Plastic chairs are a popular furniture choice for homes and businesses due to their durability, affordability, and variety of styles.
With different types of plastic materials used to make chairs, it’s important to understand the key differences when deciding which type best suits your needs.
Thermoplastics are plastics that become soft and pliable when heated, allowing them to be molded into different shapes. Once cooled, the plastic hardens and retains its new form. This process can be repeated multiple times without degrading the plastic’s chemical properties. Here are some of the most common thermoplastics used for plastic chairs:
Made from a type of thermoplastic polymer, polypropylene (PP) is one of the most widely used plastics for chairs. Polypropylene has the following notable properties:
- Lightweight – Polypropylene chairs are lightweight, making them easy to move and stack for storage.
- Weather resistant – PP stands up well to rain, moisture, and UV rays without degrading. It won’t easily crack, fade, or warp.
- Chemical resistant – Polypropylene chairs can be cleaned with harsh chemicals without damage. Acids and alkalis won’t harm the material.
- UV resistant – Constant sun exposure won’t cause polypropylene chairs to become brittle and degrade like other plastics.
- Durable – With its high resistance to weathering, chemicals, and UV light, polypropylene furniture enjoys a long lifespan.
- Eco-friendly – Polypropylene is recyclable. Some PP chairs contain recycled plastic content.
With its winning combination of durability, longevity, and sustainability, it’s easy to see why polypropylene reigns supreme as the plastic of choice for outdoor chairs.
Key Takeaway: Polypropylene chairs are lightweight, durable, and resistant to weather, chemicals, and UV rays. They are one of the most popular plastic chair materials.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a popular thermoplastic used to produce weather-resistant plastic patio chairs, stools, and tables. Key traits of PVC include:
- Affordable – PVC plastic is inexpensive compared to other chair materials. This makes PVC furniture very budget-friendly.
- Durable – PVC holds up well when exposed to weather. It resists cracking and fading better than other plastics.
- Low maintenance – Little upkeep is needed for PVC chairs. Simply wipe clean with soap and water.
- Versatile – PVC can be made rigid or flexible, allowing it to be shaped into diverse chair designs.
With the right additives, PVC can also gain UV and chemical resistance. With its durability, low cost, and minimal upkeep, PVC works excellently for casual outdoor furniture.
Acrylic chairs have a transparent glass-like appearance. Major features of this thermoplastic include:
- Aesthetic appeal – The transparent look of acrylic chairs adds a contemporary style.
- UV resistance – Acrylic holds up well to sun exposure without yellowing or becoming brittle.
- Easy to clean – Made from non-porous plastic, acrylic chairs are easy to wipe down.
- Prone to scratches – Acrylic scratches more easily than other plastics, impacting its appearance over time.
With proper care, acrylic chairs maintain their like-new look for years. Their eye-catching transparent style works well for modern indoor spaces.
Nylon chairs contain a thermoplastic noted for:
- Flexibility – Nylon is extremely pliable, allowing it to be molded into diverse chair shapes.
- Resilient – Nylon bounces back readily from bending and flexing. This durability prevents breakage.
- Weather resistant – Nylon stands up well to sun, rain, and moisture. Outdoor nylon chairs maintain their integrity.
- Comfort – The flexible structure of nylon chairs provides comfort during prolonged sitting.
From butterfly chairs to iconic modern designs, nylon’s flexibility enables the creation of unique chairs not possible with more rigid plastics.
Thermoset Plastic Chairs
Unlike thermoplastics, thermoset plastics can only be heated and formed once. After they are set into shape, they cannot be reheated and reformed. Common thermoset chair materials include:
Melamine is a thermoset noted for:
- Durability – Once set, melamine maintains its shape without warping in heat.
- Resists scratches – Melamine has a smooth surface that resists scuffs and abrasions.
- Easy to clean – Due to its non-porous surface, melamine wipes clean easily.
- Prone to chipping – Melamine corners and edges chip easily if subjected to blunt force.
