Wood Preserves and Caring for Outdoor Wooden Furniture

Updated on January 5, 2017
Scarborough Bench by Woodcraft UK
Scarborough Bench by Woodcraft UK | Source

The harmful effects of weathering on your wooden furniture

During Autumn and Winter months your wooden garden furniture and patio furniture can take a beating from the elements. Damp conditions during Autumn can soak the wooden grain deeply with moisture which then causes damage as it freezes during Winter.

Most material expands when warmed and contracts when cooled. Wood, however, expands when soaked in water because water molecules are engrained in the wood molecules. When heated, water molecules in the wood obtain additional energy and escapes from the wood molecular structure and thus, the wood contracts. Add to this the natural expansion and contraction associated with hot and cold conditions and it is easy to see why wood eventually warps and splits. Old, patchy varnish blisters and won't protect your wooden garden furniture and paint flakes and fades.

It's time to protect your wooden garden furniture.

Often the best approach to protecting your wooden garden furniture is to prevent moisture from getting into it's pores whilst allowing the grain of the wood to breathe. Paint and varnishes can be harsh to your wood's lifespan and while they will protect from the elements, they can often render the wooden furniture with a dead look and never to regain that vibrant, natural finish it once had. Wood stains, on the other hand, may not protect at all and do little more than tone your wooden finish.

Wood preservatives come in all sorts of options. From 5 litre tins of clear wood preserver to coloured end grain lacquers, pesticides, anti fungi and insect repellants, there are so many types of wood preservatives that it is often hard to work out which ones you need for your job. Remember to think of the finish you require and aim for a general purpose, all round, high performance moisture repellant that coats and treats the wood and is absorbed rather than smothering the wood.

How do wood preservatives work?

Wood preservative contains bio chemicals that remove fungi and insects that discolour, harm and degrade wood. Chemical wood preservatives are classified as pesticides, so their use is strictly regulated by environmental regulations and quite rightly so. They should be handled and disposed of with care, following the instructions on the label. Aerosols should be disposed of by taking them to your local waste recycling centre and also make sure any glass or plastic bottles re-enter the recycling chain.

Water repellents are penetrating wood finishes containing oils, waxes and lacquers designed to prevent water from sinking into outdoor wooden furniture. Bacteria and small organisms that discolour or destroy wooden garden furniture depend upon water to survive, and a water-repellent treatment makes more difficult for them to survive, as long as it is continually applied to untreated wood annually. Water repellents also stabilize wooden garden furniture, reducing its tendency to split and warp.

Wood preservatives are primarily used for decking, outdoor benches, wooden garden tables, pergolas and gazebos that won't normally be painted. Applying an anti fungal wood preservative to all sides of a piece of outdoor wooden furniture before painting gives the best protection against decay and destruction and doesn't need to be reapplied until the wooden furniture needs a new coat of paint.

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What types of garden furniture should I treat?

Varieties of other outdoor wooden furniture include teak, oak, cedar, pine, and redwood. Wooden garden furniture made out of these woods must be treated with a preservative to prevent degrading of the wood, which can occur quickly if continually exposed to incumbent weather environments. Protecting this wood furniture with a water resistant stain, wood protective oil, and / or polyurethane is also recommended, however the manufacturers instructions must be strictly adhered to as misuse of these wooden care products can result in damage to your wooden garden furniture. Your local home and garden or DIY store will have many options from which to choose from, and they should be able to help you in selecting the most appropriate product to be reapplied regularly (check manufacturer's instructions for details).

All wooden garden furniture is susceptible to decay and rot if left in humid, damp, and shady areas for a long time. Wooden furniture that becomes saturated with rainwater is more likely to rot and warp, so using using waterproof protective covers when your furniture is not in use is recommended to keep your outdoor wooden patio furniture in tip top condition. The bases and bottoms of furniture legs are definitely the most susceptible when it comes to rain water and standing water damage . If your wood furniture is kept on the grass, at the poolside, or on a surface that collects an amount of rain water, the legs can become easily saturated and damaged and break over time. Covering the bottoms of each furniture leg with rubberised material or small sections of fencing material will help protect your furniture from rotting.

Types of Garden Furniture include:

  • Outdoor Chairs
  • Wooden Gazebos
  • Wooden Signs
  • Hardwood and Softwood Benches
  • Wooden Pergolas
  • Wooden Plaques & Engraved furniture
  • Wooden Patio Tables
  • Cabins & Shelters
  • Notice Boards
  • Solid Wood Gates
  • Hardwood Planters
  • Finger Posts
  • Wooden Sun Loungers
  • Hardwood Bollards

Gentle care

Whatever your approach to your outdoor furniture, make sure you protect it from the elements so that you can enjoy it for years to come. The more effort you put into it, the longer you will have to enjoy it. As time goes by, you will see a natural colouring and ageing of the wood which can be quite beautiful and will show your guests that you care very much for your garden.

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