Your Wooden Garden Furniture Can Outlive You – Here’s How…

As long as you buy good quality pieces in the first place and treat them with plenty of TLC, wooden garden furniture can last a lifetime. Get adequately obsessive about wood maintenance and it might even outlast you. After all, Henry the Eighth’s splendid warship, The Mary Rose, was made from wood and she lasted for hundreds of years despite languishing at the bottom of the sea. Not that you’re likely to need to protect your garden chairs and tables against sea water, but you get my drift.

Here’s a look at some of the oldest wooden objects on the planet, and some handy advice about how to make your garden furniture last and last, while you fray at the edges, sag, wrinkle and fall into terminal decline. You might not last another hundred years, but your garden table might if you treat it right.

Wooden garden furniture maintenance –
A bit of background about wood

5,000+ year old trees

In 2013, researchers discovered a 5,062 year old tree from the family P. longaeva, in the Californian White Mountains range. It usurped the remarkable Methuselah, the previous record holder, which was an eye-watering 4,845 years old. In Iran, the Zoroastrian Sarv tree is an estimated 4,000 or more years old, a Mediterranean cypress that might just qualify as Asia’s oldest living being. And in Britain itself it isn’t that rare to find 1000 year old yew trees, often thriving in ancient church graveyards. Bearing all that in mind, it’s no surprise that when it’s looked after and nurtured properly, exterior wood furniture can last a very long time indeed. 

1,000 year old wood furniture

Then there’s the Antiques Roadshow, where you occasionally see ancient furniture made of dark oak, sometimes dating right back to the 14th century. Take into account that it was made from a very old tree and the wood you’re looking at could easily be a thousand or more years old. Just imagine what stories that furniture could tell, and what it has ‘lived through’.

70 year old garden sheds and 90 year old garden swings

Passmores have been building garden sheds for more than a century. To mark their 100th anniversary they decided to find the oldest Passmore shed still in use. They found it in Chatham, where it had provided gardening pleasure since 1939 and was still going strong. And, last but not least, in summer 2013 the Daily Mail reported on Britain’s oldest garden swing, still in full working order in a Kettering garden after 90 years, complete with the original wooden seat. If your wood garden furniture lasts that long you’ll be onto a winner.

How to keep your wood garden furniture in tip top condition

Now for the sensible bit. How, exactly, do you maintain garden furniture to extend its life as long as possible, save cash, prevent waste and create a small piece of family history?

A large part of it is down to regularity. The longer you leave it between cleaning and maintenance sessions, the worse the everyday wear and tear will be. If you get to grips with it and diary a maintenance routine at the end of every summer, before the bad weather sets in, and store your garden furniture indoors instead of leaving it out all year round, you are already onto a serious winner. On the other hand, many of us don’t have room to stash our wood furniture indoors for the winter, and a lot of it is designed to stay outdoors anyway.

3 steps to perfect wood garden furniture maintenance

  1. Get cleaning – You can tackle stains, grime, mould and so on with water and a kitchen sponge. Or, if you have a lot of furniture to clean, use a high pressure spray gadget. The water comes out at considerable pressure and simply blasts off the debris. Specialist spray washers for furniture come with a brush fitting, and you can hire a machine for around £20 a day. If the wood had black patches or spots, mould or algae before pressure washing, it’s probably a good idea to scrub the wood with Barrettine Mould and Mildew Cleaner before treating with a wood preservative and finally Teak Oil, especially for very dense exotic hard woods or a dedicated garden furniture oil.
  2. Dry out thoroughly – You should let the furniture dry out completely before taking the next step. It can take several days, so restrain yourself until it really is bone dry. 
  3. Hard or soft wood? Hardwood garden furniture, made from popular hard woods like Teak, are more expensive in the first place but naturally last longer, being more dense and more oily than soft woods. It might not need extra preservative to protect it from rot, but on the other hand using a high grade Teak Oil or Natural Oil Woodstain will go a long way to keeping it looking gorgeous. Soft woods like Pine are much more vulnerable to rot, particularly at the ends of the wood where the grain faces outwards towards the ground or open air. You can protect exterior softwood furniture by standing the legs in a pot of wood preservative overnight.  Wood preservatives won’t penetrate as well in other areas, but to improve its appearance you can always use an oil-based wood stain to enrich the colour and improve the sheen. 

How to remove emulsion paint from wood?

The best ways are manual: scraping, sanding and using paint stripper. If the emulsion is old it may have soaked into the wood itself, and be very hard to remove 100%. You could always try putting on two coats of dark wood stain, sanding it lightly then adding another coat to hide the colour of the paint.

