We spent 18 hours researching dozens of moderately priced patio dining sets–under $600–and interviewing five landscape designers about the pros and cons of various materials. Of the 16 sets we examined closely, we recommend the wooden IKEA Äpplarö Table and 4 Armchairs. It’s attractive, it’s a tenth the price of comparable hardwood sets, and its table is the only one we’ve found that doubles in size (thanks to a pair of leaves that you can easily install and remove).
Experts told us that most people prefer the look and feel of wood outdoor dining sets. Of the 12 wood sets we considered, the Äpplarö Table and 4 Armchairs set offers the best value. It’s made of acacia wood, which isn’t as durable as teak but is much less expensive. Multiple people who own this set told us it has weathered a range of climates for six to 15 years with little upkeep. We also like that this set is part of the wider Äpplarö line, which offers more options and versatility than any other inexpensive outdoor-furniture line we found.
If you want a no-fuss patio set, steel is a great choice, and the table and chairs of the Better Homes and Gardens Clayton Court 5-Piece Patio Dining Set are the most comfortable and attractive we could find for the price. The Clayton Court set’s round, mesh-topped table is 45 inches in diameter, bigger than many other tables in sets of this type. The chairs have a mellow bounce that makes them more relaxing than the simpler upright chairs that come with most patio sets, like our top pick from IKEA. Seat cushions are included, which increases the set’s value and comfort.
If you prefer the look of wicker, the resin-wicker Hampton Bay Spring Haven 5-Piece All-Weather Wicker Patio Dining Set is highly durable. Unlike some other outdoor dining sets made of this popular type of modern wicker, it features a large glass tabletop, which is easier to clean and work on than tables made primarily of wicker material. The set also stands out for its stackable chairs and customizable cushions—you can choose a color or upgrade to more durable Sunbrella-brand fabric.
If you don’t love the look of the specific sets we recommend, you might like one of the other sets we considered, which we list in the Competition section. We also share the advice of professional landscape designers, and tips on picking the right size and material for your outdoor dining set.
For the past decade, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, where backyard barbecues and dinner parties are year-round activities and most people treat their back patio as a second dining room. My current backyard hosts a seven-year-old steel set purchased at Home Depot; a decades-old retro glider set, a Craigslist splurge from a half dozen years back; a rusting steel folding table that came with the house; and two decrepit wooden benches, whose relative deterioration I’ve been examining monthly for years. Before LA, I lived in Brooklyn, New York, where brownstone garden parties are a competitive sport at which I excelled.
To expand my personal experience with outdoor furniture, I talked to AHBE principal architect Calvin Abe, Washington DC–area landscape designer Andy Balderson, and Los Angeles landscape designers Russ Cletta, Maggie Lobl, and Naomi Sanders (through email). Longtime sales associate Veronica Hoodless at the high-end Fishbecks outdoor-furniture store, manager Jesse Mezger at the upscale Patioworld, and manager Jesse Bawsel at Armstrong Garden Centers, all in Pasadena, California, provided considerable insight into what customers are looking for and what materials are most popular for different purposes.
I visited big-box stores such as Costco, Home Depot, IKEA, and Walmart, as well as more expensive stores like Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware. I also systematically examined the much more extensive online offerings from the same retailers, as well as at Amazon, Armstrong Garden Centers, Country Casual, Lowe’s, Orchard Supply Hardware, Overstock, Target, Teak Warehouse, Wayfair, and West Elm—several of which have few to zero options in the sub-$600 price range.
If you can afford to spend more than $1,000 on a patio dining set, you can go to a specialty furniture store and select from a wide range of lovely designer sets that will likely last for decades. But if you just want something basic and functional for outdoor eating and lounging that won’t set you back more than $600—but will still hold up for many years—this guide is for you.
New homeowners and renters often look for a comfortable, durable, and reasonably stylish dining set at a moderate price. That’s what we set out to find with this guide, limiting our budget to $600 but hoping to identify sets for much less—which we did. Although you can spend much more on an outdoor dining set, in our research we encountered plenty of great options within this price range.
We focused on tables for four, but we also considered larger sizes if they fit our $600 budget. We decided to limit our picks to tables at least 40 inches in width (or diameter), which are just big enough to comfortably host four full place settings plus a couple of serving dishes and a cluster of condiments.
