There’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal outdoors on a warm summer night surrounded by family and friends. As backyard barbeques and alfresco dining have grown in popularity, so has the patio furniture industry. With so many options to choose from, it can feel overwhelming trying to select the perfect outdoor dining set for your space and lifestyle. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the key factors to consider from materials and style to size and maintenance. Arm yourself with the right knowledge, and you’ll be well on your way to creating your dream outdoor oasis!
Choosing Durable Materials Built to Last
The materials used for your outdoor furniture play a significant role in its durability, weather-resistance, maintenance needs, and cost. Let’s examine some of the most common options on the market today.
Teak is a premier choice that naturally withstands the elements. The dense properties of this tropical hardwood make it impervious to moisture, mildew, and insects. Left unfinished, it will develop a silvery gray patina. While no wood is fully immune to the effects of sun and rain, teak is extremely low maintenance and doesn’t require much more than an occasional cleaning. This gorgeous option comes at a price though – expect to pay a premium.
Metal like aluminum, wrought iron, and steel make excellent durable frames for outdoor sets. Tubular aluminum that’s been powder-coated delivers an attractive finish that won’t rust or corrode. Wrought iron is heavy and ultra-sturdy but can be more prone to rusting. Steel is strong and long-lasting but typically needs to be painted. Go for metals with protective treatments to prevent chipping, flaking, or rusting.
Wicker has exploded in popularity for its stylish and inviting look. All-weather resin wicker makes the best choice as it won’t crack or peel like natural wicker. Its tightly woven construction stands up well against sun, rain, salt, and moisture. Cleaning with mild soap and water is a breeze. While not as indestructible as teak, it provides an elegant impression for a reasonable price.
Plastic rounds out the most cost-effective option but comes with some drawbacks. While resistant to weathering and moisture, prolonged sun exposure can cause fading. It tends to look cheap and be less durable than other materials. Go for reinforced polystyrene plastics if choosing this route.
Now let’s examine some of the key factors to keep in mind when selecting materials:
- Weather: Consider your climate and the elements your set will need to endure. Coastal regions demand fixtures that can withstand salt air while those prone to intense sun need fade-resistant fabric.
- Maintenance: How much upkeep are you willing to handle? Teak and aluminum require little while intricate wrought iron sets take more work.
- Budget: Plastic and resin sets are gentler on the wallet than exotic teak and hand-forged iron. Set realistic spending expectations.
- Style: Material impacts the look and feel of your furniture. Wicker evokes breezy sophistication while reclaimed teak offers a rustic edge.
To break it down further, let’s do a quick pros and cons for some of the most popular materials:
- Beautiful rich wood with natural weather-resistance
- Minimal required maintenance
- Long-lasting durability over decades
- On the pricier side
- Resin material is all-weather resistant
- Low maintenance yet still stylish
- More affordable than teak
- Not as durable for decades like wood
- Powder-coated and painted finishes are durable
- Withstands sun, wind and rain well
- Sturdy yet lightweight
- Can get hot sitting in direct sunlight
- Paint can chip or scratch off over time
- Most budget-friendly option
- Low maintenance
- Won’t crack or peel
- Looks cheap
- Not as durable long-term outdoors
By carefully weighing the pros and cons of each material against your climate, budget, and style preferences you can zero in on one that makes the most sense for your situation. Don’t be afraid to mix and match either – perhaps a teak dining table paired with elegant but affordable resin wicker chairs.
Finding the Right Style for You
Beyond materials, the style of your outdoor dining set can make a dramatic impact on its look, feel and functionality. From modern chic to rustic farmhouse, identify a style suited to your home’s existing architecture and decor.
Modern style sets feature sleek, contemporary lines. Metal frames in aluminum, stainless steel or chrome have a sophistication and urban edge. Pair with bold patterned fabrics or colored sling seating for a pop of visual interest. The minimalist aesthetic works well in homes with a newer, trendy vibe.
Rustic style aims for a natural, earthy look perfect for a cozy cabin retreat. Unfinished teak and reclaimed barn wood ooze charm. Wicker takes on a woodsy appearance woven in earth tones. A distressed paint job adds to the timeworn character. This homey style blends beautifully into wooded or lakeside locations.
For classic elegance, tightly woven wicker hearkens back to 1950s resort glam. Cast aluminum crafted into delicate scrollwork evokes French garden seating. Traditional profiles like spindle chair backs and porcelain-topped tables remind of a bygone era with timeless appeal. This versatile look gracefully enhances any home’s curb appeal.
When deciding on a style, consider these key factors:
- Existing decor: Choose a style that complements your home and landscaping. A mid-century modern house deserves sleek lines while Tuscan villas pair best with ornate metalwork and rich wood tones.
