Street furniture presents unique challenges for facilities managers or town councils. Because it is used by a larger number of people and this usage is unregulated, there's a greater risk for deterioration and hence the need for more careful selection and maintenance protocols. This would ensure that you reap maximum usage before replacement is unavoidable. Here is how to select and maintain your street furniture.
1. Selection – Material, quality and design
Just like other furniture, the choice of material largely determines the lifespan of street furniture. However, material choice is more critical for the latter since they are permanent fixtures that will be exposed to the elements and harsh usage conditions over time. You can choose between wood, aluminium and iron which are common choices for street furniture. Special considerations will depend on the actual material, e.g., rust protection for iron, protection from rotting, splitting, weathering and warping for wood, etc. However, the following are some general guidelines that can be applied across the board:
- Ensure the weight of material is substantial; lighter-weight materials are almost always lesser quality.
- If textured, touch to ensure textures are even and rich. Paintwork should be uniform. Powder coating is better for metallic pieces; it offers corrosion protection and lasts longer than simple paintjobs
- Solid construction - welds in metallic pieces and joints in wooden pieces should be firm and smooth yet inconspicuous.
- Design should be done excellently – expect to pay top dollar for good design
- Weather resistant wood should be selected for street furniture e.g. teak and cedar – these are also quite expensive
As stated, street furniture is often permanently installed and hence should have some form of weather protection to prevent sun and precipitation damage. Strong construction reduces chances of damage by vandalism. However, the best way to ensure long life is by proactive care as follows:
- Furniture should be cleaned regularly to avoid permanent buildup of dirt. Dirt buildup can in turn encourage growth of mildew, which may penetrate the protective layers to damage the material below. Use mild detergents, water and a soft cloth – with regular cleaning you won't need anything more abrasive anyway
- Painted or powder-coated furniture should be waxed periodically not only for protection, but also to keep the furniture looking good. Look for non-abrasive waxes according to the material of the furniture. You can check the manufacturer's product recommendations to avoid voiding your warranty by using the wrong products.
- Treat wooden furniture with preservative products and repaint/stain every year to keep the furniture looking good – there's nothing as unsightly as chipping paint on your benches. You can enlist local businesses as sponsors – they can maintain the furniture in return for publishing their advertisements thereon. You can also apply clear varnish on teak/cedar and other rot-resistant woods to preserve their colour. Be sure to use the right oil/varnish.
For more information on street furniture, talk to a professional.