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What is a Patio Conversation Set?

As we recently discovered when buying new patio furniture, the array of choices available can be confusing and present you with almost too many options. I didn’t even know what a patio conversation set was until we bought one – so what exactly are they and why do you need one?

Small patio conversation sets include two chairs and a table, while larger sets include a sectional sofa, a chair or two, and a table. Some sets include a fire pit as well. Budget-priced patio conversation sets range from $100-$300.

Join me as I answer all your most popular questions about patio conversation sets – so you can make an informed buying decision…

What Pieces of Furniture Make Up a Patio Conversation Set?

In the world of patio furniture, most bundled sets fall into two categories: dining sets and conversation sets. 

Dining sets contain four to six dining chairs and a table to eat on. Think dining room, but outside. Conversation sets are bundled combinations of chairs, low tables, sofas, sectionals and fire pits. Think family room, but outside. 

There are no hard and fast rules about which patio pieces belong in – or out – of a conversation set. A conversation set is simply furniture that’s perfect for family and friends to talk, eat, drink, read and relax. 

In stores or online, conversation sets are bundled lots of ways. Small patio sets include two chairs and a table. Larger sets include a sectional sofa, a chair or two, and a table. Some sets include a fire pit.

How Much Space Do I Need for a Patio Conversation Set?

Patio furniture can be surprisingly bulky, so be sure you have enough space for the set you have your eye on. 

Be sure to measure your patio space before you go crazy buying furniture. Then, include space for walking between pieces, too. Designers say that most folks need 24 to 30 inches in between each piece, so you can walk in between if you need to. If your patio also has heavy foot traffic, allow a 30 inch width for the walkway.

Once you have some measurements, go online or to the store. Here’s Wayfair’s patio furniture space planning guide. It has layout examples for three patio sizes, small, medium, and large.

Are Patio Conversation Sets Waterproof? (or Water Resistant?)

Many patio conversation sets are described as waterproof. But beware – most are only water resistant.

Many, many materials are water resistant. When something is water resistant, it will repel some water – but some still soaks in.

The standard of “waterproof” is much harder to achieve. If something is waterproof, then water just beads up and rolls off. No water in – no water out. Rain or snow won’t penetrate –  not even the tiniest drop. 

Everyday things that are waterproof include: rubber boots, silicone, wax, umbrellas, wading pools, beach balls, plastic bags, fiberglass, glass, and rubber duckies.

Some types of patio furniture start out waterproof, like metal, plastic, and resin wicker. But after they spend time outdoors, they don’t stay waterproof. The hot sun, sandstorms, freezing temperatures, and salty winds etch, chip and crack the furniture until it’s no longer waterproof. 

Finally, let’s talk about the cushions. There aren’t too many fabrics that are waterproof – except for vinyl – but vinyl is a terrible cushion fabric. It’s stiff, it gets super hot, and it doesn’t last very long under UV rays. 

Both patio furniture frames and cushions are only water resistant. Here’s the Take a Yard article on waterproof outdoor furniture.

Can You Get Rattan Patio Conversation Sets?

You can get rattan patio conversation sets – and they would be beautiful – but you probably wouldn’t want to use them outside. Rattan simply won’t hold up outside. 

There’s a lot of confusion between the terms rattan and wicker. Online, they are often used interchangeably. But they are actually quite different: rattan is a plant and wicker is a style.

Rattan is a catchall term for certain species of creeping, climbing palms. It is a woody vine called a liana. There are more than 600 species of rattan, found growing mostly in Asia. In Asia, it has been used for furniture, weapons, sports equipment and even walls of houses. 

Wicker, or wickerwork, is a style of weaving that originated in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians wove swamp grass and reeds into baskets, furniture, chests, floors, clothing and utensils. Later, the weaving style was dubbed wicker, after the Scandinavian word wika, which means to bend.

Today, natural wicker can be woven from strands of bamboo, rattan, willow, or reeds. Synthetic wicker is made from woven fibers of vinyl or resin.

If you love the woven look and texture of natural rattan, look for a wicker set made with resin or vinyl fibers instead. A synthetic wicker (aka resin wicker, poly wicker or all-weather wicker) patio set will give you that beautiful woven style and hold up to the elements.

How Much Space Do I Need for a Patio Conversation Set?
How Much Space Do I Need for a Patio Conversation Set?

Can You Buy Metal Patio Conversation Sets?

Metal patio conversation sets are very popular because they are stylish, and will last a long time. 

Patio design experts say that metal is the most durable of all the patio furniture materials. Metal is strong enough to withstand kid and pet abuse. While not precisely waterproof, it’s close. It won’t soak up wine or beer.

Metal is also easy to maintain. If you live in a harsh climate, check out your patio pieces before the summer begins. Check for rusty patches and scratches. Clean them up with first with soap and water and let them dry thoroughly.

Then, sand the areas lightly with light sandpaper. Then, spray them or brush on matching primed exterior paint. Or, change the style entirely with another color.

Can You Get Wood Patio Conversation Sets?

You can. Wood is a beautiful, natural choice that will last a long, long time – but it might need some help from you. Wooden patio furniture will last longer if it lives on a built up patio or deck and it lives under some protection. 

Wood is a porous material. If you live in a wet climate, or your patio is out on the lawn, wooden furniture may not be the best choice. If you live in a damp climate and have the budget, teak is the best choice.

If teak is not in your budget, then give your wooden furniture some love every year. Depending on the type of wood, you may have to wash it gently and then apply oil or sealants. If the wood has been scratched, you may have to do some sanding, staining and sealing. 

Can You Buy Patio Conversation Sets For Under $300?

We looked for patio conversation sets between $100 and $300 and found almost 700 sets on Amazon (some on sale now), close to 300 at Home Depot online and a little over 100 online at Lowe’s.

Can You Get a Patio Conversation Set With a Fire Pit?

A conversation set that includes a fire pit is a popular combination, particularly as fall approaches. Many fire pits have solid covers, so they can double as tables.

Just picture it – you, relaxing in a comfy, deep seating chair, staring at the flickering fire pit flames, wine glass in hand, on a chill evening. Perfection.

Here’s a video with 28 round fire pits, ranging from simply fabulous to super fancy.

Summary: Where Can I Buy an Outdoor Conversation Set? (Can I Get Them on Clearance?)

If you prefer brick-and-mortar stores, most traditional furniture stores also carry some patio furniture during the spring and summer. Check out furniture stores in your area. In addition, big box home improvement stores like Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s carry patio furniture.

Department stores like Kohl’s, Macys’, Walmart, and Target have limited amounts of patio furniture they sell seasonally. Or, you can find some early in the season at warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s.

Online, there are lots of options. Hayneedle, Overstock, and Amazon all sell patio furniture. Plus, Home Depot and Lowe’s have patio furniture they sell exclusively online.

If your budget only has room for clearance prices, then be ready to hit the local shops in July and August. Online, clearance prices start then but last longer. Happy shopping!

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >