In time, oak park benches become weathered and need a new coat of finish to protect them from the elements and keep them looking good. It takes a little bit of time, some effort and a few supplies to refinish a bench, but with the proper instructions almost anyone can do it without too much difficulty.
Remove any old finish by applying a chemical paint stripper. Wear protective gloves and eyewear when using this product as it contains harsh chemicals. Use the paint stripper in a well-ventilated area to avoid unhealthy fumes. Follow the directions on the paint stripper. Local hardware stores sell paint strippers as do online stores. In general, paint stripper instructions say to apply a layer of paint stripper to the wood, wait a minute for the paint stripper to break down the old finish, then scrape it off using a putty knife or paint-scraping tool.
Sand any rough spots on the bench. Both Lowes.com and Utah State University recommend sanding furniture before applying a new layer of finish. Start with a 120 grit sandpaper to remove any remaining finish and smooth major rough spots. Sand the entire bench with 220 grit sandpaper to make the surface smooth and prepare it for an even coat of new finish.
Consider using a wood sealant to make the bench absorb the finish evenly. Sealing furniture wood is optional, and its main purpose is to prevent wood from allowing the finish to soak in deeply, according to the housing experts at Utah State University. A sealant will prevent extra porous places on the bench, like the cut ends of the wooden planks, from soaking up more finish than the rest of the bench and taking on a darker colour. To apply a sealant, simply paint a thin layer onto the bench with a paintbrush.
Consider using a wood filler, which gives the wood a very smooth and flat appearance. If you don't use one, the natural wood grain will show through the finish. Utah State University experts explain that oak is an open-grained wood, so it may have tiny cracks that collect dust if filler is not used. However, some people prefer oak's grainy look to a smoother surface that hides the natural texture of the wood. To apply a filler, paint a layer of filler onto the bench with a paintbrush.
Consider using a layer of stain before finishing the bench. Stain alters the colour of the wood, but is not necessary. According to Lowes.com, the three main types of stain are water-based stain, oil-based stain and gel stain. Water-based stains are the most environmentally friendly, but they soak into the wood more than oil-based stains, which can raise the grain of the wood. Oil- and gel-based stains will not raise the wood grain, but are more permanent and more toxic than water-based stains. To apply a stain, paint a layer of it on the bench with a paintbrush. An extra coat or two will darken the stain's colour effects on the wood.
Finish the bench. Polyurethane is an extremely durable type of finish, according to Lowes.com. Since it is resistant to water, it makes a good choice for an outdoor oak park bench. Follow the instructions on the stain. In general, apply a polyurethane stain by painting on a thin coat, allowing the product to completely dry, then sanding the bench with 220 grit sandpaper. Repeat this process until the bench has a few layers of stain. Polyurethane stain is more durable than traditional varnishes, Utah State University experts say.
Housing experts at Utah State University note that polyurethane stains do not create the most natural-looking finish. If a more natural look is what you want, use an oil finish, which leaves the wood looking more bare. Oil finishes work best without sealer or filler underneath, and they need reapplication more often than polyurethane finishes.