Buying Outdoor Furniture? 6 Embarrassing Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
The vestiges of summer are fast slipping away, along with all those lazy afternoons and evenings spent lounging outside. But before you hermetically seal yourself indoors for the next six months or so, consider this: Now is actually the best time to buy brand-new outdoor furniture that you can enjoy next summer.
Just as January is the hot time for “white sales” (when you can score the best deal on linens), late summer is when you’ll find some of the best prices on outdoor furniture. Whether you’re setting up a screened porch or designing your pool deck, smart buys can be had throughout September—but you have to prepare. Not boning up on the materials and forgetting to consider the climate are just a couple of ways homeowners can get burned by these seemingly awesome deals.
Don’t be that homeowner! Avoid the following six mistakes—and you’ll soon be sitting pretty on that patio. Soon enough, anyhow.
1. Leaving the tape measure at home
We cannot emphasize this enough: Before you head to the store (or online), measure your space. You might think you’ve eyeballed your deck correctly, but there’s no substitute for exact measurements. Furthermore, not only should you write down the dimensions, it’s also a good idea to grab some painter’s tape and mark shapes on the patio floor where you’d like to place furniture. This way, you’ll know there’s room for french doors to swing open—or (before you commit to a purchase) the dining table you thought would fit will have to be much smaller.
“It’s particularly difficult to gauge the amount of furniture an enclosed area can handle, like a screened porch or lanai,” says Joyce Means, a designer with Dec Den in Charleston, SC. “You’ve got to measure the space and then the individual pieces as you keep in mind natural walking paths.”
2. Glossing over materials and quality
When you’re trying to create a patio that pops, it’s easy to get lured in by a vibrant color or trendy design. But if you don’t pay attention to the quality, construction, or materials, you might be throwing money down the drain. (This is, of course, true for indoor furniture as well. But think of the elements your outdoor furniture is exposed to—do you really want to drop cash on something that will immediately fall apart?)
How do you know what’ll hold up, what will withstand long bouts of moisture, or what won’t fade in the sun? Do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask the experts when you’re shopping. And be ready to take notes—buying outdoor furniture can be a bit of a science.
For example, wicker is classic and definitely says “patio” on the showroom floor, but it’s good to know that it comes in an easier-to-clean synthetic resin version. Wrought iron and coated aluminum will resist moisture, but not every type of metal is made to withstand weeks of outdoor exposure. Means recommends high-quality wicker or teak for longevity.
3. Ignoring your location
On a related note: Before you buy outdoor furniture, consider your climate and find out how different materials will react to the elements.
Living by the sea might be dreamy, but the salty air can do a number on outdoor furniture—particularly certain types of metal (rain and humidity will cause untreated metal to rust). The same goes for colder climates and areas shaded by sap-dripping trees. (You’ll never be as aggravated as when you try to remove pine needles from the nooks of your new wicker furniture.)
“And Southerners should keep in mind that aluminum will absorb heat and could potentially become too hot to sit on or touch with your arm,” Means notes.
4. Skipping the ‘sit test’
You definitely sprawl across (and maybe bounce) on a mattress you’re considering, so why not lounge in the outdoor chairs you’ll be spending lazy evenings in?
“Many homeowners shop too quickly in order to get a bargain without really testing the feel of each piece,” notes Anna Shiwlall, a decorator with 27 Diamonds in California’s Orange County.
A scroll pattern on the back of a settee might actually poke you in the shoulder blades—but you won’t know this if you don’t give it the “sit test” in the store. So, sit! And if you can’t get to the store because you’re shopping online, get your info another way, Shiwlall urges.
“Look for reviews and see what other people are saying about your picks,” she adds.
5. Not investing in proper protection
Outdoor furniture isn’t usually cheap. If you don’t want to be shelling out for new patio chairs year after year, it’s best to spend some money upfront on protection for your investment.
You’ll probably need to spring for covers to use during the offseason; expect to spend $20 to $50 per cover. Some outdoor sets offer individual zipper cases (like this $225 set from Wayfair)—which can be worth the money for the protection they offer from rain, snow, and even spring pollen.
“You might also consider building or buying a container to store large cushions in a dry place so they don’t get dirty or attract mildew,” Means says.
And don’t forget that you’re buying your outdoor set at the end of the season, so it’s doubly important to safeguard your investment so you can enjoy it when the warm weather rolls around next year,
6. Forgetting about function
Do you entertain large groups frequently? Be sure to purchase enough chairs. Or are you more likely to laze in the shade so you can read and nap? Perhaps you’ll want to look into a patio umbrella.
Take stock of your family’s habits, count up the kids, and then shop accordingly. If your teens are going to fight over the “best” recliner, consider getting two and skipping the matching throw pillows. And if you always tote your habanero margaritas out on the deck, you’ll need enough side tables to accommodate cups and glasses.
“Complete your look by adding an outdoor rug, a wall-mounted TV, or plants to an enclosed space,” Means says. These days, porches and patios are considered an extension of your home’s interior, so have fun with the design as you shop smart.