- Personal taste: Do you lean toward the rustic or the refined? Masculine or feminine accents? Select a look you’ll love living with.
- Versatility: Classic styling blends well anywhere while ultra-modern may only fit certain home aesthetics.
Let’s examine the upsides and potential drawbacks of these popular patio dining styles:
- Sleek, contemporary appearance
- Complements more minimalist home styles
- Not as versatile or fitting for all home types
- Bold look won’t work with every landscape
- Warm, earthy character
- Lovely enhancement for cabins or lodges
- Not as elegant for upscale neighborhoods
- Timeless elegance at its finest
- Versatile look for any home style
- More formal than casual
The style you select should reflect your personal taste while aligning with the aesthetics of your outdoor space and home architecture. Whether you covet the refined elegance of a European cafe or the cozy welcome of a Carolina inn, choose the look that makes you smile each time you see it.
Finding the Goldilocks Size – Not Too Big, Not Too Small
You’ve put thought into materials and the overall style you envision. Next up, it’s time to settle on the right size patio dining set for your space. You’ll want ample room for seating family and friends while leaving enough clearance for traffic flow.
Take measurements of your deck, patio or yard area where you plan to place the set. Be sure to leave at least 3 feet around the table and chairs to accommodate people pulling chairs out to sit as well as allowing servers to maneuver around it easily. Don’t cramp the space but find the furniture footprint that best enhances your area.
Most standard patio dining sets fall within these typical size ranges:
- 2 person – ideal for balconies and very small patios
- 4 person – accommodates most small families
- 6 person – allows for moderate entertaining
- 8-10 person – seats larger families and gatherings
Consider the typical number you’ll need to seat for everyday meals along with how frequently you may need extra chairs pulled up to accommodate guests. It’s easier to add in a couple chairs for holidays than being squeezed around an undersized table the rest of the year.
Larger sets can pose some disadvantages as well. An oversized 8 person set may dominate a small yard and restrict other possible patio layouts. Maneuvering around a huge table and bench seating can prove challenging.
Take your time visualizing the right dimensions to allow for comfy conversation flow and elbow room without obstructing high traffic areas. Don’t make the mistake of choosing furniture too big or too small for the actual space. Measure twice, purchase once.
Key Features That Enhance Your Experience
Now for the fun part of zeroing in on those specialty details that make your patio dining set uniquely you. From hidden storage compartments to swivel chairs, customizable features can take your set from standard to spectacular. Consider which ones might sweeten the deal for your situation.
Dream Table Upgrades
- Shape: Expand your options beyond basic rectangles. Round tables promote conversational intimacy. An oval shape can better fit narrow spots.
- Umbrella hole: Models with a built-in hole eliminate having a bulky standalone base taking up legroom.
- Drop leaf extensions: Expandable sides allow for extra seating when needed.
- Tabletop material: Cast aluminum and porcelain enamel offer smooth and maintenance-free durability.
- Specialty tops: Tempered glass adds an ultra-sleek impression while faux stone embodies organic warmth.
Comfy Seating Extras
- Swivel: Chairs that swivel make for easy conversation with no straining.
- Seat cushions: Thick padded cushions in weather-resistant fabric provide plush comfort.
- Arms vs. armless: Arms offer a place to rest elbows while armless models are simpler and more compact.
- Stackable: Chairs that stack take up less room when storing.
- Umbrella: A tilting umbrella ensures coverage from sun shifting throughout the day.
- Storage: Look for sets where table benches open to reveal hidden storage.
- Mobility: Wheels underneath make it easy to reposition your set as needed.
- Cup holders: Built-in holders keep drinks from sweating on your tabletop.
- Charging station: Integrated USB ports let you juice up devices outdoors.
Take time to think through how you envision using your space and the extra conveniences that would enhance your experience. Once you pinpoint the special details that speak to you, they’ll take your furniture from standard to spectacular.
Seeking Sets That Stand Up to the Elements
You want your outdoor oasis and furniture to last for years so seek out sets made of durable materials engineered to thrive outdoors. Teak, aluminum, resin wicker and weather-treated woods resist moisture, mildew, fading and corrosion.
Here are some signs of enduring all-weather construction:
- Resin wicker or all-weather wicker ensures your set won’t crack or peel. High-quality synthetic fibers hold up better than natural wicker.
- Rust-resistant metals like aluminum and powder-coated steel won’t chip or flake. Wrought iron should have a weather-resistant finish to prevent rusting.
- Look for stainless steel hardware that won’t corrode after prolonged exposure.
- Tables with built-in drainage holes prevent water pooling and damage.
- Tempered glass tabletops add elegance and are highly shatter-resistant.
- UV-resistant cushions and fabrics limit fading damage from sun exposure.
