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Protective Covers Are the Best Outdoor Furniture Investment

A lovely outdoor seating arrangement with plush pillows and colorful decorations.

Outdoor furniture, especially furniture with comfy cushions, is really expensive. Anything and everything you can do to extend its life is money in the bank. Among those things, covers are king.

The season of outdoor furniture (and sitting comfortably on it while enjoying cocktails) is upon most of the United States, and just around the corner for those of us in the most blustery pockets of the country.

Whether you have outdoor furniture already or you’re shopping for some, there is one universal truth. Not only is nice outdoor furniture expensive, but if you opt for ultra-comfortable furniture with cushions that rival the plushness of your living couch, the replacement cushions themselves cost a mint. If you have to replace them, you may end up spending more on the replacements than you spent on the original furniture set itself.

Anything you can do to protect the cushions from mold, mildew, ultraviolet damage from the sun, staining from the malicious sparrows that mark up your car every morning and so on, will save you money in replacement costs. In terms of dollars spent to the extra mileage you get out of your furniture, it’s pretty tough to beat simple furniture covers. Let’s break down the cost with a theoretical example based on my actual real-world experience keeping my deck furniture in mint condition.

A set of outdoor wicker furniture arranged as a conversation set.
Allen Roth/Lowes

The promotional picture above showcases a set of Allen Roth Belanore conversation chairs and a love seat. Their original retail price was $690 for the chairs and $800 for the love seat. If you paid full price at the start of the season the conversation set would set you back $1,490 (and if you had the patience to wait until the 50% blitz at the end of the summer it would cost you $745).

Identically sized replacement cushions in the exact shade of green (Spectrum Cilantro, if you’re curious) cost $177 per cushion seat/back combo. A pair of outdoor-fabric pillows typically runs about $65. To replace all the cushions and pillows in the above photo after a few years of hard wear from the sun and sitting out in the rain would run you $838. At that price, it would make sense (economically, albeit not environmentally) to just trash the entire set and buy a new one on clearance at the end of the season.

Let’s pretend you manage to just cruise past the 5-year warranty on the Sunbrella fabric before the things fell apart. We’d be shocked if you made it that far leaving them out in the scorching sun all summer every summer, but let’s roll with that generous estimate.

Every 5 years you’d be out ~$750-$1500 for new deck furniture, depending on what price you got for the set and whether or not you opted to chuck the whole set or order a new one.

Enter the humble cover. Rather than leave your poor furniture (cushions, frame, and all) exposed to the elements, or go through the hassle of taking all the cushions off and storing them between uses, you can just slap a cover over them. Now, instead of the cushions and furniture taking the beating from the sun, the cover takes it instead.

A cover for a large overstuffed conversation chair costs about $25. A cover for an overstuffed love seat costs about $30. You’ll pay more if you upgrade to heavy-duty woven nylon covers, but in our experience, the simple flock-lined vinyl covers that run you $25-30 apiece will easily give you 3-4 years of service even in harsh northern winter conditions. To cover our example furniture set would cost you $80, and assuming the covers cracked or degraded to the point of replacement every three years, you’d spend ~$27 per year protecting your furniture.

Protecting your patio furniture with basic covers will typically only cost you one tenth of the amount it would cost to replace the furniture outright.

At that price, you’d have to replace the covers 11 times to equal the cost of replacing the cushions once, 10 times to equal the cost of replacing the whole set on a 50% sale, and 19 times to equal the cost of the set at the full start-of-the-season price. Translated into years-of-use, that’s a time span of roughly 30-60 years, based on cover lifespan before you spend more on covers than you would on a total replacement.

Examples of different Protective Covers brand patio furniture covers.
Protective Covers/Amazon

Having used those exact Protective Cover brand covers we used as examples above for the last seven years (with one expected replacement around the 4-year mark), we can assure you they’re a phenomenal value. But whether you opt for them or a fancier rip-stop woven-nylon cover, the end result will be the same. After years of protection from the sun and rain your furniture (and other patio accessories for that matter, too), will look showroom new.

The covers won’t, of course, but that’s the whole point of the exercise. Let the covers fade, crack, and get a shimmer of algae and mildew here and there while the furniture and cushions stay in pristine condition.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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