Buying Guide: Outdoor Furniture
Thinking clearly about how you intend to use your yard or patio space will help you choose the outdoor furnishings that fit who you are and how you live.
Choice 1—Where will it go?
Consider the size of the available space, the view you want to have, the exposure to sun, wind and moisture. Do you have storage available for your furniture, or will it remain out of doors year round? Keep your answers in mind as you plan.
Choice 2—How will you use it?
Different styles of furniture lend themselves more readily to different activities. Will your patio be a quiet retreat? A lounge chair or an adjustable chaise will be key. Do you plan to invite friends and family for dinner al fresco? Look for a substantial dining set. If your patio space is smaller, an aluminum or wrought iron bistro table may be a better choice.
Choice 3—What pieces will you need?
Armed with a clear idea of where your furniture will go and how you intend to use it, it’s time to start choosing pieces. Here are some elements to consider:
- Seating: Chairs are just the start. Other seating options include sofas, lounge chairs, stools, benches, recliners, swivel rockers and chaise lounges. Consider modular pieces that can be re-arranged as desired.
- Umbrellas: Protection from the sun is a must. Patio umbrellas come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials to match your needs, with varying degrees of resistance to moisture and UV rays.
- Patio Storage: Carts, cabinets, trunks and storage bins offer a way to stow accessories that require protection from the weather. Many can also double as a seat.
- Furniture Covers: While most patio furniture is highly resistant to weather, furniture covers can extend the life of your seating or dining pieces.
Choice 4—Which material is right for you?
Outdoor furniture may be built from a number of materials, each with their own strengths. Below are some popular choices.
- Aluminum: Recent finishing techniques make it possible to purchase aluminum furniture in an array of styles and colors. Advantages: Lighter than wood or cast iron; corrosion-resistant; smooth surfaces in a range of colors.
- Steel: Highly durable, steel requires minor maintenance to retain its beauty, and grows hot or cold to the touch depending on its exposure to the weather. Advantages: fine, stylish frames; high tensile strength; can be protected from rust using modern primers and paints.
All-Weather Wicker: Made from low-maintenance woven resin, all-weather wicker retains the beauty of its wooden counterparts, but better withstands the elements. Advantages:Versatile and durable; won’t peel or flake; suitable for indoor or outdoor.
- Wrought Iron: Heavier than other furniture materials, iron exudes classic style and is a popular choice for small bistro-style dining areas. Advantages: Strongest metal used for furniture; rust-resistant (though not rust-free).
- Wood: Timeless in its appeal, wood may be purchased in any number of species, each with unique properties to consider when choosing outdoor furniture. Several of the most popular are:
- Teak: oil content acts as a natural preservative; will not rot, warp, shrink or swell; weathers to a silvery-gray when untreated.
- Mahogany: exceptional strength, durability and beauty; rich reddish color deepens over time; weathers well.
- Eucalyptus: easy to stain or varnish; discourages insect and moisture damage; sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Cedar: lightweight and strong; resists cracking, rot and fungus; distinct, pleasant aroma.
- Plastic: Many of today’s plastic polymers offer a sturdy surface in a variety of bold and playful colors, as well as classic neutrals. Advantages: Inexpensive; easy to clean; resistant to breakage.