- Winter storage protects your set from harsh freezing temperatures and snow load damage.
Seeking out patio furniture explicitly designed for the outdoors will ensure it lasts season after season. Don’t let investing in quality pieces with protective treatments put you off. The years of enjoyment will far outweigh the initial expenditure.
Low-Maintenance Sets Let You Relax and Enjoy
Life is too short to spend all your outdoor leisure time cleaning and fussing over high-maintenance furniture. Seek out patio dining sets made of easy-care materials that shed dirt and wipe clean with little effort.
Here are hallmarks of low-maintenance sets:
- Removable cushions and slipcovers for easy washing and spot cleaning
- Washable cushion covers that can handle a spin in your machine
- All-weather wicker needs just mild soap and water for cleaning
- Teak wood that can be occasionally sanded and re-oiled to look fresh
- Powder-coated metals that just require an occasional wipedown
- Stacking chairs for compact storage in garages and sheds
- Check hardware and moving joints periodically for loose screws or squeaks. Tighten and lubricate as needed.
- Apply teak cleaning solutions and uv-protectants to keep wood looking its best with minimal effort.
Today’s outdoor furniture collections make enjoying low-maintenance living a breeze. Don’t shy away from occasional simple cleaning and upkeep that can extend the life and beauty of your set for many seasons. A bit of regular TLC goes far.
Cost Considerations and Setting a Realistic Budget
One of the most crucial steps in shopping for a new patio dining set is deciding what you can realistically afford to spend. Prices span a wide spectrum based on materials used and overall quality. Having a budget in mind helps narrow your focus to quality sets that meet your needs within your price range.
To give you a general idea, here are typical price ranges for outdoor dining sets by main material types:
- Plastic – $100 to $500
- Wicker – $300 to $1,500
- Teak – $500 to $2,500
- Metal – $200 to $1,200
Many factors influence costs when comparing similar sets:
- More chairs equal a higher total price. Consider cost per individual chair rather than just the full set.
- Moving parts like swivel chairs or folding tables add expense.
- Larger table sizes seating 6+ naturally cost more.
- Extras like tempered glass tops, umbrella holes, and cushions raise prices.
- Shipping fees can significantly add to costs when ordering online.
- Some assembly required pieces tend to cost less than pre-assembled.
Before falling in love with photos of gorgeous tables and imagining yourself entertaining, decide what target number makes sense for your budget. Be honest about what you can spend while allowing some wiggle room for surprise shipping fees or the need for professional assembly.
The good news is quality sets are available at price points to meet most budgets if you know what to look for. Setting firm spending expectations removes the sticker shock when it comes time to buy.
Smart Shopping – Finding Deals on Quality Sets
Armed with knowledge about materials, styles, and reasonable budgets, it’s time for the fun part – shopping for patio set deals! Retailers abound both locally and online for finding bargain savings on quality brands. Here are some of the best places to seek out sales.
Big box stores like Target and Walmart offer budget-friendly complete dining sets. Shop end of season for mark-downs on floor models and clearance items. Selection is hit or miss but prices rock bottom.
Online retailers like Wayfair and Overstock have sprawling options with savings on shipping. Sort by customer reviews rather than just price to assess quality. Make sure to factor in delivery fees which can add up quick.
Patio specialty stores carry higher-end brands not found elsewhere with knowledgeable sales staff. Look for discounted floor models or bundled suite packages. Be prepared to pay MSRP prices though.
Manufacturer websites like O.W. Lee and Woodard often run promotions direct to consumers that retailers can’t match. Sign up for newsletters and check for holiday sales.
Secondhand options like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace may require some hunting but can turn up pristine quality pieces for a fraction of retail.
Savvy shopping tips:
- End of season clearance sales in fall offer 50%+ off discounts as retailers clear out inventory.
- Floor models sold “as-is” come with deep savings off new-in-box prices.
- Bundled dining sets with an umbrella, cover, and cushions included provides one-stop value.
- Open box returns found online provide major savings on barely used sets.
- Renting can fill temporary needs without wasting money on a purchase.
Patience and persistence pay off when seeking out discounted patio furniture. Take time to browse both local stores and the vast online selection during peak sale seasons. Quality sets await at clearance prices for smart shoppers.
Top 5 Patio Dining Set Reviews
Which dining sets shine above the rest? After lots of research and hands-on testing, these designs come out on top for their winning combination of style, durability, and value.
Set #1: Gronomics Westport 5-Piece Patio Dining Set
Details: Made of shorea wood in a natural finish, this 5-piece set includes a 36” square table and four slat-back dining chairs. The tropical hardwood has a rich look similar to teak.
Pros: Shorea wood stands up well to weather extremes and requires minimal maintenance. The chairs store neatly under the table. Cushions are mildew-resistant. Easy tool-free assembly.
