Guide to Buying Outdoor Furniture

What to consider when choosing outdoor furniture for your backyard

Photo courtesy of Whitecraft, Inc.; Photography by CKM Photographics, Inc.; Designed by William Herren


Outdoor furniture allows you to extend your living space to your backyard, creating a comfortable and attractive place to entertain, relax, or dine with family and friends. Today there is an array of outdoor furniture types, styles, materials, and colors to choose from, which can make buying outdoor furniture an overwhelming task. Assess the following factors to help you choose the best outdoor furniture for your lifestyle, space, and personal taste.


Consider Your Climate & Maintenance 

Outdoor furniture comes in many different types of materials. Certain materials require more care than others and may be better suited for the weather conditions in your region.

Metal is durable, low-maintenance, and can withstand various environmental factors. Wrought-iron is a heavy type of metal, which makes it a good choice for areas that experience strong winds. Wrought-iron furniture can easily rust and requires a powder-coat finish to protect it from exposure to rain and air. Covering the furniture during periods of rain and repainting any worn or chipped areas will help maintain its appearance.

Aluminum offers the look and feel of wrought-iron but is lighter in weight (making it easier to move around) and generally less expensive. Aluminum will not rust and can be exposed to rain and easily dried off; however, it is subject to staining and pitting, which can dull the surface. Regular maintenance may involve applying a coat of liquid wax at the start of every season. Both wrought-iron and aluminum furniture will absorb heat and cold, so you may want to purchase cushions or keep it in a shady area.

Wicker is admired for its comfort, durability, and low cost. Natural wicker (made of rattan) requires regular upkeep as the material’s fibers fade in direct sunlight and are not resistant to moisture. It can also dry out and split in areas with low humidity. Synthetic wicker (made of resin) is a better choice for humid climates or areas with direct exposure to sunlight because it can withstand water and heat. A periodic spray with a hose or brushing with mild detergent is necessary to remove any dirt that accumulated in the crevices of the weave and help keep the furniture in good shape.

Wood is durable, doesn’t absorb heat, and is resistant to insects and decay. Woods commonly used for outdoor furniture include cedar, cypress, redwood, and teak. Regular maintenance varies with each type, though most require an annual application of an oil-based stain with water sealer and preservative to protect against moisture and maintain the wood’s natural color. Teak is the most durable option—and the most expensive. It is the only type of wooden outdoor furniture that can endure all weather conditions without the need of a protective varnish. It is also the best option to place around pools.

Plastic is waterproof, easy to care for, and can be left out during inclement weather (though it may blow over in windy conditions). Plastic furniture can also be moved around easily and is usually stackable. It is not as long-lasting as other outdoor furniture and the color can fade over time, but it is the least expensive option.


Define Your Space

Identifying the amount of open space in your backyard and how you intend to use it will help determine the size, type, and amount of outdoor furniture you’ll need. For instance, maybe you would like to use your backyard for dining and entertainment. Or perhaps you envision it being a relaxing place to unwind at the end of the day. Adding the right pieces will ensure your aspirations for the space become a reality.

Outdoor dining sets are a mainstay for any backyard affair and come in a range of sizes and shapes. Tables can be round, oval, square, or rectangular and accommodate anywhere from four to 12 people. Most outdoor dining sets include an umbrella to keep diners cool and comfortable.

Bistro sets consists of a small round table with two to four chairs. Some sets include folding chairs and a flip-top table so it can easily be put away when not in use (perfect for smaller yards). Bistro sets are great for enjoying drinks and conversation. They can be placed around the pool, on a deck, in a gazebo, or under a pergola.

Outdoor bar furniture is perfect for entertaining because it provides additional seating for guests to hang out and socialize. Outdoor bar sets feature taller tables and seats; some sets come with bar stools while others have bar chairs with armrests and a swivel seat.

Patio conversation sets add a welcoming look and feel to any backyard. They typically include a sofa or love seat, matching arm chairs, and a coffee table. Some sets also come with an ottoman or end tables. Depending on the number of furniture pieces you get, an outdoor conversation set can generally seat four to eight people. Most sets feature deep seating with big soft cushions, providing a comfortable place for a casual get-together.

If pure relaxation is the goal, outdoor chaises or lounge chairs are your best option. A chaise lounge sits close to the ground and has a full-length seat that supports your entire lower body. Most models feature a reclining back so you can adjust to the most comfortable position. An outdoor chaise or lounge chair is great for tanning by the pool or stretching out with a good book.


Select Your Style or Theme

Outdoor furniture comes in a range of styles, including casual, contemporary, traditional, formal, rustic, and Tuscan. The style you select should reflect the purpose of your outdoor space as well as complement the overall design of your home.

For instance, a rustic wooden picnic table and traditional-style cushions (think stripes and floral patterns) can convey a casual, down-home feel ideal for family barbecues or a country setting. Streamlined furniture and fabrics in bright, bold colors can liven up a space for entertaining and socializing and work well for various styles of homes. If leisure is your goal, the simple design and natural colors of casual and Tuscan style furniture will entice people to sit down and relax.

Evaluating these factors will ensure you purchase the perfect outdoor furniture for your backyard and make the most of your outdoor living space.

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