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Wood vs Plastic Adirondack Chairs: Which Material is Best?

What exactly is an adirondack chair? For a quick answer, we can turn to good old Merriam-Webster for a definition:

Adirondack Chair

Noun : a-də-ˈrän-ˌdak-

: a wooden lawn chair with a high slatted back, broad arms, and a seat that is lower in the back than the front

In Merriam-Webster’s definition, we see that most adirondack chairs are recognized as being made of wood. And historically they were. However, today, adirondack usually refers to the style and construction of the chairs more than the materials they were designed from.

In this article, we’ll discuss a brief history of Adirondack chairs, how they’ve evolved, and what materials the best Adirondack chairs are made from.

How much do Wood Adirondack Chairs Cost?  Check out this cool blog article here

Brief History of Adirondack Chairs

The first Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee while vacationing in Westport, New York in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903. The Adirondack Mountains are located in upstate New York stretching about 18,700 miles across the state. Needing outdoor chairs for his summer home, he tested his early efforts on his family first. After arriving at a final design for a "Westport plank chair," he offered it to a carpenter friend in Westport in need of a winter income. Harry Bunnell saw the commercial potential of such an item being offered to Westport's summer residents and–apparently without asking Lee's permission–filed for and received U.S. patent #794,777 in 1905. Bunnell manufactured hemlock plank "Westport chairs" for the next twenty years, painted in green or medium dark brown, and individually signed by him.


A quote from the Bunnell patent stated the credit to the improvement in design of the Adirondack Chair: “To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Harry C. Bunnell, a citizen of the United States, residing at Westport, in the county of Essex and the State of New York, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Chairs… ”


“Nailing boards together on the front lawn, he asked other members of his family to test prototypes and tell him which were the most comfortable. With this research as a guide, he built a chair with a sloping seat and back. Each chair was made from a single pine board and with the wide armrests that became a hallmark of the Adirondack style. His chair was an immediate success with the family,” In the patent, Bunnell credits Lee for the original idea as the two are quoted as being friends.

 

Evolution of Adirondack Chairs

As time went on, designs changed, improved, and also weakened. The original design has been modified throughout the years, changing the feel and comfort of these chairs.


The backs to adirondack chairs originally called for a single, flat piece of wood to support the person sitting in the chair. Improvements in designs have led from four, all the way up to nine, separate pieces of wood to give the the sitter maximum comfort. The reason for this is simply for comfort, allowing more back pieces to the chair to give it a more refined shape fitting more naturally to a person's back.


The same design modifications were done to the seat of adirondack chairs. Just like the back, the seat in the original design was just a flat, single piece of wood. Modifications done to better fit the body’s natural curvature provide a much more comfy seat. Adding individual pieces of wood at different angles and heights allowed a much more comfortable seating position. Leaving gaps between each wood panel also adds additional comfort while making the chair lighter at the same time.


In that same sense of making chairs lighter, an even more extreme modification to the original design is the removal of wood altogether. Plastic adirondack chairs are on the rise but there are many pros and cons when it comes to this product.

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Plastic Adirondack Chairs: Pros and Cons

Starting with the major pro to plastic adirondack chairs: they can be produced and sold for a much lower price. Coming from a single plastic mold, the manual labor hours to produce one is almost nothing. Being just a single piece of thin plastic, these chairs only weigh between 5-10 lbs, making them much easier to move and store.


The fact that they're light weight and plastic, many reviews left on the product aren't good reviews. Saying, that “if buying a plastic adirondack chair, expect to only get a good seat for a summer”.

Usually left outside, these chairs are subject to the elements, and with that comes rain, sun, heat, wind and any other crazy form of weather your geographic location can throw at them. In terms of heat, this is one of the biggest problems when it comes to plastic adirondack chairs.


Sitting out in the sun all day heating up to temperatures that can exceed 120 degrees and then cooling down at night weakens the plastic causing them to become brittle over time, which can result in a snapping of a leg, arm, or back of chair when sitting in one.


This brings up another big con of plastic adirondack chairs: weight limits. Most plastic adirondack chairs on the market have an average weight limit of about 250 lbs, and adding the weathering effect, this can drop them weight limit down to anywhere from 150-200 lbs.


Another element that can cause harm to plastic adirondack chairs is the wind. Weighing in at  roughly 7 lbs, the chairs can be blown around like a feather, causing harm not only to the chairs themselves but other items around them.

 

Wooden Adirondack Chairs: Pros and Cons

In comparison to plastic adirondack chair, wooden chairs equally have their own pros and cons. One of the biggest cons is the price point: selling anywhere from $100-$300, with some chairs, made from more exotic and rare woods, being listed at over $1000. Read more about this subject in an article published last month, How Much Do Wood Adirondack Chairs Cost?: Wood vs Composite (On Amazon).

With this product, you are paying for quality, and unlike plastic adirondack chairs, wooden chairs will last you almost a lifetime if kept properly.

No weather conditions will harm these wooden chairs in comparison to plastic adirondack chairs.Sun will give the chairs a more worn and aged look but for some people that is the look they are going for. As far as wind damaging these chairs, unless you live in tornado alley where you can experience winds reaching up to 100 mph, an above average windy day won't budge a wooden adirondack chair.


As far as similarities between the two products, there are endless color options for both. However, with plastic adirondack chairs being one single piece of plastic, you can’t mix and match colors. The chair will only be one solid color. Where as wooden chairs, individual pieces can be painted, then assembled to create your own unique chair.


Whichever type of adirondack chair you decide to buy, you will be getting a comfy, laid back outdoor chair that has a great look to it. Plastic or wooden, you are paying for the quality, and longevity of the product. Check out Slick Woody's Adirondack Chairs, guaranteed to dazzle!
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Jimmy Dehnke

Jimmy Dehnke

23 Years Old. Graduate from Wittenberg University with a degree in Graphic Design. I work in the Graphic Department here at Slick Woody's Cornhole Company.


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