How to remove gloss paint from wood?

Scratch the area you intend to remove the gloss from to allow the paint stripper to penetrate deeper. Apply the paint stripper. When it has done its thing – which will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions – scrape off the resulting goo with a paint scraper. If there’s any paint left, repeat the process.

How to remove varnish from wood?

Varnish, lacquer, Shellac and other clear products protect wood furniture against scratches, scuffs and stains. Sanding is a good way to remove varnish from wood, as are chemical strippers. Heat guns are a bridge too far, usually unnecessarily harsh for varnish.

Recommended products for wooden garden furniture

barrettine-summertan-wood-preserver

We rate Barrettine Garden Furniture Oil pretty highly, as do our customers. We also love their Premier Wood Preservative, which is excellent stuff available in a multitude of gorgeous colours. And their high quality Teak Oil is wonderful, too. But we have a huge choice of products for every garden furniture project. Here’s a link to our full range of Garden Furniture products.

Any questions?

As always, if you have any questions regarding finishing garden furniture, just give our resident experts a call – they really know their stuff and are always happy to offer help and advice.

46 Responses to “Your Wooden Garden Furniture Can Outlive You – Here’s How…”

  1. brian robinson Says:

    will the wood preserver compromise the glue in the joints of the garden bench seat i have made

  2. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Brian,

    The Preservative should not effect the Glue that you have used on your bench but I would always stress the need to do a small test area first to be sure.

  3. Olivia Brown Says:

    Hi my husband has just ruined a beautiful light oak coloured garden bench with a dark oak stain. Is it possible to remove the stain? Thanks in anticipation. Olivia

  4. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Olivia,

    It would depend on the product that he used on the bench. Are you able to tell me a little more, brand name, water based or solvent or varnished or oiled. Then I can give you the best advice on how to remove and treat with a product that you like. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards Sam.

  5. Rowena Says:

    Hello,
    I have an antique oak settle we have inherited and would love to keep in the garden. Currently it is varnished, is it best to strip to varnish? And how do we best protect the joints?
    Thanks

  6. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Rowena,

    If you are looking to re treat the Settle then the best option would be to strip off the current varnish. Paint Panther Paint and Varnish Remover is a good stripper, but always try a test area first.

    You can then treat with a Preservative and then an top coat of oil, which is better for exterior woods as it soaks into the surface and will not peel and flake over time. If you want to add a little colour to the wood, then you could have a look at the Osmo Natural Oil Woodstain. This will colour and protect in one and oils with pigment tend to have more UV protection than clear treatments.

    If you wanted to go with a clear then you could have a look at the Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra Do let me know if you would like any further advice.

    Kind Regard Sam.

  7. Anthony Jackson Says:

    Hi I have just purchased 28 softwood railway sleepers and intend to set them into concrete in my garden. One side will be used to hold back an earth bank. I will use builders plastic for the mud side and gravel first with a drainage pipe before putting back the earth. What is the best treatment to give to the sleepers before putting them into the concrete/ground. The sleepers would have been pressure treated beforehand with GRN Treatment?

    Anthony

  8. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Anthony,

    My apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I would recommend looking at the Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative as a first treatment. This will protect from mould, mildew and rot. One coat is recommended but you can apply two or give a good soak before installation to give the best protection.

    And then a couple of coats of oil to make water repellent, Barrettine Decking Oil would be a good option. Have a look at these products and feel free to come back to me should you have any further questions.

    Kind regards Sam.

  9. Andrew Prue Says:

    Hi, I have a Roble wood patio set that I treated with Roble wax but it is now peeling so I intend to remove it and treat the furniture with a preservative. What would you recommend?

  10. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Andrew,

    Once back to bare wood I would recommend a treatment with Cuprinol Wood Preserver as it comes in a smaller size than many of the others and so if you are just treating furniture it is ideal. Once that is dry, I would recommend a Teak Oil also from Cuprinol to give a weather proof finish to the wood. Have a look at the overviews for these products and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get back in touch.

    All the Best Sam.

  11. Patrick Says:

    Hi, I have an indoor pine table which I want to make outdoor. Is it as simple as teak oil all over it?
    Thanks
    Patrick

  12. nick Says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Softwood furniture will not last as long as hardwood, that’s why garden furniture is usually made from dense exotic hard woods such as teak. This said, you can use the table outside and take steps to maximise its usable life.

    Is the table currently unfinished (bare wood), or does it have a varnish, wax, oil, paint or other finish?

