The Complete Outdoor Glider Buying Guide

Gently swaying on a front porch, relaxing in a verdant garden, sitting poolside as you watch the kids play: There’s nothing quite like the serene feeling that an outdoor glider affords. This seating style combines the comforts of a rocking chair with the peaceful back-and-forth motion of a porch swing, the perfect way to enjoy the company of a friend or a cup of tea by yourself.

Gliders: A Brief History

The original patent for the glider chair mechanism was granted to George F. Hall in May 1888, but Hall re-assigned it to Peter Lowentraut soon thereafter. These chairs are sometimes referred to as Lowentraut gliders, but many variations have hit the market in the decades since. Today, gliders are popular choices for nurseries, front porches, and beyond, thanks to their soothing motion and comfort-forward designs.

Outdoor gliders sway back and forth on a fixed track or base. This signature motion is created by glider-bearing arms that attach the base to the seat and swing like pendulums. Unlike porch swings, gliders are freestanding designs, meaning they don’t require installation or certain architectural features to enjoy them.

What’s the difference between a rocker and a glider?

Rocking chairs are another seating style that’s similar to gliders. While they serve the same purpose (rest, relaxation, and easy-breezy motion), you’ll want to understand the differences between the two so you can confidently choose the chair that best suits your space and needs.

There are a few key differences to note when deciding between a rocker and glider for your outdoor space. Gliders move along fixed bases while rocking chairs are mounted on two sloped runners. The former offers a straight, subtle movement, while the latter has a greater, arc-like range of motion.

What is the best material for an outdoor glider?

The material you choose for your outdoor glider is an important decision. Ultimately, it comes down to your environment. If your outdoor space experiences harsh climates, weather-resistant and low-maintenance materials are your best bet. If you plan to use your glider on a covered porch or sunroom, less durable options could work and may be better on your budget. Here are some popular outdoor glider materials:

Aluminum & Steel

Durable and resistant to rust, these metals are widely popular for outdoor furniture. Both aluminum and steel can be left outside year-round but may get uncomfortably hot in the summer sun. Some designs feature hollow tubing, which makes these gliders vulnerable to strong wind gusts.

Wrought Iron

A more traditional metal for patio furniture, wrought iron is beloved for its elegant appearance. However, these gliders are susceptible to rust and require more maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Wrought iron gliders are also heavy, meaning they stand up to wind but are hard to move around.

Softwood

Some gliders are crafted of pine or other softwoods, which are abundant and typically inexpensive. However, they don’t tend to weather well and need frequent refinishing. It’s recommended to store or cover this material during inclement weather or when not in use.

Hardwood

Solid hardwood, like teak, oak, and acacia, has more weather-resistant properties than softwood. While relatively resilient to the elements, they still require semi-regular maintenance to ensure longevity.

Wicker

Wicker furniture refers to the weaving process, not a single material. Natural materials like willow, bamboo, and rattan are popular choices for wicker furniture, but they won’t endure the elements well. Resin wicker, also known as all-weather wicker, is a better option for outdoor spaces. Keep in mind that wicker usually has deep grooves, which can be hard to clean.

High-density Polyethylene (HDPE) Lumber

Ultradurable, versatile, and low-maintenance, HDPE is arguably the best material for outdoor seating. It’s fadeproof, weather-resistant, and easy to clean. HDPE lumber is often made from recycled single-use plastics, such as milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles. It can be more expensive than other materials, but once you factor in durability, longevity, and sustainability, this will often offset the overall cost.

Mesh

Some glider styles use mesh for the seats and backs. Typically made from a poly material, the lightweight mesh will need to be held in place by a more durable frame (think metal or HDPE).

Pro tip: When it comes to the gliding mechanism, you want the hardware to be rust-resistant and reliable in all weather conditions. Marine-grade quality metals, such as stainless steel, are a great choice.

What are the different types of gliders?

There are a few types of gliders, including indoor and outdoor designs. Indoor gliders, which are widely used in nurseries, are usually upholstered single seats with cushy padding. Many are available with swivel and reclining features. Outdoor gliders come in both chair and bench styles, and they are a favorite for front porches, decks, gardens, and poolsides.​

Outdoor Glider Chair Outdoor Glider Bench

Featured: Classic Adirondack Glider Chair in White

Featured: Classic Adirondack 48″ Glider in Mahogany

What is the most popular outdoor glider size?

To find the right size glider, you should know the square footage of your space and the number of people you want to accommodate. While they offer a smaller range of motion than rocking chairs, gliders do need some open space to move freely. We recommend two feet of clearance to the front and back for standard outdoor gliders.

Width: If you’re looking for a two-person seat, the most popular size is a 48-inch glider. Some gliders are 60-inches wide, which offers more elbow room. Single-person seats are usually between 28–36 inches wide.

Depth: Your space’s size and family members’ heights should determine the appropriate depth of your glider’s seat. Taller folks typically prefer deeper seats.

Height: For optimal back support, look for gliders between 36–40 inches tall.

What are the basic styles of outdoor glider design?

Chair-style gliders are typically made for one person and may have a matching ottoman that you can add on. Some designs connect two chairs together but have individual backs. These two-person chair gliders may feature a handy surface in the middle for drinks, snacks, or devices.

Featured: Classic Adirondack Glider Chair in White and Classic Adirondack Glider Ottoman in White

The most common design for two or more people is the bench-style glider. This style offers an open seat and back, which is great for cozying up with a loved one or enjoying a little extra roominess when you’re gliding solo.

Featured: Traditional Garden 48″ Glider in White

What is a good weight for an outdoor glider?

Since outdoor gliders are exposed to the elements, they should be heavy enough to handle strong storms and high winds. The last thing anyone wants is an upside-down or damaged glider clear across their yard.

But furniture can also be too heavy, to the point where it’s difficult to move if you decide to redesign your space or buy a new home. To strike a balance between the two, look for outdoor gliders between 55–80 pounds.

What fabric is best for outdoor gliders?

Featured: Chippendale 48″ Glider in Teak

Some gliders are designed with mesh seats and backs, and the best material for this style is vinyl-coated polyester. This all-weather fabric is prized for its breathability, mildew- and tear-resistant properties, and weight-bearing capacity. If you’re adding pillows or cushions to your wood, HDPE, or metal glider, look for ones tailored with all-weather performance fabrics that dry quickly and resist mildew, stains, and tears.

A Note About Cushion Care

While high-quality outdoor cushions are specially designed to resist the elements, they are still susceptible to wear and tear. The occasional rinse-off or vacuuming is a proactive way to protect your cushions and maximize the enjoyment of your glider. Some stains or spills call for a simple spot clean with soap and water. Other stains, like mildew, require more effort and stronger cleaning solutions.

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2 thoughts on “The Complete Outdoor Glider Buying Guide

  1. I’ve had my eye on your gliders for a while now and love the features you highlighted. I’m adding my favorite to my shopping cart now. Thanks!

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