Ranking Guide: What is Good Outdoor Furniture?

When you buy from a retailer link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Read our affiliate disclaimer here.

Buying outdoor furniture can be a thrilling and exciting event because new furniture brings more fun and time spent in your outdoor space. But at the same time, finding the right outdoor furniture can be a challenge. There are so many patio furniture options and things to consider before purchasing the right outdoor furniture for you.

 

So, we created this guide that explains the eight dimensions we use to rank outdoor furniture to help you understand how we determine what good outdoor furniture is and for you to use as you are buying patio furniture.

 

Continue reading below to learn more!

Patio Furniture Ranking Guide

What Does this Guide Cover?

We understand that you can buy many things for your patio, deck, balcony, or any outdoor space, and we plan to help you evaluate all those purchasing decisions. However, this guide is specifically geared toward helping you assess patio outdoor seating, outdoor dining, and outdoor table options. This can include patio furniture like:

 

  • Patio chairs
  • Outdoor sofas
  • Chaise lounges
  • Outdoor sectionals
  • Patio sets
  • Patio dining set
  • Outdoor tables
  • Dining chairs
  • Dining tables
  • Side tables
  • Coffee tables

Why is This Guide Important for Buying Outdoor Furniture?

We want to help you choose patio furniture that is perfect for your backyard. We understand (because we are buyers of outdoor patio furniture too) that the process can be confusing and it is not always easy to find the best patio furniture because there are so many different materials to understand, seating options to evaluate, brands and retailers to shop, and prices to compare. It can be very overwhelming! 

 

To top it off, the right patio furniture can be a significant financial investment, and this investment will directly impact your outdoor enjoyment.

 

This guide aims to simplify the process of buying outdoor furniture by focusing on eight core characteristics of outdoor furniture that you can use (and we use for our reviews) to compare different patio furniture options. 

Special Considerations for Patio Furniture

Any furniture you place outside will face much more wear and tear than your furniture inside. As a result, you will need to find furniture that can handle the wear and tear and the elements of your backyard: rain, sun, heat, cold, spills, humidity, wind, scratches, excessive use, and anything else that may happen in your backyard. So, when we evaluate any outdoor furniture, these are the features that we look for in furniture materials:

 

  • UV or Fade Resistance: If you expect your outdoor furniture to be exposed to the sun, you want an item designed to withstand degradation or fade from the sun.
  • Water or Spill Resistance: If you expect your furniture to be exposed to rain (even under a patio) or get spilled on, you will want a material that can resist staying wet or holding water.
  • Stain Resistance: Your outdoor furniture will get dirty at some point. So you will want to find furniture that can resist staining if you want it to continue to look like new for a long time.
  • Mold and Mildew Resistance: This goes hand-in-hand with water and spill resistance, but you want to ensure that your furniture won’t have mold or mildew growth if it gets wet.
  • Durability: Your outdoor furniture and other items will experience a lot of wear and tear outside. So, items that promote being scratch, tear, crack, dent, etc. -resistant or -proof are always a plus.
  • Low maintenance: Manufacturers may not always directly state if a piece of furniture is low maintenance. But, you can look for phrases like “mild soap and water” only needed to clean the furniture or “machine washable” for fabrics to indicate low maintenance requirements. Review manufacturers suggested maintenance and balance those recommendations with your expectations of how much maintenance you see yourself performing on your outdoor furniture.

We have evaluated numerous outdoor materials against these features and detailed our ratings for each material in our Complete Outdoor Furniture Materials Guide

Our Outdoor Patio Furniture Ranking Methodology

Our ranking process consists of eight core components, and we evaluate all outdoor seating and table options against these components. This methodology can be helpful to you as well as you search for the best patio furniture for your backyard.

