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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Presidential Rocker — our most popular rocking chair design, made famous by our historic leaders. Also available with a woven seat and back.
- Jefferson Rocker — a more traditional, slightly taller rocking chair than the Presidential. Also available with a woven seat and back.
- Classic Adirondack Rocker — a chair modeled after our ever-popular Adirondack chairs, this furniture features a reclined seat and back for maximum relaxation.
- Long Island Adirondack Rocker — a more upright chair featuring a back with a “flower” curve.
- Palm Coast Adirondack Rocker — a slightly wider seat with good-sized armrests.
- South Beach Adirondack Rocker — a taller chair with a slightly wider frame and slightly oversized arms.
- Seashell Adirondack Rocker — this chair features an elegant waterfall seat with slats that continue down the front of the chair.
- Modern and Quattro Adirondack Rockers — Modern chairs with straight backs for contemporary outdoor spaces.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.