The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Bar or Counter Set

Originally Published on January 31, 2018. Last Updated on August 9, 2023.

Mimosa brunches, after-dinner decafs, card games and cocktails: Some things are simply better outside. For these kinds of casual affairs, bar and counter dining sets are a popular choice. They’re higher than standard dining furniture, so guests can be seated or comfortably stand as they snack, socialize, or sip a drink. 

But how do you know which set will suit you best? This step-by-step buying guide is here to help you answer that question. So, pull up a seat and let’s dig in.

Jump to Section
Step 1: Is a Bar or Counter Set Right for You?
Step 2: Determine How Much Room You Have

Step 3: Choose the Right Materials for Your Bar or Counter Set
Step 4: Decide on the Right Table
Step 5: Choose the Right Chairs
Step 6: Determine Your Style of Bar or Counter Set
Step 7: Choose the Right Color for Your Set
Step 8: Accessorize

Step 1: Is a Bar or Counter Set Right for You?

When it comes to dining furniture, you have three main options: standard, counter height, and bar height. What you choose will come down to your personal preferences, outdoor space, entertaining style, and height of family members.

What's the difference between dining, bar-, and counter-height dining?

Points to Consider 

Outdoor bar and counter sets are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and materials, so you’ll want to consider the following as you shop:

Durability: How well will the material last when it’s left outside?
Maintenance: How easy is it to keep clean?
Appearance: How will the material look over time?
Design: Does the set work well with the current style of your outdoor space?
Comfort: Is the seating designed with contoured seats or cushions?
Weight: How easy is it to move the furniture, and can it withstand strong wind gusts?
Price: How much value (i.e., frequency and years of use) will you get from the furniture?
Number of seats: Can you accommodate your family and friends comfortably around the table?
Family members’ heights: Do you have taller folks who could use extra legroom when they sit down to dinner?

Step 2: Determine How Much Room You Have

How to Measure your Outdoor Space

If you feel confident that a counter or bar set is the best choice, you want to first make sure you have the room to fit one before purchasing.  Grab some painter’s tape, paper, and a pencil: Let’s measure.

  • Carefully measure your outdoor space and use tape to mark how much free space you have for a dining set. Make a note of it—this will be extremely helpful throughout the shopping process.
  • Ensure that there is enough wiggle room between chairs and around the set’s perimeter for people to move freely.
  • If you don’t opt for all-weather materials, do you have enough space to store it during winter?

Step 3: Choose the Right Materials for Your Bar or Counter Set

Bar sets are available in a wide variety of materials — softwoods like pine, hardwoods like oak and teak, wicker, HDPE lumber, and aluminum are all available. When it comes to choosing the right materials for your bar sets, you’ll want to take several factors into account:

  • Durability — how well will your bar set last when it’s left outside?
  • Maintenance — how easy will your bar set be to look after?
  • Appearance — how will your bar set look over time?
  • Surfaces — how well will the surfaces resist food and drink?
  • Comfort — how comfortable and luxurious will your bar set be?
  • Weight — how easy is it to move the Bar set around, and how resilient is it to weather?
  • Price — how much value for money will you get from the bar set?

Pine and Other Softwoods

Although hardwoods are often more popular, some bar sets are made of pine or other softwoods. Softwoods are abundant and inexpensive but are not great choices for an outdoor bar set as they don’t tend to weather very well and don’t resist spills.

Softwoods: Points to Consider

  • Softwood isn’t very resilient or durable, it is easily scratched or dented, which can impact the appearance of your bar set.
  • Softwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside. Even then, the elements can quickly impact how good the bar set looks.
  • Food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • A softwood bar set will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis.
  • Softwood is an inexpensive choice when it comes to outdoor furniture.

Oak and Other Hardwoods

Hardwoods are a better choice than softwoods for a well-crafted, lasting bar set, but they are not without issues. Like softwoods, they need to be regularly maintained to look their best.

Hardwoods: Points to Consider

  • Hardwoods are quite resilient and durable and are difficult to scratch, dent, or damage.
  • Hardwood must be varnished or stained regularly to protect it if it is going to stay outside.
  • Food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • Hardwood bar sets are more resilient to the elements and gusts of wind.
  • Hardwood is a moderately expensive choice as a material for a bar set.


Teak is a popular choice for outdoor furniture and bar sets. It is better than other woods like pine, oak, bamboo, or wicker.

Teak: Points to Consider

  • Teak is durable and resilient, as it produces its own oil. It’s hardwood, so it isn’t easy to dent or scratch.
  • It’s completely resistant to wind, water, and rust and can stay outside all year-round.
  • Food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • It’s only available in one “color,” teak.
  • It is difficult to maintain and needs to be regularly rubbed down and treated to avoid “silver patina.”
  • Teak is one of the pricier options when it comes to outside furniture.


Wicker is sometimes used as a material in bar sets today. Although wicker can sometimes be a good material for furniture, it doesn’t really have the durability for outside use.

Wicker: Points to Consider

  • Wicker is not very resilient, it can be easily damaged, especially if you use the bar set a lot.
  • When used outside, wicker can lose its appearance quickly, as it is not weather-resistant.
  • Wicker is very light and vulnerable to wind gusts.
  • The way wicker is woven means that dirt can get into the gaps, spoiling the appearance of the bar set.
  • This is a real problem if food or drink is spilled onto the wicker.
  • Wicker is not easy to maintain.


A popular choice, bar sets are often available in aluminum. It’s a lightweight, durable metal.

