How to treat outdoor wood furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Exposing wood furniture to the potential pests or elements of nature conjurs thoughts of rotting wood, mould and mildew. This does not neccessarily have to be the case. If wood is properly treated and cared for, it can withstand exposure to rain, sleet, snow and sunlight.

Clean the furniture by dusting with a feather duster. Take care to get into cracks and crevices with the feather duster. If you see heavy stains or grease, wipe only that section with mild detergent and a damp rag. Let the piece dry completely before proceeding.

Lay a plastic dust sheet in a well-ventilated area. Place the furniture on top of the dust sheet. Pour the water repellent solution into a used can. Apply the water repellent to the piece of wood furniture thoroughly with short overlapping strokes of the brush. Saturate each section as you go, allowing it to penetrate the wood grains deeply. Let the water repellent dry for around two to four hours, and then add a second coat of the sealant and allow to dry completely.

Cover the piece with an oil-based wood stain or exterior oil-based paint using a paintbrush or paint roller. Do this outdoors when the temperature is at least 10C. Do not apply when it is raining, foggy or damp. Smooth out any bubbles in the finish as you go. Apply the first coat of stain or paint and allow to dry overnight. Add a second coat of paint to the first and let dry overnight again.

Pour a little polyurethane into a clean can. Use a wide paintbrush that is recommended for varnish or polyurethane. Dip the brush into the polyurethane and run lightly over the edge to remove any excess product. Apply the polyurethane to the furniture in thin, even strokes, taking care not to streak the furniture. Leave in an area that has good air circulation and allow to dry for around 12 hours. Apply a second coat of polyurethane to the furniture and allow to dry.

Check any hinges or screws on the furniture to see if they are rusted. If so, replace with aluminium pieces that are rustproof. Spray metal components with a little WD-40 to keep them well-lubricated. Check them at least two or three times a year and spray with WD-40.

Protect your furniture by covering with vinyl furniture covers at night. During the winter, you may want to bring the wooden pieces indoors for storage. If this is not possible, cover them during the winter season with the vinyl covers.


Teak is an especially good wood for outdoor furniture because it is extremely decay-resistant.

Things You'll Need

  • Feather duster
  • Dust sheet
  • Water repellent
  • 2 Empty cans
  • Paintbrushes
  • Oil-based wood stain or paint
  • Polyurethane
  • WD-40
  • Vinyl furniture covers
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About the Author

Misty Amber Brighton has been writing for over 10 years. Her writing has appeared on various websites. She is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces and attends South University.