We focused on sets with chairs that felt solid and stable and had good-size seats, something that wouldn’t make most people feel squeezed. We also considered how the chairs fit with their matching table. “Sometimes chairs with armrests don’t fit under the table very well,” Southern California landscape designer Russ Cletta told us. We didn’t consider small bistro-like seats or folding chairs, instead opting for stable four-legged chairs with armrests—the type of seat where most people could relax comfortably for several hours at a time. We also avoided ultracheap molded plastic furniture designed primarily to be portable. Of course, the furniture we chose is movable, but it’s designed to become a permanent backyard or patio fixture.
We interviewed five landscape designers and landscape architects about materials and considerations in selecting outdoor furniture. Those interviews led us to the conclusion that homeowners tend to consider three primary materials when buying outdoor furniture: wood, metal, and all-weather wicker. While different materials have different upkeep concerns, most people select an outdoor furniture set based primarily on aesthetics and the style of their home, according to the landscape designers and sales professionals we talked to for this guide.
If you have a budget of more than $600, you’ll find more style options and sleeker-looking sets. In some cases you’ll get better quality, too: For instance, for $1,000 to $1,500 you could buy a reasonably good teak set for four. Within our price range we focused on wood sets made of acacia or eucalyptus, which are still durable woods but usually not as long-lasting as teak. A higher budget could also put you in a position for cast aluminum sets, which are much lighter than steel. But overall, we think you’ll still get good quality for $400 to $600.
Some sets come with cushions, which add to the overall value of the set (buying cushions separately can be expensive). Experts often recommend Sunbrella fabrics, which are made by Glen Raven, a 150-year-old South Carolina textile company that makes materials for flags—including the one on the moon—and flame-retardant clothing for race-car drivers, as well as fabrics for marine-grade awnings and casual backyard pillows and umbrellas. Sunbrella fabrics are made of solution-dyed acrylic. “You’ve colored that material at the liquid level,” said Allen Gant III, great-grandson of Glen Raven’s founder and a current company manager. Gant went on to explain that the process is what allows Sunbrella fabrics to retain their color far better than polyester and other yarn-dyed goods: “If you take a radish and you expose it to UV and weather, you’re going to get to a white core. That’s what fading is. If you start peeling a carrot, it’s only going to get more orange as you go.”
Though manufacturers can buy Sunbrella fabrics in different weaves at different prices, all are colorfast and all come with the same five-year warranty, Gant told us. Two of the sets we tested include cushions that you can upgrade to Sunbrella fabric. The cushions that come standard with these sets are sometimes made with other solution-dyed fabrics, such as Olefin, that generally have a good reputation for durability and colorfastness.
After looking at on-the-floor offerings in stores and spending about eight hours researching top-rated patio dining sets online, we narrowed down our list to sets made of wood, steel, and all-weather wicker that also have a strong history of positive online reviews spanning back several years.
Initially we found 20 promising sets. Once we whittled down the list to five by examining online reviews and, in some cases, talking to people who owned the furniture sets, we made trips to Home Depot and IKEA to examine sets in person and witness how shoppers reacted to them in the stores. We then ordered our three top picks and timed how long we took to assemble them in a Los Angeles backyard. We examined screws, joints, and the apparent quality of construction, and over the next four weeks we paid attention to how comfortable the dining sets were for different purposes, as well as asking visitors to compare the comfort of the seats and the overall aesthetics of the sets.
Most people shopping for an outdoor dining set prefer one made of solid wood, which has a warm, natural look and feel that aligns well with the experience of outdoor dining. We looked at a dozen wooden outdoor tables, and we didn’t find one that came close to offering the value and versatility of the IKEA Äpplarö drop-leaf table (also available in a set with four chairs), which is far less expensive than any wood table of similar size but looks almost as nice as many pricier tables. Although it isn’t made of the most durable wood, multiple people who have owned the table in different climates told us it lasts for years. It’s the only inexpensive table we found that expands to seat 10, and of all the outdoor dining sets we looked at, no other offered as many choices for matching chairs or other complementary pieces.
Most of the Äpplarö line is made of acacia, a dense hardwood with a high oil content that tends to be resistant to bugs and rot. Any designer will tell you that teak has long been the gold-standard wood for outdoor furniture. Ipe and eucalyptus are modern runners-up. But it’s difficult to find even a tiny teak dining set for four for less than $1,000. Rectangular teak tables large enough to seat eight or 10 typically cost at least $2,000, chairs not included. Clearly the Äpplarö line doesn’t provide the same heavy, distinguished aesthetic or decades-long lifespan of quality teak. But it costs a sliver as much.
