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17 September 2021

How to buy the best garden furniture

Our expert garden furniture buying guide reveals the different types of outdoor furniture and accessories, how best to care for them and which shops to buy from
Jade Harding
Family sitting for dinner at a table in the garden

Whether you want garden furniture that will make outdoor entertaining a pleasure, or you’d prefer loungers to create a relaxing oasis just outside your back door, our buying guide will help you find – and maintain – the best furnishings for you.

But where do you start? Keep reading to discover the types and accessories you need, where to buy from and how to care for your new furniture, so you don’t need to buy replacements year after year. 

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Types of garden furniture

Ensuring you choose the right material for your garden furniture is vital. We run through four common types, and list the pros and cons for each.  

Rattan garden furniture

There are two types of rattan – natural and synthetic. Both offer a woven style effect that looks great in a variety of colours and suits all types of spaces. 

While natural wicker rattan is strong and looks great, it’s not weather resistant, so the majority of outdoor options will be made from synthetic polyethylene resin. 

High-quality resin is extremely weatherproof which makes it great for garden furniture all year round and it will be cheaper than natural options. But if you live in an area where you regularly get strong winds you might need a storage area as resin rattan is light and might be prone to blowing over. 

If your heart's still set on natural wicker you’ll need to make sure you have somewhere to store it when it’s not being used so it doesn’t get damaged by the elements.

Pros 

  • Strong and durable 
  • Attractive 
  • Comes in a variety of styles and colours 

 Cons 

  • Not heavy enough to withstand strong winds
  • Natural wicker isn’t weatherproof 
  • Can be expensive 

Wooden garden furniture

Wood is a great option if you’ve got a natural theme. If you choose the right type it will be a sturdy and durable addition to your garden.  

Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, will cost less but are more suited to indoor furnishings and would need constant protection from the elements. 

More expensive hardwoods, such as teak and eucalyptus, will last a long time and if treated with oil and stain annually, should weather naturally. 

Pros 

  • Durable 
  • Sturdy 
  • It doesn’t retain heat – no burnt legs on a sunny day
  • Looks natural 
  • Can be painted or stained different colours  

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Will need annual maintenance   

Metal garden furniture

If you’re looking for something that’s low maintenance and durable, metal could be for you.

It’s sturdy and weatherproof – just make sure you opt for a rust-resistant set – and can be left outside all year round. However, most will come with cushions that will need to be stored away when it’s wet or cold. You’ll also need to be careful not to burn yourself on the material in very hot weather. 

Lots of sets are minimalist in design, while some will be foldable which is great if you have a smaller garden or balcony. 

Costs differ depending on the type and size of set.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Great for smaller spaces

Cons

  • Will get hot on sunny days
  • You might need to buy cushions separately

Plastic garden furniture

Plastic garden furniture

Plastic garden furniture is great if you’re on a budget. You’ll find lots of different styles and shapes at low costs. However, they might not be as durable or sturdy as other materials. 

Plastic is weather resistant so you shouldn’t need to store away in the winter. However, extreme heat can sometimes make it warp. 

Most plastic options will also come assembled. 

If you’re short on space, try to choose a set that is stackable to make stowing away much easier. 

Pros 

  • Budget options 
  • Stackable sets 
  • Weather resistant 
  • Low maintenance 
  • Minimal assembly 

Cons 

  • Not eco-friendly 
  • Not as durable or sturdy as other materials 

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Cheap garden furniture

The cheapest garden furniture will typically made from plastic, steel, aluminium and softwoods, such as pine. You can pick up a basic two-seater dining set for as little as £30.

Big stores such as Argos, Ikea and the Range stock a wide range of affordable options. 

Sets made from cheaper materials such as plastic are great if you want to save money but try to remember it won’t be as durable as pricier hardwood or rattan options - nor is it eco-friendly. So, if you’re looking for a long-term investment, you’ll need to spend a little more.

Or you could try looking for quality second-hand sets on sites such as Ebay and Gumtree instead.  

Caring for your garden furniture

Keep your garden furniture in tip-top condition and avoid having to replace it every year by following our maintenance advice below. 

Rattan garden furniture

Natural wicker furniture ideally shouldn’t be left outside. But if it is, you’ll need to clean the grooves regularly with a brush, keep it covered and store it away when it’s not in use. And even if you follow all these steps there’s still a chance it will get damaged. 

Synthetic rattan however is much easier. It can be left outside all year round, but if possible, store it away or keep it covered in extreme weather conditions. It doesn’t need any specific maintenance but regularly cleaning it down with soapy water will keep it looking fresh.  

Avoid sitting on the arms of chairs, and wash and store away any accompanying cushions. 

Wooden garden furniture

Softwoods will need to be washed down with a wood-cleaning product once a year before being treated with a stain or paint.

