How To Refinish Outdoor Wooden Furniture

Refinishing outdoor wooden furniture can spark life into a once-dull patio. Doing so will benefit and protect your pieces. But, how do you go about starting the process if you’re a complete beginner?

All furniture will require a different refinishing process. But to begin, you’ll always need to sand down the piece. After sanding, you should clean off the wood and begin applying a stain. Finally, you can apply a protective coating or just let your furniture dry for at least 24 hours.

That may sound like a lot, but refinishing wooden furniture can be a breeze. The process can truly breathe life back into any piece of furniture, transforming outdoor spaces. Here’s everything you need to know about refinishing outdoor wooden furniture!

How Do I Refinish Outdoor Wooden Furniture?

man cleaning old table surface with tissue

Outdoor wooden furniture can be incredibly beautiful but becomes damaged over time, due to weather or wear and tear. Refinishing outdoor furniture sets brings life back into your pieces and protects them from future damage. This process can be incredibly easy to do.

To refinish outdoor wooden furniture, you’ll need to sand and stain the wood. You may need to use an orbit sander to get the best results. Luckily, they’re quite affordable online (on Amazon). You’ll also need to choose your stain type and color.

Different stains, oils, and finishes each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Before choosing, you’ll want to consider your needs, preferences, and budget. Someone with more time or a higher budget will choose a different product compared to someone else.

What Damages Outdoor Wooden Furniture?

Outdoor wooden furniture becomes damaged over time. The natural elements affect the wood, resulting in UV damage, mildew, mold, and more. To keep our beautiful patio sets properly protected, we first need to understand what’s damaging them and how they are damaged exactly.

Sun (UV Rays)

Harsh UV rays from the Sun will damage wooden furniture. Lignin is found in wood and bonds it together and strengthens it- UV rays cause this element to break down. Without any added protection, the sun will damage the lignin in the wood over time.

UV damage often results in the surface of the wood turning a light gray color. UV rays can also cause cracks within the wood. Hardwood furniture may not be as susceptible to UV rays, however, softwood sets are particularly at risk, as they’re more susceptible to cracking and warping.

Wood Rot

Wood rot can destroy outdoor furniture sets. Wood rot is caused by the growth of fungus within the wood. This fungus is typically caused by wet weather conditions, such as rain and snow. Wood rot can be prevented by avoiding certain conditions.

Avoiding temperatures between 40° – 90°F can help prevent wood rot. On top of that, avoiding keeping your furniture in areas with moisture levels greater than 25-30% can also prevent wood rot and fungus growth.

Mildew and Mold

Mold and mildew can also damage outdoor wooden furniture sets. Mold and mildew are also caused by wet weather conditions and moisture. Mildew and molds won’t cause extreme damage to wooden furniture but can have an unattractive effect on the furniture’s appearance.

These are just a few of the ways wood can be damaged. Natural elements such as sunlight, rain, snow, and more can easily cause damage to your outdoor furniture. It’s best to keep wood dry and out of wet climates to prevent rotting, mold, and mildew. If you live in a particularly sunny climate, you should keep your wooden furniture sets covered during the summer to avoid UV damage.

It’s best to regularly check up on your wooden furniture sets to see if they need maintenance. Regular cleaning, washing, and refinishing can prolong the life of your best pieces.

Steps For Refinishing Outdoor Wooden Furniture

Refinishing outdoor wooden furniture is a straightforward process. This process can liven up old furniture sets and transform your backyard. The steps are as follows: pick a stain color, sand the wood, clean the wood, stain the wood, and let the wood dry.

Step 0: Pick Stain Color

The first step is going to be picking a stain color. If your wood is significantly damaged, it may be best to select the stain color after sanding. This is so you have a better idea of your wood’s natural hues.

The stain color you choose is going to come down to preferences and needs. You can find oils and varnishes varying in finish, everything from dark browns to light ambers.

Step 1: Set Up Your Area

After you’ve picked out your stain color, you’ll want to set up your work area. This can include laying down a drop cloth (on Amazon) or preparing other safety equipment. It’s best to wear a pair of gloves, a dust mask, and goggles when refinishing outdoor furniture. Some materials are toxic and hazardous, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Step 2: The First Cleaning

The second step before you begin applying oil is to clean your outdoor furniture. To do so, wipe off any debris or dirt with a washcloth soaked in warm water. Wipe the furniture clean in the same direction as the wood grain, applying force as required.

Step 3: Sand Outdoor Furniture

As mentioned earlier, outdoor furniture can be damaged by the sun, which can result in a gray-tinted exterior. To remove this gray layer, you’ll need to sand it off.

