How to buy Outdoor Furniture

Before you buy outdoor furniture there are a few questions you have to ask yourself.  One of the most important questions is, “how much do you want to spend?” ” Are you looking for high quality, long lasting outdoor furniture or are you looking to use some furniture in the backyard or patio for the summer season?”  If you are looking for outdoor furniture that you intend to keep for ten years, then it will be a lot different than just a little fun set, to fill a need for one summer.  Many home improvement stores will carry the cheap and cheerful type that works wonderfully for that short time period, however if you are seeking higher quality outdoor furniture, it will require more effort on your part to find these.

A few basic questions to ask yourself while deciding on outdoor furnishings are:

  • What is your desired budget?
  • How long (years) do you wish to have this furniture?
  • Will the furniture be outside year round, or seasonal?
  • Will the furniture be exposed to the weather? If yes, how many months of the year?
  • What are your climate conditions? (Sunny and warm or six months of inclement weather).
  • Will the furniture be covered, but still outdoors? (On a covered deck?)
  • Should it be light weight so it can be moved around easily?
  • What will you be using it for? (Dining, relaxing, and lounging)
  • Do you want the look of the furniture to stay consistent or age with exposure to the elements?
  • How durable do you want it?
  • Fixed or removable cushions?

The answer to most of these questions will get you started on your outdoor furniture journey.  

Entry level outdoor furniture is generally plastic chairs and tables that we have all sat on at some point in our lives.  These plastic stacking chairs, for $10 to $25 per unit, usually come in five handsome colours (mostly white) and work perfectly well for an outdoor gathering.  I’ve even sat on them at a few outdoor weddings in my time.  If they crack or break it’s no big deal and you check with your local recycling program to see where they can be dropped off.

The next level is plastic or metal frames with plastic cross straps (lawn chair webbing) the ones that go from side to side, to support the seat cushions.  These can work well and with the added cushions can be quite comfortable.  The unfortunate part is that the cross straps typically last for about two seasons before they start to break; finding replacements straps can be done but they are exceptionally hard to change and once you change one, you should change them all.  It is time consuming and will need to be repeated over the lifespan of the chair.  There are also metal frame chairs that have metal rails as cross strapping and these are a better quality and will absolutely last longer than the plastic cross straps.

From there the quality and price are all over the place.  When you purchase solid hardwood frame chairs and tables, they are going to last for at least a decade without fail.  Chairs and tables that are constructed from real hardwood can easily take being outdoors year round and are usually durable enough to be pressure washed, re-stained and sealed without any trouble.  The big difference with these units is the price which may be over $100 plus per chair instead of $15 per chair.  Often the cushions are not part of the purchase price of the chair, so you can expect to pay more, but then you might have the option to select a specific foam density to suit your own personal preferences.

All-metal frame tables and chairs are also a safe way to go if you are looking for longevity and durability however, if the metal frame is painted and the units are kept outdoors year round, you will run the risk of paint peeling and the formation of rust.  This can be remedied with a weekend of repainting, if you wish to dedicate the time and effort in the spring.  If they are a treated metal or an aluminum frame then it won’t be any trouble for the units to be exposed to the elements all year round without the worry of possible deterioration.

Wicker has been a staple in outdoor furniture for eons.  It looks good!  It can be exceptionally well made, is lightweight and durable.  I have seen wicker furniture last for 20 years and still look fantastic while providing excellent comfort.  It can be cleaned and it can be painted, with the correct type of paint, to give it better protection however, if you leave your wicker furniture in the rain for months at a time, year after year, there is always the possibility of the product failing.  Generally the wicker holds fast but once the connections start to fall apart; then you have to decide if you want to mend the furniture or move on to something else.

Plastics or resin are a nice solution for outdoor furniture because they can look great forever and there is no question about the durability.  Most of the products are cleanable and can take rain, snow, and extreme sunshine without problem.  It is always easy to change the look by simply changing your seat cushions and voila, it looks like a new set.  Because the plastic chairs are so lightweight they can stack and store easily in your garage over the winter months.  However, one of the setbacks of plastics is, after sitting in the sun it can be really hot on your skin.  I have seen some outdoor furniture that you could cook a meal on because of exposure to the sun on a hot summer day.  Plastics are unforgiving in that they do stick to people and you can’t just assume that you can slide back and forth on the seat pans.  Even the table tops can become too hot to rest your arms against when sitting down to a meal outdoors.

Some manufacturers use different types of stone, for picnic tables and benches, which goes without saying that it has year round durability, but it exceptionally heavy to move, ever.  As with some plastics and metals it can get very hot to the touch so it typically needs to be covered with something when people are sitting on it.

