Tips for buying patio furniture

Published: May 2013

Living on the patio this summer? You can, if you make the most of your outdoor space. A patio or porch can become like a second living room if you have the right furniture and rugs and other accessories. In our June issue, we looked at lamps and lighting, paints, pottery, pillows, cushions, and rugs for bringing your outdoor room to life.

Here are some shopping tips for buying furniture that lives outdoors.

Wrought iron

Best for: If you love traditional styling and live in a windy area, heavy wrought-iron furniture may be for you, says Jackie Hirschhaut of the American Home Furnishings Alliance. But it’s pricey.

Price: Four-piece sets start around $400 and can run as high as $5,000.

Shop smart: Look for smooth welds joining parts together. And give it a heft test; it may be too heavy to rearrange easily.

Make it last: It’s susceptible to rust, so keep wrought-iron furniture on a covered porch or patio, or use furniture covers.


Best for: Tubular aluminum is the most lightweight and least expensive construction, Hirschhaut says. And cast aluminum offers the best combo of durability and affordability.

Price: You can find a four-piece cast-aluminum set, complete with all-weather cushions, for around $700.

Shop smart: Look for smooth welds, rustproof hardware, and a powder-coated finish for durability.

Make it last: Prevent fading and protect the finish—use furniture covers off-season.


Best for: Traditional wicker—natural fibers woven around a metal frame—isn’t meant for outdoor use. “It won’t last more than a year in a wet area,” says Debbie Hernandez, an interior designer for Home Depot.

Price: Conversation sets made of resin wicker start around $700.

Shop smart: Buy all-weather wicker made from waterproof resin. Signs of quality include a tight weave and a realistic-looking texture. “Lower-priced options will often look too shiny,” Hernandez says.

Make it last: Cover when not in use.


Best for: Teak is at the high end of the budget spectrum. It’s a naturally weather-resistant wood with a timeless look. But eucalyptus has a similar look for a lot less.

Price: Teak conversation sets start around $1,800; a four-piece eucalyptus wood set starts around $550.

Shop smart: Look for sturdy construction, a smooth finish, and rustproof hardware.

Make it last: To maintain the warm finish, which will weather to a silvery gray over time if untreated, apply a special oil at least once a year.


Best for: If you don’t want to spend a lot and you want lightweight and weather-resistant furniture, plastic is it.

Price: You can find plastic Adirondack chairs at the grocery store and home centers for as little as $10 each.

Look for: High-grade marine polymers and recycled materials from items like soda bottles and milk jugs are the newest additions to the market, Hirschhaut says. Like the synthetic decking that’s been around for several years, some of these new products look similar to wood and last longer. But this technology will cost you: A recycled plastic conversation set that looks like wood can set you back around $5,000. On the plus side, you’ll probably never have to replace it.

Make it last: Even plastic should be covered when it’s not in use for long periods. “It will keep its looks longer,” Hernandez says.

Check out the June 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine for more tips on living outdoors this summer.

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