Patio Furniture Buying Guide
Bring Comfort and Function to Your Outdoor Spaces
When the weather gets warm and the days grow longer, our decks, porches, and patios naturally beckon to us. When stylishly and comfortably appointed, your outdoor areas add to your home's living space and set the stage for relaxation and fun in the fresh air and sunshine. Similar to buying indoor furniture, choosing the right outdoor furniture involves taking into consideration such factors as functionality, comfort, materials, size, cost, and design. Before you purchase your next set of patio furniture, here's some tips to help you select the right furniture for your space and needs.
Measure your outdoor living space
When choosing outdoor furniture, you need to take into account the shape and size of your space. A larger area will let you choose furniture with bigger proportions, place more pieces within the space, give you more variation in furniture arrangement, or even allow you to set up separate zones for conversation and dining. If your deck or patio is small, a more compact set of outdoor bar furniture, a bistro set, or patio chairs and side tables with a smaller profile will fit better than a full-size outdoor dining table with room for eight or more. Also, consider how traffic will flow through your space. You want to arrange the furniture to optimize functionality while leaving room for people to move about the space easily and comfortably.
Determine its purpose and function
How will you primarily use your outdoor space? If you like to sit and talk with friends, a conversation or chat set with chairs, sofas, ottomans, and patio coffee tables will let you relax and chitchat in comfort. If you plan to enjoy plenty of backyard BBQs and grilling outdoors, your patio furniture should include a dining set for eating alfresco. Is sipping a cup of tea or coffee in the morning or enjoying some quiet time after work on your patio or deck your favorite activity? A simple bench, a small bistro table with a couple of chairs, or some comfy lounge chairs and an accent table will probably work well for you.
Plan your patio furniture budget
Your budget will ultimately determine what type and how much furniture you can buy. Patio furniture is an investment, so you want to buy the best quality you can afford, so it will last for many years of use and enjoyment. Cheap products won't hold up to hard use or harsh weather conditions. Splurge on the items you will use the most and to save money, you can purchase the pieces you will use the most first and add other pieces as you can afford to buy them. You can also shop in early spring or late summer when there are more sales and discounted prices. You can select less pricey materials that are still durable such as aluminum, heavy-duty resins, or less expensive woods.
Consider how the climate will affect your furniture
Since it is exposed to the weather, your patio furniture needs to withstand the conditions it will commonly experience in the region you live. Take into account what your weather is like throughout the year to help you weigh the pros and cons of different construction materials.
Is your climate hot and dry? Do you get intense midday sun that beats down? Excess heat and sun can make some wood furniture crack and warp and cause paint to fade and peel. It can also cause some synthetic materials to degrade over time. Does your location get frequent rain or wet, humid conditions? Moisture can promote rot and mildew. Do strong winds commonly blow through your yard? Heavy wind gusts can send furniture made of lightweight materials flying across your patio. Do you live on the coast? Salty air will quickly corrode wrought iron and other metals. Think about what conditions your furniture will have to endure and how it will look in five, ten, or twenty years down the road before you buy.
Choose the type of material and construction
When choosing the type of material your furniture is made from, you need to consider not only your outdoor climate, but the conditions of the space where you will place your furniture. This will help you choose materials and accessories that are a good match for the environment in which you will use the furniture.
Is your deck or patio exposed to the elements or is it covered overhead, protecting it from excessive sun and rain? (If you need shade, you can add a gazebo or pergola to provide overhead coverage or a patio or market umbrella to shade smaller areas.) Will your furniture rest on grass, cement, wood, pavers, or a tiled floor? You don't want to put wood or iron on the grass where it can come in contact with moisture in the ground.
Most patio furniture is made of wood such as teak, acacia, or mango; wicker; metal such as wrought iron, aluminum, or steel; or plastic such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), PVC, resin, polypropylene.
- Wood: teak and eucalyptus are rot and insect-resistant but costly. Other woods are durable but can get damaged from excessive sun or rain.
- Metal: iron or steel is strong and won't blow away in the wind, but can rust and require paint touch-ups.
- Wicker: is suitable for indoor/outdoor use in sunrooms, on porches, or patios. It works best with cushions.
- Plastic: lightweight, affordable, and durable, plastic materials require less maintenance but are not as strong as iron or steel. Engineered lumber made from recycled HDPE from suppliers like Polywood, DuroGreen, and Hanover look like wood, are durable, and sustainable.
Make your patio furniture cozy and comfortable
You'll want to use your patio furniture to sit and relax, so it makes sense that you want it to be comfortable and cozy. If the furniture doesn't already come with cushions, you can buy them separately to suit the size and colors to match your décor. Be sure to choose fabrics that are weatherproof and stain-resistant such as Sunbrella to help keep your seat and back cushions from fading and inhibit mildew growth. Add some accent pillows to provide extra comfort and style and some throw blankets to ward off chills on cooler days. An all-weather outdoor rug will help define separate seating areas, give the space color and texture, and feel comfortable on bare feet.
Style your outdoor space with accessories
Once you have your furniture, you can accessorize your outdoor space much like you would your home's interior. Round out your décor and create the ultimate outdoor living space with accent pieces such as outdoor table lamps and lighting, fire pits, patio heaters, lanterns, planters, and tabletop accessories. Outdoor TVs that have been specially weatherized let you enjoy your favorite Netflix shows or games without having to go inside. Move movie night outdoors and enjoy your backyard well into the evening.
Protect your investment
Although outdoor patio furniture is made to withstand whatever Mother Nature can throw at it, you still should protect it from weather extremes to ensure it looks and functions its best for years to come. Ideally, you can store it in a garage, basement, or shed during winter months when it won't be in use. If this is not an option, you can buy weather-resistant covers that are fitted to the pieces you have. These removable patio furniture covers will help protect it from exposure to snow, ice, and water. Most are machine washable too, so they're easy to clean at the end of the season. Outdoor storage boxes are also an option for storing furniture cushions to protect them from rain when not in use.