Buying Patio Furniture

Picture of a wicker patio set

Outdoor Dining Set

The Simple Patio Furniture Buying Guide

Whether you’re making additions to an outdoor space or furnishing a new deck from the ground up, decorating a patio takes just as much planning as interior design. In addition to factoring in available space and style, outdoor challenges like weather and maintenance also come into play.

To recreate designs from an outdoor living magazine or curate your own look, buying patio furniture the smart way begins with a little homework. As you’re researching where to buy outdoor furniture and looking into popular materials, consider these six tips for how to buy patio furniture you can enjoy for years to come.

1. Take Stock of Your Needs

Begin by considering how you want to use the space. For example, how much seating will your family need, and how much extra is necessary for entertaining? To host cocktails at a patio bar, how many tables will be best for glasses and snacks? To spend summer afternoons reading by the pool, a good umbrella is key.

Make a list of the ways you want to use the patio and decide which pieces accomplish these goals. Taking stock before shopping is a great way to make sure you buy patio furniture that you’ll actually use.

Picture of an outdoor bar set.Outdoor Patio Bar Set

2. Consider Space and Layout

Before you leave for the store or pull up some favorite furniture websites, it’s important to know the square footage of your outdoor area. Sofas that block walkways to the pool and dining sets that prevent French doors from opening are the hallmarks of buying outdoor furniture while trying to guess dimensions.

To picture a piece of outdoor furniture in your space before committing, try creating a tape outline of its dimensions on the patio. Make sure to leave plenty of room for maneuvering. A few rules of thumb may help:

  • Dining: Assume about three feet of space to push back chairs, and about two more to walk safely around a table.
  • Pool Deck: Leave a minimum of two to three feet between a water feature and the edge of the patio for easy navigation.
  • Seating: Allow about 18 inches between the table and the edge of a couch or chair for leg room. Set aside about a 10-foot by 10-foot space for a conversation area that fits three to six people.
  • Bar: For drinks only, give each person about 18 inches of space at the bar. For a meal, each diner will need about 20 to 24 inches of countertop.

Picture of an outdoor dining set.Outdoor Patio Dining Set

3. Buy Patio Furniture that Fits Your Climate

Although all-weather furniture is made to handle the elements, some materials hold up better in certain climates. Factors like wind, rain, humidity, sun, and variable temperature can wreak havoc on furniture ill-suited to those conditions. These guidelines may help potential shoppers know how to buy patio furniture for their region:

  • Metal – Wrought iron and cast aluminum are heavy and sturdy, making them ideal to stand up against high winds. Though wrought iron or steel may require a little more care to avoid rust, powder-coated aluminum is usually excellent in rainy or cold regions.
  • Wood – The durability of wood can vary. Some varieties, like teak, produce natural oils that resist moisture in humid areas. Others may need a special treatment. Unlike metal, wood remains cool and comfortable under a hot sun.
  • Natural wicker – When you buy outdoor furniture marketed as wicker, make sure to check whether it is natural or resin wicker. Pieces woven from rattan, bamboo, or other plant-based materials are lightweight and stylish, but they may be susceptible to damage in rainy or windy areas.
  • Plastic and resin – These hardy synthetics can be molded and dyed to take on the appearance of other materials. Resin wicker patio furniture is especially popular, as it combines the classic look of wicker with better resistance to moisture. However, plastic can become brittle in cold weather.

4. Invest in Protection

Once you settle on the right materials, safeguard your investment by buying patio furniture covers. These fitted tarps help to protect decor against mildew and fading. Combined with regular cleaning, covers can extend the life of a patio set by years.

5. Test Before You Buy

Since deciding on additions to your patio can be a challenge, another vital part of buying outdoor furniture is testing it out. Ensure seating is comfortable and tables are the right height. This includes items like swings or chaise lounges. If you shop online, check the dimensions and compare them to a favorite piece of furniture.

Picture of a chaise.Outdoor Chaise Lounge

6. Follow the Sales

The best time to buy patio furniture might be different than you think. While stores heavily promote outdoor decor during the spring and summer months, shopping during the late fall and winter may land the deepest discounts. Shop patio furniture sales as they arise for budget-friendly prices on larger pieces.

When spring and summer roll around, it’s time to look for finishing touches. Accents in the new season’s latest colors, patterns, and styles are more cost-effective than full furniture sets, and they can still give your decor a cutting-edge feel.

The Most Important Tip

Many rules for how to buy outdoor furniture come down to knowing your space, tastes, and needs. After a little preparation, patio furniture shopping can be as fun and easy as enjoying your outdoor space. With this patio furniture buying guide in hand, you have a great start to begin the search with purpose and confidence.