The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Bar or Counter Set

Originally Published on February 6, 2019. Last Updated on August 7, 2023.

Outdoor bar and counter sets are fantastic home furniture choices—the elevated seating creates a sanctioned space for whatever the day has in store, whether you’re swapping stories over drinks with friends or diving into a lively family game night. 

But buying a bar or counter set is easier said than done. There are many factors to consider, such as height differentiation, size and shape, material type, etc. So you don’t have to get bogged down in the details, we’ve sorted through the questions you should consider below to streamline your shopping process. 


Jump to Section
Step 1: Do You Need a Counter- or Bar-Height Set?
Step 2: Start With How Much Space You Have
Step 3: Decide on a Material Type
Step 4: Choose a Style That Fits Your Space
Step 5: Pick the Right Color
Step 6: Accessorize
FAQs


Step 1: Do You Need a Counter- or Bar-Height Set?

If you have limited square footage or tall family members who need more legroom (or both) counter- and bar-height sets would benefit you. 

A distinct advantage of an outdoor bar or counter set is the design’s space-optimizing nature. The table bases are taller, occupying more vertical space than horizontal. If you have a cozy balcony or a long yet narrow patio extending along the side of your home, smaller sets are terrific options.

Bar- and counter-height chairs are better fits for taller folks than standard dining chairs. These chair styles have extended seat heights, which lets family stretch their legs out at a comfortable angle instead of sitting with their knees above hip level. Plus, many styles are outfitted with footrests so shorter family members’ legs don’t dangle uncomfortably.

What is bar height?

Bar-height tables usually stand 40–42 inches high. Seat heights for bar stools and chairs are 28–33 inches. 

What is counter height?

Counter tables generally measure 34–36 inches tall, and counter-style seat heights are 24–27 inches high.

What makes bar, counter, and dining sets different?

The primary difference between bar, counter, and dining sets is height. Dining tables stand only 28–30 inches high. The seat height for dining chairs is 17–20 inches, and these styles are short enough that no footrests are needed.

Trex Furniture Outdoor Dining Set Height Comparison


Step 2: Start With How Much Space You Have

The size and shape of your outdoor setting will decide the type of high-top dining set it can hold. At least three feet of clearance is recommended on all sides of a bar table to give guests enough room to walk around and pull out their chairs. 

To find out how much space you need to accommodate one of these sets, determine the length and width of the room in feet and subtract six from both measurements. The resulting figures represent the maximum space available for a bar set.

For example: If you have a 10-by-12 deck space, you have a 4-by-6 area to work with—the perfect size for the Yacht Club 7-Piece Farmhouse Trestle Dining Set.


Step 3: Decide on a Material Type

The best outdoor furniture is built from durable, weatherproof materials that require minimal cleaning and upkeep. Of course, depending on your budget and where you plan to place a bar set, there are multiple material options that can get the job done.

Softwoods

Softwoods are less expensive and more accessible than hardwoods because these tree types grow faster. They’re porous and less dense than hardwoods, making them susceptible to scratches, dents, pests, and water damage. Softwoods require frequent refinishing to stay protected in outdoor environments.

Hardwoods

Hardwoods like oak and teak can handle the outdoors much better than softwoods. Still, it’s possible to encounter some issues with this material. Hardwoods need regular refinishing to stay protected if left outside all year. 

Because hardwood trees grow more slowly, the materials are harder to come by, which increases their price points. However, the slow growth produces dense and durable wood that resists weather, pests, moisture, and damage.

Wicker

Wicker is a weaving technique that produces lovely furniture, baskets, and other decor. Natural wicker furniture is woven from bamboo, rattan, or reeds, and these delicate materials don’t fare well outside. Rain, moisture, and other elements can easily damage natural wicker, but you can find synthetic versions that can handle harsher weather. 

However, cleaning all those nooks and crannies is a long, painstaking process. Plus, wicker furniture is lightweight—whether synthetic or natural. Moving it is easy, but a strong gust of wind can topple a tall bar set over.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a durable plastic used to craft a variety of outdoor items like fencing, playground equipment, and furniture. It’s resilient against stains, fading, and all types of weather and needs hardly any maintenance to stay beautiful. 

Though it has a higher price, well-designed furniture constructed from HDPE will serve your family for years. You won’t have to spend money on future repairs or replacements, and you can give all the time you save on upkeep to your family. It’s a long-term investment that pays for itself.


Step 4: Choose a Style That Fits Your Space

Trex Monterey Bay 5-Piece Round Bar Set in Charcoal Black
Featured: Monterey Bay 5-Piece Round Bar Set in Charcoal Black

To create the dining experience you want, select a bar set that fits your personal tastes, your family’s needs, and the style of your space. 

Table Shape

Round: Our eyes are naturally drawn to circular objects, so round bar tables are great focal points. Plus, their shape allows more lenience with seating space. You can move the chairs together to accommodate one (or two) more—it will just be a snug fit. 

Square: Square tables can be pushed into corners and walls when you need extra room. They’re also versatile in their seating capacity as they’ll provide closeness and comfort when seating a small number of people, or larger styles can offer ample room for a crowd.

Rectangle: Like square tables, rectangular shapes fit along walls and in corners, which saves space. Plus, their shape is more conducive to large gatherings. For example, an eight-person rectangular table can accommodate everyone as well as the meal while taking up less space than a square table that seats eight.

Two-person: A bar or counter set for two is just what’s needed for an intimate evening on a cozy balcony. 

Four-person: Since tables for four are typically round or square, everyone is positioned equidistantly, allowing them to be part of the conversation.

Six-person: A six-seater bar or counter set is suitable for both casual and formal settings. It’s not too large to make quiet breakfasts seem overwhelming, and not too small to make weekend gatherings feel cramped. 

Eight-person: Ideal for large families or entertaining enthusiasts, expansive eight-person bar and counter sets offer enough space for everyone to come together comfortably.

Pro tip: If you plan on mixing and matching chairs and tables instead of choosing a preconfigured set, allow for 10 to 13 inches between the top of the bar seat and the underside of the table. This prevents the space from becoming too snug—which would otherwise put too much pressure on family members’ knees and thighs.


Step 5: Pick the Right Color

Let your current deck setup be the driving inspiration for the color of your new bar set. Since it will likely be the space’s centerpiece, shop for something that blends with the existing color scheme. 

Beige, green, and brown shades blend well with warm-toned decks surrounded by lush gardens or trees. If your deck sports cool colors, neutral hues like white, grey, or black are excellent choices.


Step 6: Accessorize

Elevate the look of your already lofty bar set with outdoor chair cushions and an umbrella. When shopping for these accessories, choose items made with durable outdoor performance fabrics that repel the elements but excel in comfort. 


FAQs

What’s a bar table called?

A bar table is also called a pub table, high table, or standing table. 

How do I know what height bar stool to get?

To figure out what height your bar stool needs to be, measure from the underside of the table to the floor, then subtract 10 inches. This will give you the maximum seat height that still allows enough legroom for guests.

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