The Complete Guide to Buying a Rocking Chair

Since the early 18th century, the rocking chair has been a great way to watch the world go by. Originally used in gardens, they started as simple chairs with rockers attached to the bottom. Since then, rocking chairs have spread around the world, becoming especially popular in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Nowadays, rocking chairs are available in a wide range of materials, colors, and styles, and when it comes to choosing the best rocking chair, you have a wealth of options. In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we’ll talk you through all the different areas so you can make the right choice.

Step 1: Is a Rocking Chair the Right Chair for You?

Buying a rocking chair is a very personal choice. Where the chair will be used, the materials it’s built from, style, design, color, and comfort all play a big role. As you’re on the POLYWOOD website, it’s likely you are looking to purchase an outdoor rocking chair. If that’s the case, be sure to choose a material that’s resilient to the weather and will keep looking good year after year.

grey rocking chairs by fire
Quattro 3-Piece Adirondack Rocker Set in Slate Grey

Some other considerations for choosing your rocking chair are listed below.

Rocking Chair Form and Function — Points to Consider

  • Classic rocking chair materials like oak, wicker, or other woods are best if you’re using the chair inside. Otherwise, you should consider harder-wearing materials for outside use.
  • Rocking chairs are great for rest and stress relief. If that’s the aim, pick chairs with contoured seating and accessorize for maximum relaxation.
  • Rocking chairs are also a great way to socialize — if you’re buying more than one chair be sure to measure your space and make sure everything can fit in.
  • The only potential downside to rocking chairs is that feet, paws, and tails can get caught under the rockers, and no-one wants that.

kids reading on rocking chairs

Step 2: Choose the Right Rocking Chair Materials

Rocking chairs are available in a variety of materials — softwoods like pine, hardwoods like oak and teak, wicker, plastic resin, fabric, HDPE lumber, and injection molded plastic are all available. When it comes to choosing the right materials you’ll want to take several factors into account:

  • Durability — how well will the material last when it’s left outside?
  • Maintenance — how easy is the material to look after? Opt for a  weatherproof rocking chair when possible for the lowest  maintenance. 
  • Appearance — how will the material look over time?
  • Comfort — how comfortable and luxurious is the material?
  • Weight — how easy is it to move the chair around, and how resilient is it to weather?
  • Price — how much value for money will you get from the chair?

Pine and Other Softwoods as a Material for Rocking Chairs

Pine and other softwoods are popular materials for crafting rocking chairs. They are abundant and inexpensive. However, when looking to purchase outdoor rocking chairs, they are not great options considering pine and other soft woods don’t tend to weather very well.

Softwoods — Points to Consider

  • Softwood isn’t very resilient or durable, it is easily scratched or dented, which can impact the appearance of the chair.
  • Softwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside. Even then, the elements can quickly impact how good the chair looks.
  • Softwood chairs 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 Rocking Chairs

Hardwoods are generally a better choice that softwoods for a well-crafted, lasting rocking chair, 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 it is difficult to scratch, dent, or damage them.
  • Hardwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside.
  • Hardwood chairs will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis.
  • Hardwood chairs are more resilient to the elements and gusts of wind.
  • Hardwood is a moderately expensive choice as a material for a rocking chair.

Teak as a Material for Rocking Chairs

Teak is one of the best woods for outdoor furniture, and 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 a hardwood, so isn’t easy to dent or scratch.
  • It’s completely resistant to wind, water, and rust and can stay outside all year-round.
  • 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 Rocking Chairs

Although most popular in the mid 18th century, wicker is still used as a material in rocking chairs today, either for the seating area, or for the chair as a whole. Although wicker can be a good material for inside rocking chairs, it doesn’t really have the durability for outside use.

Wicker — Points to Consider

  • Wicker is not very resilient, it can be easily damaged.
  • When used outside, wicker can lose its appearance quickly, as it is not weather-resistant.
  • It 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 chair.
  • Wicker is not easy to maintain.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Lumber as a Material for Rocking Chairs

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.

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. It can stay outside all year-round.
  • HDPE is highly durable and completely resistant to wind, water, and rust.
  • Comfortable, stylish, and luxurious with a high-quality, strong, and sturdy construction.
  • HDPE is infinitely recyclable and is often made from recycled milk jugs.
  • Available in a wide variety of colors.
  • HDPE lumber is manufactured to last a lifetime and its price does reflect that.

Injection Molded Plastic as a Material for Rocking Chairs

Plastic is an inexpensive option for outdoor furniture, but it isn’t comfortable or luxurious. For temporary outdoor furniture, or spare chairs for when guests come over, it can be a good option.

Injection Molded Plastic — Points to Consider

  • Easy to maintain, needing just a damp cloth and dish soap. It can stay outside all year-round.
  • Because it’s very light, it is vulnerable to wind gusts.
  • It is durable and resistant to water and rust.
  • Available in a wide variety of colors.
  • It can lose its appearance quickly and will fade and take on stains and weathering quite easily.
  • It is not stylish or luxurious. It is also the most mass-produced outdoor furniture, so craftsmanship is non-existent.
  • Inexpensive, definitely the cheapest option for outdoor furniture.

As you can guess, our favorite material is 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 and designs.

