to match.

There's hope for even the most unsightly wrought-iron furniture. Patti's Portico in Greenwich, Conn., is one place that restores battered old pieces to newness.

Patti DeFelice, a co-owner, says business is booming because the graceful old furniture, particularly dining sets, has become valuable. Outdoor dining pieces from the 1950s are even being restored for use indoors, she says.

DeFelice says almost every kind of damage can be repaired, up to and including extensive rust and broken parts.

Recently, the company repaired a 50-year-old table that was not only a rust bucket but had also been bent when hit by a car. The workshop heated the metal and reshaped it, cut the legs to improve the dining height, spot-welded to repair the lacy pattern, sandblasted, primed and painted the table white. Finally, new rubber protectors were put on each of the legs to keep the table from scratching a floor or patio.

"The labor was $450," DeFelice says. "A new table of this quality and design might have cost as much as $2,000."

Sentiment also played a role. "This table had been in her family," she says. "Furniture like this is passed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter."

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