Outdoor & Patio Furniture Buying Guide | Tips & Advice

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Selecting very good quality furniture is important for a couple of reasons.  Not only does provide countless hours of both entertaining and relaxation, but the amount of time it is out in the elements can be taxing.  Therefore, we recommend purchasing high-quality materials for your outdoor furniture.  Low-quality furniture will not hold up well to the elements and will most likely end up costing you more in the long term.

Types of outdoor furniture

Chairs & pillows

Comfort is high on most peoples list when it comes to their chairs.  Different  types include rocking chairs, benches, Adirondack chairs, lounge chairs, porch swings, patio gliders, wrap-around tree benches and many more.  Some come with the option to be adjustable with can be a nice feature.  Colors range widely and outdoor pillows can be added to give the chairs a unique look. Select outdoor furniture cushions that are quick drying and treated for UV, mildew and stain resistance.   One thing to consider is to make sure you buy extra places to sit to be sure you have seating for entertaining guests when the occasion arrives.  If nothing else, it is useful to keep several outdoor folding chairs in storage for times when you need the extra seating.

Dining or patio tables

Outdoor dining tables and picnic tables come in a wide variety of features and options.  Determine the size you need based off of the entertaining you plan on doing.  Often a table that seats at least 6-8 people is a good choice.  It’s a good idea to consider a second table for larger gatherings or to have a food staging area.  One option that can come in handy is a table top that has a hold in the center which allows you to place an umbrella for warm days.

Patio HammockHammocks

Having the option to rest or relax without the expense of an outdoor bed makes hammocks attractive.  Their low maintenance and convenience are major benefits as well.  There are basically two types available.  One involves attaching both ends to a fixed object such as a set of trees.  The other option is to have the hammock positioned between two vertical supports such as a metal frame or a carved wooden base.  Even when it goes unused, a hammock creates a relaxing feeling when it is just drifting in the wind.

Outdoor beds

People who prefer to get some relaxation or a nap outdoors will find great enjoyment out of an outdoor bed.  It is recommended to have the sheets, mattress and pillows only outside on weekends, good-weather days or when entertaining to avoid bugs and mildew or mold.

Rugs

Just like indoors, outdoor rugs can help to soften hard surfaces such as patios or decks and can help tie elements together through color and texture.  Rug materials vary and may need to be hung to avoid mildew issues when wet.  However some are made to drain very well and will not require much maintenance.

Materials to choose from

Wood

Keeping the wood in good condition through staining, painting or sealing is vital to ensuring you get the most out of your wood furniture for years to come.  Out of all the woods, teak is probably one of the most popular among homeowners.  Teak furniture is the most long lasting and also weathers the best.   It resists rot, shrinking, warping, and insect attack. Its surface is smooth and will not splinter.  Like Teak, cedar and redwood are some of the most durable wood materials due to their high oil content which protects them.  Other woods do great as well and can be protected by paints and stains.

Wicker

Natural wicker furniture is best suited out of the weather and is considered a favorite by many people.  Wicker as a category can include materials such as bamboo, cane and rattan.  It can be painted or left to age naturally.  As an weather-proof alternative, consider synthetic or resin wicker furniture if it may get wet.

Metal

Maintaining metal outdoor furniture through sealing and painting is the key to ensuring its longevity. Examples include powder coated aluminum, painted steel, wrought or cast iron.

When choosing furniture or replacing hardware or fasteners, always look for rust and water proof fasteners and finishes, also known as marine grade.

IMG_20160726_140024Plastic

Very lightweight but minimal maintenance is required. When choosing plastic, be sure it is thick enough to tolerate heavy use.  Plastic outdoor furniture can include fiberglass, acrylics, polyvinyl, Lucite among other materials.  Products can also be made from recycled materials or be composed out of composites with other materials. There are many styles and colors available to choose from.

Glass, Marble and Tile

These can often be found in table tops and in other facets of patio furniture and is considered a durable material even in harsh climates.

