It’s never a bad time to start thinking about outdoor furniture for enjoying all the space your home has to offer. It might be for backyard barbecues, gatherings, or just fun and relaxing family days and nights at home. You might also even want to consider a nice outdoor furniture set for the front porch or apartment or condo balcony. Whatever the case, there’s so much choice when it comes to outdoor furniture. Where do you start?
In this buying guide, we look at all types of outdoor furniture, including options in all sizes and for all types of spaces. We look at different materials and their advantages and disadvantages. We’ll also discuss considerations to make before deciding on the perfect set-up. Finally, we provide tips on how to care for outdoor furniture and store it during the off-season, along with outlining useful accessories to complete your outdoor oasis.
Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide Quick Reference Handout
Table of contents
Why should you get outdoor furniture?
First, why should you even get outdoor furniture? Outdoor furniture is a great way to make use of real estate in your home that often is under-utilized. And you can actually set up a beautiful patio on a budget.
Build out another “room” in the home
The backyard is often not considered in the layout of the home. But it’s effectively another room you can enjoy. You might only be able to make full use of outdoor furniture during certain months of the year, depending on where you live in Canada. But even for a few months, it’s worth the investment.
Outdoor furniture extends the use of areas like your backyard, porch, or balcony. Enjoy relaxing on a hot, sunny day, a refreshing spring morning, or a cool, breezy night. With the right added accessories, like an umbrella for shade, speaker for music, fire pit or outdoor heater for comfort, smart lights, and even an outdoor TV, you’ll find you’re spending a lot more time outside than you ever imagined.
Comfort for yourself and your guests
Having outdoor furniture makes spending time in the backyard or at the front of the house a more comfortable and inviting experience. If guests see outdoor couches and chairs, it’s a warm and welcoming feeling that makes them want to stay longer. For your own comfort, being able to relax on a chaise or even outdoor daybed, conversational set, or patio swing, will encourage you to spend more time outdoors.
Get that Vitamin D
Many people are working from home nowadays at least a few times per week. Outdoor furniture might encourage you to take the office outside for an hour or two a day and get that much-needed Vitamin D. Use a comfortable chair, dining table, and patio umbrella or covered deck or porch. Then bring your coffee, notebook, phone, and laptop outside and enjoy a breezy workday instead of being cooped up inside.
Kids can have fun
If you have kids in the home or who visit often, outdoor furniture makes it easy to take activities outside. This might include eating, crafting, painting, or doing other messy and sticky activities that are appreciated more outside on a picnic table than indoors in the dining room. Kids can also take a break from running around and play board games or other fun activities while having a place to sit that isn’t on the deck floor or grass.
Types of outdoor furniture
Now, let’s get to the types of outdoor furniture to consider. You can find the right outdoor furniture for your space with a little bit of know-how and taking some important things into consideration. This will depend first on the size of your space. For large, outdoor decks, for example, or backyards with a pool, you might be looking for a sectional or a large dining table with chairs. Conversely, for smaller spaces, like a small backyard, porch, or balcony, a conversation set with two chairs and a small table or a single Adirondack chair might do the trick.
Outdoor furniture for large spaces
Patio and conversational sets are ideal for large outdoor spaces. These include both conversational sets and dining sets.
1. Conversational sets and sectionals
Conversational sets can be large, sometimes L-shaped couches with comfortable cushions for relaxing to enjoy some, well, conversation. Many of them come with a small table to situate at the centre as well, which can hold drinks, snacks, or even a board or card game. These are ideal for a deck or by a pool. You’ll want to measure to ensure it will fit nicely in your space while still allowing for room to roam. Many are modular so you can switch up the look to fit your space, like dividing it in two for a couch and loveseat design.
2. Dining sets
For outdoor dining, you’ll want to get a dining set, which is effectively a dining table and chairs for outdoors. Also ideal for a deck or a stone or gravel section of the backyard so it sits flat, many include a hole in the middle for positioning an umbrella to keep the area shaded. If you host a lot of dinner parties during the spring and summer months and you want to take the event outside, an outdoor dining set is perfect. Some people love having them, however, just for the family to enjoy Sunday breakfast outside, or a late-night Friday dinner under the stars.
