Outdoor Patio Buyers Checklist
What You Need to Know
As the weather begins to warm, spending time outdoors entertaining, relaxing and enjoying your home is a priority. There’s nothing more inviting than a smart patio/deck retreat to maximize living space and create the perfect environment for friends and loved ones to gather.
The right table, chairs, recliners and accompaniments extend your living space, making it easier than ever to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors from the comforts of home. If you’ve decided that this is the year you’re ready to create a stunning complement to your home with great outdoor furnishings, congratulations!
However, before heading out the door in hopes of finding something fantastic from sale items, spend a little time gathering some information and thinking through your options.
Answers to important questions concerning material, budget and space will help you narrow your choices, saving you time, energy and maybe even a few dollars. The more you know, the easier it will be to make the right decision in spectacular furnishings to fit your needs, lifestyle and budget. Ready to get started?
Welcome to the Outdoor Patio Buyer’s Checklist, a comprehensive guide filled with everything you need to find, choose and create an unforgettable outdoor retreat.
Where Do You Plan on Putting Your Patio Furniture – Have You Considered Available Space?
Where to place your new patio set may not seem like a tough question at first, but taking a few minutes to think about the space you have available will help you more clearly identify the types of pieces you need to complete your look.
Do you have a long, narrow outdoor space or a wide, broad area available? Are you furnishing a deck, patio or an outdoor pool? Think about your layout and what you hope to accomplish in patio furnishings and you’ll save time shopping as you’ll have a good idea of exactly how much and what types of furnishings to buy.
Envision Your Design - Whether you’re looking to furnish a patio, deck or backyard, envisioning your design can help you organize your thoughts with a clear idea of the perfect pieces needed to fill the space. Maybe you have a pool that you would like to complement with a few tables and chairs. Picturing a design in your head will help you prioritize the specific items you need to buy.
Consider Shape and Size - Another important consideration is the shape and size of furnishings. There are round, square, even rectangular tables available with a wide range of design elements to create unique visual appeal. Tabletops are available in glass, wood or tile, while chairs come in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes. Seating options can be small, cozy and intimate or oversized, perfect for entertaining a group.
Lifestyle Considerations - Think about who will be using the patio most and arrange a design based on not only available space but also, how you plan on using your outdoor décor. Do you entertain often and will likely need a table for six or more or are you empty nesters looking to enjoy a quiet, relaxing dinner outdoors? Be sure when designing your outdoor space that you leave enough room for traffic flow between pieces and room to walk comfortably.
Choosing Furniture Material – Plastic, Wood, Metal?
The good news is, there are all kinds of patio sets available, from inexpensive plastic sets to more elaborate wooden designs. Choosing the perfect outdoor furnishings to fit your needs involves choosing the right material.
Plastic, wood and metal make great choices in some instances, but poor choices in others. Understanding which material is best suited for your space involves thinking about three main elements: weather, maintenance and style. How often you use your set, how much sun and outdoor exposure your patio receives and how much time you are willing to invest in caring for your new furniture all play a critical role in helping you choose the perfect material.
Weather While most outdoor patio furniture is designed to withstand a certain amount of elements, it makes sense to look at materials that will give you the most value year after year with minimal wear and tear. Knowing how much sun exposure your patio set will likely get and whether or not you have overhead protection can help you decide on the type of material to choose.
Will your furniture be placed on grass where there may be occasional moisture or do you plan on designing your outdoor retreat on a hard surface on a deck or in ground pool area?
Obviously, furniture that won’t stand up to the environment is not a good investment, and it’s smart to know which materials are right for your climate. Make certain to ask your dealer to identify those materials that are best suited for your space.
Wood - Moisture can damage some soft woods like pine, which have a tendency to soak up moisture from the ground. Other woods exposed to hot, dry conditions can crack or splinter. What to look for? Cedar and teak perform extremely well in a variety of outdoor conditions and have the added benefit of being naturally resistant to insect damage.
Metal - Certain metals corrode in moisture and may not be the best choice for grassy areas. Cast iron, wrought iron and aluminum are naturally rust resistant. Wrought iron also performs extremely well in direct heat. Aluminum is a practical, affordable option.
Plastic - Plastic or synthetic sets tend to be the least expensive and may not be as comfortable as some other materials, but have the added benefit of being virtually indestructible when it comes to a variety of elements.
Maintenance Understanding how much time is involved in caring for your new patio set is an important factor. After all, when the goal of an outdoor retreat is relaxation, choosing the right material is critical for ensuring you spend more time enjoying your investment and less time caring for it.
Wood - Teak is a fantastic option for wood as it needs virtually no maintenance to maintain and is easy to keep looking gorgeous year round.
