How to Restore a Wood and Cast Iron Garden Bench

Updated on April 15, 2020
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Freda Eckel enjoys writing about all types of home and garden related topics, especially DIY projects that save homeowners money.

The "after" photo of the garden bench I restored myself.
The "after" photo of the garden bench I restored myself. | Source

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.

Notice the difference in the color and look of the wood before and after it was sanded.
Notice the difference in the color and look of the wood before and after it was sanded. | Source

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:

  1. Disassemble the entire garden bench before you do anything else. This will make the project much easier to complete.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Dust off all loose particles thoroughly.
  5. Apply a coat of clear weatherproof spar urethane (outdoor poly) to all sides and ends of the wooden slats.
  6. 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).
  7. Dust and remove all loose particles from the iron when finished.
  8. If the cast iron was painted, choose a color and spray paint the ends with a rust-resistant paint.
  9. 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.

Comments

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    • profile image

      mike.dimichele@gmail.com 

      10 months ago

      I have a cast iron bench seat. There is a number stamped on the right and left leg. What is this number?

    • profile image

      Art 

      2 years ago

      Just finishing the exact same bench. Consult with your local lumber yard as to the proper wood and what they have available. Teak, mahogany, redwood, and ipe are ideal due to their weather resistance and working qualities, but can be very expensive. White oak, cedar, cypress, and others are fine but will not last as long.

      Slat dimensions I used where:

      9 pieces at 7/8" x 2" x 48"

      3 pieces at 7/8" x 1 1/4" x 48"

      note: original boards where 3/4" thick, but the slats where being cut from 1" stock so I opted for thicker slats.

      Replaced all screws with stainless steel domed and had the lumber yard chamfer the holes they drilled and routered the top face of the boards.

      Used Watco teak oil for the finish.

    • profile image

      gerald beckman 

      2 years ago

      where can I find the proper wood for this bench? Is it 1x3? That appears to be the width allow in the cast iron and how thick should it be?

    • profile image

      Cheves 

      2 years ago

      I have the same bench, I'm doing almost the same but I'm sandblasting the sides, powder coating them and replacing and staining the wood.

      As far as I been reading the bench is french and from the late 1800 early 1900.

    • profile image

      Carly 

      3 years ago

      I have this exact bench. I did an antique blue powder coat on it but have to replace all the wood and hardware. Curious if you know details on the manufacturer/date.

    • profile image

      Sharron 

      3 years ago

      Where can I get new slats.? The wood is beyond repair.

    • profile image

      Nancy 

      3 years ago

      We're looking to restore a bench identical to this one in the picture this summer but currently looking for "boots" for the feet in the mean time as it has rusted our patio. Any suggestions as to where to find them or do they make them?

      We welcome any advice as it was passed down from the parents

    • profile image

      R W Merritt 

      3 years ago

      Are these bench ends still available for purchase?

    • profile image

      Don 

      3 years ago

      I am in the process of restoring a bench similar to the one you show. The wood was very worn so I purchased 4'-3"x1" quality oak boards from Menard's (our local lumberyard - similar to Home Depot or Lowe's.) The project is coming along great! I will also be cleaning the cast iron ends and repainting them. FUN!!!

    • profile image

      Lisa Davies 

      3 years ago

      I wonder if wooden bed slats would work as replacements, my daughter's just got new beds for her kids. She gave one of the beds away, the other wasn't in such good condition, So it's going, inc. slats. They're from a single bed, but Id like a shorter bench, maybe have it indoors. I dont have the metal ends of the bench yet!, the people up the road have a pair in their garden,( lol, Im nosey ) the ends only, no bench, just discarded Im gonna offer them something, If you dont ask...!

    • profile image

      Daryl W. 

      4 years ago

      What kind of wood is preferred - oak, cedar, etc.

    • profile image

      Todd 

      4 years ago

      When using an angle grinder to remove rust from cast iron what type of disc should I use? I've got two different style wire brush heads standard and a cone.

    • profile image

      Steve 

      4 years ago

      Hi, I'm in the process of restoring my neighbors cast iron/wooden slat bench. This is my 3rd restoration. Most bench slats are 48"x 2 1/2"x 3/4". I cut my own using various woods, and replacing the bolts, nuts & washers. I've used a reciprocating saw to cut hard rusted bolts. Used different stains for looks and protected with varathanes.

      Some cast irons were sandblasted and repainted, this particular set, the owners wished to keep the original finish, but needed to rid some of the rust. Long story-short, I used a green scouring pad, and used a medium gloss cleaner & beautifier, brought the luster back. and protect with a clear spay.

