How to Finish Outdoor Wood Furniture

What You'll Need
Stiff wire brush
Varnish remover or paint stripper
Plastic scraper
Sandpaper in grits from 80 to 150
Medium grade steel wool
Clean cloths
Latex gloves
Face mask or respirator
Wood filler
Wood putty
Appropriate stain
Spar varnish
Mineral spirits

Finishing outdoor wood furniture will not only beautify it, but also extend its lifespan by many years. Applying a durable finish to outdoor furniture brings out its rich grain while weatherproofing the surface. The older the furniture is, the more beautiful the grain and luster.

Step 1. Inspect for Repairs

Begin by inspecting your outdoor wood furniture to see if any repairs are required. Check for loose screws, damaged wood or loose fitting parts. It may be necessary to remove loose screws and apply slightly longer screws or re-glue loose parts and re-screw them back together. Damaged wood may have to be replaced or sanded smoothly. Holes can be filled with wood putty.

Step 2. Remove Old Finish

If finishing outdoor wood furniture that is new, skip this step. Wearing latex gloves and either a face mask or respirator, begin removing old varnish or paint by brushing furniture with a thick coat of varnish or paint remover. Carefully follow manufacturer’s directions.

After the appropriate waiting period, use a plastic scraper and wire brush to remove old varnish or paint. If necessary, sand outdoor wood furniture with 80 grit sandpaper, or if most of the old coat has been removed, rub surfaces smooth with medium grade steel wool.

Step 3. Stain Outdoor Wood Furniture

Bring all wood surfaces to a smooth finish by an initial sanding with 100 grit sandpaper and working up to 150 grit. Wipe all surfaces with a clean cloth soaked in mineral spirits, allow to dry and then apply a thin coat of wood filler. After wood filler has dried check to see that all surfaces have an even coat where most of the wood grain is filled and evenly coated with the wood filler. This will give an even, balanced finish once the stain is applied.

Apply an initial coat of stain by carefully brushing it on following the grain. Apply several coats of stain, depending on shade of wood desired. Do not sand once stain has dried. This will cause an uneven, blotchy effect.

Step 4. Applying the Final Finish

When stain has thoroughly dried begin applying layers of Spar Varnish. This type of varnish is specifically designed to withstand weathering effects, but it must be renewed every several years to maintain the wood’s beauty. To effectively protect and finish outdoor wood furniture apply a first coat of 25 percent varnish to 75 percent mineral spirits. When this has dried, sand lightly with 150 grit sand paper, wipe clean with cloth and mineral spirits, and then apply a coat of 50 percent varnish to 50 percent mineral spirits.

At this point, you can apply one or more coats of 100 percent varnish, depending on climatic conditions. Be sure to sand lightly between each coat to provide a surface with which the subsequent coat can adhere.