The calendar may say that we still have nearly three more weeks until it is officially summer, but we all know that Memorial Day is really the starting gate to summertime fun. The holiday weekend kicked off the beginning of the summer season. Pools are opening; grills are being called into overtime action; citronella products are being placed around patios; the kids are going to camp; weekends at the lake, beach or mountains are on the calendar and long evenings sitting outside with family and friends are one of the simple rewards we have for making it to another summer season.
It also means that patios, decks, and porches are being spruced up, with many people deciding that this is the year to trade up into some grown-up outdoor furniture.
With outdoor living on everyone’s minds and on the pages of every decorating magazine, it is hard to ignore the growing emphasis Americans are placing on the outdoor areas of their homes. Manufacturers and retailers of every kind have taken notice, as well. It seems that outdoor furniture and accessories are everywhere.
Believe it or not, it is a fallacy that the prices at a specialty store are higher than everywhere. I have often found, when comparing apples to apples that my local specialty retailer is actually less expensive that the prices I see online or in catalogs for the exact same thing (that’s the apples to apples part). Don’t make the mistake of comparing two different products and thinking that you are doing yourself any favors. You are only putting your head in the sand and ignoring the obvious: if something costs more than a similar product, there is probably a very good reason for it. The tricky part is determining what the differences are and whether these are important to you.
The problem is how do you know what is good and what is not? Just because something is sold as being suitable for outdoor use does not really mean that it will hold up well to harsh weather, strong sun, or repeated exposure to moisture. Sure, it’s not bad when you make a $20.00 or a $100.00 mistake. But, it hurts when you make a mistake that costs you several hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. The best thing you can do if you are interested in knowing exactly how your hard-earned dollars are going to perform in the form of patio furniture is to consult with experts.
I’ve put together a list of some of the questions you want to ask when shopping for outdoor furniture. (Of course, depending upon where you shop, it may not be easy to ask questions and it may be even more difficult to get the correct answers. )
Here is my list of the top 10 questions you should ask before buying outdoor furniture.
- How will it weather? What can I expect from moisture and from UV rays?
- Will the fabric fade or dry rot in the sun?
- Can I get replacement parts, including slings/cushions/straps and touch-up paint?
- How will I get service when needed?
- How long is the warranty and what does it cover?
- How do I clean it?
- If something arrives damaged, what is your policy?
- Do I have to put it together?
- How do you service warranties?
- Can I get more pieces to add in the future (next year)?
These questions don’t even address the issues of whether the product you are considering is appropriate for the location in which it will be used or if it is suitable for your lifestyle. In addition to weather, your outdoor furniture will be subjected to a host of other potentially damaging influences (wild animals, household pets, children, flying pests, and yard debris, to name a few) which may alter your selection were someone to pose the right questions to you.
Educating our customers is what those of us in specialty stores do. We take pride in the fact that we have invested years in learning about our products and can be called experts. So, do yourself a favor. Do your homework and do some research before investing in your outdoor furniture. Talk to people who understand the expectations and limitations of the products they sell. Make an informed decision that will make you happy for years to come—not just on the day that your new furniture is delivered.