With their gentle back-and-forth motion and comfortable armrests, outdoor rocking chairs have become synonymous with leisurely mornings and together time on the front porch. For centuries, traditional rockers have been used to lull babies to sleep and help adults relax; the rocking motion is even reported to have therapeutic benefits—hello, self-care!
If you’re deciding whether or not to invest in outdoor rocking chairs of your own, you’ve come to the right place. Our comprehensive, easy-to-follow buying guide helps you decide which seating option will work best with your outdoor space and lifestyle.
Are Rocking Chairs Right for You?
First things first: Will outdoor rocking chairs fit your space and needs? Here are some considerations to help you answer this question.
- Outdoor rockers work best on smooth, flat surfaces such as concrete, outdoor tile, and wood decking. Grass, gravel, cobblestone, or other uneven surfaces don’t allow for the runners to rock as intended.
- Rocking chairs do take up a surprising amount of space, so make sure to measure your outdoor area first to confirm you have adequate room plus enough clearance for the actual rocking motion.
- When kids or pets are around, take extra care so little feet, paws, and tails don’t get caught under the chair’s curved runners.
- Some materials like wood, natural wicker, resin, and aluminum need to be moved inside, weighed down, or otherwise protected during inclement weather.
- There are options that work with a wide range of budgets, but it’s important to note that inexpensive options don’t tend to wear well and may need to be replaced after a year or so.
Step 1: Mind the Materials
Arguably the most important factor in selecting outdoor furniture, the right material can make or break the experience of owning a rocking chair. Outdoor rockers come in various materials that range in quality and aesthetic, but these features are what should be top of mind when choosing yours:
- Durability: Does it handle repeat use and outdoor elements such as rain, wind, and sun exposure?
- Maintenance: From refinishing to cleaning, how much upkeep does it need?
- Comfort: Does it provide enough comfort to sit in for extended periods of time?
- Weight: In the event of wind, will it stay in place? Can you move it on your own? (Rocking chairs typically weigh between 15–45 pounds, depending on the material.)
- Price: How much money are you willing to spend on a rocking chair?
- Appearance: Does the material coordinate with your personal style and existing outdoor decor?
Popular Outdoor Rocking Chair Materials
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is short for high-density polyethylene, a durable and weatherproof plastic that’s the ideal material for outdoor furniture, decks, playsets, and fencing. At POLYWOOD, our HDPE lumber is a proprietary blend made using sustainable materials, including landfill-bound and ocean-bound plastics.
HDPE Lumber — Points to Consider
- HDPE is easy to clean and maintain, usually needing only a scrub with soapy water and a soft-bristle brush.
- While more expensive than other plastics, HDPE’s resilience, strength, and longevity offset its cost.
- HDPE materials come in a variety of fade-resistant colors.
- Most rockers crafted from HDPE can be used with or without cushions.
Pine, cedar, and other softwoods are common material choices for rocking chairs. It specifically refers to wood produced by coniferous trees — evergreens and trees with cones and needles.
Softwoods — Points to Consider
- Softwoods are inexpensive and readily available.
- Pine and other softwoods are often knotty, which may appeal to those who like rustic furniture.
- You’ll have to refinish your softwood rocker about once a year to protect it from outdoor elements.
- Softwoods scratch and dent easily.
Hardwood is a sought-after material for outdoor furniture because of its natural look and eventual patina. This term refers to wood from deciduous trees, or trees with leaves that fall off in autumn.
Hardwoods — Points to Consider
- Hardwood is an expensive material and certain types — like teak — are harder to come by.
- To maintain its beauty, hardwood needs to be stained and varnished regularly.
- Hardwood is generally heavy and durable, so wind and weather won’t easily damage it.
- Hardwood furniture is resistant to dents, scratches, and scuffs.
Although often referred to as such, wicker itself is not a material—it’s an umbrella term that describes furniture woven in a certain style. Wicker rockers can be crafted from natural materials like bamboo, rattan, reeds, and willow, or synthetics like resin.
Wicker — Points to Consider
- Wicker tends to be lightweight, making it easy to move around. Unfortunately, this also means it may be vulnerable to strong winds.
- Natural wicker rocking chairs are prone to fading and cracking if they aren’t protected from the elements and regularly dusted, washed, and sprayed with protectant.
- Natural wicker is a porous material that’s not suitable for extreme weather conditions like heavy rains or snow.
- HDPE wicker (also known as all-weather wicker) is a great option for those who like the breezy look of wicker but don’t have time for the upkeep.
Plastic Injection Molding
To create a chair via injection molding, molten thermoplastic (plastic that’s pliable when heated) is inserted into a chair-shaped mold where it’s left to cool and solidify.
Injection Molded Plastic — Points to Consider
- Injection-molded plastic chairs are resistant to water, rust, and mold.
- While available in many colors, these chairs tend to fade quickly when exposed to sun.
- Injection-molded plastic chairs are mass produced and therefore inexpensive.
- Though lightweight and easy to move around, these chairs are helpless against wind gusts and can warp in hot weather.