We didn’t see any other outdoor tables with a drop-leaf design, which is common on traditional indoor dining tables. For small spaces especially, the design is a problem solver. Without the leaves the table has a compact 2.5-by-4.5-foot surface area. But with the leaves extended, the table almost doubles in size, becoming big enough to host a large (if snug) 10-person dinner party. You secure each leaf with two foot-long sliding wood slats, which provide ample stability. When not in use, the leaves hang down over the table ends; that’s ideal for storage, since if you store the leaves elsewhere the leaves and table will likely weather at different rates. Or, you can easily slip the leaves off, creating a perfect space for five or six diners. Depending on the size and shape of your space, you may prefer the square Äpplarö table, which is the same price as the drop-leaf table but seats up to eight, two on each side of a table that’s 4 feet 7 inches per side. Anyone with a very small space may like the smaller, cheaper Äpplarö gateleg table or the tiny wall version of the gateleg, which is the Murphy bed of patio tables.
Unlike our other top sets, the Äpplarö line gives you choices when it comes to seating. IKEA sells the Äpplarö table with four upright armchairs as a package for around $370. The chairs sell individually for about $55, so buying as a set isn’t any more of a bargain than assembling a chair and/or bench combination of your own. You can opt to buy the table separately and select a different number of chairs, or a combination of chairs like the smaller, cheaper Äpplarö foldable chair or the more loungy reclining chair, which adjusts to five positions and can pair with the cheap but chic Nästön cushions.
We compared the comfort of the three chairs side by side at IKEA’s Burbank, California, store. While the reclining chair was the most comfortable overall (”This one’s great for when you’re just sitting back with that glass of scotch,” one IKEA shopper mused), this writer and a handful of random shoppers we polled agreed that the upright armchairs were the most appropriate for dining, when you presumably want to be sitting upright. The seats on the Äpplarö armchairs are bigger than those of either of our other top picks, which we think would add to these chairs’ comfort for some people. None of the IKEA chairs strictly need cushions, though they’re comfier with them; IKEA sells some inexpensive options.
The Äpplarö table also comes in white (made of eucalyptus) for $20 more. The extensive Äpplarö line includes compatible benches, deep-seated couches, chaise chairs, storage chests, and grill cabinets, allowing you to mix and match a custom-made outdoor dining and living area. We didn’t find any other line of outdoor wood furniture with anything close to this amount of versatility. Way back in 2008, New York designer Elaine Griffin praised the Äpplarö collection, which she noted resembled much more expensive outdoor dining sets.
Although we haven’t long-term tested the Äpplarö set to gauge its durability, we repeatedly heard from long-term owners that it lasts. Dave Ptach, who owns a tiny home in the sunny hills of northeast Los Angeles, has had an acacia Äpplarö table on his deck for 15 years and uses it as his everyday dining table. “It’s pretty much indestructible,” he told us. “The first seven years I would sand it and apply linseed oil, but now I just let it age gracefully.” Northeast Los Angeles creative director Elise Irving has had a smaller version of the Äpplarö table in her backyard for six years. “It’s great. We haven’t done any staining or finishing or covering or care of any kind,” she said, adding that more expensive chairs she got at the same time haven’t held up nearly as well.
Maryland homeowner Angela Hussein Hirsch has had the Äpplarö uncovered on her patio for the past eight or nine years, and it has weathered to a gray that matches teak chairs she also owns. “We use it for dinners all the time—either with leaves up or down—and it’s also our main outdoor surface, so it’s been used for potting plants, doing light woodworking projects, you name it.” Hirsch told us that while the hinges could be tightened, the table overall has been “rock solid” and that she’d likely buy the identical table again if or when it does fall apart. We’ll continue to long-term test the Äpplarö set we have and add our testing notes to this guide.
The Äpplarö set is not destined to become a family heirloom. Depending on your climate and the degree of upkeep you commit yourself to, the table may remain in good condition for five years or for 15 or more. And like more expensive teak furniture, this set will not retain the rich brown hue it has when new; it will weather to a gray color if you don’t treat it regularly.
Though the armchairs do push under the table, it’s a snug fit. And because the table is relatively narrow, you can’t push all four chairs all the way in at once, as the chairs opposite each other collide. We didn’t find this to be a problem or an eyesore, but it is something to be aware of when you’re considering how much room the set will take up when not in use.
