Your First Outdoor Furniture: 5 Mistakes to Avoid
Buying your first outdoor furniture is almost as exciting as buying your first house with a garden. Before you rush out to shop, take the time to figure out the best all-weather pieces for your patio, deck, or porch. I wish had (instead of ending up with outdoor furniture that underwhelms). Learn from my mistakes and avoid making expensive errors when shopping for outdoor furniture.
Here are five things to know before you choose the best outdoor furniture for your home:
1. Cheap furniture may end up costing you more.
When you start shopping around on the internet for outdoor furniture, you will notice that there is a huge range in prices. On the high end are retailers including Design Within Reach and Restoration Hardware (both of which sell single Outdoor Chaise Lounge
that goes for upwards of $1,000) and on the low end are sites such as Overstock and Walmart (where entire sectionals can be had for under $700).
Guess where I ended up buying our Outdoor Sofa Set
? Yep, enticed by the price tag, I went for a faux wicker sectional I spotted on a discount website during a late-night web crawl. It was cheap and not ugly: What more could I ask for?
Well, for starters, I should have asked that our seating would not slide around every time we sat down. Our sectional was so lightweight that, unless you sat down very gingerly, the seats would slide and the cushions would skate. Our dog, who is not the most graceful animal, to begin with, became so wary of the unstable seating that he now nervously paces our deck for several minutes before he gathers the courage to hop up.
The Lesson: Though it may be tempting, do not automatically go for the cheapest price you can get on outdoor furniture. The really cheap stuff tends to be lightweight and flimsy. That said, we also have this from Ikea, a lightweight but totally well-made Outdoor Lounge Chair
that I love, so this is by no means a blanket recommendation.
2. Some chair legs are too skinny for decks.
Before we bought a house with a yard, we lived in a small rental that had a wood deck. It was our first bit of outdoor space and we loved it, dressing it up with planters, a Weber grill, a lounge chair, and a vintage Teak Dining Set
that we scored at a garage sale. The set was charming and well-made, but the legs on the chairs were skinny, which meant they could easily sink into the gaps between the deck’s wooden planks. We had to be vigilant about placing the chairs just so and constantly had to remind guests to do the same—not exactly the best setup for spontaneity and fun.
The Lesson: If you’re shopping for an Outdoor Dining Set
for a wood deck, consider the chair legs and make sure they won’t get trapped in a gap when you pull the chair out.
3. Some outdoor furniture materials may be wrong for your space.
Here is a very incomplete list of the types of materials you’ll find when shopping for outdoor furniture: teak, eucalyptus, stainless steel, aluminum, wrought iron, wicker, synthetic resin. Each material has pros and cons that make it ideal for certain climates and outdoor situations and not for others. Consider the various metals, for instance. Aluminum Sofa Set
is lightweight, which means it is not great for areas that can experience high winds. Stainless steel is heavy and low-maintenance, but it can get super-hot when placed under the sun, so it is not ideal if you are planning to leave it exposed.
If you live in a particularly wet climate, you may want to skip wood furniture; even teak, a durable and “all-weather” hardwood, will need to be treated every year to protect against cracking and warping. As for natural wicker pieces, they are intended for covered outdoor spaces as they can not really stand up to the elements. Synthetic resin wicker furniture is a better option if you like the style and want to use it outdoors.
4. You will need a rainy-day plan for … rainy days.
It is Outdoor Bar Set
, so it should be fine in the rain, right? Not if you are dealing with cushions. I had assumed that the cushions on our sectional would be weather-proof and that the fabric would simply repel rain. To a degree, that is what happens, but when it is truly raining, as opposed to misting, you will want to protect your cushions. We did not—a rookie mistake that led in the short term to soggy, heavy cushions that took forever to dry, and in the long term to mildew. Yuck.
A few protective tactics, from best practice to at-the-very-least: Bring them indoors, put them in an outdoor storage box (see 10 Easy Pieces: Deck Boxes for some great ideas), stand them up vertically but at an angle so that they repel water. As for the base and cushion-less pieces, consider buying protective covers—particularly for wood furniture.
The Lesson: Outdoor fabrics are durable and water-repellent, but not waterproof. Be sure you protect cushions during downpours.
5. Place outdoor furniture out of the line of fire.
So far, I have talked about how that cheap outdoor sectional I bought was flimsy, uncomfortable, and mildewy. It gets worse. The sectional rested under a large tree. A couple of months into its life on our deck, I noticed a few blobs of bird poop on it. Gross, I thought, I will deal with it later. Within a week, the sectional was littered (pun intended) with droppings, all purple from the berries the birds ingested. I dutifully scraped off what I could and put the covers in the washing machine. Despite two cycles, the stains did not disappear.