The Easy Way To Refinish Wooden Patio Furniture

As the season winds to a close, you may notice the patio furniture you've been sitting in and lounging on all summer is starting to look a little worse for wear. While well worn furniture is a sign that it's also well-loved, caring for it ensures you'll get to keep enjoying it for years to come.

Of all the materials used to craft the most popular types of patio furniture, wood furniture is usually the first to show signs of damage from the environment, and regular use. The good news is, you can easily get it looking like (or as close to) new in a few easy steps.

Strip The Finish

The first step to refreshing your patio furniture is to strip the old finish. Working in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, set up your the piece you will be refinishing on a tarp or drop cloth or other cover to protect your work surface (i.e. garage floor, etc) from drips, stains, and damage. Secure your cover in place with tape.

Remove any loose paint or finish by going over the entire piece with a paint scraper or by sanding. Take care not to damage the wood by sanding too deeply. Consider switching to a fine-grit sandpaper or sponge to sand around decorative and curved details.

If you're comfortable with chemicals, you can use a chemical stripping agent. Follow the manufacturers instructions of use, but in general, you should apply the remover with a medium-sized plaint brush over the entire surface. Let the solution soak for 20 to 30 minutes, but don't allow it to dry.

Remove the old finish with a plastic scraper or round-edged putty knife. The material may be soft, so take care not to cause any damage with the scraper. Once the finish is removed, allow the piece to dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Safety Tip: Always don protective gear – rubber gloves and goggles – and old clothes when working with strong chemicals, and never strip furniture near open flames to avoid the risk of the chemicals catching fire.

Sand It Smooth

Sand the entire surface with a medium or low-grit sandpaper to clear off any finish that remains and smooth out any imperfections in the wood. Go over again with a medium-grit sandpaper, being sure to sand along the wood grain.

Paint Or Stain

The final touch on a newly restored piece is to seal it with either a coat of specialized paint or stain. Using a paintbrush, apply a coat of primer and allow to dry for up to two hours, or as long as recommended by the manufacturer's instructions. Feel the surface for any rough areas and smooth out with sandpaper if necessary. Apply the second coat and allow to dry for at least 12 to 24 hours.

Follow up with a coat of latex paint. Using a good quality paintbrush, apply the paint in even strokes in the direction of the wood grain. If using spray paint, take your time and hold the can about 12 inches from the surface. Allow to dry but apply the second coat within an hour or after 24 hours of the first, and let this second coat dry over night.

If you want to stain the furniture, start by applying a thin, even coat of wood stain with a cloth or medium-sized paint brush and allow it to penetrate the wood. Coat once for a light stain, or apply additional coats for a darker color. Lightly sand between coats with a fine-grit sandpaper to ensure the surface is smooth. Wipe off excess stain with a clean cloth and allow to dry completely.

Apply a sealer using a cloth in smooth, even strokes along the direction of the grain. Start in a corner and work your way out in a consistent pattern to avoid bald spots. Let the sealer dry completely. Apply more coats if necessary, lightly sanding the surface in between. Use a clean cloth to wide down and remove residue and debris from sanding before applying the next coat, and let dry completely.

A Note On Stains: Though both are good for patio furniture, oil-based stains penetrate into the wood without raising the grain, but have a strong smell, while water-based stains are more environmentally friendly, and easier to clean up. Do not use deck stain on furniture.