Like many IKEA products, this set requires significant assembly. In our tests one person took 29 minutes to assemble the table and an average of 18 minutes to put together each chair. You’ll need your own hammer and ideally both Phillips-head and flat-head screwdrivers, as well as the mini tools the company supplies.
During assembly, we noticed that the four screws that attach each chair seat to the chair frame seemed cheaply made and susceptible to stripping. Some of the pilot holes meant to guide the screws weren’t precisely aligned. One of the four wooden bars that we needed to install under the table to hold the leaves up was slightly warped right out of the box. Still, once assembled the chairs felt sturdy and stable, and the leaf bars worked fine, though a couple were a little sticky to pull out.
The set does not come with a warranty. If you aren’t near an IKEA store and need to order by mail, you pay $100 for shipping, more in remote locations.
Table dimensions: 30¾ inches wide, 55⅛ inches long without leaves, 102⅜ inches long with leaves, 28⅜ inches high
Seat dimensions: 19½ inches wide, 20½ inches deep, 16¼ inches high
Colors: Chocolate brown or white
Shipping costs: If you don’t have an IKEA near you and need to order by mail, shipping costs between $100 and $350 (or more in remote locations). The company doesn’t make truck deliveries to Alaska or Hawaii.
Steel is about as low-maintanence a material for outdoor furniture as you’ll find. It’s strong and sturdy, it doesn’t require regular upkeep, it’s easy to wipe or hose down, and it will generally last years before the first sign of rust appears. Often these sets are marketed as “wrought iron,” though that is incorrect as technically wrought iron is iron alloy that has been forged by hand. With a generously sized table plus comfortable, rocking chairs and included cushions, as well as an excellent history of positive reviews and a super-low price, the Better Homes and Gardens Clayton Court 5-Piece Patio Dining Set is the best low-cost metal dining set we could find. It won’t seat as many people as our main pick, the IKEA Äpplarö set, and metal tends to be less popular than wood, but if a table for four meets your needs this set will likely be less hassle, last longer, and match or exceed the Äpplarö in comfort.
The Clayton Court set includes a table that’s 42 inches in diameter, bigger than the tables of most sets of this type and large enough to support four full place settings plus several serving dishes and a cluster of condiments. The inverted leg structure provides added support if you choose to use an umbrella with the table. Most tables of this kind have a hole in the center for a patio umbrella; this one also has a second hole that adds stability (though using an umbrella base is still wise).
The matching chairs are stable and extremely comfortable, with a mellow, relaxing bounce. We also tried one other steel set (the Arlington House Glenbrook) with higher-backed chairs that may be more comfortable for people who want more back or neck support. But we liked the lower, more rounded look of the Clayton Court chairs better.
We know from personal experience that this type of steel set is reliably durable. I personally own a similar set that I bought at Home Depot in 2010, a repeat purchase after I abandoned an identical set in my Brooklyn backyard when I moved from New York to Los Angeles a decade ago. Seven years later, my current set appears nearly brand-new—especially after a quick douse with a hose.
Online reviewers are generally enamored with the Clayton Court patio set, which currently has a rating of 4.7 out of five stars across 321 reviews on Walmart.com. At this writing, Amazon reviewers also like it, giving it 4.3 stars out of five (at the time we checked, Fakespot gave this set’s Amazon reviews an A rating for veracity). “This set has weathered 3 subzero winters in West Virginia with no cover & looks as good as day it was purchased,” MGBGal writes in a 2015 review on Walmart.com. “If you do not want to be a slave to maintaining outdoor furniture, this set is for you.” INgirl2, who bought the set in 2012, writes, “Love the table top because it doesn’t collect the rain and dirt…. Just this year I started seeing some rust in some soldered joints. Used a wire brush and flat black rustoleum, and they look good as new! LOVE this set!”
The Clayton Court set also comes with cushions (red only from Walmart; red or green from Amazon), which we estimate are about a $50 value. The set is part of a line that includes a well-reviewed conversation set, bistro set, and glider and has an unusually generous five-year limited warranty.
In our tests, table assembly took 15 minutes, 5 seconds. The chairs—which each come in two parts and require two screws to connect—took about 8.5 minutes each.
Warning to larger-size loungers: One Walmart.com reviewer who weighs 250 pounds recounts problems with the Clayton Court chairs breaking (the chair is rated to 225 pounds). With taller backs and a slightly larger overall seat size, the Arlington House Glenbrook set is likely a better choice for particularly tall or heavy backyard diners.