Once again, you want to consider size as well as material (more on that below) along with comfort. Some outdoor dining sets come with basic wooden chairs that you can sit on directly or add cushions. Some come with cushions included. You can, it should be noted, get conversational sets that are set up like dining sets with seats around a larger table. These, however, are best for casual dining, when people might be munching on finger foods or eating something simple where they can sit back while doing so, like burgers and hot dogs versus steaks.
Check the height as well as the width and length. Some dining sets come with higher chairs and high-top tables that are ideal for sharing drinks with friends and family members but might not be as conducive to having a meal.
3. Patio chairs
Patio chairs are great for large outdoor spaces. You can invest in multiple ones to position around a pool, for example, lounge chairs and chaises. You can even find comfortable daybeds for, once again, placed by the pool or on a deck for sunbathing and relaxing outside when you want to work on your tan or catch up on a good book. Find one with a retractable canopy cover if you want to enjoy shade versus soaking up the sun.
Adirondack chairs are nice as well since you have the freedom to move them around as needed. Guests can chat on the deck while listening to music, then move the chairs to the lawn to sit around the fire pit at night. Folding chairs are useful to have as backup for those times when you have a large group of people and limited seating otherwise. As a bonus, you can pop them in the trunk for camping or cottage trips.
4. Hammocks and hanging chairs
There’s nothing quite like relaxing in a hammock or hanging chair in the backyard. These can be quite soothing if you have the space. Position one on a flat surface, like stone or a wood deck. Some hammocks are designed to mount to trees, in which case, you can place them over the grass as well.
5. Patio tables
You’ll find if you entertain a lot that you never have enough table space. A few extra patio tables can go a long way in providing a spot for guests to put down their drinks when they want to have an animated conversation with someone. You can also use little side tables for appetizers, kids’ games, and more.
6. Patio umbrellas
If you don’t have a covered deck, you’ll want a patio umbrella, especially for a conversational set and dining set.
Offset patio umbrellas are perfect for conversational sets as you can move them around and position them perfectly depending on where the sun is at the time. Standard crank and base patio umbrellas, meanwhile, are ideal for dining sets. You can position the base under the middle of the table, then thread the umbrella through the hole in the table and secure it. It should be able to remain there, folded down, through a season. (If it’s an extra-windy day, you might wish to put it away for safety reasons). This allows people to eat comfortably in the shade while also keeping food on the table safe from getting overheated from the sun. There are even some high-tech patio umbrellas that have built-in lights for providing illumination for dinners after sunset.
Outdoor furniture for small spaces
When it comes to smaller spaces, like a small backyard, front porch, or balcony, you’ll want smaller versions of the same type of furniture noted above.
1. Small conversational sets
There are conversational sets that have as many as seven or eight pieces. But for a small space, look at ones designed to fit 2-3 people. Based on the modular design, you might even be able to fit a small conversational set on a balcony or veranda.
2. Small dining sets
Like with conversational sets, that are small dining sets that can seat as few as one or two people, which are perfect for a small deck or even balcony. Some models have chairs that tuck neatly under the table when not in use to help maximize space. Some also come with thin, folding chairs so you can easily pack them up to put away in the off season or when they aren’t in use.
3. Patio chairs
Patio chairs purchased in pairs are perfect for small spaces. It gives you the opportunity to move them around, even switching from the backyard to the front porch as needed. Some patio chair sets come with a small table as well, perfect for holding your coffee, book, and reading glass while you enjoy your morning outside. These are sometimes called bistro sets. Consider an ottoman to go with it as well if you want to be able to put your feet up.
A rocking chair is the perfect addition to a front porch for those who love to people watch. Or it’s a good option in the backyard so the grandparents can comfortably watch the grandkids play.
4. Other furniture
Keep in mind that some of the types of patio furniture noted above for larger spaces, like patio tables and patio umbrellas, can come in handy for smaller spaces as well. If you buy patio chairs on their own, for example, you might want to add a small side table to the equation. And even a small backyard with a smaller dining set could benefit from a patio umbrella. If the smaller table does not have the umbrella hole, use an offset umbrella.