Fabric

Among many other uses, fabric will be used as cushions, tablecloths and flags.  Color coordination is important an many people find it helpful to utilize colors of the particular season.  For example summer colors may tend to be brighter where as autumn colors tend to be slightly darker hues of the primary colors.  It is best to utilize weather-resistant fabrics that offer UV-protection as well as mildew and stain resistance if they will be in the elements from time to time or regularly.  Reserve more delicate fabrics for a more enclosed area like a screened porch or a sunroom.

Maintenance

While many types are designed to withstand the elements, we strongly recommend covering many types of outdoor furniture during very inclement weather or bringing them under cover.  Also, bringing cushions in during those times to prevent damage from the rain where mildew can become a problem.  Having a nearby storage area that is waterproof can be very handy.  Also be aware that if fabric or other materials come into contact with the sun regularly, fading may become an issue if they are not treated properly.

For furniture that requires it, keeping it clean, sealed or painted can extend the life by quite a lot. This includes cleaning wood furniture with trisodium phosphate (TSP) at least once a year.  Cedar and teak can weather naturally but other woods need a fresh coat of stain, varnish or paint when fading or other signs of wear begin to occur.  Metal furniture can be washed with mild soap and warm water.  Applying paste wax can help to prevent corrosion. Plastic and resin furniture needs to be rinsed periodically as well to avoid mold and mildew accumulation. Fabric cushions can be machine-washed but hung dry.  Secure them on their seats can help avoid shrinking.  Wicker can be vacuumed and cleaned with soapy water. Apply a protective paste wax to finish.

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By Ryan Shields

Ryan is the Senior Editor here at Outdoor Home and Garden. He has a degree in Horticulture and has worked in the field of Facilities Management for over 16 years.

12 comments

  • I need to add a few pieces of outdoor furniture for my deck now that it’s finally finished for spring. It helps that you mentioned a few different materials I can choose from. I’ve seen a lot of patio furniture made from wicker, wood, and plastic, but I haven’t seen many made from metal. If I find a few metal pieces of furniture that catch my eye, I’ll make sure to have them sealed and painted so that they won’t rust.

  • I really like that wicker furniture can be painted or left to age naturally! It seems like this type of material would be really long lasting since you can let it age and change. Plus, it gives you the option to personalize it and change it if you want to, too! I’ll definitely look into this option for my own outdoor patio. Thank you for sharing!

  • This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that staining, painting, or sealing wood furniture is the best way to keep it in good condition. My husband and I just finished our patio, and I want to furnish it now. I really love how wood furniture looks, but I also want to make sure it stays in good condition, so I’ll definitely make sure to regularly seal it. Thanks for the great post!

  • Ryan, thanks for sharing some tips for buying outdoor furniture. I like that you explain all of the options that are available. I didn’t think about how many different types of chairs there are. I think I might look for some lounge chairs to put out on my patio, next to the pool.

  • I really like the idea of hammocks as an outdoor furniture. My sister and her family are decorating their garden and they are thinking about furniture ideas. I will be sharing these outdoor decorating ideas with them.

  • Really helpful guide, giving advice for every material and type of outdoor furniture!

  • Wicker outdoor patio furniture sounds awesome to me. I liked that you talked about how a synthetic weave would be water proof. I would want my furniture to be low maintenance. And wicker seems like it wouldn’t be hard to take care of.

  • I liked that you had mentioned that when selecting furniture that it can be important to focus on the material that you’re getting, I also liked that you had stated that if you go with a material like a wicker that it can be important to look for a weather proof version. My wife has been wanting to add furniture to our backyard patio for awhile now, and while I love the idea, I’m worried about how long the furniture will last after the first storm we have. Once we decide on what we’re looking for, we’ll be making sure that wherever we buy our outdoor furniture from uses weather proof materials to help them last longer.

  • After moving into our new home, my fiance and I want to start decorating. I found some adorable garden decor online that I like and want to make last for a long time. It was helpful to read your advice to cover outdoor furniture to preserve them.

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