Dining outdoors in your own garden when the weather is nice can be a nice change of pace, sometimes. But unless you want to eat your dinner standing up, you need at least a table and a few chairs. It can be as simple as a folding table and plastic chairs from Ikea, but suitable outdoor dining furniture can really add to the ambience. The more classy outdoor furniture is usually made of wrought iron, wood, wicker or rattan.

Unless you have a great deal of experience, buying outdoor dining furniture is not something you want to do online. It is best to take your time slowly visiting and browsing the furniture shops in your area, imagining how the different pieces they sell will fit into your garden. Pick the pieces one by one or as a whole set. Find the outdoor dining furniture that fit your own unique style and also match well with your house and garden.

Do you favor simplicy and ruggedness in your outdoor dining furniture? If so, something like the integrated tables and benches you often see in parks might suit your taste. They are made of weather-treated heavy wood, pretty easy to maintain and very resistant to damage. The last two factors are practical considerations if you have children. On the downside, they are not elegant, definitely not what one would traditionally call pretty, and difficult to move around.

Those who prefer a more modern look and feel may want to look at outdoor dining furniture made from aluminium and glass. Generally, the chairs are aluminium while the table is aluminium and glass. The right design can look surprisingly classy, while the wrong design just looks cheap and tacky. Furniture like this is very easy to clean. It is also light enough to move around and pretty much weather-proof (unless you have hailstorms or hurricanes in your area).

Then you have wicker or rattan outdoor dining furniture. At first glance, they look lightweight. In reality, high-grade well-constructed rattan or wicker furniture can be surprisingly heavy. Not as heavy as hardwood or wrought iron, but definitely heavy enough that you may not want to move them (especially the table) on your own. Good quality furniture made from these two materials are usually specially treated to be weather resistant. They are often impregnated with resin or some other chemical which prevents water from soaking in and helps the rattan or wicker to resist rotting.

Some people prefer a more traditional feel in their outdoor dining furniture. Such people may want to look at tables and chairs made from hardwood. There are hundreds of designs to choose from, limited only by the creativity of the craftsmen who designed or built them. There are lower-end mass-produced designs where the different pieces of wood are joined together using pocket hole joinery, and then there are premium designs (some of them individually built) where the separate pieces are joined together using very strong mortise and tenon joints. You can see some with fancy carvings while others are unadorned, relying on bringing out the inherent beauty of the high quality hardwood from which they are built.

Wooden outdoor dining furniture is specially weather treated and needs proper caring and maintenance. High grade furniture often undergoes multiple treatments - preventing water from seeping into the wood, preventing mildew and fungal attacks, preventing termites and resisting rot. They are often one of the most expensive types of outdoor furniture you can buy. Furniture made from hardwood is very heavy. This is something you want to remember if you ever have the need to move them into storage or shelter.

Another type of popular outdoor dining furniture is made from wrought iron. Like good quality wooden outdoor furniture, wrought iron outdoor dining furniture does not come cheap. They are also very heavy and sturdy, and are often made in many complex patterns and designs. Some are varnished while others are painted. Cleaning them can be very easy - just spraying your garden hose over them will get rid of most of the dirt. But maintenance can be tedious. You may need to remove rust and revarnish or repaint them occasionally. They are tough and difficult to damage - something which is good if you have children. However, their heavy weight makes them difficult to move around. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It makes them harder to steal, but they are also harder to move into shelter to protect them from storms.

Occasionally eating outdoors can be a great pleasure. But it can feel even better if you have the right outdoor dining furniture to provide more ambience. What you ultimately pick depends on your own taste and style, but it is something worth taking your time to do right. Just keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials commonly used to make such furniture, and remember that you can often find very good deals in warehouse and clearance sales when the shop is desperate to make room for newer designs.