Cons: Limited size may feel cramped for some. Basic style without a lot of bells and whistles.
Best for: Small patio spaces wanting an affordable but durable wood set.
Price range: $500 – $700
Set #2: Polywood Nautical 7-Piece Dining Set
Details: Made from polywood lumber with stainless steel hardware, this handsome set includes six dining chairs with contoured seats and molded backs.
Pros: Polywood won’t crack, peel, or require painting, looking like real wood without the maintenance. It withstands sun, salt spray, and insects well. Comfortable seat cushions add extra relaxation. 20-year residential warranty offers peace of mind.
Cons: Not as durable as real teak over decades. Assembly can be tricky.
Best for: Low-maintenance and weather-resistance in tough climates.
Price range: $1,700 – $2,200
Set #3: Hanover Traditions 5-Piece Wicker Patio Dining Set
Details: This lovely resin wicker set features a 48-inch round table and four curved-back dining chairs with off-white cushions. The aluminum frame has a black finish.
Pros: All-weather wicker sheds water and resists fading, mildew, and stains for easy care. Swivel chairs make conversation friendly. Thick padded cushions provide comfort. Rust-free aluminum frame built to last.
Cons: Wicker not as strong as wood over many years. Neutral colors lack vibrancy.
Best for: Affordable elegance and low maintenance needs.
Price range: $800 – $1,200
Set #4: Amazonia Teak Charlotte 7-Piece Patio Dining Set
Details: Crafted from premium grade A teak in a natural finish, this set includes an extendable table with two self-storing leaves and six folding arm chairs.
Pros: Gorgeous teak construction holds up for decades outdoors. Expandable table seats up to 8 when opened. Chairs fold flat for easy storage. Minimal required maintenance. Made for all-weather durability.
Cons: Very expensive investment. Chairs prone to splintering over time.
Best for: Those wanting the timeless beauty of real teak.
Price range: $3,000 – $4,000
Set #5: Hampton Bay Alfresco 3-Piece Bistro Set
Details: This cute metal bistro set has a glass tabletop and two chairs with round perforated backs and patterned seat cushions. The steel frame has a black finish.
Pros: Tempered glass adds elegance and doesn’t show dirt. Fun patterned cushions provide flair. Sturdy steel construction meant to last. Rust-resistant powder-coated frame. Easy assembly with included tools.
Cons: Smaller scale not made for entertaining. Glass requires careful handling.
Best for: Intimate two-person dining on a budget.
Price range: $150 – $250
Frequently Asked Questions
Still hungering for more patio dining knowledge? Here are answers to some of the most common questions:
How long do outdoor dining sets last?
With proper care, wood and metal sets last 5-10 years, wicker lasts 2-5 years, and plastic/PVC lasts 1-3 years typically. Higher-end wood like teak can last decades.
What is the best material for weather resistance?
Teak wood, aluminum, resin wicker, and polywood plastic withstand the elements best with minimal care needed.
Should I buy assembled or do it myself?
Assembly difficulty varies greatly by brand. Simple sets with basic tools included can usually be self-assembled while more complex wrought iron or teak sets often benefit from professional help.
Can I leave outdoor furniture outside year-round?
Most patio sets are not meant for exposure to snow, ice and sub-freezing temps. Store cushions and covers inside and use furniture covers for winter protection.
How much seating space do I need per person?
Allow 24-30 inches per person for comfortable elbow room around a dining table.
Should I buy a set or mix and match?
Coordinated sets provide an aesthetically pleasing unified look while mixing allows more customization.
Do I need an umbrella hole in the table?
A built-in hole eliminates the need for a bulky separate base while also keeping the umbrella stable and centered.
What features make a patio set wheelchair accessible?
Wide spacing between chairs, wheelchair-accessible table height, and arms on chairs to aid sitting and standing.
Are fire pits allowed on patio furniture?
Small portable fire pits are generally safe on stone, concrete, gravel or sand surfaces but shouldn’t be placed directly on wooden decks or grass.
How do I clean and care for my outdoor dining set?
Different materials need different care – consult the manufacturer’s instructions. General tips are buy coverings for storage, wipe down regularly, clean spills promptly, and apply protective treatments.
The Final Course – Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor
We’ve covered all the key considerations in choosing an outdoor dining set tailored exactly to your taste, space, and lifestyle. Keeping quality construction, proper sizing, and budget limitations in mind while shopping wisely lands you the perfect patio furniture to enjoy for seasons to come.
With your beautiful new dining set in place, take time to add those final grace notes that set the stage. Throw on a tablecloth, add a vase of fresh flowers, string up patio lights. Then settle into your outdoor sanctuary and let the magical moments unfold one alfresco dinner at a time.