  13. Dawn Says:

    Hi,

    I bought some beautiful second hand oak garden furniture last year. I sanded it and treated it with many, many coats of teak oil. This year our furniture is so dry a couple of the chairs have cracked and broken.

    What is your advice as we want to keep this furniture for as long as possible and look after it but the teak oil didn’t seem to have much effect

  14. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Dawn,

    Teak Oil would usually be sufficient for garden furniture as long as there is nothing preventing it from absorbing into the wood. As an alternative you could have a look at the Barrettine Garden Furniture Oil. This will nourish the wood in the same way as the Teak Oil and regular top ups will help to keep the wood nourished. Drying out and cracking is often the result of heat and moisture leaving the wood.

    If you can apply regular top up coats to maintain and nourish the wood. Feel free to email me some photos to wood@finishes.direct so I can take a look for you. And if you have any other questions please do let me know.

    Kind regards Sam.

  15. Matthew Says:

    Hi
    I have just purchased a tanalised log lap shed and I’m looking to use barrettine wood preserver can you confirm if this would be a suitable protection on its own?

  16. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Matthew,

    Many of our customer do use this as a stand alone product and top up annually. However for the best protection I would recommend a top coat product such as a Decking Oil. This will give better water repellency to the wood and work in conjunction with Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative. Do let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind Regards Sam.

  17. Zahir N Says:

    Dear Sam

    First, thanks for this very informative website.

    I’m looking to purchase a bespoke wooden swing seat for the garden (which I’m intending to leave outside all year round).

    There are lots of varieties available (i.e. oak, western red cedar, pine and chestnut).

    In your opinion, out of those four types, which would be the most and least durable for the UK weather?

    Many thanks

    Zahir

  18. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Zahir,

    My apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Oak or Cedar would be most suited for exterior wood. The Oak for sure is a strong and durable wood that will last far longer than many other woods. Cedar is also a good option and is often chosen for cladding on the exterior of houses.

    You can protect these with a good quality Preservative, which will prevent mould, mildew and rot. And then a top coat of oil, such as Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra, which will help to prevent the silvering of the sun if maintain regularly and will give water repellency. Feel free to let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind Regards Sam.

  19. Blair mcfarlane Says:

    Hi.
    Have white growth appeared in a line along back of greenwood larch bench, dried for 9 days before 3 coats varnishing, is this mould or algae caused by moisture.?

  20. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Blair,

    If you able to send a photo to wood@finishes.direct, I would be happy to take a look for you.

    Kind regards Sam

  21. Linda Says:

    Following advice on your site I have just purchased Barrettine Wood Preserve and Decking Oil to use on new softwood treated railway sleepers. I’ll use the sleepers to make raised beds directly onto soil. I’ve been given conflicting advice regarding the use of visqueen damp proof membrane (DPM). “water/moisture will find a gap and get behind the DPM unable to escape. Therefore I should coat the inside of the sleepers with bitumen instead”. Do I need to use the DPM or bitumen coating? I plan to put two coats of wood preserve on sleepers on all sides and 2 coats of decking oil on outside only. Will that be enough or do I need to do more (bitumen coating) to protect the inside sitting next to the soil, as I’ll only have this one chance before the soil is in place?
    Thanks in advance.

  22. Sam Says:

    Hello Linda,

    It is a difficult one, as both have merit and problems. I would be inclined to recommend using a membrane to keep the soil off the wood as this will cause more damage long term. Bitumen is an effective water repellent paint you will need 3 coats for the interior of a raised bed and whilst it will prolong the protection of the wood, I would expect it to start to fail after just a few years when it has soil against it all the time. I personally would use the membrane but I can not make any guarantees that this will be the best long term solution.

    All the Best Samantha

  23. Andrew Hague Says:

    I read in an American mag about using epoxy followed by varnish. Does any one do that in the UK? I can only find epoxy for bar tops.

  24. Sam Says:

    Hello Andrew,

    It something that we do do over here, however Epoxy is not something I know a lot about. If you would like to send an email or give us a call we will happily look in to the a bit further for you.
    Kind Regards Samantha.

  25. Lulu Says:

    Hi Sam

    Our hardwood/chrome bistro set has been left outside for a few years uncovered and is in dire need of some TLC. I plan to scrub off the moss/lichen and sand the wood, but can you confirm the best way to then treat/preserve it? Do we need oil as well as some kind of resin/varnish? Does oil leave any residue that can transfer to clothes?

