How to Buy Patio Furniture That Will Last

Good outdoor furniture isn't cheap, but the right materials can withstand a lot of bad weather.
Woman enjoying patio furniture

Summer is nearly over, and retailers are trying to get rid of their remaining seasonal stock. That means we can expect to see great deals on patio furniture in the coming weeks. Last year, most of our Editors' Choice deals on outdoor furniture arrived in August and September.

So if you're looking to upgrade your patio, read on for our complete guide to buying outdoor furniture.

Buy the Best Outdoor Furniture for YOU

Buying outdoor furniture requires special considerations. Because it'll be out in the elements, you need furniture designed to handle heat, cold, sun, rain, and anything else Mother Nature can throw at it.

No outdoor furniture can survive the harshest conditions everywhere, so you'll want to pick the furniture that best suits your local weather.

So let's ignore style for a second, because materials are the most important consideration for outfitting the perfect patio. You want to look for materials that will last. Even if they cost more, you won't have to pay to replace them next year.

It's not just about picking out the most durable material, either. Some furniture won't do well in heat, some should be kept out of direct sunlight, some can rust in damp weather, and lightweight pieces can blow away in high winds. No outdoor furniture can survive the harshest conditions everywhere, so you'll want to pick the furniture that best suits your local weather.

It's important to consider maintenance, too. Even if your patio furniture is made from quality materials, it'll last longer (and look better) with regular maintenance. If you don't have time for regular upkeep, you'll want to look for outdoor furniture that doesn't need more than a rinse with the garden hose to keep it looking great.

Is Your Patio Furniture Built to Last?

Late-summer sales deliver good patio furniture at a good discount, so take advantage of these deals to pick up high-quality patio gear that will last. You should start by picking the right material for your patio set.

Wood Patio Furniture

Wood is as basic as it gets when it comes to outdoor furniture. As a material, wood offers you a wide range of styles and price points. Softwoods, like pine or cedar, are less durable (and cheaper), while hardwoods like teak can last for decades if properly cared for.

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Whatever wood you decide on, be sure it's treated to resist the weather — but be aware that even treated lumber will take a beating from the sun. The color will fade and the wood can crack, though some people like the gray patina that woods weather to.

Water can also be a problem, particularly if your furniture gets a regular drenching or winds up in standing water, which can cause it to warp and weaken. You'll want to regularly apply fresh sealant to protect it — or, for painted wood, a new coat of paint — and the cheaper the wood, the more frequently you'll want to seal it. Pricey teak furnishings are an investment, and it's important to care for them if you want them to last.

Metal Patio Furniture

Metal is another option that can fit any decor and budget. It's strong and durable, with options such as lightweight aluminum, modern stainless steel, and classic wrought iron. Aluminum and stainless steel will both resist rust, meaning less maintenance (though a regular coat of automotive wax will help protect it).

Wrought iron takes a little more work to keep in tip-top shape. All metal can rust if it's not cared for — particularly if you're on the coast, and your outdoor furniture will be exposed to salty sea air.

All metal can rust if it's not cared for — particularly if you're on the coast.

Keeping metal patio sets clean and away from standing water will help, but you may still find spots of rust. You'll want to (carefully) scrub these off with some steel wool, and then apply paint or finish. Wrought iron and stainless steel furniture both tend to be heavy, which helps them stay in place in windy weather — but they'll be hard to move if you want to rearrange.

Aluminum is your cheapest option, but that lightweight construction means it can get knocked over in a stiff enough breeze; you'll want to secure these pieces or move them indoors during storms. And all metal furniture can get hot if left in the sun, which isn't exactly comfortable. Plan to keep your metal furniture in the shade or use cushions (or both).

Plastic or Resin Patio Furniture

Synthetic materials like plastic and resin are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to care for. You may think plastic furniture is tacky, but these days it comes in almost any style — including wicker-style weaves made out of synthetic materials for durability. Caring for plastic and resin furniture is usually simple, requiring little more than hosing off (or pressure washing if it's particularly dirty).

You'll want to move this lightweight patio furniture out of the wind, because it can get blown around or damaged in a bad storm. When shopping, beware of cheap, flimsy plastic, which may be wobbly and prone to cracking — you'll probably have to replace those pieces year after year.

Wicker Patio Furniture

Finally there's natural wicker, made of woven rattan or another natural material. It has a great classic style, but it doesn't like the weather. This so-called "outdoor" furniture is best kept in the shade and protected from rain — it simply won't last otherwise.

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Look for wicker that's been treated for outdoor use, and plan to store it indoors (or at least cover it) on stormy days and during the winter. Varnish or paint can help protect wicker furniture from the elements. And, as with wood furniture, sealant or finish should be regularly reapplied.