There are many combinations of materials used on outdoor furniture.  Wood with metal, metal with glass, glass with wicker, and the list goes on and on.  The key is to know how you will be using your furniture.  In certain areas of the world you experience all four seasons, so it may be tough to find an outdoor product that can take that amount of exposure and still look good after a decade of use.  Some people like to leave their patio set outside (undercover) year round for when they wish to enjoy time outside during the cold season.  However, if you plan on leaving your outdoor furniture constantly in the elements, please be aware that this exposure may decrease the lifespan of this product. So, now this is where the budget question comes back into play.  How much money are you willing to spend on your outdoor set that might be adversely affected by your local weather conditions?  It can be heart wrenching to go out into the back yard in the spring and see that the winter has kicked the heck out of your really expensive patio furniture set.

Warranty and Service Plan

Do you really need a service plan?  This is a tough topic for many consumers.  It’s brand new.  You just bought it.  What could possibly go wrong?  Everything.

My answer is . . . YES!

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Many people feel like this is just a money grab from the retailer selling the furniture, but having worked in this business for over 30 years, I can assure you it is not.  This is absolutely a way for you to protect your furniture investment Most of the time protection plans, services plans, or warranties are only an extra $200 on top of the purchase price and if something happens you have a leg to stand on.  I cannot tell you how many times customers would come back into the store with their tale of woe but no matter how much you yell and scream at the service counter, not very much ends up happening . . . ever.  “Oh, we are so sorry this happened to you.  It’s never happened to anybody ever before.  I swear.  You’re the first.  I’m so sorry but my hands are tied.  I could try to speak to the manufacturer”.  But they never do, because more often than not the manufacturer is in another far far away country.  Nothing is going happen.  You will be disappointed and not buy from that store again, but you still own the problem.

I used to love it when a customer would come into the store and break out the magical sheet, the service plan.  They were met with smiles and friendliness and we were eager to help them any way we could.  There was nothing to discuss.  They had  paid for the service plan, and that is what they were going to get.  Service.  Of course it might be different if someone had burned a hole in a sofa cushion or scratched the top of a wood dining table with a nail.  There are and always will be exceptions to what the plan will cover but overall the service plans are there to help you.  Be sure to ask your sales consultant if the plan they are offering includes damage caused by how you use it, such as water damage on your dining room table.  I just can’t tell you how often someone would come into the store with what they thought was a major dilemma, but once we had collected the information and just their service plan number, off they go happy; knowing the situation would be fixed in a timely manner.

My favorite product for this, is mattresses; an item you plan on using every single night of the year for the next 8 to 10 years and you only get to lie on it for thirty minutes in a store.  All the while, a sales rep is hanging over you, trying to convince you that there are 1000 individual pocket coils forged from pure galvanized steel to give you a great sleep and long term comfort.  This is insane.  You are using this every day.  More often than not you will be sharing this item with another person every day . . . for years.  I have always strongly believed you need a little more than just one hour.  This is why I can’t stress this point enough you MUST purchase the warranty plan before you leave the store.  Once you get a mattress home and sleep on it for a few days you may find out that, like Goldilocks, the mattress is too soft or too firm, and once it’s in your home, it is too late.  Mattress exchange or whatever that store calls it – is a must!  The last thing you want is a unit that you just paid $4,000 for and you can’t return or exchange it.  Most of the time these policies are less than $200 and are well worth it.  ALL companies will gladly exchange the mattress if you have the warranty plan.

Mattress pads are sometimes a requirement as well.  The store or the manufacturer will insist that you use a mattress pad to protect their product while you are trying it out for the next few weeks.  Again, it’s worth the money.  If you don’t have the pad and it is a mandatory step, then the store will not help you.

The funny thing is that so many sales reps make it sound like the store or manufacturer is going to do everything in their power to make sure you get exactly what you want when it comes to handling your furniture problem, but the second that your order is written, then these are just words in the wind, unless you have a commitment in writing.

So in my humble opinion –  buy any and all service plans when it comes to buying furniture.  They are relatively affordable and then you have some protection for your investment.

How to Buy an Entry Hall Table

Sofa tables, console tables and entry hall tables are all very similar. They generally measure 26” to 36” high, 12” to 18” in deep, and 30” to 60” wide however; there are hundreds of different sizes available.  They can provide different heights in a room for decorations, plants, flowers etc.  They can act as a room divider depending on where it is situated in the room.  Depending on the configuration you select they can offer extra storage area in a room or a hallway.  They are extremely useful at the main entry of a home for putting keys, mail and sundry items.

Knowing where and what you are going use the table for will be a big help in selecting the best one.  If you wish to have the table in the middle of the room away from a wall be sure to confirm that the unit has a four-sided finish.  Many hallway tables don’t have a finished back and would be exposed in the room.  Decide if you want storage in the table.  Do you want drawers, open shelves, swinging doors or a combination of them?  When you begin looking and see how many options are available to you it could take some thoughtful deliberation to make a final selection.