    Many thanks

    Lulu

  26. Sam Says:

    Hello Lulu,

    Thank you for your enquiry. Once you have the wood to a clean and bare state you can apply a good quality Preservative to protect against mould, mildew and rot. I have recommended the Osmo as unlike many others it comes in a smaller tin to suit your needs. Following that an oil based top coat is recommended for exterior wood to help to make the wood water repellent and give some UV protection.

    For hardwoods such as Teak, Iroko or Balau, I would recommend the Osmo Teak Oil. This is a thinner oil ideal for tropical hardwoods. A little goes a long way as this requires very thin application and just two coats.

    If you have a look at these products and feel free to come back to me if you have any further questions. Always try a test area first.

    Kind Regards Samantha.

  27. Lulu Says:

    Great – thanks, Samantha. I’ll try this! Lulu

  28. Will Says:

    Hi Sam

    I have a very solid oak garden table, about 15 years old and very silvered, which now has a small spot of rot. I was going to treat it with the Barrettine fungicide wash to stop any more rot, but what would you recommend for general reinvigoration and ongoing maintainance of our aged oak garden table?

    thanks, Will.

  29. Sam Says:

    Hello Will,
    Thank you for your enquiry. The Osmo Wood Reviver Gel will help to restore the wood back to its original colour, with a bit of elbow grease. And then you could look at applying the Barrettine Garden Furniture Oil to refresh and protect the table.

    If you want to have a look at the products and feel free to get back to me if you have any questions.

    Kind regards Samantha.

  30. John Says:

    I have a hardwood garden bench made about 30 years ago. For most of that time it has been sat in the garage. It is made from various hardwoods (I don’t know what sort) which have probably been reclaimed from building sites, so the wood may be much older. I have removed the stain and taken it back to bare wood. It is starting to go rotten in places so I have filled one area and replaced one of the slats. I’m not too worried about how it looks but I would like to prevent further rot and minimise future maintenance.

    Can you recommend a suitable product or combination of products?

  31. Sam Says:

    Hello John,

    Thank you for your enquiry, to prevent further mould, mildew and rot you need to apply a good quality preservative. This one is available in a clear or colour finish and contains wax to repel moisture also.

    It may be worth you using the Barrettine Mould and Mildew Cleaner first to ensure any remaining spores are washed away before you apply the preservative.

    Kind regards Samantha.

  32. James Says:

    Hi,
    We have a very large table, and blocks of wood seats x 8 that was made from a single giant redwood. It’s all a little grey now, and the rubber feet are pulling out where the underside of the seats are rotting slightly.

    I want to try and make it look as awesome as possible, have belt sander. I’m planning on sanding it all down, then I assume preservative and then some sort of treatment. I read another blog that recommended sikkens 077 – but that doesn’t appear to be available in the U.K. What would you suggest? I want to preserve but also bring back its natural colour.

  33. Sam Says:

    Hello James,

    The 077 that you are asking about may refer to the colour. In the Sikkens Cetol HLS Plus and the Sikkens Cetol Filter 7 Plus products, the 077 refers to the Pine colour.

    I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let me know.

    Kind regards Samantha.

  34. Anne Says:

    We have a larch garden bench. How can we keep it looking good?

  35. Sam Says:

    Hello Anne,

    Can you tell me if the bench has any finish on it currently? And if you are looking to keep it looking natural or would like to add some colour ?

    All the Best Samantha.

  36. David Cotterell Says:

    Just bought new, golden colour Indonesian Teak Bench Seatfor outdoor use. Want to retain colour, or at most, a little deeper, essentially protecting against rain and sun. A recent post you recommended Osmo Teak Oil as suitable for tropical Hardwoods being thinner and only needing two coats. Will this product be suitable and can you advise a tin size please. The slatted bench – Peanut Model – size is 1.6 mtrs wide, 83cms high and 56cms depth,

    Have also the same model bench now 3 years old. Treated each year with Cuprinol Teak Oil, but has considerably darkened to generally grey. Will any “ reviver “ such as the Wood Reviver Oil recently mentioned, be useful to minimise this or possibly restore at least some of the original colour.

    Any advice will be very appreciated, thanks.

    David

  37. Sam Says:

    Hello David,

    Teak Oil is ideal for your Bench, however whilst it gives great protection to the wood in the form of repelling moisture it does not offer UV protection and the natural silvering process will still occur. I would expect 2 litre of the Teak Oil to cover two coats for you on that size bench, but please bear in mind that coverage will vary depending on the type and condition of the wood.

    The Osmo Wood Reviver Gel is a good option for returning the wood to its original colour and with a bit of elbow grease is an effective product. Feel free to let me know if you have any further question or to let me know how you get on.