Table dimensions: 42 inches in diameter, 27¼ inches high
Seat dimensions: 18 inches wide, 19 inches deep, 16¼ inches high
Shipping costs: Both Walmart and Amazon offer free shipping.
In the past few years, “resin wicker”—a synthetic wicker typically made of plastic wrapped around aluminum wire—has become one of the most popular materials for outdoor furniture. The reason: It has the look, give, and casual comfort of traditional wicker, but the weather resistance and easy upkeep of plastic. We examined all the readily available, five-piece wicker dining sets we could find and concluded that the Spring Haven 5-Piece All-Weather Wicker Patio Dining Set, from Home Depot’s Hampton Bay brand, stood out for its reasonable price, generously sized table, positive reviews, and custom color and pillow options. It doesn’t seat as many people as our top pick, the IKEA Äpplarö table, and the chairs are narrower than the chairs in that set or the steel Clayton Court set, but for people who want a perfectly smooth tabletop or who simply prefer the look of wicker, this set offers good value and functionality.
The Spring Haven set’s square table is 45 inches per side, bigger than most other tables in sets of this type (though identical in size to the table in the Martha Stewart Charlottetown set, which is an excellent option if the Spring Haven set sells out). The extra tabletop space is ideal for dinner parties where you want to be able to set serving platters in the center of the table. The glass tabletop is easy to wipe down. Note, though, that the glass has a subtle brown tint, which is not obvious from online photos and has annoyed a couple of reviewers.
The Spring Haven wicker set comes in either brown or gray. You can buy a set with just the cushion inserts (presumably buying or making your own cushion covers) or, for about $50 more, buy a set with stock cushions, which are blue. For $25 more, you can select from 10 color options made of Olefin fabric, which is designed for UV resistance. Or you can pay an additional $100—for a total price of about $675—to get cushions in one of five premium Sunbrella-brand fabrics. No other resin-wicker dining set we found had as many cushion options. The pop of color that comes with cushions adds significantly to the overall look and appeal of a dining set, and we suspect many people will like the customizability of these cushions as well as the convenience of not having to shop for them separately.
Reviewers on the Home Depot website praise the Spring Haven set’s sturdiness and ease of assembly. The more commonly reviewed brown wicker set currently has 4.5 stars out of five across 37 reviews.
The set comes with a limited two-year warranty (PDF).
In our tests, the table took 33 minutes for one person to assemble, including unboxing, while the stackable chairs required no assembly.
Table dimensions: 45 inches square, 29 inches high
Seat dimensions: 16½ inches wide, 18½ inches deep, 17 inches high
Colors: The wicker comes in brown or gray. The cushions come in 10 colors of Olefin fabric, as well as five Sunbrella-fabric colors: spectrum sand (tan), canvas sapphire (teal), spectrum cilantro (green), canvas henna (red), and spectrum mist (aqua).
Shipping costs: Home Depot currently provides free shipping on outdoor-furniture orders over $599, so if you opt for custom cushions, you will likely qualify for free shipping. If not, you pay a shipping fee of at least $55. You can always pick up for free at a local store.
You don’t want to end up with a dining set that’s too big for your space and difficult to maneuver around. Aim for at least a 3-foot walkway space between all edges of your table and any walls, fences, bushes, or other outdoor obstacles. That should give you more than 2 feet of walkway room when the chairs are pushed into the table and enough room for guests to back up their chairs and get out of them comfortably.
Obviously, your personal style will play into your choice of furniture material. If you like the warm, natural look of wood and don’t mind a little annual upkeep, a wood dining set is the classic choice. Metal and wicker require less upkeep and are generally easier to clean. They’re also likely better choices if you plan to place your dining set directly on soil or grass rather than on a patio or deck, since the dampness is more likely to degrade wood than metal or all-weather wicker. Though we haven’t subjected these sets to long-term testing yet, we will be watching to see how they fare over time.
Here are some further considerations about each of the three materials we evaluated.
Among popular outdoor-furniture materials, wood generally requires the most maintenance. “Rain and moisture causes wood to swell and shrink. Temperature does that too, and UV rays are just hard on everything,” northeast Los Angeles landscape designer Maggie Lobl told us. “Any wood that’s outside is going to require almost annual maintenance,” said fellow Southern California landscape designer Russ Cletta, who directs his well-off clients to companies that provide sanding and oiling services. “If you let them go, they’ll silver to a really natural color, silver gray. That makes some people crazy.”
