Garden dining set buying guide

Garden dining set buying guide

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

198 guides

If you love to dine al fresco over the summer months, a good garden dining set is a must-have. Perfect for relaxation and general well-being, these outdoor sets come in a range of materials from teak and pine to resin or aluminium. Whatever your budget, read on to find the best dining set for your garden!

Important features

  • Wrought iron
  • Powder-coated steel and aluminium
  • Wood and rattan
  • Textilene and glass
  • Shape and size
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How to choose a garden dining set


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Looking for the perfect dining set? Start by considering the following criteria:

  1. Materials. This will determine the lifespan, care needs and price of your set, so choose wisely!
  2. Number of seats. It’s up to you to decide whether you want a table for two or a six-seater for the whole family.
  3. Design. Depending on your tastes and the amount of space you have to fill, you may end up with anything from an outdoor bar table to a picnic bench!

Garden dining set materials

  1. No matter the type or where it comes from, wood will require regular maintenance. This material is often chosen for its warm appearance, clean lines and heavy weight which lends it stability. Price will vary according to the wood species you choose.
  2. Metal is a strong and heavy material. A simple and stylish option, aluminium is generally regarded as the most practical metal as it is naturally weather-resistant and does not require any maintenance. Powder-coated steel offers increased protection against corrosion (especially when hot-dip galvanised) and can be made to form furniture in a range of shapes from classic to modern. Wrought iron is a heavier metal option whereas galvanised steel is lightweight and rust-resistant. Prices will vary according to the type of metal you choose. It's worth noting that metal furniture can be restored down the line.
  3. Resin is lightweight but may not always be the most comfortable option. Cast resin is considered a low-end variety while woven resin – made to look like rattan – will offer higher quality. Resin comes in a range of modern shapes and these tables are often topped with clear or tinted glass. This material cannot be restored but is easy to maintain.
  4. Plastic is a lightweight material that can be used to create classic and comfortable furniture. Plastic is often chosen for its simple shapes, low price ranges and practicality – particularly when it comes to winter storage. It is easy to care for but cannot be restored.
  5. Often used in combination with metal, textilene is a synthetic material often used to make backrests and seats. Soft and hard-wearing, it can be cleaned easily using soapy water. 

Choosing a material to match your space


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A living space in its own right, your garden should be decorated and furnished with a cohesive theme in mind. Combining a teak dining set with a metal shed, pink parasol and a grey tiled patio is a good example of precisely how not to furnish your garden! If your garden already feels like a cosy bar terrace with coloured fairy lights, why not go all out with high tables, checked tablecloths and vintage-style parasols? All things said and done, your outdoor space is an extension of your home so it’s entirely up to you to choose the décor you want!

Garden dining set materials: the pros and cons

Garden dining sets usually come in wood, resin or metal. Your choice of material will influence a multitude of factors include your the durability, weather-resistance, weight, care requirements, colour and style of your set. Basically, this is one decision you don’t want to get wrong!

Have visions of dining among your flowerbeds with a cool shade sail poised overhead? Our material guidelines will help make this a reality!

Wooden garden dining sets


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Wooden dining sets are heavy, hard-wearing, warm and restoration-friendly. Choose your wood species based on the type of properties it offers. The most commonly used types of wood for outdoor dining sets are:

  • Itauba: fungi- and insect-resistant, this wood is rot-proof and recommended for use in coastal areas (meaning it is highly resistant);
  • Teak is also a rot-proof wood that is termite- and fungi-resistant, making it a safe choice;
  • Acacia is fungi-, insect- and moisture-resistant. It is rot-proof and less expensive than exotic woods;
  • Pine can be treated for added protection and is the least expensive species of wood;
  • Eucalyptus offers only moderate resistance to fungi and insects but is more cost-effective than woods like teak;
  • Rattan is a rot-proof, hardwearing and lightweight vine belonging to the palm family. Used in basket-weaving, this material will give your garden an exotic feel.

It's important to look for wood certifications to ensure your garden dining set comes from a sustainably managed forest. Look out for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC) labels.

Caring for wooden garden furniture

  • Exotic wood should be coated with a species-specific oil (for example, teak oil) to prevent it from becoming discoloured over time.
  • Other species, such as pine, should be treated with a specialised wood stain.

Resin garden dining sets


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Garden dining sets made from resin may be lightweight or heavy, timeless or modern. While these sets cannot usually be restored they are generally hard-wearing.

The resin used to make outdoor furniture can be woven, cast or injection moulded:

  • Woven resin refers to resin that has been woven into a shape and made to resemble rattan. This production process provides a more attractive finish but means a costlier investment;
  • Cast resin can be used to imitate the look of woven resin and is used for seats and backrests. This material is often used to make budget garden dining sets;
  • Injection-moulded plastic furniture is commonly used to furnish bars with outdoor terraces. Lightweight and hardwearing, this matte or glossy material is often paired with aluminium structures or glass tabletops. Different colours, shapes and finishes are available.

Caring for resin garden furniture

Dining sets made of resin are weather-resistant but have a limited lifespan of just five to ten years. This is because they can't be painted or varnished if they get damaged. Soapy water should suffice for day-to-day cleaning while specialist cleaning products can help preserve appearance. Cast and woven resin should be brushed regularly to release any trapped dust.