    Kind regards Samantha.

  38. Ben Says:

    Hi Sam,

    We gave a garden swing bench, am not sure what type of wood, but assume it’s some form of hardwood. After cleaning off the “green stuff”, it has faded in places. To try & restore it to its original appearance, is it best to find & treat it with a colour-matched preservative followed by oiling.

    Secondly, can you use decking staining on garden furniture?
    Your thoughts are much appreciated
    Thanks Ben

  39. Sam Says:

    Hello Ben,

    It would be fair to say that applying a colour can reduce the visibility of the different tones, the darker the colour the more it will disguise. However if the difference is quite vast then it is still likely to show despite the added colour. You can apply the colour either with coloured preservative or with coloured oil or both. And test areas will give you a the best idea of which colours will work best for you.

    You could have a look at the Osmo Wood Reviver Gel. A good scrub in the faded areas can bring the wood back to its original colour. And you are then more likely to get an even finish.

    I hope that helps and always try test areas first.

    All the Best Samantha.

  40. James Says:

    Hi,
    I posted above about a large giant redwood table.

    I didn’t want to colour the wood, so I’ve opted for Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra instead of the sikkens.
    Hopefully the right decision!

  41. Kenneth Says:

    Hello

    I purchased a bare hardwood wooden table from B & Q and it has been in my garden for 40 years without treatment and it is still perfect with no rot. I use it as a workbench, the birds do their business on it and we use it for BBQs. I don’t know what the wood is but it has outlasted all the other expensive garden furniture, which I have treated but has rotted away.

    I used varnish on the last garden bench I purchased and that is doing quite nicely and I leave it out in all weathers. So that is what I would recommend for garden furniture unless you can get the same wood as my garden table from B &Q, which doesn’t need any treatment. I wonder if it could be oak…

  42. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Hello Kenneth,

    Thank you for getting in touch with your experience of garden furniture. It could well be an Oak table as good quality Oak can last a long time, 40 years with no problems is quite amazing and something you don’t hear very often these days.

    Here at Wood Finishes Direct we more often recommend exterior oils, as they are easy to maintain and give a great water repellent, natural looking finish to the wood. Varnish can be a long lasting alternative and is more durable than an oil but gives a quite different look and finish.

    This is one of the reason test area are always recommended, so that you can see the difference between product and choose one that best suits your needs.

    Thanks for taking the time to write to us.

    All the Best Samantha.

  43. Angela Says:

    Hi
    We have a timber swing seat that hadn’t been treated for a couple of seasons. My hubbie picked up some Cuprinol Ducks Back treatment from B and Q that seemed to match the shade previous owners had used. The frame (including lattice side panels) was a bit dirty and some parts had green algae so I gave the whole thing a scrub down with water, left a while to dry, and then started painting. About halfway through I read the instructions (!!). Apparently this is a water resistant coating and instructions say to wash down with a fungicidal treatment first. It doesn’t appear that the Ducks Back has any preservative in it.
    So the question is- would it be so very bad if I just carried without any other treatment, or am I going to be in big trouble as I could be sealing in rot under the wax-containing treatment? Would I be best just getting a new treatment that includes preservative (and risk it having slightly different appearance) or do I need to pre-treat. There are so many products out there, it’s hard to know how critical the differences are between them.
    Thanks (and sorry for the long post!)

  44. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Hello Angela,

    Cuprinol 5 Year Ducksback can be used over previously treated wood and when this is the case you may not be able to apply a preservative first anyway. Preservatives soak into the surface of the wood and any previous treatment may prevent this. Test areas are strongly recommended when using a new product over an old one to check for compatibility issues. If there are no compatibility issues you could just continue with the Ducksback now as you have started.

    If there is anything else that I can help with please do let me know.

    All the Best Samantha.

  45. Miguel Says:

    Hi,

    I’ve just bought a pine set furniture and I am wondering if I should apply a preservative + oil right now or should I wait until the end of the summer.

    Thank you so much.

    Miguel

  46. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Good Afternoon Miguel,

    Its worth checking any details or paper work with the furniture to see if there is anything currently on them? Garden Furniture can often have an oil already applied to it.

    If you do have new and untreated wood then my first recommendation will be for the Barrettine Premier Universal prevents wood boring insects, wood rotting fungi and blue stain. Followed by the Barrettine Garden Furniture Oil two thin coats will give the furniture a resistant to weathering and the effects of rain and moisture and will help to prevent cracking, warping and splitting of the timber.

    If you take a look at those products and should you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

    All the Best Samantha.

Leave a Reply

*

code