With its scratch-resistant surface, melamine works well for chair seats and backs in high-traffic settings. However, melamine requires more careful handling than thermoplastics.
Epoxy Resin Chairs
Epoxy resin is used to coat plastic chairs, providing:
- Protective coating – The epoxy layer shields the underlying plastic from sun damage.
- Resistance to wear – Epoxy creates an impervious surface that won’t scratch or scuff easily.
- Enhanced appearance – Epoxy resins come in various colors and finishes to improve chair aesthetics.
Without an epoxy shield, plastic chairs degrade more rapidly when exposed to sun and abrasions. The epoxy coating extends the life of plastic patio chairs.
Bakelite, an early plastic material, creates very durable chairs:
- Strong – Bakelite forms a sturdy chair frame that resists breakage.
- Heat resistant – Bakelite withstands heat better than many other plastics.
- Electrically non-conductive – Bakelite won’t conduct electricity, preventing shocks.
- Not eco-friendly – Bakelite contains phenol formaldehyde, raising health concerns. It’s also not recyclable.
While very durable, bakelite chairs raise environmental and safety concerns compared to more modern plastics. It’s best avoided when other options exist.
How to Choose the Best Plastic Chair Material
With an understanding of the different plastic types available, here are key factors to consider when selecting chairs:
- Usage – Will the chairs be used outdoors or indoors? Outdoors calls for weather-resistant plastics like polypropylene. Indoors opens up more options.
- Durability needs – Do you need maximum durability for constant daily use? Lean towards most rugged plastics like polypropylene.
- Appearance – If aesthetics are important, choose plastics that offer color, texture, and transparent options like acrylic or nylon.
- Comfort – For padding-free chairs used for extended sitting, flexible plastics like nylon provide more comfort.
- Eco-friendliness – To reduce environmental impact, pick recycled or recyclable plastic chairs like polypropylene.
- Price – Less expensive plastics like PVC work fine for casual use. For heavy duty use, pay more for ultra-durable types.
By balancing these factors against your needs, you can zero in on the ideal plastic chair material for your application.
Pros and Cons of Common Plastic Chair Materials
|Polypropylene||Lightweight, weather resistant, durable||Can show scratches|
|PVC||Affordable, low maintenance||Not as durable for heavy use|
|Acrylic||Visually appealing, UV resistant||Scratches easily, prone to cracking|
|Nylon||Flexible, comfortable, durable||Relatively expensive|
|Melamine||Scratch resistant, easy to clean||Can chip easily, prone to stains|
|Epoxy Resin||Protective coating, enhances appearance||Adds expense to chair production|
|Bakelite||Very durable, heat resistant||Not eco-friendly or recyclable|
What is the most durable plastic for chairs?
Polypropylene is widely regarded as the most durable plastic for chairs. It withstands constant outdoor use, harsh weather, and UV rays while retaining its appearance and structural integrity for decades.
Are plastic chairs bad for the environment?
Not all plastic chairs have the same eco-friendliness. Chairs made from plastics like polypropylene and PVC use recyclable materials and help keep waste out of landfills. Other plastics like bakelite are not recyclable and more harmful to produce.
Can plastic chairs be used outdoors?
Yes, plastic chairs made from weather-resistant thermoplastics like polypropylene and PVC stand up well to outdoor elements. Their durability and longevity make them ideal for patios and outdoor events.
Do plastic chairs break easily?
It depends on the plastic. Durable plastics like polypropylene are impact-resistant and won’t break easily with normal use. More rigid plastics like acrylic can crack if subjected to blunt force. Cheaper plastics may be more prone to breakage.
How long do plastic chairs last?
With proper care and maintenance, polypropylene and other durable plastic chairs typically last 5-10 years outdoors, or decades with indoor use only. Cheaper PVC chairs average 2-5 years. The lifespan varies based on chair quality and conditions.
By understanding the properties of different plastic chair materials, you can make an informed decision to find the right match for your needs and environment.
This ensures years of enjoyment with a sturdy, stylish, and comfortable plastic chair selection.