Metal garden dining sets


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Metal dining sets are heavy, resistant and suitable for restoration. They also offer a wide range of shapes, from rustic to modern, as well as different colours. Several different types of metal are commonly used:

  • Aluminium is lightweight and uses clean lines to create modern and contemporary styles. This material stands up well to the elements and does not require any protective treatment. Textilene is usually used to make up the seats and backrests of aluminium dining sets;
  • Wrought iron is heavy, hardwearing, elegant and sturdy. This material creates furniture with a romantic, country garden-style feel and is available a range of colours, from matte black with an aged effect to glossy white. For added comfort, cover it with cushions chosen to match any surrounding fabric (for example, gazebos, parasols, hammocks, shade sails, etc.);
  • Powder-coated steel is a type of steel coated with a layer of protective resin. Less expensive than wrought iron or aluminium, this material is not very scratch-resistant and any damage to the superficial layer may lead to rust. However, structures can be given an initial hot-dip galvanising treatment for better protection and improved corrosion resistance. The backrests and seats of these sets are also usually made from textilene with numerous colours and modern design options available;
  • Galvanised steel dining sets are hardwearing, rust-resistant and glossy in appearance. Galvanisation refers to the application of a zinc-plating to steel. This material is usually used to create contemporary designs.

Caring for metal garden furniture

Garden sets made of aluminium or galvanised steel do not require any maintenance thanks to the natural resistance of the materials. Wrought iron and epoxy-coated steel can be coated with an anti-rust treatment or special iron primer, which should be applied using a spray gun. All steel-based furniture should be handled with care to avoid damage from impacts.

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Anti-rust

Backrests, seats, cushions and tabletops

Textilene backrests and seats


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Textilene is a synthetic woven material with a PVC coating. It comes in different colours and is moisture- and UV-resistant (though cheaper textilene does tend to become slack and fade over time).

Cushions


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Cushions usually come as part of wrought iron garden sets for added comfort. Made of polyester, cotton or a mix of both materials, the quality of the fabric depends on its weight. This is given in grams per square metre (g/m²); the higher the number, the more resistant the material. Go for fibre-filled cushions with padding.

Glass tabletops


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Glass table tops may vary in thickness and can be clear or opaque. They may be screwed into place, held by suction pads or brackets, or integrated into the structure, and can feature rounded or shaped edges.

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Cushions

What size of garden dining set do I need?

Large gardens


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For convenient and hassle-free entertaining, go for a rectangular or oval garden table with extension leaves in case a few extra guests turn up. Super-sized dining sets are ideal for gatherings with friends, barbecues and seating particularly large families!

Balconies and small patios


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If you have a small patio, or even just a balcony, go for a smaller garden dining set with a roundtable. An outdoor awning or shade sail will keep you sheltered from the sun or wind.

Comfortable lounge sets


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Do you have a large, shaded deck and want to combine your garden furniture with an outdoor sofa or even a swing or hammock? Forget the traditional dining set altogether and opt for an modular garden lounge set with a recliner and side table!

Folding dining sets


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If you're looking to make the most of the natural shade provided by your trees and want to move your furniture around, you should go for a lightweight dining set with enough seats to accommodate your guests. Choose foldable tables and chairs to make life easier!

Bar table dining sets


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Are you more into informal gatherings? Want to feel as though you’re perched on a stool at your local beer garden? A bar table could be the perfect option. These sets can help you make the most of your barbecues or parties without making you feel like you have to stay seated!

Two-person dining sets


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For couples and smaller spaces, compact dining sets are ideal, and these are usually round or square in shape. After all, you don’t need a crowd to enjoy a summer evening outdoors!

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Bar table

How many seats do I need?

Of course it's essential to size your dining set to your garden. But it's also important to think about the number of people you typically entertain.

Four-seater dining sets


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If you live with just one other person, go for a round table with a diameter of around one metre and a couple of extra folding chairs – you never know when someone might drop by!

Six-seater dining sets


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Six-seater tables with optional extension leaves work perfectly for a family of four. If you have friends round, you can always set the kids up at a folding picnic table next door!

Eight to ten-seater dining sets


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For big families or larger gatherings, go for a garden table designed for ten and have a few extra chairs on hand.

You can choose between an extendable table or simply an extra-large model.

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Garden armchairs

Comparing garden dining sets

Style

Materials

Maintenance

Advantages

Disadvantages

Natural; exotic; rustic

Teak; spruce; acacia; eucalyptus; rattan

Teak oil for exotic wood; specific stains for other species

Pleasant to the touch; solid; durable; can be painted; folding

Maintenance required; dries less quickly; breakable

Contemporary; clean

Aluminium combined with textilene

Clean with soapy water

Lightweight; rust-resistant; stackable

Gets hot in the sun

Elegant; country garden; rustic

Wrought iron

Anti-rust treatment

Solid; durable; folding

Heavy; gets hot in the sun

Modern; clean

Powder-coated or painted steel combined with textilene

Clean with water or cloth

Cheap; lightweight; choice of shapes; comfortable (with textilene); stackable; folding

Will rust if scratched; must be weather-protected

Modern

Resin

Clean with water or cloth

Choice of shapes; range of qualities; comfortable; stackable

Lower quality resin may sag and fade; must be weather-protected

Garden dining set accessories and winter storage

Accessories for ultimate relaxation


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Your garden dining set can be completed with extras, such as:

Storing your garden dining set for winter


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When buying a garden dining set, you should also think about where you plan to keep it over the winter. If your furniture has to stay outside in all weather conditions, be sure to purchase some protective covers and try to keep it under your awning. If you don’t have space for the set in your garage, consider investing in a shed.

  • Before storing, you should clean your dining set and keep wooden or powder-coated steel furniture lifted off the ground.
  • Wooden furniture can be treated with oil. If you spot any rust stains on steel, apply an anti-rust coating as soon as possible.
  • A garden chest can also be a great option for storing your cushions or other ornaments.
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Garden chests

More information

To find out more about garden design and decoration, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 198 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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