 

  1. Frame Material:  The frame is the core component of your furniture (the skeleton, if you will) and provides the structural support of your outdoor furniture. Frame materials will have the most direct impact on how long your furniture lasts and the overall quality of the patio furniture. Some frame materials are more durable and weather-resistant than others, and we rank patio furniture based on the type of frame material used to construct the piece of furniture.
  2. Fabric Material: Fabric is the second most important aspect of furniture because this fabric directly impacts your comfort and the longevity of the furniture. Some outdoor fabrics are specially designed to be more weather-resistant than others, and we rank patio furniture based on the fabric material used on the cushions (or the type of sling material, if the furniture uses sling instead of cushions).
  3. Cushion Material: One of the most challenging pieces of information to find about outdoor furniture is cushion material because not all manufacturers list what makes up the cushion. Not only does cushion material impact how comfortable the furniture is, but better cushion material will withstand many seasons and years in your outdoor space. Thus, we rank patio furniture based on the cushion material (if the furniture is cushionless, we skip ranking on this component)
  4. Assembly: Furniture assembly can be a real challenge, and furniture that may require more assembly may require more maintenance later on or be more of a hassle if you need to move the furniture. Thus we rank how easy or difficult it is to assemble a piece of outdoor furniture.
  5. Shipping and Delivery: Outdoor furniture can often be bulky and expensive to ship, so we rank patio furniture based on how the company handles shipping costs and delivery support.
  6. Warranty: The warranty is one of the most critical aspects of buying any furniture because it protects your purchase in case something goes wrong. We rank patio furniture based on the length of the warranty provided by the manufacturer or retailer.
  7. Return Policy / Trial Period: The return policy (sometimes called the trial period) is also an important consideration when buying furniture because it gives you some protection if you’re unsatisfied with your purchase. We rank patio furniture based on the return policy offered by the manufacturer or retailer.
  8. Price: The price of outdoor furniture can vary greatly, but we don’t solely rank furniture if it costs more than average. We look at how well the price of the patio furniture fits the typical budgets of people buying in the quality range of the patio furniture.

In the sections below, we describe each category in detail and how we rank outdoor furniture on a 1-5 star scale.

#1 Frame Material

The frame of your furniture is the most important aspect because it provides the structural support for your furniture. The frame gives your furniture its shape and defines the piece’s overall look. A good frame should be made of durable material that can withstand years of use. 

 

We recognize that there are many different types of frame materials, and the level of design, manufacturing, and craftsmanship can significantly affect a material’s weather resistance and durability. However, we generally categorize materials using the 5-star ranking method below.

 

5-stars:

  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Teak
  • Aluminum

These are the best frame materials you can use for patio furniture. We have written a detailed comparison piece that breaks down the key differences between these materials. Overall, these are highly durable and weather-resistant materials that should last many years in your backyard. The leading brands rely on these materials in their furniture, so you will likely see furniture made from HDPE, teak, and aluminum at higher price points than those made with the materials listed below.

 

4-stars:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Mahogany
  • Steel and Stainless Steel
  • Most Acacia
  • Some Polyethylene (PE) (Plastic or Wicker style)
  • Some Polypropylene (Plastic or Wicker style)
  • Some Steel

Eucalyptus and mahogany make great wood furniture, as does most acacia. Some Polyethylene (PE) or high-quality all-weather resin wicker usually makes highly durable outdoor furniture. Stainless steel and powder-coated or galvanized steel are often found on high-quality furniture. You can find some exciting deals and prices for quality patio furniture made with these materials.

 

3-stars:

  • Wrought Iron
  • Some Acacia
  • Some Polyethylene (PE) (Plastic or Wicker style)
  • Some Polypropylene (Plastic or Wicker style)
  • Some Steel

These materials make up the majority of the bargain categories of outdoor furniture, and you will notice some overlap with materials listed in the 4-star categories. What’s the reason for the overlap? The design, manufacturing, and craftsmanship of patio furniture can make a big difference for some materials. For example, some manufacturers use better powder-coating for steel than others. Similarly, some manufacturers use a better PE material and manufacturing processes to make PE wicker-style furniture.

 

How will you know? It’s not always easy to tell by looking at the material if it is high-quality or not. Our approach is two-fold. First, we look at how the piece of furniture grades on the other dimensions below. For example, if an acacia piece of furniture doesn’t get at least two 3-star rankings on Fabric Material, Cushion Material, Assembly, Warranty, and Return Policy / Trial Period, we would rank the acacia furniture as a 3-star. Secondly, look at the customer reviews to see if there is a trend of customers providing negative feedback about frames breaking, chipping, rotting, scratching, denting, etc. If you see there are several comments on these topics, it’s likely the frame material is not the best quality.

 

2-stars:

  • Softwoods

Some softwoods like cedar and cypress can make great outdoor furniture. But, softwoods are not known to be very durable or weather-resistant, so you will have to keep the maintenance on these types of materials.