To maintain the look a wood set has when new, you’ll generally need to sand and stain or oil it annually. But if you can learn to embrace the gray, all your high-quality wood might need is a light sanding now and then. (The more sun and moisture the wood is exposed to, the faster it will weather.) Despite wood’s upkeep demands, the designers we spoke with all agreed that wood remains the most popular material for outdoor dining sets. ”It’s classic and familiar, and can work in a more traditional or a more modern look,” Lobl said. Calvin Abe, principal architect at prominent design firm AHBE, told us he usually uses wood furniture at private institutions and homes. “They’re much warmer, they’re much more inviting” than metals, said the designer, who has teak patio furniture at his own home. All of the designers we consulted cited teak as the gold-standard wood for outdoor patio dining sets—Abe also praised the tropical hardwood ipe—and a well-made teak dining set could last for decades. “I’ve got some teak furniture right here on my front porch that has been here 15 years,” said Washington DC–area landscape designer Andy Balderson. “Once it weathers gray, it’s still as good structurally as the day I bought it.”
But four teak armchairs and a small dining table typically cost at least $1,200. If you have the budget, the investment may well be worth it. And you might be able to find a used teak set for a good price. If you’re looking for new and you’re on a budget, teak is likely out of your price range.
A couple of the designers we talked to noted that, unlike metals or plastics, wood has the advantage of staying at a moderate temperature even on scorching-hot days. “We always are concerned about that,” said Abe, who works in Southern California, where 90-degree and even 100-degree days are common. “You won’t be able to sit on metal. But a wood surface will be comfortable.”
What rot is to wood, rust is to metal. The metal dining sets you encounter may be made of steel (like our pick), cast aluminum, or even stainless steel. All of them are theoretically susceptible to rust, though most sets are treated with rust-resistant coatings, and our research found that few people experience any rust problems within the first few years of buying a new set. When rust does form, you can usually sand or scour it out with sandpaper or steel wool, and you can fairly easily repaint older metal sets (spray paint often works well).
The high-end designers we spoke with identified cast aluminum as the most popular type of outdoor metal furniture today. It has the advantage of being very lightweight, as well as strong. But we found few good low-cost options in cast aluminum specifically among dining sets. Those that exist tend to rely on very large, puffy pillows, which can add to the total cost of the dining set, require care, and seem less than ideal for eating on.
The popularity of this modern answer to traditional wicker furniture has exploded in recent years, with slick, basket-like textures found everywhere from rooftop bars to beachfront resorts to suburban backyards. “Wicker” itself is not a specific material but a weaving technique. Your grandmother’s wicker might have been made from willow branches, bamboo, rattan, or reeds. Today’s resin wicker—also called “all-weather wicker”—is generally made of steel or aluminum wire wrapped with a paper or plastic material.
”It tends to be really durable, and it’s a lot less maintenance than wood,” said Russ Cletta, who also noted that he has seen even some higher-end wicker fade in the sun. “I personally have a set of that all-weather wicker that we’ve had uncovered in the rain and the sun, and it’s just holding up so well,” said northeast-LA landscape designer Maggie Lobl. “Aesthetically it’s not my favorite, but it’s just really, really tough. You can just hose it off. The cushions get much more trashed than the frame and the wicker part of it.”
We found that inexpensive all-weather wicker sets are often sold with seat cushions, frequently with color or upgrade-material options than can alter the overall price. The dining sets we found in the sub-$600 price range sometimes had glass tabletops and sometimes had all-wicker tables. We suspect the wicker tabletops could collect gunk, especially when families with kids use them.
You can clean a wood table with a mild soapy solution. Using a protective waterproof cover before rain and snow will likely extend its life. Depending on the furniture’s degree of exposure to the elements, you might want to sand and stain or oil your table once a year or once every couple of years. With most hardwoods you can also choose to forgo staining and simply allow your wood to weather to a silvery gray.
The IKEA Äpplarö table comes treated with several coats of acrylic stain and has a rich chocolaty color when new. IKEA recommends regular cleaning with a mild soapy solution, restaining once or twice a year, and covering with a waterproof cover before rain or snow (IKEA does not sell a cover). None of the owners we talked to followed that protocol, though, and all told us they were still happy with the longevity of the table. Life With Karma blogger Amy, in Colorado, provides a visual primer on refreshing her three-year-old Äpplarö set, as does Minneapolis-based blogger Scoops of Deuce Cities Henhouse (who actually has an older IKEA design also made of acacia).
