Tips for Finishing Outdoor Wooden Furniture

All outdoor furniture require maintenance, whatever material it may be since it will be exposed to elements like weather, moisture, ultraviolet light, and pests. But wood is perhaps the material that needs finishing and protection the most.

Any wooden furniture for your deck, patio or backyard can look classy and beautiful, especially when it’s new and when it has aged for some time. But when a significant amount of time has passed and you didn’t apply anything to protect the wood, it will rot, bleach out and eventually deteriorate.

Here are some helpful tips to help you out when finishing outdoor wooden furniture:

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1. Consider the climate in your area

One of the most important considerations when protecting your furniture would be knowing what kind of climate your area has, so you’d know what kind of weather you will be dealing with. If you’re living in Texas, you’d need a finish that will protect it from the sun better than a water sealant. But if let’s say you’re living in New Jersey, then you may need to consider a water sealant. Be sure to apply the furniture protection that your wood pieces will actually need.

2. Sand your wood thoroughly

Before painting or applying any finish, be sure to sand the surface down to bare wood so your finishing material will adhere very well to the wood. You may need to use a chemical wood stripper if the wood has been finished before.

3. Paint your furniture

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If you want the strongest protection against outdoor elements, use paint. It will make you lose the original look and feel of the wood, but it can protect your furniture best. Paint can reflect UV radiation from the sun and protect the wood underneath. Latex paint lasts longer than oil-based paints. If you notice some fading, chipping or peeling, it would be time to reapply paint, but that depends on your furniture use, the weather it deals with and your maintenance.

Paint is a great choice if you’re following a specific color scheme for your outdoors because you can easily pick the hue that would be suitable. Just make sure you’re picking out the primer and paint for exterior use.

4. Apply water sealants

If you simply want to protect your wood furniture while keeping its natural look yet your area is rain-prone, look into applying a water sealant. It will protect your furniture from the moisture outside, and also allows damp wood within the sealant to dry faster to prevent rotting, splitting and warping.

There are different kinds of water sealants to choose from:

Linseed / walnut / tung oil

these oils are the most common oils used for waterproofing wood. Tung oil is more expensive than other oils. Walnut oil is very common, and you can find it next to olive oil in the grocery store. Linseed oil can be purchased at most DIY repair shops. Whatever oil you choose, mix one part of it with one part turpentine oil and ½ part apple cider vinegar to create a durable finish. Apply this on a sanded and clean surface, let it dry for 24 hours, rub with a ball of very fine steel wool, then add another layer. Repeat the same drying times and sanding with steel wool.

Water-based wood sealer 

this can be purchased at home improvement stores, carrying the name Water Seal and Stain Sealer. Make sure your wood is sanded well before applying. Apply it using paintbrush or paint sprayer, and follow the package instructions for use. You may need to apply a second and third coat if your piece is made of softwood, but hardwood only needs one.

Oil-based semi-transparent stain 

if you want to stain your wood, get an exterior grade, oil-based and semi-transparent stain. Prepare the wood by sanding before you apply the stain. Apply the initial coat using a paintbrush and let it dry for 4 to 24 hours. Sand the dried surface before applying a second coat. Wait a long time for it to finish, before applying a third and final coat. Then allow three days to one week for the stain to cure before using the furniture.

5. Use varnish

Another long-lasting way to protect your outdoor furniture is to use varnish. Different types of varnish exist, but make sure you choose exterior varnish or urethane for superior protection compared an oil finish. Like any water sealer, this will maintain the look of your furniture’s wood. You may need to reapply a coat of varnish at least every three years to maintain its strength.

When applying varnish on wood for the first time, you need to use a natural bristle brush. It is recommended to provide 8 thin coats for maximum protection and a deep shiny finish. Sand the varnish lightly after every coat. Yes, it’s time-consuming and it needs a lot of effort, but it will be worth it. As soon as you see a chalky film starting to develop, it’s time to reapply a coat of varnish. This is an important maintenance step to prevent rot and moisture from penetrating the wood.

6. Use epoxy sealer and exterior varnish

Using an epoxy sealer with exterior varnish topcoats will make the most durable finish, but it’s also the most labor-intensive. Epoxy and exterior varnish work great together, as the epoxy forms a moisture barrier that prevents the swelling and shrinking of the wood. This helps the exterior varnish stay longer since it won’t need to deal with the instability of the wood. The exterior varnish, in turn, will provide the UV protection the wood needs. Without it, the epoxy sealer could easily deteriorate.

7. Protect from the elements

To make the finish last longer (because after all, you labored to keep it pretty), protect it from sun and rain as much as possible. When a storm is coming, pull the outer-edge furniture to the inner part of your patio or deck to keep it away from the harsh weather. You may invest in a furniture cover as well, especially during particularly hot summer days. If your furniture is placed in the ground, use furniture glides to raise it slightly, so it won’t sit in rainwater puddles.