 

1-star:

  • Unknown

Rarely will you come across furniture that doesn’t state what type of material it is, but if the description is just “wood,” “metal,” or “plastic,” you should be prepared to get what you pay for.

Aluminum Outdoor Sofa - 3 Seat / Pacific Fog Gray

Outer's Outdoor Sofa

4 & 5-star Details:

#2 Fabric Material

Just like with frame materials, the quality of the fabric can make a big difference in how long your furniture lasts. A bargain piece of furniture might have a low-quality fabric that will fade quickly in the sun or start to tear after just a few uses. A high-quality piece of furniture will use fabric designed to withstand years of use outdoors.

 

5-stars:

  • Sunbrella
  • Olefin
  • Nuvella
  • CushionGuard
  • DuraSeason
  • Outdura
  • InsideOut

This list is a short list of high-quality performance fabric materials, which is led by the uber-popular Sunbrella fabric. Most of these materials are solution-dyed fabrics (many are solution-dyed acrylics), which is important because this means these fabrics are highly fade resistant. Additionally, these fabrics have been designed to be highly durable, weather-resistant, water-resistant, and fade-resistant. If you want a high-quality material that will last many years, look for branded fabrics (like Sunbrella, Nuvella, CushionGuard, DuraSeason, Outdura, InsideOut, etc.) that have been specifically designed to withstand the outdoor elements.

 

The leading brands use high-quality fabrics in their furniture, so you will likely see furniture made with Sunbrella, Olefin, and the other brands listed above at higher price points than furniture made with materials listed in the categories below.

 

4-stars:

  • Textilene
  • Some Unbranded Polyester

Textilene is an excellent material when used for sling (or sometimes called mesh) patio furniture; there might be cases where we rate this fabric as a 5-star. Some unbranded polyester material can be treated with UV inhibitors or designed with water resistance.

 

3-stars:

  • Most Polyester

Polyester is a common outdoor fabric used in cushions, and it is best known for being available in more styles, patterns, and colors. However, this fabric’s durability and weather resistance can vary significantly from one manufacturer to the next.

 

2-stars:

  • Vinyl
  • Canvas Cloth / Duck Cloth

Vinyl is very water-resistant but can get very hot to the touch. Duck cloth and cotton materials are not usually treated to be weather-resistant, so these fabrics will need regular care to keep the fabric from fading and degrading from outdoor use.

 

1-star:

  • Unknown

For some bargain-priced outdoor furniture, you may find that the manufacturer does not state the type of fabric. This should be a red flag because you need to know the type of material to properly care for fabric

The Sectional from Neighbor

Neighbor's Outdoor Sectional

4 & 5-star Details:

#3 Cushion Material

Finding the right outdoor cushions for your patio furniture can be a crucial decision. Some materials won’t last long outdoors, especially if the cushion material is consistently exposed to sunlight and moisture. So, you must find the right cushion to meet your expectations.

 

5-stars:

  • Open-Cell Foam (Reticulated Foam)
  • QuickDry Foam
  • DryFast Foam
  • EZ-Dri Foam
  • Foam with Waterproof Barrier

Plus:

  • >5″ Thickness
  • Foam wrapped in batting (e.g., Polyester Fiberfill / Dacron)

OR:

  • Polyester Fiberfill (e.g. Dacron)

Open-cell foam (reticulated foam), as the name suggests, allows water to pass through this foam. We like cushions that can dry quickly (Neighbor uses reticulated foam) or are designed to repel water (Outer wraps its foam in a waterproof barrier). Cushions made with these features are ideal for the outdoors because, at some point, your patio furniture will get water.

 

Additionally, we like thick cushions wrapped in some type of batting. Cushions greater than 5″ are generally very comfortable, and the batting (a material wrapped around a foam core) provides a smooth, even, soft look and feel to a cushion.

 

We make a special mention here when the cushion fill material is only Polyester Fiberfill, also called Dacron. Polyester fiberfill is quick-drying and usually has antimicrobial properties. When not used as batting, this fill material can be used for seat back cushions or throw pillows. If the material is used solely as a seat cushion, the cushion may lose its shape after repeated use.

 

4-stars:

  • High-Density Polyurethane Foam

Plus:

  • 3-4″ Thickness
  • Foam wrapped in batting

You will find that many high-quality cushions will be made from standard high-density polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam can be made in various densities and firmness and typically has properties like antimicrobial protection. But, high-density foam provides additional comfort, support, and longevity.

