The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Dining Set

Originally Published on December 23, 2017. Last Updated on April 18, 2024.

Eating alfresco is one of the great joys in life. What could be better than sitting outside and sharing a meal with family and friends? Creating the perfect dining experience is an art form, from the menu and ambiance to keeping your guests comfortable through every course.

Although we can’t help whip up cocktails or dish out your signature recipes, when it comes to the best outdoor dining furniture, we’ve got you covered. That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide to choosing the right table, chairs, and other furniture for the perfect dining experience.


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Step 1: Which Outdoor Dining Set Is for You?
Step 2: Determine How Much Space You Have
Step 3: Figure Out What Size Set You Need
Step 4: Choose the Right Table
Step 5: Pick the Right Chairs
Step 6: Choose the Right Style
Step 7: Choose the Right Color
Step 8: Choose the Right Materials
Step 9: Accessorize
BONUS: Do you need a rug?


Step 1: Which Outdoor Dining Set Is for You?

Outdoor dining sets are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and materials. When it comes to choosing the right one, you’ll want to consider several factors:

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 it 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 dining set?

Number of seats: Can you accommodate your family and friends comfortably around the table?


Step 2: Determine How Much Space You Have

POLYWOOD Vineyard 7-Piece Dining Set with Trestle Legs in White
Featured: Vineyard 7-Piece Dining Set with Trestle Legs in White

Take a look at the variety of dining 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 to mark the size of the table.
  • 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 dining set outside all year round, you’ll need to ensure if you have enough space to store it.


Step 3: Figure Out What Size Set You Need

To find the right size for your outdoor dining set, your space and number of friends/family members should be considered—as well as what type of events you plan to host. The key to this step is ensuring enough elbow room for guests and ample space to get up for more drinks or appetizers.

3-Piece Sets

  • Seats two
  • Best for small spaces, morning coffee, and date night

5-Piece Sets

  • Seats four
  • Best for casual mimosa brunches, afternoon snacks, or happy hour with a few friends

7-Piece Sets

  • Seats six
  • Best for large spaces, everyday dining, and mid-sized gatherings with immediate family

9-Piece Sets

  • Seats eight
  • Best for sprawling patios, extended family barbecues, or special celebrations with large friend groups

Step 4: Choose the Right Table for Your Dining Set

The table is the centerpiece of your dining space, so it’s vital to get it right. Think about the type of dining experience you want to create, your current layout, and how many dinner guests you typically have.

Dining Table Form and Function: Points to Consider

  • Look at the placement of legs on the table, which will influence where you can put chairs and seat guests.
  • Think about the overall size of your dining 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.
  • Once you determine how many people you’ll be seating, we suggest opting for a table size that can accommodate 1-2 extra place settings. Even when you aren’t at maximum capacity, the extra elbow room will be appreciated. 
  • Table shape is another key consideration. You want a shape that fits your current layout, and you want it to work with your entertaining needs. Rectangular tables are perfectly suited to formal meals and dinner parties. For daily dining or intimate gatherings, a round or square dining table will serve you well.
  • If you want to install a patio umbrella, look for a dining table with a center hole.

Which Height Do I Need?

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

  • Dining height (28- to 30-inch table height) is ideal for guests of all ages as the chairs are easier to get in and out of compared to bar height. If you often find yourself chatting into the night with your guests after dinner, dining sets are typically more comfortable over extended periods of time. Plus, they’re versatile enough to dress up or down, easily transitioning from a casual weeknight meal with family to a formal dinner party.
  • Counter height (34- to 36-inch table height) is perfect for second stories because it’s tall enough to get a clear view over railings. This furniture fits taller family members who need more legroom, but footrests are common additions to counter seats for shorter guests. You can also place these tables next to your outdoor kitchen counters for extra serving space.
  • Bar height (40- to 42-inch table height) is a great option for the casual entertainer. You have the option to sit comfortably but it’s also the perfect height to stand and rest your drink while mingling with guests. Generally speaking, bar-height sets aren’t ideal for little ones, so dining height is recommended if you’re often in the company of children.