Hardwoods will need a wash down each year with soapy water, but they will weather naturally. However, if you prefer your furniture to stay looking new, you can use an oil or a stain on these, too. Don’t paint hardwood though as the oil content will make the paint dry unevenly.  

Ideally you should keep your wooden furniture covered in cold or wet weather. 

Metal garden furniture

Most metal garden furniture will already come with a protective sealant that prevents rusting so all you should need to do is clean it with soapy water every now and then. 

If you notice the sealant bubbling or cracking, you can always buff it down and cover it with a fresh slick of protective treatment.  

Keeping it out of the elements will also help prolong its life. 

Plastic garden furniture

Plastic is one of the easiest types to care for. All you need do is wash grime off with warm, soapy water. White plastics can start to go a little yellow with time. To freshen it up you could wash with an abrasive solution.

In extreme heat some plastics may also warp so you might want to store in the shade when it’s sunny. 

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Garden furniture accessories

We run through the most popular types of garden accessories and how to care for them. 

Parasols and bases

There are two types of parasols: a traditional parasol and a freestanding cantilever parasol. 

Traditional parasols stand upwards and typically go through a hole in the middle of a table. While cantilever parasols are freestanding, with a curved arm that hovers over your furniture. They can also normally be manoeuvred into different positions. 

Some shops also do parasols that attach to an outdoor wall. These are great if you’re short on space. 

A base is what keeps the parasol stable and on the ground. Some parasols will come with a base, but for most you’ll need to buy one separately. Your base weight will all depend on the size and type of your parasol. For example, a traditional parasol of around 2m will need a base weight of at least 15kg. But a 4m cantilever parasol will need a 50kg base. Check with the supplier for the recommended base weight. 

Always make sure your parasol is tightly screwed to the base, and take it down and store in a safe place during high winds. If your parasol gets wet, let it dry out completely before folding it down. 

Garden furniture covers

Garden furniture covers come in all different ready-made shapes and sizes or you can opt for a bespoke option. 

Your first step should always be to measure the furniture, so you get a cover that fits it properly. For example, when measuring a garden table, you should push all the chairs under the table tightly before using a tape measure to find the length, width and height.  

Next, you’ll need to choose the type of protection you need. Most should opt for a waterproof option, but you can also find covers that protect from UV rays, too. 

Garden furniture cushions

Cushions should not only look good, but also provide comfort and stability when relaxing outside. 

Make sure they are the correct size for your furniture – cushions that slip around or don’t cover the entire seat won’t make for a relaxing experience. Cushion ties are a great, easy way to stop cushions moving around.

Most cushions are best off being taken inside in cold or wet weather to avoid mould and mildew. Ensuring cushions are kept under shade during the summer will prevent fading. 

You can also opt for fabrics that are waterproof and resistant to fading. Sunbrella fabric is well-known for its protective benefits but can be very expensive. 

The filling is also important. Polyester fill is cheap but will flatten over time and won’t provide comfort long-term. Foam is slightly better but will also depend on the density – the higher density, the better. 

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Who sells garden furniture?

We don’t test garden furniture yet, but the following brands are among those rated by consumers in our furniture survey.

  • Ikea - supplies a full range of garden furniture, from the £10 Tarno folding metal and wooden chair, to the £1,059 Solleron synthetic rattan corner sofa set. Dining sets cost between £400 and £800. Ikea garden furniture can be bought from around 20 stores across the UK, ordered online or by order and collection points at Aberdeen, Norwich and Stratford, east London.
  • Kettler - is one of the most widely stocked garden furniture brands, with more than 400 stockists across the UK, including garden centres and John Lewis, as well as online retailers. Kettler produces a large range of outdoor furniture and accessories in wood, metal, weatherproof fabric and woven synthetics, from £20 chair pads up to the £2,009 Palma round dining set. Dining sets predominate, though, and they include a partnership with the RHS to produce wooden and weatherproof wicker dining sets named after RHS gardens.
  • Hartman - furniture is widely stocked in garden centres across the UK and the brand is best known for its robust-looking collections of cast-aluminium dining sets. There are also more contemporary metal ranges, including the Jamie Oliver range of dining sets with barbecue grills built into the tables. Prices range from just £128 for a cast-aluminium side table right up to £2,940 for the Atlas dining set with a gas fire pit.
  • B&Q - was one of the most popular places to buy garden furniture with our survey respondents. Most garden furniture at B&Q is now sold under its Blooma brand name, which is a seasonal offering, with new ranges arriving in store each spring and being cleared at the end of the summer. Current prices range from the £24 Vernon Nimbus cloud metal chair to the £419 Denia wooden coffee set.
  • Alexander Rose - garden furniture is widely available in garden centres across the UK. It has a very extensive catalogue of wooden, metal and woven synthetic furniture sold under its 19 named ranges. These include a particularly wide selection of wooden benches made in five types of softwood or hardwood. Prices range from £100 up to a few thousand pounds.

For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our online shopping advice.