Step 3: Choose the Right Rocking Chair Dimensions

Once you’ve decided on the right materials, you’ll want to think about the size, height, and spacing of your outdoor rocking chairs.

white rocking chairs on balcony
Seashell Adirondack Rocking Chair  |  Seashell 18″ Side Table

Rocking Chair Sizes

Depending on the styling, most rocking chairs will stand between around 37 to 45 inches tall, 26 to 30 inches wide, and 32 to 37 inches deep. Depending on the material, they could weigh anything between 15 and 45 lbs.

We recommend placing patio and porch rocking chairs at least two to three feet apart. You will also want to have enough space behind and in front of a rocking chair to rock backwards and forwards without hitting anything. A patio or porch around 10 feet square can comfortably hold three to four rocking chairs.

Jefferson Rocking Chair in Mahogany

Rocking Chair Heights

You will want to pay close attention to the height of a rocking chair — shorter people will want lower seat heights to make getting into and out of the chair easier, while taller people may want higher seats.

Our range of POLYWOOD rocking chairs features seat heights between 16 and 17.5 inches.

If you’re around 5’ to 5’5”, we recommend a 16 inch seat height. People between 5’6” and 5’10” will be most comfortable with a 16 – 17 inch seat height, while taller people will probably want 17.5 inches.

Step 4: Choose the Right Rocking Chair Style 

Although the basic style of the rocking chair is straightforward, and hasn’t changed very much, there are  a number of both traditional and modern twists on the design. Here at POLYWOOD, we’ve been refining and adding some flourish to our own take on the rocking chair, to create styles suitable for any outside space.

Step 5: Choose the Right Rocking Chair Color 

If you’re buying a wood rocking chair, you’re likely to be limited in your choice of colors and finishes unless it’s painted. If you’re going for injection moulded plastic, or, even better, HDPE lumber, you will have plenty of choices.

Our Presidential Rocking Chair is available in both traditional and vibrant lumber colors.

These materials are available in a wide variety of tones. From beautiful grays, browns, greens, and other earth colors, through to vibrant hues of red, yellow, blue, and more that add some real visual distinction.

You can stay with a modern look by choosing black or white, or bring in a sense of the natural with brown or green.

Step 6: Rocking Chair Accessories 

Finally, accessorize your rocking chair with the perfect additions. Cushions and pillows are great for adding some padding to an already comfortable piece of furniture. You can also add a side table to create a complete set of beautiful outdoor furniture.

Jefferson 3-Piece Woven Rocking Chair Set in Black

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the perfect rocking chair, 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 on (855) 935-5550 or email us at and one of our experts will be delighted to help you out.

For visuals on comparing our seat heights, styles, colors, and more check out one of our previous posts Comparing Rocking Chair Styles.

Presidential Rocking Chair in Teak

19 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Buying a Rocking Chair

  1. I wanted 2 Lime Green Presidential Rockers until I sat in them. The seat isn’t wide or deep enough. And then the back….far to upright. I was so disappointed. I was ready to purchase until I actually sat in one.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for your interest in our rocking chairs — all POLYWOOD furniture is made at our headquarters in Syracuse, Indiana or our newest campus in Roxboro, North Carolina.

  2. I have sat in a poly wood rocker and it did seem too straight up / upright. Does this vary at all between rocker styles?

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  4. I’ve been wanting to purchase a wooden rocking chair for my grandmother since her birthday is fast approaching. I’m glad you shared this; I’ll make sure to pick a chair that consists of contoured seating and is accessorized for maximum relaxation. Although, I’ve bee thinking of looking for a shop that customizes wooden pieces.

  5. If I purchase 2 Presidential Rocking Chairs and place them on an outdoor area rug, how large should that rug be with room enough for a small table between the chairs? The current rug I have is 5’1″ x 7’6″, but I’m wondering if this is too small. The porch is probably only 5’6″ wide, so I can’t go much wider than a 5′ rug.

    Also, what size cushions fit the Presidential Rocking Chairs?

    1. Hi Mandi,

      Great question! The recommended minimum space for two Presidential Rocking Chairs and a side table is 94″ W x 42.5″ H x 59″ D. This would be a great guideline when trying to see which size of rug would you like to pair with the set. The size of the cushion that pairs with the Presidential Rocking Chair is 20″ W x 2.5″ H x 20″ D. I have include the link to the cushion here,
      Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us!

    1. Hello Cecelia! Thanks for your question! We do have some porch rocking chairs with a wider seat of 27″+. Here are the links to them on our website:

      Vineyard Porch Rocking Chair –
      Nautical Porch Rokcing Chair –
      Shaker Porch Rocking Chair –

      I hope this helps you! Thanks for reaching out!

      1. This person is asking for a chair with a wider seat, NOT just a wider chair. I was looking for a wider seat as well and your chair seats are all 20-21” wide.

        1. Hi Margo,

          Thank you for clarifying. At this time, our porch rocking chairs are all going to have the standard seat size right around 20″. That’s a great suggestion though! Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

    1. Hi Brian!

      Thank you for taking the time to look at our article about picking the best rocking chair for you. To ensure the the rocking chair that you chose meets all of your needs and wants, these considerations certainly give you a place to start when reviewing all of your available options.

      All the best!

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