How to Restore a Wood and Cast Iron Garden Bench
Make an Old Garden Bench Look Beautiful Again
If you have a garden bench or other outdoor furniture that needs a new look, you can make the repairs yourself and save money. The great thing about outdoor furniture is that we expect it to get a little weathered and worn. It does not have to look perfectly new and pristine. That said, years of exposure and use will take their toll and you also don't want furniture that is splintering, sagging, or ready to break.
Of course, the easiest way to maintain outdoor furniture is to store it during the winter months so it won't be exposed to the harsh winter weather. If you don't have a place to store it, you can use covers made especially for outdoor use.
But what do you do if you have a garden bench that's too far gone? Below, you'll find out how to restore it—or a table, or chair—yourself.
About the Bench We Restored
This bench was purchased used, a treasure we found at a local peddlers mall. It was made out of good materials (teak or cedar, with heavy cast iron ends) and was still strong, although it was a bit wobbly and needed new hardware. The cast iron was rusty and the wooden slats needed to be sanded to get years of built-up grime and wear removed. But it had potential. It was the end of the season and the price was right, so it found a new home. We knew it could be beautiful again.
It took some work, but it was worth it. Today, the bench is proudly displayed on our front lawn.
What You'll Need:
- Basic tools to remove the hardware: a screwdriver, wrench, and pliers. You may need some WD-40 if there's a lot of rust.
- Something to sand the wood with. An electric belt sander, if you have one, sandpaper if you don't. Use 120 or 150 grit at first, then finish with 220.
- Something to remove the dust. Microfiber rags work best.
- Clear coat. Clear, weatherproof spar urethane (outdoor polyurethane).
- Something to remove paint and rust. A wire bristle brush or an electric 4 1/2 inch angle grinder both work.
- Eye protection. (Especially if you use the grinder.)
- Spray paint that is rust-resistant and made for metal, in the color of your choice.
How to Restore a Wood and Metal Garden Bench
Here are some details for a restoration like this:
- Disassemble the entire garden bench before you do anything else. This will make the project much easier to complete.
- Remove all the old hardware—screws, washers, nuts, etc. Plan on replacing it, since it may be rusty and new hardware is better here. You may need a little squirt of WD-40 to get things loose.
- After the bench is taken apart, sort and place the wooden slats on a table. Next, you'll sand them with an electric belt sander, if you have one (sandpaper if you don't—this is a lot of wood to sand by hand, but it could be done). Sanding with a belt sander takes about 5 minutes per board.
- Dust off all loose particles thoroughly.
- Apply a coat of clear weatherproof spar urethane (outdoor poly) to all sides and ends of the wooden slats.
- While the clear coat is drying, the cast iron pieces will need to have the rust and any chopped paint removed with a wire bristle brush or an electric 4 1/2 inch angle grinder. Carefully remove all rust and old paint from the cast iron ends. (Wear protective safety glasses, sparks will fly).
- Dust and remove all loose particles from the iron when finished.
- If the cast iron was painted, choose a color and spray paint the ends with a rust-resistant paint.
- Allow the wooden slats and the cast irons ends to dry overnight. When all of the parts to the bench are completely dry, put the bench back together and enjoy it in your favorite shady area of your yard.
You have just created a family heirloom for the next generation. The bench should be stored during winter months to prolong its new look.
How much did it cost to refurbish the bench?
If you bought it new, a garden bench like this one would cost $300 to $400. Our total cost was less than $70. Plus we now have a great story about the bench, so that makes it priceless.
How to Maintain Wooden Garden Furniture
- Re-apply a new coat of spar urethane every few years to keep the wood protected.
- To avoid rust on the feet, place the bench on stepping stones or another solid surface instead of grass.
- Prevent grass being thrown on the bench from mowing and leaves falling and accumulating on the slats to help keep moisture, grime, and buildup from deteriorating the legs and seat.
With proper maintenance, your bench should last for many years.