Antique Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture
Over the years, however, the paint can fade, peel and chip; the metal can crack and rust; the vinyl webbing can break or oxidize.
''Sometimes you'll find that dyes from years of suntan oil have permeated the material, '' Ms. Jansen said. Her advice, not surprisingly, is that it pays to restore the pieces rather than replace them.
Which is what Walter Lippman of Do It Now, another Greenwich-based business, has been doing for the last 19 years. The process he uses begins with stripping the entire frame by sandblasting.
''You can't use chemicals to strip the metal because the furniture frame has drain holes and the chemicals will get inside, '' he said. Color is applied using a technique called ''powder coating, '' in which electrically charged paint is applied magnetically and then oven baked.
Aniello Imperati, president of Furniture Restoration Center of White Plains, uses the same process in his business. ''If you replace your metal patio furniture, you're going to end up with inferior quality at a higher cost, '' he said. ''The welding process is not as good, and the materials are not as heavy - and you're limited to the color selection they carry. Whereas, if you redo your furniture, you can choose from hundreds of colors, and you prolong its life for another 20 or 30 years.''
What's more, these restorers say, refinished furniture looks as good as new. ''I can redo a 35-year-old chaise, and nobody could tell the difference between it and a brand-new one, '' Mr. Lippman said.
The restorers also agree that furniture rejuvenation is cost effective. A new metal lawn chair might cost up to ''$350 for a new metal, '' Mr. Imperari, said, adding, ''The more roses and curlicues you have, the more it will cost you.'' Refinishing an equivalent chair would cost between $90 and $135, he said.
Mr. Jansen provided similar estimates. ''We can restore a chair for $150 that you would pay $300 to replace, '' he said. ''A new lounge chair might cost you $700 or $800; we can refinish an old one for $245.''
Do It Now's policy is that the cost of restoration is half the suggested retail price of the item bought new.
Those in the know find used patio furniture at tag sales and consignment shops, then restore it to fit the color scheme of their homes.
''Someone brought in an 80-year-old piece that came out beautifully, '' Ms. Jansen said. ''I've worked on ornate, galvanized, cast-iron benches dating from the 1800's that you just can't find nowadays. And remember those funky metal chairs from the 50's that looked like a giant shell? They don't sell them anymore, but we restore lots of them.''
Mr. Imperati said: ''It's not just age and weathering that bring customers. Some people have moved and want to refinish their patio furniture to match their new decor.''
Once lawn furniture is back to like-new condition, how best to maintain it? ''The less exposure to the elements the better, '' Mr. Imperati said. ''Bring it in during the winter, '' he urged, adding that even a garage is better than the outdoors.
''Remove it from the line of the sprinkler system, '' he said. ''Keep it away from the acid residue from pine needles, and don't let wet leaves sit on it.'' He said it is better to store furniture on a deck than on the grass, and he recommended keeping it covered when not in use -specifically at the shore, where salt air can wreak havoc.
Ms. Jansen suggested that if you must stack furniture, the items should be separated with old sheets or blankets. ''Don't stack to bash, '' she warned.
Durable and Low Maintenance
Most patio furniture restoration is done on metal - aluminum, cast-iron and wrought-iron pieces. Other popular, high-end, outdoor furniture is made from teak and outdoor wicker, neither of which require the same degree of refinishing, says John Francan of the Leisure Living Shop in Mount Kisco.
Teak is durable and low maintenance. ''All you have to do, '' Mr. Francan said, ''is apply teak oil twice a year.''
Teak eventually attains a silver-gray tone, which, he said, many people find acceptable, although the wood can be restored to its natural color through a chemical process that owners can do themselves.