5 Key Things to Consider When Shopping for Outdoor Furniture – CNET

Think about your options before imagining your inviting backyard retreat.

West Elm

Anyone who has shopped for outdoor furniture knows it can be a confusing endeavor. First of all, there’s a huge variety of styles to choose from. And depending on what material, store or brand you pick, your items could cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to multiple thousands.

Don’t fret though, because this guide lays out the major topics to explore before you buy. As a result you’ll be able to create a backyard retreat perfect for your lifestyle. 

Consider your available space

Before you consider buying any piece of outdoor furniture, measure the space you plan to place it. That’s true whether you intend to set up a single chair or a set of pieces. This way you can rest assured the products you ultimately pick will fit properly. 

Also, make note of whether your chosen location is exposed to direct sunlight. A patio umbrella or sail shade could help to cool things down in those hot summer months. Over time the sun also tends to cause colors in plastics, fabrics and other surfaces to fade. In this situation, you may want to drape items with a tarp or other covering when not in use. Another option is to store them inside, provided you have room, during the off season. 

And keep in mind some materials are heartier that others. Don’t plan to cover your furniture or bring it inside? Then go with tougher items made from teak or metal, not wicker that’s less sturdy.

Nail down your primary purpose

Another critical factor to ponder is how you plan to use your outdoor oasis. If you’d like to simply add seating around a fire pit, a few chairs or a couch will probably do the trick. Those with a more ambitious goal — say, to create an outdoor dining area — will have a heavier lift. You’ll need a table large enough to entertain you and your guests along with adequate seating accommodations.

To be frugal or not

It’s true that you don’t have to spend big bucks on an outdoor patio furniture set. Online retailers are packed with many low-cost options. That said, doing so is a bit of a gamble. Because you don’t actually see and feel these products in person, it’ll be difficult to gauge just how well made (or not) they really are. 

And if you go with more established furniture brands, expect to pay several times more for each item. One positive with considering a traditional furniture store, though, is that it’ll likely have brick-and-mortar locations to visit. That means you’ll get to touch, prod and examine their furniture up close before committing. 

The Abaco collection of outdoor furniture from Crate and Barrel. 

Crate and Barrel

Pick your style

Some of the more design-oriented furniture outlets group their outdoor offerings in fancy named collections. Others let you sort items simply by their material construction. The main types you typically find are basic woods, wicker and metals such as steel and aluminum. 

Teak is a hardy durable wood that’s great for outdoor use.

West Elm

There’s also teak, which technically is a subset of wood. Due to teak’s high oil content it’s particularly adept at withstanding the elements. But since the majority of teak trees are grown on plantations in Southeast Asia, the imported wood costs much more than locally sourced varieties.

Ultimately, the style of furniture you settle on will be a very individual choice. I personally prefer as little ornamentation or embellishments as possible. You, on the other hand, might love the look of rattan, which apparently is all the rage. 

When to ask for help

Your plans for deploying outdoor furniture may clash with the reality on the ground. For instance, you may crave a sprawling dining area complete with an expansive table plus multiple chairs to match. But while your yard has ample room, it’s mostly all grassy lawn.

In this case the best way to proceed is to build a paved patio to serve as a solid base for your new furniture. This is a big job though, since it’ll require excavating grass and sod and laying down a bed of gravel. The area must be leveled properly, too, to account for correct water drainage. And that’s all before laying down pavers.

If you’re not comfortable with handling any of these tasks, I don’t blame you. At this point there’s no shame in enlisting the help of a professional landscaper. 

Now that you’ve considered all these factors carefully, you should be well on your way to choosing the perfect outdoor furniture that’s best for your needs. And just in time too, since spring and summer are just around the corner. 

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