Step 5: Pick the Right Dining Chairs

Your guests will want to relax in comfortable chairs as they’re enjoying their food and conversations. You can choose chairs designed to match your dining table or mix it up with eclectic designs. For simplicity and ease, you can also buy a complete dining set that comes with a table and two, four, or six matching chairs.

BEST VALUE OUTDOOR DINING SET: POLYWOOD Lakeside 7-Piece Farmhouse Dining Set in Slate Grey
Featured: Lakeside 7-Piece Farmhouse Dining Set in Slate Grey

Dining Chair Styles

When it comes to your chairs, comfort is key. When lingering over another round or playing an hours-long board game, you want seats that feel supportive. Look for comfort-enhancing features like contoured seats, armrests, and backs that gently recline.

Swivel chairs: Provides a 360-degree view without moving your chair.

Side chairs: Designed without armrests, thus saving space around the table. 

Arm chairs: Designed with armrests for added comfort; typically seen at the head and foot of the table. 

Folding chairs: Functional design that can be folded down to store when not in use. 

Dining benches: Great for little ones or making room for an impromptu plus-one. 

Bar- and counter-height chairs: Perfect for casual entertaining (think happy hours and post-swim snacks).

Dining Chair Form and Function: Points to Consider

  • Choose chairs designed at the correct height for your table. For example, counter-height chairs won’t work with a standard dining 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.
  • Choose colors and styles that will both complement your dining table and your outdoor space as a whole.

Step 6: Choose the Right Style of Dining Set

You’ve narrowed down the best materials, table size, and chair types. Now, it’s time for the fun part: finding a set that reflects your personal style. 

Classic: Inspired by time-honored furniture designs with soft lines and elevated details. 

Classic Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD Chippendale 5-Piece Round Farmhouse Dining Set Classic Outdoor Dining Sets: Martha Stewart by POLYWOOD Chinoiserie 7-Piece Dining Set Classic Outdoor Dining Sets: Traditional Garden 9-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Dining Set

Transitional: A fresh take on traditional style that pairs subtle curves with simple forms.

Transitional Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD La Casa Café 5-Piece Round Farmhouse Dining Set Transitional Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD Nautical Folding Highback Chair 7-Piece Dining Set with Trestle Legs Transitional Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD Lakeside 9-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Dining Set

Modern: Sleek silhouettes that take shape in clean lines and bold angles. 

Modern Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD Modern Curveback Adirondack 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Bar Set Modern Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD EDGE 7-Piece Dining Set Modern Outdoor Dining Sets: POLYWOOD Modern Adirondack 9-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Bar Set

The style of legs or base is another consideration within this step. Here are the three most popular and what distinguishes each:

Trestle tables have two centerline trestle supports that are connected by one or more stretchers. This design offers generous legroom for all guests and more seating flexibility around the table’s perimeter.

A classic style, pedestal tables are supported by one (or multiple) central columns, which frees up the entire length of the table for seating guests. End seats have the most legroom.

Leg tables feature four posts located at or near the table’s corners. They’re casual by design with ample open space underneath. The posts limit how many people the table’s length can accommodate.

Pedestal vs. Trestle Legs


Step 7: Choose the Right Color For Your Dining Set

White/Sand: Light and bright, these are classic choices that work well in most settings.

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

Teak/Mahogany: These elemental browns blend in beautifully with natural surroundings. 

Green: A more playful earth tone, this lush shade echoes the color of pine trees.

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: Choose the Right Materials for Your Dining Set

Dining 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 dining sets, you’ll want to take several factors into account:

Pine and Other Softwoods as a Material for Dining Sets

Although hardwoods are often more popular, some dining sets are made of pine or other softwoods. Softwoods are abundant and inexpensive but are not great choices for an outdoor dining 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 and it’s easily scratched or dented, which can impact the appearance of your dining set.
  • Softwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside. Even then, the elements can quickly impact how good the dining set looks.
  • Hot mugs and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • A softwood dining set will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis.
  • Softwood is a relatively inexpensive choice.