Additionally, you will typically find this foam in various thicknesses and often wrapped in some form of batting for additional comfort and smoothness. In all, this can be a very comfortable cushion material. The downside is that this foam soaks up water and dries slowly.

 

3-stars:

  • Standard Polyurethane Foam

Plus:

  • 3″ Thickness

The industry average for outdoor cushions is a standard foam core about 3″ thick. Cushions within this 3-star category typically have sharper, more pronounced edges and corners because these cushions typically won’t have batting that creates a smooth and even look.

 

2-stars:

  • “Sponge” Foam

Plus:

  • <3″ Thickness

You may find some outdoor furniture listed with “sponge” foam. Although the cushion may be reasonably thick (can be greater than 3″ thickness), expect that this foam will soak water and may lose its shape over time.

 

1-star:

  • Unknown
  • Minimal Thickness

If the furniture doesn’t list the material in the cushion and the cushion does not appear to be very thick, do not expect the cushion to perform well outdoors for a long time.

Seabrook 9 Piece Conversation Set with End Tables

SunHaven's Seabrook Conversation Set

4 & 5-star Details:

#4 Assembly

How much assembly is required of you for your patio furniture is a key consideration in how we rank outdoor patio furniture. Not only can assembling your furniture be challenging, but furniture with more assembly may be challenging to maintain or move.

 

5-stars:

  • No Assembly Required

Some patio furniture will come fully assembled right out of the box. This is a very convenient feature as it allows you to set up the furniture in your outdoor area quickly.

 

4-stars:

  • Minimal Assembly Required (<30 minutes)

For patio furniture that requires some assembly, we prefer products that only need a few steps to put together. This might include attaching legs to a table or attaching cushions to a chair. We think this type of assembly is very easy to do and should not take more than a few minutes.

 

3-stars:

  • Some Assembly Required (30-60 minutes)

When assembly is required, we prefer products that come with clear instructions and all the necessary hardware. One person can typically do this type of assembly in about 30 minutes to an hour.

 

2-stars:

  • Significant Assembly Required (>60 minutes)

There are some products that require a lot of assembly. This type of furniture is typically made of many different parts and can be very time-consuming to put together. This may take more than an hour.

 

1-star:

  • Unknown

If the amount of assembly required is not listed or cannot be provided by a sales representative, we give a low rating to the patio furniture.

#5 Shipping and Delivery

We think it is essential to consider both shipping and delivery when buying patio furniture because there are various shipping and delivery options from different brands and retailers, which can save you time and money.

 

5-stars:

  • Free Shipping & Quick Delivery

We rate patio furniture highly when a retailer or brand offers free shipping and quick delivery. This means you can get your furniture quickly without paying extra for shipping. A typical fast shipping and delivery time is about a week from when you make your purchase.

 

4-stars:

  • Free shipping limited to a certain purchase amount
  • Quick Delivery

Some retailers or brands offer free shipping, but only when you spend a certain amount of money. We think this is a good option because it still saves you money on shipping, but you may have to buy more furniture than you need or budgeted.

 

3-stars:

  • Standard Shipping Cost & Delivery Times

Some retailers or brands charge for shipping and have a standard delivery timeframe of less than 30 days. This is a fairly common option, and we think it is a good option if you don’t mind paying for shipping and you are not in a hurry to get your furniture.

 

2-stars:

  • High Shipping Costs
  • Long Delivery Times

Some patio furniture retailers or brands have slow shipping and delivery. This means it could take more than a month to get your furniture. Additionally, some retailers may tack on higher than normal shipping costs.

 

1-star:

  • Unknown

We provide a low rating when a retailer or brand does not list their shipping and delivery options or if they cannot provide this information.

#6 Warranty

When buying patio furniture, we think it is important to consider the warranty because it can save you money in the long run if something goes wrong with your furniture. It also indicates the furniture’s quality as you are looking to buy patio furniture. We note that nearly all warranties offered by retailers and brands are limited warranties; rarely will you find a full warranty.

 

5-stars:

  • Length: 5 or more years

The best outdoor furniture usually comes with a long limited warranty. A long warranty greater than 5 years indicates that the manufacturer expects the furniture to last for a long time.

 

4-stars:

  • Length: >1 year, <5 years

A warranty of 1-5 years is still a good indication that the manufacturer stands behind their product and that the product will last several seasons and years in your outdoor spaces.

