Benches material

Hi, I have a micromapping question about benches. When I come across the SCEE “What’s this bench made of?” quest I don’t know what to answer. We agree that this is a material=wood bench: example (with cat)

But what about benches like this: example? Should it be mapped as material=wood or material=metal;wood? (I took a look with Overpass and most benches of this kind are mapped as material=wood atm).

Then I looked at the amenity=bench wiki, and I read:

  • material=* – What is the bench (seating) made from? e.g. wood, steel, stone.
  • surface=* – The surface of the seating if different from material=*

But I don’t really understand it (maybe because of my poor english). It says that surface=* is to be used when the “seating” is different from material=*, but material=* is also to be used for the “seating”, so what’s the difference?

There’s one example with material=concrete+surface=wood, it seems that material=* is to be used for the “base/frame” of the bench and surface=* for the “seating”. But this other example, is just mapped as material=wood, shouldn’t it be surface=wood+material=metal using the same logic?


@ivanbranco, For the benches you mentioned, I think the tags would be:

These benches are similar to the second example provided on In the fifth example, both material and surface tags are used.

In the case of benches, I think it’s the seating that matters, unless all the other stuff outweighs it materially.

When does stool stop being stool? When does it have three legs left, two legs, one leg? When does a bench stop being a bench? In the fifth example, it remains one even without the wooden surface. In the second, it will cease to exist without it :wink:


With this tagging the fact that part of the bench is made of metal gets lost tho (that’s why I tagged the topic as micromapping).

In any case I think the wiki should be re-wrote to be more clear, if the consensus it that surface+material is to be used only if “other stuff outweighs” the seating material. Personally I would prefere a schema that includes both frame+seating materials, so material=metal;wood or surface+material.

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When thinking of it I add direction=n in degrees to give 3D renderers a fighting chance of having the backrest face the right side and not the wall it’s against… nanomapping.

As for material, I choose what is being sat on. Often the seat is wood, backrest at same time too and the frame is metal.


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@ivanbranco, I don’t know, maybe the wiki page could be improved, but it seemed pretty clear to me how material is defined there. You talk about the material of a bench in terms of its seat.

material -- What is the bench (seating) made from?

And all of the examples provided confirm this. Example 5 is a bit more complicated, but again, a bench in example 5 without a wooden top is still a bench you can sit on.

From a usage point of view, it’s the seat that’s important, maybe the armrests as well. From a technical point of view, it is certainly important what material is used overall, not just for the seat.

I agree with you, it’s an interesting question.


I fully agree with @elkmap, the description in the wiki is quite clear imho. “material” refers to the seating/backrest. Only in the very special case of a bench made of a certain material (like a concrete block) having an additional top layer for more comfort (wood or plastic) the “surface” tag is meant. Such a bench could still be used for seating without the top layer of wood or plastic so it makes sense to add a separate tag for the surface (top layer).

If you want to micromap benches by distinguishing the material used for the frame and the seat and probably also the backrest additional tags would be required, like “material:frame” and “material:seat” and “material:backrest” (I remember having seen a bench with concrete frame and wooden seat where the wooden backrest was rotten and replaced by plastic planks). I dunno if such detailed tagging makes sense but it would represent what is present on the ground.

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Just had a look at TI, & we have:
48 window:frame:material
20 building:frame:material
3 climbingframe:material &
1 frame:material

So bench:frame:material would seem to be a perfectly reasonable addition?

I’ll add it into the bench wiki, if there are no objections?


I always use material for the frame and surface for the seating. The current tags suffice.

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So you would tag this, as surface=wood+material=metal?


Yes, indeed. Most benches I tag like this:


Sometimes I also add the direction if it is odd.

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This makes sense imho. I think that having both surface=* and bench:frame:material=* would just add more confusion.

I don’t think so. The wiki sample given for the use of surface=* is very clear and self-explanatory. Also the wiki description for material=* being used for the seating/backrest cannot be misunderstood. Using “material” for the frame and “surface” for the seating as practised by @goedegazelle does not correspondent to the wiki.

If micromapping of benches by distinguishing between frame and seating is wanted a proper tagging should be established instead of misusing the existing tags imho. The proposal of @Fizzie41 sounds good to me. Probably some other wiki experts could comment …


The current wiki text is inconsistent. According to the text, material can both refer to the surface and to the frame. And by the way, I reacted to a proposal to change the wiki.

It assumes that benches have frames. Some benches are nothing more than a log with the seating space carved out. Others are one solid piece of concrete with or without a backrest.

And by the way, I reacted to a proposal to change the wiki.

I don’t understand this sentence, can you explain what this means?

It was part of my reaction to the assertion that my example does not correspond to the wiki. That is of course true but that is also true for the new proposal. That’s why I connected the two.

To my understanding it is quite clear that “material”

What is the bench (seating) made from?

refers to the seating, notwithstanding if the bench has a frame or not.

That’s true and in such cases there is no need to care about tagging of the frame material - which is just an option, not a “must”.

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Sorry, but if you are referring to my comment

then please note that I said “add” not “change”, which would give people the option of including the material that a bench frame is made of.

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That doesn’t make a difference to what I wrote. Whatever.

Benches: material (the body of the bench) which is seat and backrest with 1.2 million uses so far and 24K of them having been tagged with material=*. Changing the meaning of what material is understood to be is not a great idea IMO. If one insists on having the make of the legs/frame recorded to which the seat and backrest are fixed call it benchframe or benchsupport, unmistakable. Yesterday saw a double sided bench in stone or polished concrete, with legs of same, which reminded me of the Chieti city park having a dozen, one piece. Needs some pondering how to tag that. :sunglasses:


Agreed. There is some 2k uses of support:material=* if someone feels that collecting that information is a good use of their time (which I personally don’t, but hey, whatever makes people happy).