Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

5 Key Factors to Consider Before Buying Outdoor Furniture

Shopping for outdoor furniture doesn't have to be complicated. Here are things worth considering before your next purchase.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Arielle Burton Associate Content Manager
Arielle Burton is an associate content manager on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Hofstra University in New York. Prior to joining CNET, she worked with legacy news (ABC7NY and Fox Business Network) and tech companies (Mashable). She specializes in crafting compelling alerts, building community engagement on news platforms, and optimizing CNET's content for all audiences. Ultimately, Arielle is a digital media professional by day and a fierce chef by night.
Expertise News Platform Aggregation, Alerts, Home Page Curation, Content Optimization
Brian Bennett
Arielle Burton
4 min read
Enlarge Image

Think about your options before imagining your inviting backyard retreat.

West Elm

The season for hosting outdoor parties, celebrations and gatherings is here. Shopping around for outdoor furniture can be sort of a tricky endeavor, especially when there are Memorial Day deals, summer sales and so much more that look so appealing. On top of that, there's a variety of styles to choose from and don't forget about what it will actually cost to make your dream backyard aesthetic possible. Depending on your preference, you may spend a few bucks out of pocket to multiple thousands.

shopping tips logo

Whether you just moved to a new place or are hoping to spruce up your backyard ambiance, here's what you need to know and the tools that can help you do it. Trust me, this guide will help you explore the big questions you should consider before making a purchase. The goal is to give you the tools you need to make your backyard space one you're excited to show off and use all year long.

Read more: Best Outdoor Grill Deals 

What type of outdoor furniture is best suited for my 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.

Read more: Indoor Basic Home Essentials That Will Make Your Life Easier

What will this outdoor area be used for?

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.

Read more: Best Outdoor Projector for 2023: Tested by Our Experts

Can I stay on budget and get outdoor furniture that suits my needs?

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. 

Read more: Best Credit Cards for Large Purchases for May 2023

Enlarge Image

The Abaco collection of outdoor furniture from Crate and Barrel. 

Crate and Barrel

What type of aesthetic do I want for this outdoor space?

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. 

Enlarge Image

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

West Elm

There's also teak, which is a kind 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 embellishment as possible. You, on the other hand, might love the look of rattan, which apparently is all the rage. 

Read more: Best Outdoor Smart Plugs for 2023

When shopping for outdoor furniture, when should I 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.