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Selecting Outdoor Patio Furniture Cushions

Next to frame material and construction, the type of cushions on your outdoor patio furniture is the next most important consideration.  What’s inside the cushion is equally as important as what covers it.


Some patio furniture is designed to not require a cushion at all.  There are many sling and padded sling dining chairs, lounge chairs, and chaise lounges that do not need an additional cushion.  Many pieces in the composite outdoor furniture or the recycled patio furniture categories are designed to be comfortable without cushions.  Part of the allure behind these categories is the easy to clean and low maintenance lifestyle they afford.


All quality outdoor patio furniture manufacturers will provide cushions with their pieces.  Sometimes they are included in the price of the furniture and sometimes they are sold separately.  Whether included or not, they are made exactly to fit.  Cushions may be sold separately because there are options to choose from.  You may be choosing from a fabric book where some fabrics cost more than others.  You may have the option to have a seat cushion only, or a full seat and back cushion.

Patio furniture cushions being sold separately can be a big advantage.  You can get exactly what you want.  You also know that in the future, you can order replacement cushions that will again be made by the manufacturer exactly to your furniture’s specifications.


When you see patio furniture cushions sold in a store, don’t assume they will fit your furniture.  It is highly unlikely.  Furniture dimensions are not uniform at all, as every piece is designed and made as a unique piece.  Aside from size, most cushions need to attach to your furniture by either a set of ties, a set of hook and loop (Velcro) tabs, or an envelope that slips over the frame.  The likelihood of this attachment mechanism being located in the right place or being the right length is very low.


To further complicate the selection of replacement patio furniture cushions, the dimensions are usually misleading.  If you go to any store and look at throw pillows for example, you will find some marked as 20” x 20” or 22” x 22.”  If you measured the pillow, it would be hard to conclude that it is the size as marked.  The size of the insert was that size when it was pressed flat.  Then it was filled with a polyester material and covered with an exterior fabric.  The resulting pillow appears to be much smaller than the size indicated.  You can apply similar logic to outdoor patio furniture cushions. 


Quality patio furniture stores rarely bother stocking replacement cushions because there is no telling if anyone will ever have a piece of furniture that would truly fit them.  Consider the cushions at the big box stores to be temporary.  They are made with a low grade fill, a low quality fabric, and they are not likely to fit.  Many people purchase them because they are inexpensive and they will be “good enough” for the season.  Ask yourself what is good enough for you, and how many times you want to replace cushions before making your purchase.


  • Christopher Amos

Poly Foam Outdoor Patio Furniture Cushions

If your patio furniture cushions are not made from reticulated, dry, or dryfast foam, they are made with a poly foam.  There are many thicknesses, densities, and differences in how firm or soft poly foams are.  One foam provider alone carries fifteen distinctly different densities in the same thickness foam.  Thinner foams will provide less support than thicker foams.  Thin foams are more desirable if the cushion will get wet because it will be slow to dry.  Sometimes two different types of foams are glued together to create a custom type of comfort unique to a manufacturer.


Poly foam has a dense cell pattern without visible air gaps.  This means water, dirt, and pollen will remain in the material for a period of time – perhaps long enough for mold, mildew, or bacteria to form.  You generally want to avoid saturating these foams with water.  Cover or bring them inside during rain and spot clean rather than hose them off completely.


Some patio furniture cushions that are made with poly foam are wrapped with a Dacron polyester fiberfill material.  It may be wrapped around four sides of the cushion or all six sides.  It could be glued to the foam or stapled together.  This wrap softens the harsh corners where foam has been cut to size and also provides an extra layer of softness.


  • Christopher Amos

Phifer Outdoor Patio Furniture Cushions

Phifer offers sling, PVC, and PVC/Olefin blend fabrics under the brand names Phifertex and Geobella.  These fabrics are known for their strength and dimensional stability, durability, anti-microbial properties, ease of cleaning, and mildew, stain, and fade resistance.  Their sling fabrics use 100% PVC or a combination of vinyl-coated polyester and olefin yarns.  Their upholstery fabrics use 100% olefin.