Pillows for Patio Furniture

You'll want to pay careful attention to the fabrics used in cushions and pillows. Often, weather-resistant fabric will be made of acrylic, vinyl, or treated polyester. You'll want to look for materials labeled outdoor, all-weather, weatherproof, waterproof, or even marine-grade, which is typically used for boating.

Be careful with fabrics not rated for outdoor use, which will degrade quickly in the elements. However, even fabrics designed for the outdoors will fade in direct sunlight, and materials resistant to mold and mildew will have problems if they stay wet. Whenever possible, keep everything out of full sun exposure and allow it to dry completely after a storm.

family in backyard

How to Care for Your Patio Furniture

We've said it already, but it's worth repeating: your patio furniture will last longer if you take care of it. And that's a good thing, because it's more cash in your pocket when you don't have to replace last year's patio set.

Even the most weather-resistant materials will take damage when left in the elements for too long. Water and humidity can cause mold, mildew and rot in wood, or rust and corrosion in metal. Wood can warp if it absorbs water and doesn't dry evenly (which is why it's so important to regularly apply a sealant).

Investing in covers will protect your furniture from inclement weather — consider leaving a cover on whenever you aren't using your patio.

Plastic and wood can both expand in the heat, and become cracked and brittle when they cool. Any colored surface, from wood to fabric, will fade after spending too long in the sun. And natural wicker degrades in sunlight, heat, or standing water.

You'll find all of these problems worsen with cheaper materials, but care will keep all of your outdoor furniture looking new. Investing in covers will also do a good job of protecting your pieces from inclement weather — consider leaving a cover on whenever you aren't using your patio. During the winter, it's best to store your furniture indoors, or at least keep it covered. This is particularly true of natural wicker.

Keeping your furniture clean will also help. Brush off any dirt (note that dirt can get stuck in the weave of wicker), and then wash it. Pressure washing is an easy way to keep durable furniture clean, while hand-washing may be necessary for more fragile materials like wicker and fabric. Be sure to give any furniture a good cleaning when you get it out for spring or put it away for winter — including applying a fresh coat of sealant if it's appropriate.

Keep Your Furniture Safe in a Storm

A little rain and wind won't destroy most outdoor furniture, but you should take some precautions in particularly bad weather. If you can, move furniture to a covered area, or put a weather-resistant cover over it before a storm — again, this is particularly important for natural wicker.

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Close any umbrellas or take them down entirely, as they can be damaged in strong winds. It's a good idea to stash cushions out of the weather — either putting them indoors or inside a storage bin to keep them out of the elements. When they do get wet, be sure to clean and dry them.

If you have any lightweight furniture, like plastic or aluminum, you'll want to secure it. Move the pieces out of the wind, weigh them down, or attach them to something heavy so they won't fly across the yard.

Saving on New Patio Furniture

Whatever you buy, be sure to check it out in person first. Make sure it's sturdy and comfortable. Avoid anything that wobbles (which suggests poor construction), or feels flimsy (which suggests it's fragile).

Shop Clearance Patio Furniture

The easiest way to save on new outdoor furniture is to shop clearance sales. We've already seen a few Editors' Choice deals this year, but there will be more of them moving into August. Last year, Home Depot, Sears, and Walmart saw the most patio furniture sales, with discounts of up to 75% off.

Last year, Home Depot, Sears, and Walmart saw the most patio furniture sales, with discounts of up to 75% off.

And while we've covered materials already, some are definitely more budget-friendly. Look for aluminum, plastic, or resin to save both money and maintenance time. Still, top-of-the-line teak furniture may fall within reach during these sales; teak outdoor furniture can last a lifetime if you take care of it.

Save on Used Patio Furniture

If you still don't have the budget for the patio set of your dreams, now is a good time to look for used patio furniture, too. When people upgrade their patio sets, they're usually looking to get rid of their old furniture — which can mean bargains at consignment stores, yard sales, or on Craigslist.

Furniture that's not in the best condition — whether you've bought it used or it's furniture you already own — can often be refurbished with some care. Sometimes you don't have to do much more than follow the basic maintenance steps we've outlined above: cleaning it and applying fresh paint or sealant. Wood furniture that's in bad shape could get new life with some sanding and stain.

SEE ALSO: The Top 10 Best Windproof Umbrellas

Fixing wobbly pieces can sometimes be as simple as tightening the screws. Even a new set of cushions can give aging furniture new life. Just be careful you aren't spending more money trying to restore a piece than it's worth; a flimsy plastic patio chair will still be a flimsy plastic patio chair after you power wash it.

Readers, do you have any patio furniture shopping tips? What materials hold up well in your local climate? Let us know in the comments below!

Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment
I like the detailed guide. Thank you for a great read. I agree all furniture are built to last if well taken care of.