With their elegant style and undeniable charm, wrought iron rocking chairs appeal to those who like antique-inspired furniture or the rustic-industrial aesthetic. Wrought iron is made by heating the metal again and again, forming it into shapes with a machine or by hand.
Wrought Iron — Points to Consider
- Wrought iron is sturdy and heavy, making it resistant to wind gusts and harsh weather.
- Wrought iron requires regular maintenance to prevent rust.
- Rockers made from wrought iron, especially those forged by hand, can be expensive.
- On its own, wrought iron furniture isn’t very comfortable — you’ll want to add cushions.
Typically, aluminum rockers are simple designs with hollow tubular frames, though some may be cast in a mold. If you have metal furniture and want to check if it’s aluminum, hold a magnet to it—if it sticks, it isn’t aluminum.
Aluminum — Points to Consider
- Aluminum is inherently resistant to rust.
- Hollow aluminum frames are lightweight, making this kind of furniture easy to carry. However, strong winds can easily move them too.
- Aluminum rocking chairs need added cushions for comfort.
- An aluminum rocker left out under the sun can get intensely hot on warm, sunny days — so much so that it’s not usable until it can cool off.
Step 2: Pick the Right Proportions
Thanks to their back-and-forth motion and roomy seats, rocking chairs take up more space than you might expect. We highly suggest measuring your outdoor area first to ensure you have room for a rocker.
- Most rocking chairs measure somewhere between 37–45 inches tall, 26–30 inches wide, and 32–37 inches deep.
- We recommend keeping 2–3 feet of free space on all sides of your rocking chairs so family can easily move around them and so you won’t bump into walls, people, or other chairs while you rock.
Step 3: Select Your Seating Style
The basic structure of rocking chairs hasn’t changed much since their invention in the 18th century, but there’s now a wide variety of styles to choose from. From classic to modern styles, there’s something for every persuasion. We’ve curated some of our favorite POLYWOOD rockers, including porch-perfect designs, Adirondack-inspired styles, and spacious deep seating rockers.
Deep Seating Styles
|Synonymous with front-porch relaxation, these styles nod to the rocker’s rich history and its journey from past to present with timeless designs that are easily recognizable.||This style combines the laid-back comfort of an Adirondack and the motion of a rocker. These rockers are available in classic and vibrant lumber colors.||Big on comfort and on style, these rockers offer more room to sit down, sink in, and rock on. With their lofty, weather-resistant cushions, you’ll be on cloud nine.|
Braxton Porch Rocking Chair
The Braxton Porch Rocking Chair mixes clean lines with rustic details for a transitional look that works well with contemporary styles. It features a contoured seat and an eye-catching X-back design reminiscent of pastoral barn doors.
Presidential Rocking Chair
With a dignified design that works well with any style, the Presidential Rocking Chair is celebrated for its classic good looks and comfortable seat contours.
Presidential Woven Rocking Chair
The Presidential Woven Rocking Chair is the same size and shape as the Presidential Rocking Chair, but it’s a few pounds lighter with an all-weather wicker back and seat.
Shaker Porch Rocking Chair
The Shaker Porch Rocking Chair is our reimagining of a time-honored Shaker design with its familiar ladder-back silhouette and inviting charms.
Portside Traditional Rocking Chair
Inspired by modern farmhouse designs, the Portside Traditional Rocking Chair is a versatile rocker and enduring foundation for evolving porch styles.
Vineyard Porch Rocking Chair
The toast-worthy Vineyard Porch Rocking Chair offers a charming, goes-with-everything look and a curved seat for lasting comfort.
Nautical Porch Rocking Chair
The Nautical Porch Rocking Chair makes you feel like the shore is right outside your front door. This chair features a contoured seat and a convenient handle in the headrest for easy transport.
Jefferson Rocking Chair
The Jefferson Rocking Chair is one that evokes the dreamy nostalgia of Southern porches. Out of all our rockers, this one provides the largest seat.
Jefferson Woven Rocking Chair
The exact size as the Jefferson Rocking Chair (but a few pounds lighter), the Jefferson Woven Rocking Chair features an all-weather wicker back and seat.
Estate Rocking Chair
Stately and stylish, the Estate Rocking Chair is a more traditional rocker with wide, vertical back slats and a contoured seat.
Country Living Rocking Chair
We collaborated with Country Living Magazine to design a collection of outdoor furniture that symbolizes our shared love of front-porch living. This rocker boasts a contoured seat, a thin-slatted back, and an elegantly curved headrest.
Country Living Legacy Rocking Chair
Legacy offers a wider seat than the Country Living Rocking Chair (see above), plus a shorter backrest and thicker slats. And instead of square posts, this one has rounded spindles that add notes of rustic style.
Classic Adirondack Rocking Chair
A summer hit that we actually love for any season, the Classic Adirondack Rocking Chair encourages comfort you can lean into year after year.
Classic Adirondack Glider Chair
With a slightly different design than its rocking chair counterpart, our Classic Adirondack Glider Chair offers a similar, equally soothing back-and-forth motion that feels like floating on cloud nine.
