Rocking chairs are timeless and welcoming items that are nice and relaxing to sit in, and brighten up their location wherever you put them. They’re a great social tool, providing the perfect excuse to sit back and enjoy long conversations in the sun.
If you’re interested in buying a new rocking chair, you should know that they’re available in a number of different styles. They’re also produced by a wide range of manufacturers.
If you want to in investing in a rocking chair that will last a lifetime, it’s worth thinking about who’ll be using it and what kind of rocker would best meet their needs.
If you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere warm, outdoor rocking chairs become a particularly appealing choice. Below are some of the best outdoor rocking chairs on the market.
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Rocking chair buyers guide
The traditional rocking chair has a simple design: a wooden chair with two curved rockers under its legs, connecting the front legs to the back so that the chair only contacts the floor at two points.
In this way, someone sitting in the chair can rock back and forth with relatively little effort, by simply pushing against the floor with their feet or shifting their body weight in the seat.
Hot days and warm evenings make inviting conditions for rocking on the porch or patio; and if you’ve got somewhere to put it and the local weather’s friendly enough, an outdoor rocking chair is worth real consideration.
There are a number of different styles available which will be more or less suitable for you depending on your needs.
Traditional – sometimes called “rustic” – rocking chairs fit the basic mould, with two rockers allowing the user to rock back and forth at a pace and rhythm of their choosing. They can be found in materials other than wood and with unusual designs, but these are less common: some rockers, designed to be lighter and more affordable, use a steel frame with either a wicker weave or synthetic mesh covering. The traditional rocking chair, however, is most commonly constructed entirely from hardwood, with a varnish or stain finish.
Platform rockers are a little more advanced than the traditional rocking chair, but the end result is very similar. Platform rockers have a stable base, making them more suitable for infirm or elderly users, and allowing them to be used on more uneven surfaces than some traditional rocking chairs.
The rocking motion in a platform rocker is generated by an internal mechanism, which allows the chair’s back and seat to rock while the base remains stable and motionless. Platform rockers are more often found indoors than outside, but as long as the materials are suitable and the rocker’s mechanism is sealed and covered, they can serve admirably as outdoor rocking chairs.
Gliders are a variant on the platform rocker where the back and seat move back and forth without the accompanying up-and-down motion of a rocker. They’re a great choice for nursing mothers who don’t enjoy the rocking motion.
Outdoor rocking chairs can be made in any of the above styles; those using the gliding motion are typically referred to as porch gliders.
By simple fact of staying outdoors, outdoor rockers need to be more durable and better able to resist bad weather than their indoor cousins. Any internal mechanisms can be a particular weak point for outdoor rocking chairs, as with any item intended to be left out in all weather, making quality of construction even more important compared to indoor rockers.
That said, if you take your time and make sure you’re buying something worth the price tag, you’ll be buying a piece of furniture which enhances the look of your home, provides relaxation and stimulation, and – if well-looked after – can be passed through the family for generations to come.
Why buy an outdoor rocking chair?
Like all rocking chairs, outdoor rocking chairs have many benefits, both physical and mental. By nature of being built for the outdoors, they’re also hardier and more versatile than most indoor rockers. Here are some of the reasons why an outdoor rocking chair should be your next big purchase:
- Mental and emotional benefits. It’s well known that time spent rocking has real, tangible benefits in terms of emotional well-being. If you’re skeptical, try one out for yourself and feel the difference. Studies have shown that the mental and emotional benefits have real medical applications: a University of Rochester study presented rocking chair therapy as a valuable tool in the treatment and amelioration of dementia and its symptoms.
- Perfect for nursing mothers. The mental and emotional gains an outdoor rocking chair can bring aren’t only for grown-ups. Generations of mothers have sworn by the soothing motion of the rocking chair, and the bonding experience between parent and child that happens there. Once again, this isn’t just personal experience: a recent study showed that rocking not only encourages sleep but improves its quality, making the rocking chair a powerful tool when it comes to getting your child into a healthy routine.
- Physical health benefits. If you’re a regular action (wo)man, an outdoor rocking chair might not quite provide the workout you need. If, like many of us, you’ve got a sedentary job and only limited time to exercise at home, some time spent in a rocking chair may have a noticeable impact on your overall balance and muscle tone. It’s not a replacement for exercise, but a little extra toning is a nice bonus when you’re relaxing in your rocker.