    • profile image

      Amy 

      4 years ago

      Great job! I have a similar bench and have to restore it every few years because it sits in full sun. Has anyone seen slats made from the new engineered wood they use to make decks and fences? It's supposed to last forever. The wide pieces are kind of expensive, but you wouldn't need much.

    • profile image

      TJ 

      4 years ago

      Does anyone know where to get the little support braces? I have two benches and a table, but 1 bench and the table are missing their supports, making them very shaky.

    • profile image

      Major N Crispin 

      4 years ago

      I have the exact same metal end pieces that you show. How wide are the 2 top of the bench wood slats? They look like they are narrower than the other slats because the holes in the metal ends are closer together at the top of the bench than in the rest of the bench. Please email me your answer. Thank you in advance for your help. Major N Crispin

    • profile image

      Libby 

      4 years ago

      I too had rusted bolts. I tried some of that nasty spray that loosens them, and a few came off. The top slats I could use a hack saw to saw a notch in the middle and then a hammer to break them and remove the halves out the ends. The bottom slats were bolted onto the frame, so if the spray rust remover didn't work, a bolt cutter did the trick. Mostly it was brute force that took out all my old rotten wood and rusty bolts.

    • profile image

      syd 

      4 years ago

      Hi Tim,

      I find a hack saw if really bad will do the job. Or just take your time with spanners!

    • profile image

      Tim Graham 

      4 years ago

      Hello,

      My slats are really rusted on with the bolts. Do you have a trick for removing the rusted bolts?

      thanks.

    • profile image

      Carol 

      5 years ago

      Hi Carol

      I have a bench made of cast iron and oak by Parkland Heritage - unlike the photo mine has cast iron pieces in the back. But I'll give you the dimensions of mine in case it's close to yours.

      The wood slats for the seat are 48" (4 feet) long x 2½" wide x ¾" thick, with a support strap measuring 13/16 wide x 1/16 thick running under the seat. I have had this bench apart several times to refinish and it needs that strap for support.

      I too was on here looking for a source to purchase new wood replacement slats. I did find a website that comes up in my search for the Parkland heritage benches and they had this info:

      http://www.dcamerica.net/faq.htm

      Q:How to order replacement parts for my bench?

      Call Customer Service at 1-800-238-5296. Indicate to the representative you would like an order form for replacement part (s) for your bench. At your request, it will either be mailed or faxed to you.

      I haven't tried to call them yet so I don't know if they sell the wood pieces.

    • profile image

      Carol 

      5 years ago

      I also only have the end pieces, I would LOVE to re~do this bench but I need to find the original dimensions of the wood. If anyone knows where to purchase the replacement wood PLEASE post some info. Thanks In Advance!!

    • profile image

      Lauren 

      5 years ago

      Hi there. Was there an answer on replacement slats?? Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      Lisa pirtz 

      5 years ago

      I just came across the same exact garden bench and wanted some history on it. I would love any details you could share like age and its original color. Mine was painted white and wood is now sun bleached. I cannot believe I came across this !!! Thanks lisa

    • profile image

      Kelly 

      6 years ago

      Can you send me your dimensions as well? I have the ends but not wooden slats. Thank you,

    • profile image

      Charles 

      8 years ago

      Kathy,

      Thank you! I too need to purchase slats.

      I've looked at lumber stores and home depot etc and they have wood that can be used but it is not beveled and smooth...(which makes the sitting experience a wee bit more enjoyable I think)

    • profile image

      Kathy 

      8 years ago

      Is there a place that one can buy the replacement slats? I have an old bench with two broken slats, the two in the front. I'm not handy with saws and such so making the slats is not an option. I just need to replace the two slats to have a neat garden bench.

    • profile image

      Freda Eckel 

      8 years ago

      Hi Henry,

      Send me your email address and I can take a pic and send it to you. I will measure the wooden slats for you too.

      I can be contacted at my profile page, or firstimpressionsdecor@live.com - put garden bench hubpages in the subject line.

      Thanks Freda

    • profile image

      Henry 

      8 years ago

      I have the side pieces of a bench exactly like the one you restored but none of the original wood. Can you give me the dimensions of the wood on yours? I am also unsure of how the two brackets are attached. Do the bolts go through one of the middle slats or are they just screwed in from underneath ? A photo of the bottom would be helpful.

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      9 years ago

      Thank you so much! I have 3 benches that I want to restore before the heat of summer sets in! I'll probably only get to 1 by then but that 1 is nearly an exact copy of your example here. You have encouraged me to go forward with the project and given me some good tips. :)

    working

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