Buyer's Guide - Outdoor Dining Furniture
Having the ability to host a dinner party in your backyard is the highlight of summer, and having quality outdoor dining furniture is key. For many people, the dining room table is retired during the summer months and meals are eaten exclusively on the patio. This is how my family is, any time it's "sweatshirt weather" and warmer we eat (and cook) outside. Investing the money in great outdoor dining furniture was one of the best things that happened to us, and now I want to share what I learned with you.
After spending an entire winter doing research on materials, sizes, care and maintenance, I finally decided on our furniture set. This much research may seem like overkill to most people, but I enjoy knowing what I'm buying before I buy it. Keep in mind that every backyard is different, so I will refrain from making specific suggestions as to what you should buy, but I will make recommendations of things to look for when you make your purchase.
The regular outdoor dining furniture set includes a table, chairs, umbrella, cups, plates, and silverware. Many people opt to use their current flatware and silverware, but keep in mind that they will receive more abuse when used outdoors compared to indoors. If you have a set of old dishes that are still fancy enough for a dinner party you are set. If not, you may want to consider a high quality plastic set, or a thrift store china set.
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The Outdoor Dining Furniture Set
The two mandatory elements in the outdoor dining furniture set are the table and the chairs. It may seem obvious to buy these together in a set, but this isn't always the case. It's pretty common to find a set of patio chairs on sale that do not have a table to match. From my experience, the retailer broke the table and is stuck with the chairs. If you can find chairs like this that you absolutely love, buy them. With some resourcefulness and creativity, finding a table to match is very easy.
The materials used for patio chairs varies wildly, as does their longevity. Aluminum is the standard material for chair bases. It is a great choice because it lasts a long time and is very easily cleaned. Wood, teak, and wicker are also common choices. They look great and give your patio a very comfortable feel. Unfortunately, they require maintenance and storage to lengthen their lifespan (which isn't very long!). Iron and steel are also used for chair bases. They have a very distinct look that will set your yard apart from the Jones'. These chairs are very heavy and require lots of maintenance to prevent rust and extend their life.
Table materials are not quite as varying as the chairs are. Generally, there are three common setups; metal and glass, wood, and wood with mosaic tile. The metal and glass types are the most common, and usually found in your local home improvement store. The other two types are found in specialty and boutique patio furniture stores. I don't recommend one type over the others, but the amount of maintenance for the wood and tile tables is much higher than the metal. Your table decision should be based on appearance, size, and how much space you have to store it in the winter.
Patio umbrellas are also commonly used with the table. If you plan on putting your table under the patio roof or in a shady area, these aren't necessary. Patio heaters are also a great addition to a backyard. They extend the outdoor dining season beyond the months of summer, and allow you to use your outdoor dining furniture during the cool months. While they aren't necessary, they are a great convenience.
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Caring for Your Outdoor Dining Furniture
Having spent the money on the outdoor dining furniture of your dreams, you must care for it in order to enjoy it for many summers down the road. As stated above, the maintenance requirements for the different types of chairs a tables is different - but they have one thing in common, storage. The best way to keep your furniture new is to bring it out of the elements. The grout of mosaic tile will freeze and crack, wind will throw your patio cushion into the neighbors yard, and snow will pile on your glass table and crack it.
How is this prevented? Put it in the garage!
Storing the patio furniture away from the weather is simple, as long as you have the space for it. If you do not, patio furniture covers will help in moderate climates. In extreme climates a storage shed is best.
Another thing to keep in mind is your ability to move all of this furniture. Aluminum chairs and tables are the most lightweight and maneuverable.
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