Tips 'n Tricks — March 7, 2014 at 5:00 am

7 Tips for Buying Outdoor Furniture

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Depending on where you live, the days of curling up on a lounge chair in the sun or enjoying a dinner al fresco in the backyard might seem far away.

The good news: it might not be as far as it seems. Springtime weather is notoriously fickle—everything can change in the blink of an eye. Summer could be sooner than you think! When it hits, you’ll want to be ready to soak up every delicious ray of sun. Now is the time to stock up on perfect patio pieces to relish those dog days of summer. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Determine What You Need
What’s your vision for your outdoor space? Will you use it for regular family meals, to entertain in the great outdoors, or just for lounging by the pool? The way you intend to use the space will determine what pieces you’ll need to acquire.

For instance, if you plan on eating outside, a traditional dining set might be the perfect option. If you plan on hosting a few outdoor gatherings, modular furniture might be your best bet: the sectionals can be rearranged to provide extra seating space, extra surface space to rest food, or extra lounging space. If your time outside will mostly be devoted to relaxing, drinking and enjoying a few appetizers, you can prioritize big, comfortable seating over the need for a big table.

How Much?
How much refers to two things: how many pieces do you need, and how much can you spend?

To tackle the first question, take inventory of those likely to use the space. How many people are in your household? Do you anticipate having guests over? Do you have a pool, which might invite a few stragglers to pop in unexpectedly?

In terms of budget, know what you have to work with. There are options for just about every price point. Quality and comfort will require a higher initial investment, but you will likely enjoy the pieces for many, many summers.

What Are Your Space Limitations?
Assess how much space you have to work with. Patio furniture should be placed thoughtfully, taking into account details like the amount of sunlight and the ease of ingress and egress (particularly if you’ll be carting food across a yard!).

Measure the amount of space you have, and work within the constraint. Don’t worry if you’re dealing with a smaller space: there are solutions for that. For instance, a round table will fit more people in a smaller space; or a smaller bistro/café style set might be more up your alley.

Is Portability a Priority?
Generally speaking, you can opt for lighter weight materials that are easy to move around, or sturdy pieces that will stand the test of time.

If portability is a priority for you, look for lighter materials like aluminum (which, as an added bonus, does not rust), plastic, PVC, wicker or rattan. You might also want to consider whether or not individual pieces are stackable: furniture in these materials often are, which means you can save space when they’re stored.

Or is Durability More Important?
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more permanent, durable pieces, you’ll want to explore sturdier materials. Wrought iron and wood are both solid options that will stand the test of time.

Since outdoor furniture is exposed to all types of elements, you’ll probably need to perform regular maintenance on these more solid pieces. The good news is that a little ongoing maintenance goes a long way: quality outdoor furniture that is properly cared for will last you years. Always check the tags to understand what type of upkeep will be required, so you know what you’re in for.

Pick the Right Material
Those hard, plastic chairs that leave indentations in your legs are –thankfully– a thing of the past. Modern patio seating is aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable than ever before. Once you sit down, you’ll never want to leave!

When you’re looking into seating options, keep your eye open for cushioning made with polyester fibers: this lets water run off the cushion instead of absorbing the moisture. You’ll also want to flip the cushion over: if it’s patterned, does the pattern extend to the other side? Being able to use both sides of a cushion will extend its life.

Storage Considerations
At the end of the season, you’ll want to store as much of the furniture as you can. Wash and dry all cushions, and store them in a dry place. If you don’t have space in your home, place them in storage bins, which can be tucked into a shed or under a porch.

Anything portable should be stored in an area where it is protected from the harsh winter elements. If you have more durable furniture, you might not need to move anything—a heat lamp or portable fire pit might extend your outdoor living season!

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