The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Dining Set

Eating alfresco is one of the great joys in life. What could be better than sitting outside on a glorious afternoon or beautiful evening and breaking bread with family and friends? Creating the perfect dining experience is an art — you need marvelous meals, delicious drinks, glorious guests, and fantastic furniture.

Traditional Garden 5-Piece Dining Set

Although we can’t help when it comes to cooking up a storm in the kitchen, 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.

Read on, and learn how to build the perfect space for your next alfresco dinner party.


Step 1 — Decide on 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. For more formal meals and dinner parties you might want a longer table, with rounded or square ends. For more informal gathering, a round dinner table could be perfect.

Coastal 5-Piece Dining Set

You will need to match the size of your dining table with the number of people you will want to serve. Don’t be shy — when word gets around of how great it is to dine at your home, family and friends will be begging for an invite! In other words, go a couple of place settings bigger than you normally would — even if you don’t fill the table every time, the extra space will make moving around, sitting, and relaxing that little bit easier.

Dining Table Form and Function — Points to Consider

  • Think carefully about the height of your dining table. Lower tables are better for relaxing and enjoying a casual soiree, while higher tables will mean people sit up a little more, better for slightly more formal gatherings
  • If you’ve got young kids you might want a slightly lower table so they can get in and out of chairs and reach their food more easily
  • Look at the placement of legs on the table — that will influence where you can easily put chairs and sit diners
  • Think about the overall size of your dining table and how much space you will need when it’s surrounded with chairs — make sure there’s enough space on your deck or patio to comfortable hold the table and chairs, while allowing people to move around easily
  • If you want to install a patio umbrella, look for a dining table with a center hole
Nautical 7-Piece Dining Set

Step 2 — Choose the Right Dining Chairs for Your Space

Your guests will want to relax into beautiful chairs as they’re enjoying their food. You can choose chairs designed to match your dining table or mix it up a little bit and go for eclectic, alternative designs.

We recommend buying dining chairs in sets of two — if you do that you could get a couple of one design and a couple of another.

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

Quattro 7-Piece Dining Set

Dining Chair Form and Function — Points to Consider

  • Choose chairs matched to the right height of your dining table, lest you get bashed knees!
  • 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 3 — 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 aluminium are all available. When it comes to choosing the right materials for your dining sets, you’ll want to take several factors into account:

  • Durability — how well will your dining set last when it’s left outside?
  • Maintenance — how easy will your dining set be to look after?
  • Appearance — how will your dining set look over time?
  • Surfaces — how well will the surfaces resist food and drink?
  • Comfort — how comfortable and luxurious will your dining set be?
  • Weight — how easy is it to move the dining set around, and how resilient is it to weather?
  • Price — how much value for money will you get from the dining set?

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, it is 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 plates and cups, 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 an inexpensive choice when it comes to outdoor furniture

Oak and Other Hardwoods as a Material for Dining Sets

Hardwoods are a better choice that 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 it is difficult to scratch, dent, or damage them
  • Hardwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside
  • Hot plates and cups, 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 and gusts of wind
  • Hardwood is a moderately expensive choice as a material for a dining sets

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, 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
  • Hot plates and cups, and 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 Dining Sets

Wicker is sometimes used as a material in dining 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 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, spoiling the appearance of the dining 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 Dining Sets

A popular choice, dining 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 dining 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
Metro 6-Piece Dining Set

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Lumber as a Material for Dining 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 dining 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 dining set can stay outside all year-round
  • HDPE is highly durable and completely resistant to wind, water, and rust
  • Your dining 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 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

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 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.

Palm Coast 5-Piece Dining Set
  • 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 dining 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 Dining Set

Since 1990, POLYWOOD dining furniture has been refined into a wide variety of styles suitable for any outside space.

Chippendale 5-Piece Dining Set

Step 6 — Choose the Right Color of Dining Set

If you’re buying a pine, oak, teak, or wicker dining 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 dining sets are available in a several finishes.

All our dining sets 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.

Palm Coast 7-Piece Dining Set

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

Euro 7-Piece Dining Set

Step 7 — Accessorize Your Dining Set

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

Sunbrella cushions and umbrellas are weather and 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 dining set umbrella, cushion, or pillow.

La Casa Café 5-Piece Dining Set

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


The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the perfect dining 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 on (855) 935-5550 or email us at hello@polywoodoutdoor.com and one of our experts will be delighted to help you out!

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