- Appearance. Call it aesthetics, call it decoration, or just say it looks nice on the porch. Rocking chairs are typically attractive pieces of furniture, and all the associations of warmth and relaxation they bring can really contribute to the look and feel of wherever you end up putting it. A nice porch or patio doesn’t look complete without an outdoor rocking chair adding those welcoming, sociable touches.
- Sociability. More so than indoor rockers, outdoor rocking chairs can offer a great opportunity to be sociable. If you’re fortunate to live somewhere with nice weather and nicer neighbors, sitting on the porch chatting is a fine way to end (or start) a day. Whoever you’re with – friends, family, acquaintances – sitting comfortably outside will always be a great facilitators of conversation.
- Versatility. By virtue of being built with hardier materials than indoor rockers, outdoor rocking chairs have an advantage in terms of versatility. If it’s foldable, it’s easy to take your outdoor rocker traveling or camping; and even if it’s not, you can still take your rocking chair with you if you’ve got a truck or van with enough space inside. If you’re going somewhere outdoors for any length of time, taking your outdoor rocking chair will probably improve the trip.
Things to consider
If you’ve decided on buying an outdoor rocking chair, there are a few points worth considering before making your purchase:
- Who’s the chair for? Who will be getting the most use out of the rocker? If you’re buying the chair for yourself, this question will be easier to answer; but whoever it’s for, think about their needs and how they’ll benefit from using it. Someone with poor balance will probably prefer a platform rocker or glider to a more traditional chair, whereas someone particularly tall will want to keep an eye open for rockers with a suitably high profile. Know what you want before you start shopping and you’re much less likely to experience buyer’s remorse.
- Materials. Most outdoor rocking chairs are built using hardwood, although an increasing number are made using a rattan or wicker weave over a steel or aluminum frame. The most portable models use a lightweight mesh over the steel frame instead. Even among the hardwood rockers, however, there’s plenty of room for variation. Some woods look nicer than others, and some are bound to go better with the décor of your porch or patio. If you know your outdoor rocker will need to stand up to some serious weather from time to time, look for particularly sturdy materials which have been treated to resist wind and rain.
- Appearance. The wood used makes a difference here, as does the stain or varnish used and the overall pattern and design of the rocking chair itself. If you’ve gone for a wicker or rattan style rocker, the pattern used for the weave will have a big impact on appearance. Do the style, aesthetic and color of the rocker match the location where you plan on using it? Appearance will matter more to some people than others; but with so many rockers available on the market, you’re sure to be able to find something that complements its surroundings.
- Durability. This point is particularly important for outdoor rocking chairs. Will the chair and its materials last, and stand up to hostile weather? Your answer will depend on the weather where you live, but remember that an outdoor rocking chair which has to be brought indoors during bad weather isn’t an outdoor rocker at all – it’s an indoor rocker which you sometimes take outside.
- Dimensions. Most rocking chairs will comfortably house most people, but some of us will need to pay closer attention to the rocker’s dimensions. Parents with young children will want to look at wider rocking chairs, because a narrow seat becomes uncomfortable with someone sitting on your lap. Particularly tall people will need a rocking chair with a higher-than-average profile, to avoid the discomfort that comes from having your knees bunched up around your head.
- Footrest/stool. Does the outdoor rocking chair come with a footrest or stool? If it doesn’t, is that an additional purchase you’ll have to make? Shorter individuals are the most likely to benefit from a footrest or stool, while nursing mothers may appreciate the specially-designed nursing stools, which helps them sit in a comfortable position while nursing.
- Price. As is always the case, price matters more to some people than others. However wealthy or frugal you are, however, you should have a rough idea in mind of how much you’d like to spend before heading out shopping. For an outdoor rocking chair, expect to pay upwards of $100 for a well-made wooden rocker, with steel-framed models being slightly less expensive and luxury and bespoke pieces costing considerably more.
- Assembly. Is any assembly required? If so, are you up to the task, or will you have to go in your pocket a second time to pay a professional to set it up for you? Any assembly will cost you, in time and effort or money, so bear this in mind when weighing up your options.
- Extra features. Less common in outdoor rocking chairs, some rockers do come with luxury features built in. These include heating in the back and seat of the chair, and can even include integrated massagers.
- Safety. A particular concern around children and small animals, rocking chairs with internal mechanisms – like the platform rocker or the glider – have much greater potential for injury than traditional models. If you do opt for a rocking chair with an internal mechanism, make sure any moving parts are entirely contained and sealed, to minimize the risk of trapped fingers.