Oak and Other Hardwoods as a Material for Dining Sets

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

Hardwoods: Points to Consider

  • Hardwoods are quite resilient and durable, and they’re difficult to scratch, dent, or damage.
  • Hardwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside.
  • Hot mugs and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • Hardwood dining sets will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis.
  • Hardwood dining sets are more resilient to the elements.
  • Hardwood is a moderately expensive choice.

Teak as a Material for Dining Sets

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

Teak: Points to Consider

Teak is the most durable and resilient wood option thanks to a natural oil it produces. 

  • It’s a type of hardwood, so won’t dent or scratch easily.
  • Hot mugs and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood.
  • While it can stay outside year round, teak needs to be regularly treated to avoid its signature silver patina.
  • Teak is one of the pricier choices for outdoor furniture.

Wicker as a Material for Dining Sets

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

Wicker: Points to Consider

  • Wicker is not very resilient, it can be easily damaged especially if you use the dining 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, making food and drink spills difficult to clean.

Aluminum as a Material for Dining Sets

A lightweight and durable metal, aluminum is a popular choice for outdoor dining sets.

Aluminum: Points to Consider

  • Aluminum is tough, resilient, and easy to maintain.
  • Your dining set can be left outside all year round.
  • Aluminum is highly durable and 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 Dining Sets

HDPE is strong plastic often used for building high-quality, durable outdoor furniture. It’s our favorite material for outdoor furniture and will be a mainstay in your space for years to come. 

HDPE Lumber: Points to Consider

  • HDPE lumber is easy to maintain, needing just a soft-bristle brush and a simple solution of water and mild dish soap.
  • HDPE is sturdy and resistant to wind. Your dining set can stay outside all year round.
  • HDPE is highly durable and completely resistant to wind, water, and rust.
  • The surface of HDPE lumber won’t be affected by hot serveware or food and drink spills.
  • HDPE is infinitely recyclable and is often made from ocean- and landfill-bound plastics.
  • HDPE is available in a wide variety of colors.
  • HDPE lumber is manufactured to last a lifetime and its price reflects that.

Step 9: Accessorize Your Dining Set

You’ve chosen the perfect dining 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 with durable all-weather performance fabrics that can live outside in any season.

Our outdoor accessories are weather- and fade-resistant, so they will stay looking great. They shed water quickly to dry out fast after a passing rainstorm. And with a variety of colors and patterns, you’re sure to find an umbrella, cushions, or pillows to match your dining set. 

POLYWOOD Outdoor Chair Cushion in Spiced Burlap
Spiced Burlap

POLYWOOD Outdoor Chair Cushion in Glacier Spa
Glacier Spa

POLYWOOD Outdoor Chair Cushion in Chartreuse Boucle
Chartreuse Boucle

You can even add coordinating side tables and other pieces to your outdoor dining area to create more space for people and food.


Should You Add a Rug?

You may choose to lay a rug underneath your dining set to protect the surface of a deck or patio and visually unify the space. An outdoor rug is also a good opportunity to add a little splash of color or personality to your open-air eatery.

Rugs aren’t required, especially if your dining furniture is situated on grassy lawn—or if you simply like the look, feel, and cost savings of not including one. And if you have an uncovered balcony, patio, or deck that experiences heavy rainfall, keep in mind you may have to expend more energy maintaining your rug. 

Even if your space is covered, we recommend opting for an outdoor rug that can weather the elements. Additionally, you should make sure it is large enough to completely cover the square footage beneath your seating area (plus some) to ensure chair legs don’t get caught and tripping hazards are minimized.

6 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Dining Set

  1. I cannot seem to find a dealer of your furniture in my area–I live in Appleton Wisconsin and am very interested in 2 or 3 bristo chairs and table sets.can you point me in the right direction to one or two dealers? THANKS

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing such a great article. It really describes how to buy the best outdoor furniture. I bought a solid wood patio bench for my outdoor garden from an online store in Dubai. It was of good quality suits my garden. Thanks for sharing this, especially with the pics(it really helped)

  3. I like that you mentioned how outdoor dining sets are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and materials. Our patio is empty right now, so I think we should put outdoor dining furniture on it. It seems there are various types available nowadays, so we should pick one set that would fit our patio.

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