A mild soapy solution—say, 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap to 1 gallon of water—will also work well to clean a metal outdoor dining set. Our experience tells us furniture of this type can also tolerate being hosed off when necessary. If rust spots form, rub them out with sandpaper or steel wool and touch up with spray paint if needed. Many reviewers say they’ve had success with Rust-Oleum.
Wipe down with a damp cloth, soapy or not—or pull out the hose for a tough job. This type of furniture is often used in sunrooms, as well as on patios and deck areas. Companies sometimes recommend that these outdoor sets remain covered when not in use (although they don’t sell a cover) to protect the plastic resin from UV damage, which will eventually lead to deterioration or breakage.
We liked the simple, classic look of this dining set made of eucalyptus, a wood that’s generally considered inferior to teak but better than acacia. However, it’s not as roomy or affordable as other options.
We originally saw this eucalyptus set on sale at Target.com for $480. Since then the price has gone up to over $600. It’s not sold in stores—only at Target.com—so we were unable to examine it in person. Even at the sale price, we think this set compares poorly in value to other options.
This attractive eucalyptus set has a round table rather than the square or rectangular kinds that seem more common in inexpensive hardwood tables at this size. It has strong reviews, but at more than $700 it was too expensive for our list of finalists.
Arlington House Glenbrook 5-Piece Patio Dining Set
This excellent dining set is extremely similar to our recommended metal pick, with a 42-inch-diameter table and unusually comfortable, springy chairs. If our pick goes out of stock or goes up in price, we’re certain that the Glenbrook set is an excellent backup option. Because its chairs have higher backs, it would also likely be a better choice for people looking for more back or neck support.
This metal set is also extremely similar to our top metal pick. Its online reviews are not as plentiful or as good—a couple of reviewers complain about defective chairs. But it is affordably priced, and it also comes with cushions (beige ones). Some buyers might find its straighter, simpler lines more appealing than the curves and curlicues on other tables we considered.
This simple metal patio set sold at Costco has a square table that we think is too small for a four-person dinner party (36½ inches in diameter). It doesn’t come with cushions and doesn’t have the coil-spring chairs that we like and are popular in metal sets.
Hallandale 5-Piece Black Sand Aluminum Patio Dining Set
Cast aluminum is lighter weight than cast iron, so it’s easier to move around. We liked the look of this set, which appears to be usable without cushions, unlike most outdoor cast aluminum furniture in this price range. Other cast aluminum sets we noticed relied on big, puffy cushions that cover both the seat and back of the chairs. Those cushions can add significantly to the total cost if you opt for high quality—and they can be difficult to keep clean.
Mainstays Alexandra Square 5-Piece Patio Dining Set
This ultrabudget set from Walmart looks decent and comes with cushions. But the table is on the small side at 38 inches across, and the reviews are mixed, with several new owners experiencing significant problems at assembly and doubting that the set will hold up well over time.
Mercury Row Timothea 5 Piece Dining Set
We liked the retro styling of this set, but we didn’t think the look was as universally appealing as our “wrought iron” pick. The table is a decent size at 40 inches in diameter, and the chairs have that mellow bounce we like. The set also comes in several fun colors.
Martha Stewart Living Charlottetown Natural 5-Piece All-Weather Wicker Patio Dining Set
This set has excellent online reviews and is also part of an extended line of lounge and dining furniture. It has fewer cushion choices than we’d prefer, however. If prices change and this set seems like a better deal than our wicker pick, or if you like the red cushions that come with this set, it’s likely an equally good choice.
Hampton Bay Beverly 5-Piece Patio Dining Set
Although this resin-wicker set also offers a 45-inch square glass-topped table and four chairs, it has an extremely limited history of reviews compared with others of this type. It comes with bright-red cushions.
Christopher Knight Home San Pico Outdoor Wicker 5-piece Dining Set
This set has a round 40-inch-diameter table instead of the square 45-inches-per-side table of our favorite resin-wicker sets. But it also has strong reviews and comes with cushions (light tan).
Christopher Knight Home Cliff Outdoor 5-piece Wicker Dining Set
This set comes in much darker shades of brown and gray than the other resin-wicker sets we looked at. And unlike other sets, it has a table made completely of wicker rather than a glass tabletop incorporated into a wicker frame. It also doesn’t come with cushions.
(Photos by Jeremy Pavia.)
Let's make waffles.