During spring and summer, many of us will want to spend more time outdoors. The recent pandemic has us all cooped in our homes, so home gardens are the only way to get some fresh air. If you’ve been neglecting your garden furniture like me, I bet that it needs a full makeover by now.
Preparing Your Wooden Furniture
Before you even consider changing the colors or renewing your outdoor furniture, you will need to sand and polish it. This is a way to remove all the unwanted old material, whether it is an old finish, rotted wood, or rust. It is also useful in that it will help the finishing layers adhere better to the surface.
First Step: Sanding
I bought a small random orbital sander from Bob Smith Tools to sand the old paint off my wooden furniture. The same tool was useful in getting rust off the metal surfaces too!
Here are a few tips:
- Keep the sander flat on any surface you are sanding, so you don’t accidentally oversand it. This is true for both wood and metal surfaces.
- Work slow and steady. Using the least amount of pressure you can manage, and a firm grip on the sander, move it slowly (3 inches a second. Yes, that slow) on the entire surface.
- Use a coarse grit abrasive disc for sanding away chipped paint and rust. I used a 120 grit abrasive disc. If you feel there is a lot of material that needs to be removed, start with a smaller grit (100) and you might sand it once more with a higher grit. For removal of old varnish, paint, or rust removal, don’t go above or below the 100-150 grit range.
- Especially on larger surfaces (such as the top of a wooden table), overlap your passes to make sure it turns out even.
- Sand the entire surface once for each grit size, to avoid oversanding. Remember that you can always sand a little bit more, but you can’t bring back the wood you’ve already sanded away.
Second Step: Polishing
When you’ve finished sanding using the coarse sandpaper, the surfaces may be even and smooth, but they won’t feel smooth. If you look closely, you’ll find there are swirling scratch marks on the wood or metal. To get rid of them, you’ll need to polish the wood, or rather, sand them for a finer finish. Use a higher grit size and follow the same instructions for coarse sanding. The grit range suitable for polishing or fine finishing wood or metals is around 180-220 grit. In these abrasive discs, the abrasive material is smaller and less abrasive, so it will remove a finer layer of material. Mark the surface with a lead pencil or chalk, and sand it away. This makes sure you aren’t removing more material than is necessary. Repeat with a higher grit if you think it is necessary, but this is an optional step. By the end, you should have flawlessly polished, smooth furniture that is ready for layers of paint or varnish to adhere to it.
Finish with Paint or Varnish
One of the major changes you can add to any garden is to give it a new coat of paint or a layer of varnish. This helps protect your furniture, in addition to giving it a new look. There are several similarities and differences between them, so choose what feels suitable for your needs. Keep in mind the aesthetic, durability, and level of protection you require.
Why Does Wood Furniture Need Finishing?
You may be satisfied with the smoothness of the wood after you’ve sanded and polished it. You may also be tempted to leave it as is, and skip applying a finish to it altogether. Especially for outdoor furniture, this is not an option. Wood needs to be prepared for outdoor use because there are many ways that it can be damaged if left out to the elements.
Moisture from the rain or even from the air causes wood to swell up, rot, or grow mold. Gradually, unfinished outdoor wooden furniture will weaken in this way. The sun’s heat and rays are also very damaging as they can cause wood to fade. Reversing faded wood is not possible, whereas molding or rotting wood may be sanded if the damage is not extensive. To avoid this entirely, you should regularly apply some kind of finish to your outdoor wooden furniture.
While green, grey, and beige have always been classic choices for garden furniture, feel free to experiment and allow the space to reflect your persona. Bright, bold colors can help the furniture stand out against a green lawn, contrasting the colors for an enhanced visual effect. I read that bright colors can boost your mood when you’re surrounded by them constantly. To me, that’s the point of spending time in your garden – relaxing and uplifting your mood. We all need a lift in spirits in these difficult times.
This is a simple guide to painting your furniture.
- Using a brush, clear away any sawdust and other debris.
- Mix a thinning agent with your primers or paint, according to the directions given on the packaging.
- Apply a layer of stain-blocking primer. This is necessary to keep your paint from peeling or chipping. You don’t want to repeat this entire process in a couple of months, so invest in a good primer. Use even strokes, and cover the entire area. If you are painting a metal surface, use a rust-inhibiting primer instead.
- After the first coat, you will need to apply a latex primer to help your paint adhere better, many professionals recommend 2 or three coats for this.
- Finally, apply the pigmented latex paint in the color of your choice.
- After waiting for the paint to dry (overnight, or at least 6 hours), you can apply a second coat.
- Make sure you are using outdoor primer and paint, as it will contain UV protection to keep the colors from fading.
- You may choose to polish in between the paint layers using your random orbital sander, but this is an optional step to get that perfect glossy finish.
If you want to skip the colors, you have the option to use varnish to let the wood show through the finish. While some types of varnish will also contain a stain, the colors available are limited compared to paint, and you could opt for a clear coat. Varnish will give your furniture more of a classic look, which you can be sure won’t go in or out of style every other year. After all, the look is considered classic for a reason.
Follow these steps to achieve that timeless finished wood look.
- After you’ve sanded and polished the wood, clear away dust and debris from the surface. Also, make sure the entire work area is clean before you start applying the varnish to avoid dust from settling into it.
- Stir the varnish gently using a wooden stick. Air bubbles will make your job harder to do, so always avoid agitating the varnish.
- In a separate container, mix some of the varnish with a thinner. The thinner slows down the drying process, so you will have more time to apply the varnish and avoid streaking. Mix in ratios according to the manufacturer’s specification.
- Dip only the tip of your brush into the varnish mixture, and apply the varnish using a light touch. Work in small areas of the wood, systematically until you finish the entire surface.
- Do not go back and forth, but rather move your brush in only one direction.
- Before the varnish dries, you can smooth out any bubbles or streaks using the brush without any additional varnish. Move in the direction you applied the varnish.
- Wait for the varnish to dry completely before applying a second layer. It may take several days for your entire project to finish, but it will definitely be worth it.
- After applying several coats, use a high grit abrasive disc to polish the finish. Most professionals recommend a 320 grit size for polishing.
Sitting on hard surfaces can get uncomfortable quickly. Get yourself some fluffy cushions to enhance your garden lounging experience. You can’t spend hours reading a book in the garden if you feel stiff (from sitting on a hard surface) within the first 20 minutes.
Cushions can also be used to contrast or add color to your garden, especially if you are using a varnish. They can easily be washed and changed, so you can have a variety of colors too!
Top tips for Revamping Your Garden FurnitureFinal Tips
Use even strokes when applying a finish to wood, and take your time for the best results. Also, a natural bristle brush is the best way to apply paint or varnish, as it is less prone to streaking. Sand and apply finish to every nook and cranny because any exposed wood will likely rot.
Now you have what will look and feel like a new garden, and if you’ve done everything right, it should last a long time. Make some iced tea, fire up the barbeque, or just enjoy the garden with a good book.