The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Bar or Counter Set

Enjoying drinks with friends is a great way to catch up. And the most likely centerpiece of a gathering is where you sit — a combination of high tables and bar or counter chairs, perfectly designed for chatting and relaxing.

When it comes to choosing the right bar furniture, you have three main options.

  1. Standard height chairs and tables, like a normal dining chair and dining table.
  2. Slightly higher chairs known as counter chairs that work well with kitchen counters.
  3. Taller chairs, known as bar chairs, designed for breakfast bars and drink bars.

The type of chair, table, and bar you choose will come down to your personal preference. The taller bar and counter chairs can make spaces look roomier and add sophistication and style to any outdoor space.

Read on to find out how to choose the perfect bar and counter sets for your next party.

Step 1 — Decide on the Right Table for Your Bar or Counter Set

Although your bar and counter chairs and stools are important, you and your guests will need a place to rest your drinks and snacks. Depending on how many people you might entertain at once, you can decide on the shape and size of the bar table(s) you need. 

Match the size of your bar tables with the number of people you will want to serve. You might want to go with a slightly larger table than you normally would, that way you’ll have plenty of room for guests and plus-ones. Even if you aren’t using all the tables all the time, the extra space will make moving around, sitting, and relaxing a bit easier.

Contempo 30" Saddle Bar Stool | 24" Round Bar Table
Contempo 30″ Saddle Bar Stool | 24″ Round Bar Table

Bar Table Form & Function — Points to Consider

  • Think carefully about the height of your bar table. Lower, counter tables are better for relaxing and enjoying a casual party, while higher tables mean people will sit up a little more (and are better if you’re trying to create a “traditional” bar setting).
  • Look at the placement of legs on your bar table — that will influence where you can easily put chairs and sit diners.
  • Think about the overall size of your bar table and how much space you will need when it’s surrounded by chairs.
  • Make sure there’s enough space on your deck or patio to comfortably hold the table and chairs while allowing people to move around easily.
  • If you want to install a patio umbrella, look for a bar table with a central hole.

Step 2 — Choose the Right Bar or Counter Chairs for Your Space

wooden bar table with chairs by lake
La Casa Café 5-Piece Counter Set

The real challenge with a bar or counter set is choosing the right chairs. In addition to style, form, and function, the main thing you will want to explore is height. Here’s how that works out:

  • Bar-height chairs and stools are typically between 28 to 33 inches high and work best with bar-height tables, which generally come in at around 40 to 42 inches.
  • Counter-height chairs and stools are typically between 24 to 27 inches high and work best with counter-height tables, which generally come in at around 34 to 36 inches.
  • You will want between 9 and 13 inches from the seat of the stool or chair to the underside of the table.
  • Choose a chair or stool with a footrest so that your legs don’t get tired.
  • If you have a chair with arms be sure that it will fit with your bar table.
  • Leave a couple of feet between chairs.
Braxton 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Arm Chair Counter Set
Braxton 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Arm Chair Counter Set

You probably don’t want to combine counter chairs with bar tables or vice versa. In addition to looking a little odd, the disparity in size can mean that the furniture is not as comfortable to use.

When you’re deciding on height, it’s time to get out the tape measure, Carefully measure how high you think you would like your bar or counter to be, and choose chairs and stools appropriately.

For simplicity and ease, you can buy a complete bar set — a bar or counter table that comes with two, four, or six matching chairs.

Coastal 5-Piece Bar Set

Bar Chair Form and Function — Points to Consider

  • Choose chairs matched to the right height of your bar or counter table so you can relax in comfort.
  • 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.
  • Choose colors and styles that will both complement your bar table and your outdoor space as a whole.

Step 3 — Choose the Right Materials for Your Bar 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 as a Material for Bar Sets

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 as a Material for Bar Sets

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 as a Material for Bar Sets

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 as a Material for Bar sets

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.

Aluminum as a Material for Bar sets

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 as a Material for Bar sets

HDPE is a synthetic resin for building solid, high-quality, durable outdoor furniture. Its cost is offset by the luxury, comfort, and resilience it provides. It’s a perfect material for a stylish outdoor bar set.

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.
  • Your bar set will be comfortable, stylish, and luxurious with a high-quality, strong, and sturdy construction.
  • 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 vailable in a wide variety of colors.
  • HDPE lumber is manufactured to last a lifetime and its price reflects that.
Palm Coast 5-Piece Bar Set

Our favorite material is the HDPE lumber — it’s manufactured to last a lifetime, stays looking great, is completely weather resistant and durable, takes just moments to maintain, and comes in a wide variety of colors.

Step 4 — Work Out How Much Room You Have

Take a look at the variety of bar sets available, and when you’ve narrowed down your choices, think about the overall “footprint” or space the table and chairs will take up.

  • Carefully measure your outdoor space and use tape or some other way to mark the size of the table before you buy it.
  • Then, create similar templates for the chairs so you can see how they will interact with the table and the overall space.
  • You will want some space between chairs and enough space around the outside to allow people to move around easily.
  • If you’re not keeping the bar set outside all year-round you’ll need to work out if you have enough space to store it.

Step 5 — Choose the Right Style of Bar Set

Bar sets are available in a variety of beautiful styles and collections. Here at POLYWOOD, we’ve been refining and adding some flourish to our own take on the bar set, to create styles suitable for any outside space.

Step 6 — Choose the Right Color for Your Bar Set

If you’re buying pine, oak, teak, or wicker bar sets, you’re likely to be limited in your choice of colors and finishes. If you’re going for HDPE lumber, you will have plenty of choices. Even our aluminum bar sets are available in several finishes.

Most of our bar sets are available in a wide variety of tones. From beautiful grays, browns, greens, and other earthy colors, to vibrant hues of red, yellow, blue, and more.

Step 7 — Accessorize Your Bar set

You’ve chosen the perfect bar set for your outdoor space, but for maximum comfort, you need the right cushions or umbrella. All of our cushions and patio umbrellas are made of all-weather performance fabric, manufactured to stay outside all year-round.

Our all-weather performance cushions and umbrellas are fade-resistant, so they will stay looking great. They shed water quickly, so they dry out fast after a passing rainstorm. Add in a huge variety of colorways and patterns, and you’re sure to find the perfect bar set umbrella, cushion, or pillow.

Now all you need is a cocktail shaker!

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the perfect bar set, there’s plenty to consider. We hope this buyer’s guide has given you all the information you need to make an informed choice. If you’ve still got questions, we have answers; feel free to call us at (855) 935-5550 or email us at and one of our experts will be delighted to help you out!

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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.