There are so many styles, shapes, colours, sizes and configurations that if you do your research ahead of time you will find a table that is suitable.  It’s that simple. The selection is endless.  I strongly suggest going online to see what is out there before embarking upon your shopping spree.

The same can be said for the materials available.  There is wood, metal, glass, plastics, mirror, stone and hundreds of combinations of these materials; so many that it is mind-boggling.  You really need a good idea of what you’re open to before you start going to furniture showrooms.

Know how much space you have.  Measure the table out on the floor with painters tape and get sense of the size you want in the space.  Make sure it is not blocking off any of your walking patterns in the space.  If you opted for storage in the unit make sure that you can access it comfortably without being hampered by other objects in the room.  You want it to be easy to get out some wine glasses, for example.

When adding an entry hall table make sure you check your measurements.  How wide is the hallway?  If you currently have a 42” wide hallway and you plan on adding an 18” deep table you will now have a 24” space to enter and leave your home, which is too tight.  If you imagine your family or guests gathering at the door together, the space is very narrow.  A 36” access is okay but once you start getting smaller than that, it will feel very tight and compressed.   I have been to a friend’s apartment that has a deep entry hall table and you can barely move passed it without bumping into each other.

Like all furniture it should be solid and rigid especially if you opt for a storage type unit.  Check the quality of the construction and see if the joinery has been glued and screwed everywhere possible.  Check the hinges on the doors to see if they are adjustable and if not, are they at least quality hinges.  Check the drawers to see if they have used four-sided drawers with a front panel and dovetail joints or butt joints.  Are the drawers easy to open and close?  Do the doors line up square when you open and shut them?  Most importantly does the unit feel stable and solid on the floor?

Beyond all of these technical assessments, try to keep an open mind about the styles available to you when you get into the stores.  Most companies manufacture common sizes and if you have a special requirement that is not easy to find, then perhaps consider having it custom-made.  Then you can choose the exact size, finish and design for your exact space.

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About This Blog

The main objective of this blog is simple

TO HELP THE CONSUMER BUY FURNITUREmoving a couch

We often forget that as we go through our lives there are so many things we purchase that cost a lot of money; buying a house is a huge capital investment; buying a car is another large outlay of our hard earned money.  Of course we can’t dismiss having children and all the costs that we incur over their lifetime with clothes, activities, braces, the list goes on and on, but so often we forget just how much we spend on furniture as time goes on.

As an example, let’s take the average three bedroom, two bathroom house.  If each bedroom is, say $3,000 per room for the kids; the master bedroom we’ll pretend is another $5,000; a dining room table, six chairs and a hutch and or buffet could be $5,000.  A kitchen table and four chairs at $1,000; in the family room – a sofa, loveseat, and chair at $4,000 and let’s not forget the living room at another $4,000 to $10,000 for sofa, loveseat and chairs plus some end tables and a coffee table – and you see how quickly this investment starts to climb.  Before you know it you have spent $25,000 in home furnishings and most of time, far more.

In addition let’s not forget the outdoor furniture you buy every couple of years because the old stuff has worn out, even though you only use it for a few months of the year.  Add a couple of cabinets in the bathroom and a few storage units in the garage and now you have spent a serious chunk of cash.

So, if you’re going spend a heap of money on your home furnishings over your lifetime why not make quality choices of furniture that looks great, lasts for long periods of time, and most importantly, fits you, your family and friends properly.  When making your selection, it’s not that hard to make sure your feet are placed flat on the floor when trying out a dining room chair.  Chairs too high!  Tables too low!  Sofas too deep!  I go to friends’ homes on a regular basis and sadly, I cannot believe how often they own furniture that does not fit them.

The real secret is “buying the correct size the first time around”.  That plain and simple!  Know what the furniture is going to be used for; then seek out the size that will fulfill those requirements.  YOUR REQUIREMENTS.

A great example of this is when you go to your buddy’s house to watch a football game.  He has a beautiful soft plush looking sofa with drink holders and recliners and you just can’t wait to plunge into the seat and start watching TV, however, 10 minutes into the game you notice that the back height of the sofa is so low that when you lean your head back there is no support.  You are now looking at the ceiling.  This may be cool for an hour or so but over the course of time this will slowly drive you crazy.  My point is, if my buddy had been completely aware of what he really needed to create the long term comfort then he wouldn’t have made that mistake.

More often than not people buy furniture for the way it looks and not for the way it performs.  What do they really need it for?  What is its ultimate purpose in the home or office?  This blog is to aid and assist the consumer in making great furniture choices so that you acquire the furniture that will best serve you and your family’s needs.