Metal - Cast aluminum typically needs minimal care; aluminum is also lightweight, making it easy to move or rearrange on a moments notice.
Plastic - When it comes to ease of maintenance, plastic furnishings are by far the easiest to care for. Resin is impervious to damp conditions and scuff marks and stains can be cleaned with minimal effort.
Style - Of course, the more stylish and inviting your patio furniture, the more likely you are to use it. Style includes not only aesthetic appeal, but also comfort. Remember, removable cushions and pillows can be added or changed after you buy and should not be the primary factor in choosing your patio set.
However, if the fabric is part of the furniture, make sure to find out how it performs when exposed to moisture and long-term sunlight.
Furniture with removable pillows and cushions may be a good choice when storage space is limited, as cushions can be removed to retain freshness and resist color fading.
Wood - Teak is a winner when looking for beautiful wood design suitable for outdoors and is available in a variety of stylish looks.
Metal - Cast aluminum is lightweight and durable, and available in a variety of shapes, sizes and models making it another popular choice. However, quality varies and it pays to purchase a reputable brand to ensure the level of quality you expect.
Wrought iron is a fantastic option if you place a premium on unique, handcrafted design. However, much heavier than aluminum, wrought iron patio furniture will likely not be easy to rearrange or move often.
Plastic - Synthetic furniture is available in a wide range of styles and design and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other materials. With a variety of colors, looks and finishes, plastic is a good, all weather choice. Plus as an added benefit, plastic is lightweight, and furniture will likely not scratch a painted deck or patio.
Cushions, Pillows and Umbrella Considerations
When it comes to patio furniture, comfort and convenience is important and the right cushions are the key to an enjoyable outdoor experience. It pays to know what to look for in high quality, durable cushions and umbrellas. Furniture with cushions that are attached can often be unzipped, but if you are purchasing separate, here’s what to look for.
Weather Resistant Fabrics - Fabrics designed for outdoor use are typically fade resistant and UV protected, but be sure to check. Look for weather-resistance featuring a high UV rating with ventilation to reduce damage from sun and moisture. Mildew-resistant fabrics like acrylic are a good choice.
Comfort - Look for thick cushions that are lightweight. Generally, the springier they feel, the quicker they dry. Be sure to check cushion seams durability, look for heavy-duty thread and vents for quick drying. If you choose furniture with fabric attached, look for acrylics, polyester or treated canvas as these materials are often the most comfortable and durable for cushions, pillows and umbrellas.
Umbrellas and Awnings - Bright sunshine is one of the benefits of spending time outdoors, but too much sun can be uncomfortable. If adding an umbrella or awning can increase enjoyment in your patio set, then purchasing one is a practical, smart investment. Continuous exposure to sun can damage patio furniture, causing it to fade. If your patio has direct exposure to the sun and elements, adding an umbrella or awning is a convenient way to create a more comfortable environment.
Do You Have a Budget?
It’s important to remember that in the end, your budget is ultimately what decides the type of patio furniture you choose. With that in mind, it’s important to prioritize wants and needs appropriately. Here are a few things to consider when creating a budget.
Style and Durability - Style is what you see immediately when you glance at an attractive patio set, but durability is what makes it a great value long term. Smart consumers understand the importance of finding a good mix of both.
After all, that stunning set in the showroom may not be so great when the elements are involved. Style and durability – a practical combination of quality materials, fine craftsmanship and affordability is the key to making a smart purchase that will bring satisfaction year after year.
Don’t Buy More Than You’ll Use - Patio furniture is like living room furniture in that there is bound to be one or two pieces that get used most often. When deciding on a budget, try to be realistic. While it would be nice to outfit the entire backyard, if you and a spouse will be the only ones using the patio set, budgeting less money for additional pieces and more money on a few well-placed pieces may be the better option.
Where Will You Store Your Furniture During the Winter Months?
Regardless of the type of material, all patio furniture lasts longer with routine care. During cold weather in particular, when the patio is no longer in use, storing your furniture in a garage, basement or protected shed is smart.
In some cases, it’s necessary to leave furniture outside during the winter months. At the very least, you should be prepared to protect cushions and fabric from dust, mice, moisture, etc. While outdoor covers are available, often they are not sufficient and cannot provide enough protection, particularly for materials like wicker. As an alternative, consider investing in furniture that you’ll use indoors during the cold months. Or, you can always reduce storage space by purchasing outdoor furniture that folds flat for easy storage.
If you're considering designing an outdoor living area this season, choosing comfortable, longlasting furniture that complements your home is a practical way to ensure you get the most value in outdoor living.
There are many options available, and taking the time to understand not only what you like, but also, which materials are the most appropriate for your climate, are the easiest to maintain and use will extend the life of your furnishings providing you with a fantastic patio set that fits your needs, lifestyle and budget best.