If you weatherproof your outdoor furniture properly you can save money and enjoy it for many years to come. Find out the best ways to waterproof your yard furniture and keep it safe from sun, rain, and snow.
Are you noticing the weather getting harsher every year? I sure do.
Summers are getting hotter, drier, and longer. And our fall and winter weather brings more rain and snow every year.
At the same time, I love making my outdoor space an extension of my home. I am guessing I am not alone in that. That means that we are investing more money and time and effort in making our patio, garden terrace and porch look inviting and beautiful.
Well if these two things are happening at the same time it is wise we all start to think about how we can protect our outdoor furniture from thunderstorms, rain, snow, frost, and intense UV rays and make them last. We really do not want our furniture to start swelling, warping, discoloring, or rotting, now do we?
By making sure that our outdoor furniture stays in tip-top shape we can enjoy it for a long time and have it ready for entertaining instantly.
But how do you protect your outdoor furniture against the elements?
Let me show you what I have learned about waterproofing furniture from living in the wettest country in Europe.
Most Durable Materials for Outdoor Furniture
Stating the obvious first. Some furniture is made for outdoor use and other furniture isn’t. It is definitely easier to protect tables and couches from the weather when they are made from the right materials.
This does not mean you can’t use indoor furniture outside. I have transformed a dining table into a garden table several years ago and it is still going strong outside in my garden today. And by adding a galvanized metal top to a garden work table I made it practically indestructible. But generally speaking, it is easier to weatherproof furniture that is meant for outdoor use.
“Why do I need to weatherproof my furniture if it is designed for outdoor use?”, you may ask. Well, everything needs upkeep. If you neglect your garden furniture for too long its weatherproofing protection will wear off and it will become prone to water damage or may start to fade and warp from the sunlight.
Best Materials to Use for Outdoor Furniture
Most of us love the look of wood furniture. There are several kinds of wood that are exceptionally good at resisting the influence of the weather.
Wood has been used for outdoor furniture for hundreds and thousands of years, long before there were plastic or metal options. The trees that have become adapted to the harshest weather give the best wood for outdoor use. Teak, cedar, and redwood are durable woods that are naturally weather resistant. They may however not be the most eco-friendly choices though. So it is a good thing that other kinds of wood can be made suitable for outdoor use by pressure-treating them. After that treatment, they become as durable as the hardwoods. As I have soon in my dining room to garden table makeover post, any wood can be made safe for outdoor use if you are willing to give it a new protective layer of sealant regularly.
If you prefer metal furniture then aluminum is the best choice for outdoor furniture. It is often used in modern outdoor furniture. Other types of metal need to be protected to stop them from rusting and weathering away.
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How to Weatherproof Wood Furniture for Outdoors
So, what’s the best way to waterproof your outdoor wood furniture? We’ve done the research, we have used the methods and we have the answers for you!
There are three types of waterproofing agents for outdoor wood furniture: Natural oils, clear coats, and all-in-one stains. Each has its own set of characteristics and strengths and weaknesses. Which one is the better choice depends on the material you want to protect and what you are protecting it from most?
Natural oils like linseed oil or tung oil
Clear coats: varnish, polyurethane, or lacquer
All-in-one stain + sealant
Oils are most often used to nourish and protect hardwoods that are already very durable. Clear coats can give pressure-treated wood the desired look and add another layer of protection against the weather. All-in-one stain + sealant comes in many colors and is used to make indoor furniture suitable for outdoor use.
In any case, you should always apply a sealer to wood furniture to make it waterproof and to provide extended longevity and durability.
Related Reading: All About Finishing Wood Furniture for Inside
To apply any of these protective coats you’ll want to clean it thoroughly first and then sand it down, going in the same direction as the grain. Make sure to remove the existing finish, exposing the porous wood beneath. Always wear a mask when sanding, as inhaling varnish dust is definitely bad for you! Next, apply the sealant of choice. Be careful to get into all the nooks and crannies of the table or chair, because that’s where the water likes to creep in. You will probably have to apply more than one layer depending on how dry the wood is.
If you’re painting the furniture in a color always use paint that’s intended for outdoor use specifically. Make sure it says that it protects against UV rays, etc.