Outdoor furniture materials and considerations
Outdoor furniture comes in a variety of different material types, but these are the most common ones you’ll find.
When it comes to dining sets, chairs, Adirondack chairs, and some other outdoor furniture, wood is one option to consider. Note that wood can fade after lengthy exposure to the sun and UV rays. If there are extreme temperature changes, it can also expand and contract, leading to cracks. But with proper care, covers, and storage in off seasons, outdoor wood furniture can last a long time. And there are various types of wood you’ll find.
Cedar: This type of wood is naturally insect repellant and water resistant, which makes it worth the price of entry. But you might find it isn’t as durable as some other wood types for outdoor weather.
Acacia: Durable, Acacia wood is a good option, but it does require some maintenance to keep it looking and feeling like new, season after season.
Eucalyptus: If you’re looking for a more sustainable option, eucalyptus wood is worth considering. Just make sure to weather-seal it before the beginning of the season.
Teak: You don’t need any sealants with teak wood, but it’s imported and often more expensive than others. It is, however, quite durable as well, so if you’re looking for something to last, teak is a viable option.
Pine: One of the most affordable types of wood furniture you’ll find, pine, like some other wood types, does require a sealant for the best performance and longevity.
Red or white oak: Like some of the others, you need to seal red or white oak wood furniture regularly. But the wood, native to North America, won’t rot and repels insects, which is a big selling feature.
Cypress: Also water and rot-resistant, cypress wood isn’t as durable as some of the others, but it’s also more affordable.
Fir: One of the most common types of wood you’ll see in outdoor furniture, fir offers wonderful weather resistance, great if you live where there are significant temperature fluctuations or extreme heat. It’s also durable.
Wicker: Wicker is a popular material used for outdoor furniture for a few reasons. It is resistant to weather, lightweight, and easy to clean.
Resin: Resin is durable and moisture resistant, as well as resistant to sun damage, mold, and mildew. Made from plant matter, resin furniture usually comes with aluminum or steel frames that make them sturdy and rust-proof as well. For those who live in the colder parts of Canada, resin furniture can withstand being outside for extended periods of time, even in inclement weather. It requires minimal care (just hose it off before use). Though it’s still recommended to properly store outdoor furniture in the off season.
Metal and iron: You’ll find metal and iron often in the support systems for outdoor furniture because they are sturdy and can stand up to inclement weather. However, if you don’t coat or protect them properly, they could rust or corrode.
Plastic: Some outdoor furniture, like dining or picnic tables, benches, and chairs, are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or other types of plastic. This is an affordable option that can hold up in any weather. It might not look as elegant as real wood or as timeless as wicker. But it’s a worthwhile option to consider if you’re on a budget and have young children.
Things to consider before getting outdoor furniture
Now that you have an idea of the types of patio furniture that are available and what might work best for which setting, it’s worth going over some of the most important points as well as last-minute considerations.
Size of your space and the furniture
Size is the most important consideration. Figure out where you want to put pieces and measure the space. Try to visualize items in that space, including different ways you could orient a conversational set, for example, or set up a modular one. Look at the surrounding space and what’s there. Is there room for kids to run around? When people pull out and in dining room chairs, is there enough space to do this comfortably? Is the couch going to be in a spot that tends to get a lot of sun, in which case an offset umbrella is a must.
Consider the material as well and how it will hold up in your setting, including the weather throughout the core and off months. Do you have room to store it away properly? If not, invest in the most durable, weather-resistant material you can find.
How will you use it?
Think about how you will use the furniture. Are you planning to hold big summer barbecues inviting dozens of people? Will this just be for small events with neighbours and friends, or just for the family to enjoy the occasional gathering now and then? This might influence the pieces you choose as well as add-ons like folding chairs or extra patio tables.
Ages and comfort of guests
You’ll want the most comfortable experience, especially if you’ll be having a lot of elderly people or those with mobility issues. They might have trouble getting in and out of low conversational sets with deep-seated cushions. If you have a lot of dinner parties, you’ll want an outdoor dining set with comfortable chairs and sturdy backs and a table that’s at the optimal height for enjoying a meal.