Vineyard Adirondack Rocking Chair
This lounge chair hails from our popular Vineyard Collection and features a straight back, contoured seat, and waterfall front.
Modern Adirondack Rocker
With its minimalist design, our Modern Adirondack Rocker puts a fresh perspective on porch seating. Wide, curved back slats and armrests sit atop a contoured seat for a bold look and stay-awhile comfort.
Modern Adirondack Rocking Chair
What distinguishes this rocking chair from the Modern Adirondack Rocker (see above) is a flat backrest and waterfall front.
Seashell Rocking Chair
The Seashell Rocking Chair is designed with wide armrests and a contoured seat that slopes into a waterfall front. What sets this lounge chair apart is its curved seven-slat backrest that hugs your upper body.
Palm Coast Adirondack Rocking Chair
This rocking chair from the Palm Coast Collection boasts an extra-wide seat and curved armrests—perfect for those who like extra room to unwind.
South Beach Rocking Chair
The South Beach Rocking Chair has a large frame and elevated seat height that’s ideal for taller individuals and generally easier to get in and out of.
Long Island Rocking Chair
The first thing you’ll notice about this rocking chair is the unique curve of the headrest. It’s our way of paying tribute to the relaxed, beachy style that originated in the Hamptons over 200 years ago.
Quattro Adirondack Rocking Chair
This rocking chair boasts an ultra-modern look with its flat, angular headrest, clean lines, and sleek profile. We balanced the look by gently curving the four-slat backrest and wide seat.
Nautical Adirondack Rocking Chair
This lounge-worthy rocker features a reclined backrest that fans out from the base. The contoured seat has a curved waterfall front and sits lower to the ground, appealing to individuals on the shorter side or those with greater mobility.
Deep Seating Styles
Braxton Deep Seating Rocking Chair
The tallest of our deep seating rockers, the Braxton Deep Seating Rocking Chair is a perfect balance of straight lines and curved details for a time-honored style that beckons you to relax.
Vineyard Deep Seating Rocking Chair
The Vineyard Deep Seating Rocking Chair provides a timeless and elegant look thanks to rounded corners and a classic slatted back.
Prescott Deep Seating Rocking Chair
What makes this deep seating rocking chair special is the thick-slatted frame and wide planks that shape the back, base, runners, and armrests.
Rocking Chair Comparison Sheet
Step 4: Choose Your Color Palette
The right color for your rocking chair ultimately comes down to personal preferences. Black, white, or grey rocking chairs play well with modern design. Neutrals are a popular choice due to their versatility, so tan, brown, and beige lounge seating will look superb in any outdoor living room. Vibrant hues like red, orange, blue, and green add personality and a pop of color. That said, your color selection may be somewhat dictated by the material you choose. Metal and wooden chairs come in limited colors unless they’re painted or stained (which requires regular upkeep to prevent chipping, peeling, and fading). Injection-molded plastic and HDPE lumber chairs are available in a variety of shades, offering you a rainbow of choices. If you opt for plastic outdoor rockers, try to steer clear of seating with veneers, which means the color is only on the surface. The color doesn’t last as long, and it’s prone to chipping and peeling. Instead, look for furniture where pigment and UV inhibitors are blended with the plastic material, ensuring your seating is saturated with fade-resistant color from surface to center.
Last but not Least: Add Accessories!
You’ve picked out the perfect rocking chair material, size, style, and color—now it’s time to add the finishing touches with outdoor accessories. Outdoor cushions and throw pillows are quick ways to add comfort and color to your rocker. To keep sips and snacks within easy reach, you can pair a side table with your lounge chair (space permitting).
Rocking Chair History
Just like POLYWOOD furniture, the rocking chair hails from the United States. While many people credit Benjamin Franklin as the chair’s inventor, historians traced its origins to the early 18th century, when Franklin was just a child. Regardless of who invented it, the inspiration behind the traditional rocking chair design came from rocking cradles and rocking horses, both of which existed hundreds of years before the rocking chair appeared. Initially used outdoors, this seating eventually made its way inside the home to living rooms and nurseries.
And did you know…?
- Results from a 2019 study published on Cell.com indicated that the chair’s back-and-forth motion improves deep sleep and memory.
- The rocking motion also helps reduce back pain. According to a 2017 scholarly article published on TheJNS.org, John F. Kennedy’s doctor prescribed rocking chair usage as one of the ways to manage his chronic back pain. He had more than a dozen rocking chairs, including one that traveled with him on Air Force One.
The Bottom Line
As with any furniture purchase, choosing a rocking chair is a big decision! We hope this buying guide has given you all the insight you need to make an informed one. But if you still have questions, we have answers. Feel free to contact us and our Customer Experience Team will be delighted to help you out. If you do opt for a POLYWOOD rocker, you can rest easy knowing it’s backed by a 20-year warranty and is ready for anything Mother Nature throws its way. Let us know which style you like the best in the comments below!
Blog Post Updated March 25, 2021