 

3-stars:

  • Length: 1 year

The average industry warranty is about one year. Although the 1-year time frame may not back up how long you expect the furniture to last, it does give you time to ensure that your furniture can endure all four seasons in your backyard.

 

2-stars:

  • Length: <1 year

While not ideal, a shorter than one-year warranty does provide some protection if your furniture is damaged.

 

1-star:

  • None or Unknown

We provide a low rating when we cannot determine the manufacturer or retailer’s warranty length or if the manufacturer or retailer does not have a warranty.

#7 Return Policy / Trial Period

When buying patio furniture, it is important to consider the return policy or trial period because it allows you to test out the furniture and gives you an opportunity to return the patio furniture for a refund.

 

5-stars:

  • Free Returns
  • Length: 30 days or greater

The best return policy or trial period for patio furniture is one that is 30 days or greater. This allows you to test out the furniture in your backyard and gives you ample time to return it if it does not work for you, at no cost!

 

4-stars:

  • Free Returns
  • Length: 10-30 days

OR

  • Minimal return costs
  • Ability to waive return costs

A return policy that is 15-30 days is still a good option because it allows you to test out the furniture and decide if it works for you.

 

3-stars:

  • Return Fees (about 15% of purchase price)
  • Length: 7-10 days

Some retailers charge a restocking fee for returns, but they still allow you to return the patio furniture within a certain time frame. The industry average return period is about 7-10 days.

 

2-stars:

  • Return Fees >15%
  • Length: < 7 days

A return policy shorter than seven days or has a restocking fee greater than 15% of the purchase price is not ideal, but it does give you some protection if you are not happy with your purchase.

 

1-star:

  • Non-existent or Unknown

We provide a low rating when we cannot find a return policy, or we cannot determine the return policy from the retailer or brand.

#8 Price

The last one on our list is not as straightforward as some may think. Some might think that if a piece of patio furniture is expensive, it should get a low ranking. We don’t think that way because a piece of furniture that uses high-quality materials should command a higher price than one made with lower-quality materials. So when we look at a product’s price, we evaluate how well the price fits the typical budgets of people buying in the quality range of the patio furniture. We have researched hundreds of different patio furniture items to assess typical price ranges. Through this research, we have developed our assessment of how well the price of a patio furniture item may fit the budget of a typical shopper for a certain quality range.

 

5-stars:

  • Fits Budgets of All Buyers in Quality Range

4-stars:

  • Fits Budgets of Most Buyers in Quality Range

3-stars:

  • Fits Budgets of Some Buyers in Quality Range

2-stars:

  • Fits Budgets of Few Buyers in Quality Range

1-star:

  • Most Buyers are Excluded from Purchasing at this Price

Final Scoring

If you are looking for high-quality furniture, then you want furniture that scores with several 4 and 5-star rankings on the eight factors on this list, especially on Frame Material, Fabric Material, and Cushion Material. We tend to give those attributes more weight when developing an overall score.  

 

Can you find good furniture that mainly has 3-star rankings? Absolutely! You can find lots of options that are perfectly suitable for your outdoor space in this range, and these options are usually at attractive price points. But we recommend that you thoroughly read product descriptions and user reviews to find the best outdoor furniture in this ranking range.

 

If you find that the patio furniture that you are looking at has several 1 or 2-star rankings, our recommendation is that you proceed with caution, especially if the 1 or 2-star rankings are for Frame Material, Fabric Material, and Cushion Material. You will likely not get many years of use of this patio furniture, and you will likely be shopping for new furniture in another year or two. But that may be perfect for your situation. For example, you may want a cheap patio furniture option now to have some type of seating before you can fully afford a high-quality set in another year or two.

Conclusion

So there you have it – the ranking guide we use when reviewing outdoor furniture! You can use this guide to help you shop for your next patio furniture purchase to give you a consistent method to compare patio furniture options. We recognize that there are other factors you need to evaluate when shopping for outdoor furniture (like knowing how much seating you need or understanding your style), so check out our Outdoor Furniture Shopping Guide for some additional important tips!

 

If you have any questions, feel free to send us a note!

Hi, I’m Ashley!

I started Live Your Best Backyard to share my hands-on experience and countless hours of research on all things backyard to help you find the best products, ideas, tips, and information for your backyard!

Learn More About Me!

Recent Posts