Buying An Outdoor Water Fountain Or Statue – First Know How Long It’ll Last

Your new resin fountain was exciting and rewarding. It looked beautiful nestled in your garden. As the summer wore on, the color faded. The spring hail chipped it and now it’s peeling. Your delight diminished as the once-cherished resin fountain deteriorates.

Polyresin, also referred to as alabastrite or resin, is a member of the epoxy-plastics family. “Hong Tze” and “Liberty Bronze” are also resin products. Resin products are commonly sold for outdoor use such as water fountains, statues, birdbaths, furniture, and stepping stones.

Some resin products marketed for outdoor lawn and garden use were weather tested by Gardecor®, LLC. They found that the resin products under testing cracked, peeled, and faded within a year. Some resin products even deformed in the hot summer sun! A reliable resin product such as fountains or statues suitable for long-term outdoor use has yet to be found. Resin technology has not advanced to the point of providing a good polyresin product suitable for long-term outdoor use, unless the item is for use on a covered porch.

When seeking an outdoor water fountain, statuary, birdfeeder, or other outdoor item exposed to the elements, it’s wise to know what to expect it to look like in the future. Here are some common materials suitable for long-term outdoor use.

  • The Bronzes, including Brass.
  • Aluminum.
  • Cast Stone Concrete.
  • Fiberglass.
  • Iron: Cast Iron and COR-TEN® Steel.
  • Marble.
  • Lead Metal.

Bronze and Brass can last long enough to hand down through generations as heirloom treasures. Bronze art dated B.C. has been uncovered from underwater archaeological sites. Now that’s a long time!

Left to weather, the bronze family continually develops a stunning aged patina (surface finish). Just look around your local park at the bronze statuaries. Depending on the metal composition, bronze and brass can age to beautiful blues and greens (from the copper and nickel), yellows (iron) and other colors.

Aging doesn’t happen right away, but takes decades. Bronze and brass statues age in the same manner, but not exactly the same. Each piece will have an unique patina. Bronze and brass can have the same overall appearance because copper is the predominant metal in both.

Bronze contains tin whereas brass contains zinc. Other metals are present in small amounts and can contribute to the color. Tin makes bronze harder than brass; however, the homeowner won’t be able to tell the difference. Brass is strong enough for hardware and fittings. Pure bronze can be 3-4 times more expensive than brass. That’s why some outdoor fountains and statues are brass with a bronze patina.

If you want color, look for bronze with a colored patina. Gold foil can give brilliant oranges to the artwork whereas other techniques can impart deep blues, reds and brilliant yellows to your piece.

One more note about casting bronze statues. Look for those manufactured with the lost-wax method. Although more arduous, the lost-wax method produces pieces without seams seen on other methods of casting.

Aluminum. Aluminum being lighter than the bronzes is preferred because transport is cheaper. Exposed to the weather, aluminum doesn’t weather as nicely as either bronze or brass. That’s probably why you don’t see aluminum fountains or statues in parks or in front of corporate buildings. You can maintain your aluminum piece by coating with a clear acrylic floor wax.

Cast stone is popular for outdoor water fountains, statuaries and birdbaths because of it’s strength, bold appearance, and barring a hurricane, it won’t blow over. Classical statues of cast stone are reminiscent of the Grecian ancient times. Some manufacturers have developed colored surface finishes that last.

Cast stone concrete is great in the southern states, however, in the northern states, it’s susceptible to water freezing and thawing in tiny crevices. You might have to dry the fountain bowl and cover it during the freezing months. Statues tend to withstand the winters because they don’t have bowls that hold a large volume of water. Formulated properly, cast stone can withstand more than 10 winters.

Fiberglass is less often used for backyard statues and fountains. Not many consumers are familiar with fiberglass for a decorative statue. Fiberglass won’t crack or break as easily as resin. The surface finish is tricky to apply for long-term use, but some manufacturers have had success with it. Fine detailing is also hard to accomplish with the fiberglass structure. Detailing is usually done with the surface coating. You’ll see enormous fiberglass statues in amusements parks and other places because it’s not only strong, but also lightweight and easy to move without a crane.

Iron and Steel Products. Rust can provide a protective surface to outdoor decor. Iron products should be considered if you want an aged or antiqued outdoor decor. Iron is more brittle than the bronzes and less frequently used for statues and water fountains. Iron and steel can be powder coated to prevent rusting and add long-lasting color.

Marble statues and water fountains are valued for the artistic sculpting and uniqueness each marble piece imparts. Some marble is harder than others. Outdoors, marble tends to age differently than the bronzes. Moss and small plants can make a home on the marble making it a truly living piece of artwork. Depending on the amount of acid rain, the surface texture can change with time. As with concrete, it can crack in the winter’s freeze-thaw. The same care must be taken with marble as with cast stone. Marble should be used indoors to preserve the original finish.

Lead Metal. Many designers and architects prefer wall fountains and decorative plaques because of it’s traditional antique quality. Lead can turn darker as it ages and isn’t prone to weathering like aluminum is. It’s a very soft metal and fountain bowls may need periodic reshaping with careful pounds of a soft mallet. Care must be taken when handling lead products. Maintaining the surface with a clear wax or acrylic coating can help you prevent lead from leaching into the environment.

Whatever you decide, to re-design your outdoors every year with resin or to show off heirloom pieces of artwork, be certain to know the characteristics of the materials used before you buy.

Next time, we’ll discuss what you should know about materials used in outdoor lawn, garden and patio furniture and discuss the difference between authentic wrought iron and ornamental ironwork.