Aluminum: Points to Consider

  • Aluminum is tough, resilient, and easy to maintain.
  • Your bar set can be left outside all year-round, with no ill effects.
  • It is highly durable and completely resistant to water and rust.
  • Lightweight construction means it can be vulnerable to gusts of wind.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Lumber 

HDPE is a synthetic resin for building solid, high-quality, durable outdoor furniture. Our favorite material is durable HDPE lumber. It’s manufactured to last a lifetime, is completely weather-resistant, takes just moments to maintain, and comes in a wide variety of colors.

HDPE Lumber:  Points to Consider

  • It is easy to maintain, needing just a cloth with a simple solution of water and mild dish soap.
  • Medium weight, HDPE is sturdy and resistant to wind. Your bar set can stay outside all year-round.
  • HDPE is highly durable and completely resistant to wind, water, and rust.
  • The surface of HDPE lumber is resistant to heat and spills.
  • HDPE is infinitely recyclable and is discarded ocean-bound and landfill-bound plastic.
  • HDPE lumber is available in a wide variety of colors.
  • HDPE lumber is manufactured to last a lifetime and its price reflects that.

Step 4: Decide on the Right Table

POLYWOOD Modern Curveback Adirondack Swivel Bar Chair and Nautical 44" Bar Table in Vintage Sahara
Featured: Modern Curveback Adirondack Swivel Bar Chair and Nautical 44″ Bar Table in Vintage Sahara

The dining table is a true workhorse, serving as a space’s focal point and the life of any party. Buying one can feel like a big decision, but the considerations below should help you get a clearer picture of what to look for. 

Points to Consider

  • How do you like to host? Counter tables are lower, so they work well for casual and formal dining alike. Higher bar tables give guests the choice to sit or stand as they eat, a great option for informal meals. 
  • Determine how many guests you typically host, then find a table that can accommodate 1-2 extra place settings. The extra elbow room and serving space will come in handy even when you aren’t at maximum capacity.
  • Table shape is another key consideration. Rectangular tables are popular choices that work well in most layouts. If you want a table that can go from dinner parties to poker nights, round or square tables are your best bet. 
  • Make sure your space has enough square footage to fit the table size and number of chairs you want (plus additional clearance on all sides). 
  • If you want to block the sun or string up overhead bistro lights, look for a table with an umbrella hole.

Step 5: Choose the Right Chairs

Great seating is key to successful entertaining. All in all, the right bar and counter chairs will be comfortable, stylish, and space-conscious. 

Points to Consider

  • Chairs with contoured seats, armrests, and reclined backs offer the most comfort. 
  • Well-made chairs that weather the elements and require minimal maintenance simply look better than the alternative. 
  • Make sure your chairs are the right height so knees don’t bump up against the table.
  • Consider how much space you will need for people to easily move around and between chairs, and pick the right number and size of chairs accordingly.

Step 6: Determine Your Style of Bar or Counter Set

Now that you’re well-versed in choosing materials, table sizes, and chairs, it’s time to decide what outdoor bar or counter set works best with your personal style. 

If you’re drawn to time-honored furniture designs with soft lines and elevated details, look for classic styles. 

POLYWOOD 9-Piece Nautical Outdoor Dining Set Martha Stewart by POLYWOOD Chinoiserie 5-Piece Round Counter Set POLYWOOD Signature 3-Piece Bar Set

If sleek silhouettes, clean lines, and bold angles call to you, look for modern dining sets.

POLYWOOD Modern Curveback Adirondack 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Bar Set POLYWOOD Modern Adirondack 9-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Bar Set polywood Modern Adirondack 9-Piece Farmhouse Counter Set with Trestle Legs

Not sure which you prefer? Try transitional furniture, a mix of simplified lines and subtle curves.

POLYWOOD Lakeside 5-Piece Farmhouse Round Side Chair Counter Set POLYWOOD Lakeside 9-Piece Bar Side Chair Set POLYWOOD Palm Coast 5-Piece Round Farmhouse Bar Set

Step 7: Choose the Right Color for Your Set

White/Sand/Beige: Keep your look open and airy with these light, bright tones. 

Grey/Black: Sleek, chic, and confident, grey and black are versatile hues that are easy to design around.

Browns: These elemental tones look stunning without detracting from natural surroundings.

Green: Inspired by nature’s lushest landscapes, a dark verdant green shines in outdoor settings.

Vibrant tones: For a pop of personality, try a set in a bold shade of yellow, red, lime green, orange, or blue.

Classic Finish — Traditional Colors
Classic Finish — Vibrant Colors
Classic Finish — Select Availability
Vintage Finish — Traditional Colors

Step 8: Accessorize

You’ve chosen the perfect bar set for your outdoor space, but for maximum comfort, you need the right cushions and/or umbrella. All of our cushions and patio umbrellas are made of all-weather performance fabric and engineered for all four seasons. 

POLYWOOD Color Pairings—White Lumber & Sky Blue Fabric POLYWOOD Color Pairings—Green Lumber & Botanical Gardens Pistachio Fabric POLYWOOD Color Pairings—Teak Lumber & Buffalo Plaid Glacier Spa

Shop all POLYWOOD Outdoor Cushions

Our outdoor-friendly accessories are UV- and fade-resistant for enduring vibrancy. And after a passing rainstorm, their water repellency means they’ll be ready to use again in no time. And with our wide variety of colors and patterns, you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for.

Shop POLYWOOD Bar & Counter Sets

POLYWOOD Lakeside 7-Piece Counter Set POLYWOOD La Casa Café 5-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Bar Set POLYWOOD Vineyard Curveback Adirondack 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Bar Set

4 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Bar or Counter Set

  1. Do you sell only direct or do you have dealers?

    Also, if we need to order from you, what is the approximate shipping time to eastern VA?

  2. I need four bar chairs but no table. Do you sell the chairs separately. I live in the Virgin Islands. Do you ship there?

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