One of the great joys in life is to gather with friends and family around a dining table. It's the center of activity where everyone can talk, share meals and play games -- even catch up on homework or the latest gossip. We enjoy helping people get the most of their time outdoors with friends and family, so we created this guide to finding the perfect patio dining set for you.
Choose the right dining table size and shape
Before choosing a patio dining set, think about who will sit around the table. Are you looking a set that's small and cozy for intimate date nights, or do you want a set that lets you host the neighborhood to watch the big game?
Plan at least 24 inches of seating space for each person. Any less and your guests will have no room to pull out chairs to get in and out from the table; any more and the table could feel empty.
One of the most popular table shapes, especially if large seating capacity is needed, is a rectangle dining table. It should be at least 70 inches long to seat 6 people.
A round dining table creates a feeling of intimacy because everyone can see each other. To seat 4 comfortably, the table should be 48 inches across. Keep in mind, once your plates and glasses are set on the table, there will be little room left for serving dishes or a centerpiece. If you have the space for it, a 54-inch table feels roomier without sacrificing intimacy.
A quick word about oval and square patio dining tables: They are lovely and unique but come with considerations. A square table needs a larger area than a round or rectangle table that seats the same number of people. An oval table has no corners so you lose table area, important to know if you like to crowd more people around.
Dining height, counter height, bar height - what's the difference?
Dining sets come in three heights: dining, counter and bar. Each has their own advantages.
Standard dining height. When most people think about patio dining sets, they imagine a standard height dining set. The table top about is 30 inches from the ground and the chair seat ranges from 18 to 20 inches high. The standard height dining set is easier for children to use and is more comfortable for adults since they can keep their feet on the ground. It's also more likely to be wheelchair accessible and has the most styles and sizes available.
Counter height patio dining set. Counter height tables are about 34 to 36 inches from the ground and the chair seat ranges from 24 to 27 inches. The counter height dining set is great for casual settings. It works well against a deck rail or on a balcony; the extra height helps diners see over the railing. Counter height patio dining is a great option for small spaces because the extra height helps draw the eye up and make your space feel more open.
Bar height patio dining set. Sometimes called a pub table, a bar table measures about 40 inches from the ground. The seats of bar chairs measure about 28 to 30 inches high. A great choice for casual get-togethers because guests can easily mix and mingle as the table height makes it easy for people standing or sitting to land their food and drinks there. Families with small children may want to avoid bar height patio sets.
Choosing the right dining chair
Dining chairs come in a variety of sizes and materials. This quick list will help you pinpoint your ideal type.
High back vs low back chairs. If you like to linger over drinks or lounge at the table, a high back chair may be just right for you. If you have a spectacular view, a low back chair may be the better choice since it won't obstruct the view the way a high back chair will.
Cushions vs sling. Cushions create a traditional look and come in a range of colors. If you have a simple seat cushion, you can change your look just by changing the cushion. Sling is a lightweight, flexible and strong poly fabric stretched across the chair frame. It has excellent support and good airflow -- something to keep in mind if you live in a hotter climate.
Motion chairs vs stationary. Motion chairs are typically swivel chairs and rockers, and are great for relaxing at the table. Stationary chairs are often lighter than motion chairs and have a cleaner look; they're often less expensive that a motion chair, too. If you live in an area with a lot of wind, consider motion chairs for the extra weight. If you're shopping on a budget, consider splurging on motion chairs at the head and foot of the dining table and place stationary chairs on the sides.
Dining bench. Dining benches can really increase your seating capacity. They're also a great space saver. We often recommend them for families with children because the lack of a chair back makes them less comfortable.
Choosing the right materials for your outdoor dining set
Patio dining tables and chairs come in a range of materials. Which is ideal for your yard?
Aluminum. One of the most versatile patio furniture materials. It’s rust proof, durable, can be made into a variety of shapes, and finished in a range of colors and textures. It's also low maintenance and easy to clean. Look for outdoor furniture that's powder coated for a durable finish that resists fading, and has smoothly welded joints.
Wood. Teak and Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) are warm, natural and beautiful. Look for patio dining sets made from the heartwood -- the price may be higher but the timbers are stronger and more durable. Teak and Ipe will naturally silver in the sun but can be brought back to its original color with some simple maintenance.
Wrought iron. Heavy and strong, wrought iron patio furniture is great for areas with high winds. Look for a table and chairs that are powder coated for a durable, long-lasting finish. Inspect your outdoor furniture annually for rust and treat any spots right away.
HDPE (high-density polyethylene). Quality patio dining sets made with HDPE are durable and will look great in your backyard for years. HDPE resists fading, cracking and chipping. It also requires little to no maintenance -- just a quick wash with the garden hose and your patio dining set is good to go. We especially like patio furniture from Polywood and CR Plastic Products because they are made from recycled plastics.
Add an umbrella to your patio dining set
Umbrellas are an important accessory for any outdoor space. Along with adding color and interest, they reduce the sun’s UV rays and help keep everyone cool. Plus, they signal to family and friends that you care for their comfort and have created a welcoming gathering spot.
To determine the right umbrella for your outdoor dining table, add 48 inches to your table diameter to have enough shade for you and your guests. For example, a 48-inch table needs a minimum 96-inch canopy (48 inches for you plus 48 inches for the table). In this case, a 9-foot umbrella (108 inches) will completely shade the table and your diners, plus offer extra overhang to allow for the changing light as the sun travels across the sky.
The patio dining table should have a 2-inch umbrella hole to accommodate most umbrella poles.
Choosing a fire pit dining table
There's something about gathering around a fire, watching the flames and feeling the warmth. A fire pit dining set lets you extend your outdoor season and stay outside on chilly evenings. We recommend a table that's at least 48 inches so you have enough room for the center burner and your plates and glasses.