Go over your piece of furniture with 80-grit sandpaper to start. Afterward, you can use 120-grit sandpaper to get out any more harsh stains or rough spots. Using anything above 120-grit sandpaper may prevent some finishes from fully penetrating, so sand with caution.

Step 4: Clean and Tack

After you’ve sanded your outdoor furniture, you’ll want to clean it once more. Wipe off any dust from the sander, including any dust on your drop cloth. You may also want to use a Tack Cloth (on Amazon) and wipe down your wood with mineral spirits. This will ensure there is no dust or debris left before you begin the staining process.

Step 5: Stain Your Wood

Now that your wooden furniture is prepared, it’s time to begin applying the stain. Start by shaking your can of finish to mix around any pigments or ingredients. After that, you can start applying the finish to your furniture using a cloth or brush. Let the stain sit for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer’s guidelines before wiping off any excess.

Before applying any stains or finishes, be sure to go over the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully. Different products have different protocols, so it’s best to read these thoroughly before beginning.

Step 6: Apply Finish (Optional)

Applying a finish is an optional step after you stain your wood. Finishers will add another layer of protection and safety. The application method is similar to staining, use a washcloth and apply. Be sure to get into all the piece’s nooks and crannies while avoiding dips and runs. You may need to apply multiple coats. As always, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before use.

Step 7: Let Furniture Dry

After you’ve applied your finish, it’s time to let the furniture dry. Different finishes are going to have various drying times. However, a good rule of thumb is to wait a full day before using the furniture. After the first 24 hours, it’s better to be a little gentle with your furniture for up to three days to allow time for complete drying.

These are the basic steps for refinishing outdoor furniture. Each project and piece of furniture will be different. You may need additional tools and finishes depending on your project. For the best results, be sure to follow all product guidelines and instructions.

How Do You Strip Outdoor Wood Furniture?

Stripping outdoor wooden furniture can be done in as little as thirty minutes. There are a few steps to follow, but the process can be incredibly simple and straightforward. Here’s what you’ll need:

To begin, be sure you’re doing it on a dry day. Wet conditions can damage your wood or lengthen the process. First, you’ll want to brush off any debris or dirt. This can be done with a wood brush or a cloth.

Second, you’ll want to apply your wood stripper. You can do this using a regular paintbrush. Follow your brand’s guidelines and instructions for the best results. Allow the wood stripper to sit for as long as the manufacturer suggests.

Afterward, you can begin to scrape off the wood stripper with something sharp. If it comes off easily, you’ll know you’ve waited an adequate amount of time. After, begin to scrub your piece of furniture in both directions to loosen the stripper.

From there, you’ll want to keep adding water, scrubbing, and scraping. Use a wood scraper or something sharp for hard-to-reach places.

Then, you’ll want to wash and rinse off any residual stripper or debris. Finally, after you allow your furniture to dry, it will be ready for the next step.

How to Restore Old Wood

Working people painted chair legs to decorate it beautifully

Aged, damaged, and weathered woods may need to be completely restored to bring back their bright appearance. This process is a bit more involved than stripping and refinishing, but the result can be incredibly rewarding. Each project will differ, but here’s a quick list of what you may need before starting:

  • Gloves
  • Dust Mask
  • Goggles
  • Wood Restorer
  • Wood Brightener
  • Stiff Bristled Scrub brush
  • Bucket
  • Garden Hose
  • Pump Sprayer

To begin, you’ll need to wet your project: Wetting your project helps wood restorers spread more evenly across your surface. To do so, spray your project down with a hose.

Next, you should apply a wood restorer with a pump sprayer, roller, or brush: Different projects will need various tools, but for larger projects, a pump sprayer works best. You may want to keep a few smaller rollers or brushes on hand for any hard-to-reach areas.

Let your wood restorer stand for a few minutes. For the best results, follow all manufacturer guidelines and instructions: Your wood might seem a bit dark during this step, but that’s completely normal. We will remove this dark hue later with a brightener.

After you let the wood restorer sit, scrub down your project with a stiff-bristled brush: Be sure to follow the grain of your piece to reduce damage and scratches. You may also want to use a hand brush for hard-to-reach areas.

Now, you can wash off your project with a garden hose or pressure washer. 

Finally, you’ll want to apply a wood brightener: This will neutralize the wood restorer, remove black marks, and revitalize the wood. Afterward, be sure to clean up your tools and area for proper maintenance.

Now, you can let your project dry for a few days. Afterward, your project will be ready for light sanding and stain.

This is just one way you can restore weathered and damaged wood. Each project is going to need different tools and materials, so your situation may vary. Before any project, use the best safety guidelines. Be sure to use gloves, goggles, and dust masks to avoid any irritation or accidents. For the best results, be sure to read all of your products instructions and guidelines before starting anything!

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