When painting chairs and tables, don’t forget the bottoms of the “feet”! Lots of moisture can travel up through the bottom of the furniture, getting potentially trapped and making it swell or crack over time. Seal the bottoms with clear penetrating epoxy, and you’ll have a durable and long-lasting finish.
How to Weatherproof Metal Outdoor Furniture
Weatherproofing metal is not much different from weatherproofing wood furniture. You need to prep it first by cleaning and removing rust and then give it a protective layer with a sealant. If there are moving parts you’d be wise to oil them regularly as they rust the quickest.
If it’s not a brand-new piece of metal furniture and there’s already a little rust, do your best to sand that all off (using a dust mask!). Coarser grit sandpaper would be better, 40 or so will get the job done. Once the piece is prepped, make sure to vacuum or wipe it down, and then prime it with a metal-specific primer that prevents rust and corrosion.
Some of the metal paint product options are paint and primer in one. The color choices of those are somewhat limited. In any case, make sure you use a rust-fighting primer first and then finish painting your metal outdoor furniture with a paint in your favorite color that is meant for the outdoors!
As a final tip, be sure to lubricate any metal moving parts on your furniture, as they can get stiff and disagreeable with extended exposure to the elements!
How to Waterproof Fabric for Outdoors
Depending on your climate and weather patterns, you may feel more or less comfortable having fabric furniture like hammocks and hanging chairs outdoors. And you probably have a collection of cushions and pillows garden couches and chairs. In any case, be sure you’re using fabric that, as is our theme today, is intended for outdoor use.
Sunbrella, for example, is a company that created outdoor fabrics for pillows and umbrellas that won’t fade over time. They are more expensive but worth it. I love this line of Sunbrella pillows most. On a more budget-friendly level, canvas is a classic and inexpensive fabric that can be used outdoors.
Canvas can be treated to make it more waterproof and moisture repellent. The easiest way is to apply a spray over the fabric regularly. Scotchgard is the best-known brand for making fabrics water-resistant.
No matter what the material or how many coats of water repellant you have used, the fabric will never be fully waterproof. To make your beautiful cushions and pillows last it is best to try to bring them inside when the weather turns bad, and store them in your garage or shed.
Never put away fabric furniture while it’s damp though. Too much moisture left in the fabric can cause mildew and it will start to smell musty quickly. If you did happen to leave your fabric outdoor furnishings in the rain and it did start to smell iffy then check out our article on getting rid of bad smells in furniture, it contains helpful tips.
How to Weatherproof Wicker Furniture
Wicker is another classic outdoor furniture material, made from natural materials. It can also be very absorbent and trap moisture easily. Before sealing or painting wicker, it’s important to ensure the piece is fully dry by leaving it in direct sunlight for an hour or so. Failing to do so could cause damage to the structural integrity of the piece from the inside out!
You can paint wicker in any color you like. Because it’s such a textured medium, make sure you apply at least 2 coats of (outdoor) stain or paint prior to sealing (if you’re painting it).
Once the paint is fully dry and you’re sure of thorough coverage (remember the bottoms of the feet!), seal the piece with a spray marine varnish. We (and many others!) recommend Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane for this task.
Cleaning and Maintaining Outdoor furniture to make it last
Our outdoor furniture is hardworking under extreme conditions. It needs regular TLC to make it look its best and to last us a long time.
Regularly removing debris and cleaning your furniture will prevent a lot of trouble later one. Your future self will thank you for taking the time.
Wipe and dust your furniture with a soft brush. It is an instant improvement, trust me.
Clean your outdoor furniture when needed with mild soap and water and a rag. Always let it dry fully in the sunshine.
Observe the manufacturer’s recommendations for resealing or reapplication of your finishes. Or use your common sense and reapply when you notice weak and damaged spots.
And remember to put your outdoor furniture away in storage come wintertime to ensure a longer life for your pieces. If you don’t have storage space for your outdoor furniture cover it with a tarp to protect it from the winter’s onslaught. But do that early enough on a day that the furniture is fully and utterly dry or you will trap moisture under the tarp and make things worse.
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Marianne Songbird is the founder of Songbird, where she hopes to inspire everyone to create a home they love, one DIY project at a time. She shares anything from craft ideas to home decor inspiration and from DIY projects to decorating hacks. Originally from the Netherlands Marianne and her husband Lex are currently renovating a 250-year-old farmhouse in Germany.