How to store and care for outdoor furniture
To extend the life of your outdoor furniture, make sure to store it properly during the off-season, or if it isn’t going to be used for extended periods of time.
A protective cover is essential for outdoor furniture. This protects it from sun damage, and moisture, as well as insects and other critters that are abundant outdoors. Many pieces of outdoor furniture have specifically tailored covers to protect them. Some even cinch at the bottom to further keep out raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and other creatures. If not, you can take measurements and get a cover or tarp that is slightly larger to fit over the entire set. Place the chairs seat down overtop a table for a dining set and cover it. With conversational sets, make sure to remove the pillows first.
2. Store away in off-season
If you have the space, it’s a good idea to store outdoor furniture away in the off-season, in a covered shed, garage, or basement. In doing so, you can get away with not using a cover, though a protective cover is always a good idea. Some outdoor dining sets or conversational sets can come in handy for seating in an unfinished basement or other room of the home during the off-season. Just make sure to thoroughly clean and dry the pieces before bringing them indoors.
3. Store cushions separately, packed in bins
You should never leave outdoor cushions out. Ideally, store them indoors, in a garage, or shed, packed neatly into plastic bins. If you have an outdoor deck box or other pieces of patio storage, these are a perfect spot to store outdoor cushions as well.
You can remove and wash the covers and place them indoors in your linen closet so they’re fresh and ready to be put back on next season. Or leave them on but remove and wash them before the first use at the onset of spring.
4. Seal or coat as needed
As noted above, some outdoor furniture requires sealing or coating at least once a year. Consider taking them out early each year to do whatever maintenance work is needed to keep them in pristine condition. For painted outdoor furniture, like Adirondack chairs, you might want to re-stain them every year, maybe even give them a fresh coat of paint.
At the very least, hose down all the outdoor furniture before putting it away, and when you first take it out for the season and let it air dry in the sun. this will ensure there’s no leftover dirt and debris that has accumulated that could potentially damage or impact the look and comfort of the furniture.
Other items to get along with outdoor furniture
Outdoor furniture is about more than just conversational sets, dining sets, patio chairs, and tables. There are some other items worth considering as well.
1. Patio heaters and fireplaces
For both comfort and ambiance, consider adding patio heaters and fireplaces especially if you live where spring and fall evenings can get chilly. A patio heater will ensure you’re comfortable even if the temperature dips. A fireplace, meanwhile, or a fire table is a great way to extend the use of your backyard to the darker evening hours.
For those who live where open fires are not permitted on residential property, a propane-powered fire table is a nice solution. Whether you’re chatting around the fire, playing games, making smores, or telling ghost stories, it provides both warmth and ambiance.
2. Patio storage
Patio storage isn’t just for pillows in the off-season. You can use these to store plenty of items, like kids’ toys, outdoor dining sets and utensils, gardening tools and gloves, tablecloths, barbecue accessories, and more. Even if you can’t imagine what you might store in one, you’ll quickly find it filling up as soon as it’s there.
3. Table clothes
While you might want to set food out directly on a dining set, a tablecloth is a good way to prevent scratches and stains on the wood or even the plastic itself. A tablecloth also makes clean-up a breeze since you can toss it into the washing machine or spot-clean it once the meal is over.
For outdoor furniture like picnic tables for the kids, a tablecloth will allow them to go wild with various messy activities, from slime to kinetic sand, painting rocks, and other arts and crafts. You don’t need to worry about stains or damage to the table itself.
4. Throw cushions
In addition to the seat cushions that come with some patio seats, including conversational sets and sections, you might also want to invest in outdoor throw pillows to spruce up the look. They make the space look more inviting while providing extra comfort and back support for guests and family members.
5. Outdoor rugs
Finish off the look with an outdoor rug that you can place underneath outdoor furniture, like a dining set, or in front of a sectional or conversation set. Just like using an area rug in your living room, an outdoor rug can create a sense of ambience and a pop of colour. They also help protect your deck from heavy foot traffic and moisture from rain and snow.
Take the next step
Patio furniture is the perfect way to extend your home to the great outdoors and enjoy your own backyard, front porch, balcony, or other outdoor areas to its fullest, in premium comfort. Check out lots of great patio furniture at Best Buy Online.