Phifer’s reputable Geobella upholstery fabric offers a three year warranty that protects against the fabric becoming nonfunctional because of loss of dimensional stability from exposure conditions including sunlight, mildew, rot, and normal atmospheric conditions.  It does not cover discoloration from atmospheric pollution or debris.


Phifer is the fabric of choice for many entry level and mid-tier outdoor patio furniture collections.  Phifer will weave custom fabrics for manufacturers and offers a very wide array of over 200 stock solids, prints, and textures used in outdoor patio furniture cushions and slings.  Patio furniture is just one of Phifer’s applications.  They are also active in wall coverings, floor coverings, track and field pits, screens, office furniture, daycare materials, and tote bags.

  • Christopher Amos

Outdoor Patio Furniture Shopping

So you’re in the market for outdoor patio furniture - great! If you’re reading this it’s safe to say you’re making your best effort to do some research and make an informed choice about the patio furniture that’s right for you. Even better! Patio furniture is an investment, and this comes as a surprise to many first time buyers. Be prepared to find a very wide range of styles and price points. Many are intimidated by the array of choices and fear they are in for something like a complicated, expensive car buying experience. Nobody wants to make a mistake and regret their buying decision. Some people are looking at outdoor patio furniture for the very first time with their previous exposure limited to what they see in the big box stores. Some have gone through several sets of outdoor furniture that have either worn out or been left behind in moves and have experienced the pros and cons of the choices they’ve made so far.


Outdoor patio furniture can be characterized as temporary or permanent. Temporary furniture is just that – temporary. It is usually inexpensive (but not always!) and will last from months to a few years. After that time you’ll need to have the cushions replaced, refinish the frames, find replacement parts, or scrap it altogether. Permanent furniture is quality furniture that will last many years. Your changing taste will dictate a change long before the furniture wears out. Permanent patio furniture costs as much or more than indoor furniture. It will be extremely durable and comfortable and can be considered an extension of the inside of your home. Most people go through 2-3 sets of temporary furniture before they buy permanent furniture. You’ll want to consider if you’re in a position to buy permanent or if you’d rather not commit to it at this time of your life.

Throughout our blog, we’d like to provide enough information about the options available so you feel informed and confident while in your quest for outdoor patio furniture. Explore the different materials available, pros and cons, and the many factors that you may consider before making your selection. We have many pieces and collections on our site that will allow you to see examples of the options as you read about them. Enjoy your new outdoor living space!

  • Christopher Amos

Mixed Media Outdoor Patio Furniture

Mixed media outdoor patio furniture is a newer industry term that means more than one material is used to construct a single piece. Some of the more progressive companies and companies with their own design staff are creating collections that mix woven and aluminum, or aluminum and marine grade polymer for example.


You may find a woven chair that has aluminum feet and aluminum trim along the arm rests. You may find the tables that go with the collection also have a mix of materials. Or, you may find woven chairs in a collection paired with aluminum tables. The trend is going away from perfectly matched patio furniture and toward carefully coordinated furniture. Not only are frame materials being mixed, but today more than one fabric is being used within the same set as well.


  • Christopher Amos

Marine Grade Polymer MGP Outdoor Patio Furniture

Abbreviated as MGP, Marine Grade Polymer is a high density polyethylene (referred to as HDPE) material. It is an extremely dense, opaque, highly durable material that will not absorb moisture, rot, crack, fade, or really change at all once manufactured. It’s made from 100% recycled content sourced from the United States. It was originally manufactured for boat hulls. It is completely non-porous and unaffected by weather. It does not absorb heat so it’s an ideal choice for full sun exposures.


MGP is typically very smooth or has a very slight matte textured finish to it. You will not see any color variation in it, and it is solid all the way through the material. The material itself can be slightly costly. Most Marine Grade Polymer patio furniture contains an MGP frame, or accents. It is not typical that the entire piece is made of this material, although a few solid MGP pieces, including fire tables, may be found. Very common are MGP slings chairs, MGP frames with cushions, and aluminum pieces with MGP armrests and other trim pieces attached.

  • Christopher Amos