Treating Wooden Garden Furniture

Everyone loves those late summer evenings when you can sit outside in the warmth and enjoy some peace and quiet, or entertain with family and friends. If you're lucky enough to have some garden space, you've more than likely treated yourself to some garden furniture, and a popular choice is wooden. It looks amazing in the showroom and when it's just been installed, but over time weathering can turn it silver or grey. Spring is ideal for taking a few days to clean it up and treat it so it's in excellent condition ready for those sunny days!

Types of wooden furniture:

These tend to be separated into two categories; hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood (teak, oak, iroko etc) - more expensive and requires less maintenance in the long run, thanks to the slower growing time which creates a denser material. Hardwood pieces are usually more water and rot resistant and less likely to be damaged by knocks and bumps.

Softwood (pine, spruce, fir, cedar etc) - less expensive but not as hardwearing when exposed to elements. It's more commonly used but does require more regular maintenance to help prevent rot, damage and water ingress.

Furniture maintenance:

If your furniture isn't being stored in a shed or outbuilding over winter or kept under a waterproof cover, tilt it where it stands to help rain run off and prevent rotting.

Clean any dirt, algae and lichen off using soapy water and a brush.

For softer woods, clean regularly with a wood-cleaning product, and treat at least once a year with wood stain or preservative.

Not everyone likes the silver look on their furniture, so there are products available from big name brands like Ronseal and Cuprinol to help restore the original colour rather than staining it. Alternatively, use paint, oil or stain to both protect the wood and colour or enhance it.

Paint - this creates a more solid, even colour that seals out moisture and blocks UV rays. This will usually need primer and a minimum of two coats to ensure an even coverage. Paint will expand and contract at a different rate to the wood beneath, so can quickly crack and peel.

Stain - this will sink into the wood and provides a change of colour that still allows the natural wood grain to show through. It is less likely to crack and peel, but still helps block the UV rays, and some brands contain wood preservatives.

Oil - usually clear, this will enhance the natural colour of the wood and protects it. Different brands can even contain wood preservatives and UV protection.

How to paint or stain furniture:

It's best to do this over a weekend when it looks sunny (or in a well-ventilated area) to allow the furniture drying time between each clean and application.

- As above, clean it first using warm soapy water and a medium-bristled brush. This will help remove dirt and dust build-up but also helps remove some of the existing peeling paint or stain if this has been applied previously. Let it dry thoroughly.

- If there is any existing paint or stain, remove it with sandpaper. Fine sandpaper is best for smaller, decorative areas but a sander is more useful for covering larger areas quickly. There are alternatives like chemical stripping agents, but make sure you read and follow the instructions carefully to ensure there's no damage to the furniture.

- Prep the surface by sanding with a medium grit sandpaper. Make sure you follow the grain of the wood if you are using oil or stain, as the marks will show up.

- If painting, apply a primer first. This will usually be one or two coats and can take up to 24 hours to dry. Stain is best applied with a brush or roller but oil can be applied with a rag and rubbed in to ensure it sinks into the grain.

- Apply a minimum of two coats of paint, allowing each coat to fully dry before starting the next, and ensue everything is completely dry before putting back out into the elements. Stain may only need one coat if you like the lighter tone, otherwise add more coats to darken the colour.

As long as you maintain your furniture when it's needed, you can ensure it'll be ready for you and the sunshine for many years to come!

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