How to Paint a Garden Bench

A wooden bench on a paver patio next to a hedge.
  • 3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-100
What You'll Need
Cloth, paint tarp, old sheet, or newspapers
Stiff-bristled scrub brush
Medium-grade and fine-grade sandpaper or an electric sander
Exterior wood primer
Paintbrushes or paint rollers
Exterior wood paint
Paint stirrer
Paint tray
Weather-proof sealant
Gloss finish
Oil-based wood preservative

A garden bench can be a great asset to any garden whether it is lavish or very small. Garden benches come in various sizes and materials such as wood or aluminum, and they can be placed near flower beds, shrubs, grass, in the shade, or wherever you wish to provide a small seating area where you can relax surrounded by nature.

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If you already have a wood bench or plan to purchase one, you might want to consider painting it to give it a touch of you. Paints, brushes, and other materials needed to create a painted garden bench should be able to be found at most home improvement and hardware stores. However, before grabbing a paintbrush, check out these steps to make sure the job gets completed without a hitch.

Step 1 - Cover Area

Start by spreading a cloth, old sheet, paint tarp, or newspapers on a hard, flat surface where you will be painting the bench. If your bench is already set and cannot be moved for some reason, just cover the area below it instead.

Step 2 - Clean the Surface

Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub away any dry dirt, dust, or debris from the wood. Once the loose grime has been taken care of, go over it again with the brush soaked in soap and water.

If your bench wasn't sealed or painted previously, it's possible that the surface has since accumulated mold or mildew as a result of exposure to the elements. In this case, bleach should be added to a bucket of water and the wood should be scrubbed down again to rid it of any spores. Allow the wood to dry afterward.

Step 3 - Sand

With a piece of rough-grade sandpaper, start sanding away any old paint or finish until it has disappeared, or sand the natural wood until it starts to feel smoother. Make sure all of the areas of the bench have been covered and that the wood is free of loose pieces like splinters.

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Wipe off excess dust after using the rough sandpaper, and then go over the bench again, but this time using fine-grade sandpaper until the bench is soft and smooth to the touch. Use the tack cloth one more time to clear away any dust.

Step 4 - Choose Paint

There are several different routes you can choose to go with paint for your garden bench. Using an aerosol paint, opposed to brushed paint, is usually faster and creates a more even finish, free of brush strokes. Priming is a requirement for painting bare wood, and spray paint can often eliminate this step with a two-in-one primer/paint option. On the other hand, brush-on paint will usually give you more color options to choose from, so which type of paint you use simply depends on your personal preference.

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Whether you buy brush-on or spray-on paint, always make sure you select a type that is meant for exterior wood surfaces. This paint will be subjected to whatever your weather throws at it, so getting a material that can handle it is crucial if you don't want to be repainting this bench again soon.

Step 5 - Apply Primer

Primer is not optional when painting bare wood. Wood is porous which makes it difficult for a top coat to adhere and dry properly. Before you apply it, make sure your primer is meant for exterior wood surfaces as well.

Hold the nozzle of a spray paint can at least six inches away from the bench. Starting with the backboard first and moving to the seat, the opposite side, and finally the underside, go over the surface in slow, steady passes to make sure everything is evenly coated. Pay special attention to any nooks and crannies, spot painting as needed. Let the primer dry for the allotted time specified on the packaging.

For brush-on paint, dip your brush into the paint and coat the wood with even strokes to avoid creating brush lines. Follow the same painting pattern as you would if you were using spray paint.

If you've purchased a two-in-one primer/paint option, you can skip this step.

Step 6 - Add Top Coat

Mix paint and pour into pan, or if you decide to use spray paint, shake the can for a few minutes to make sure it has mixed. Apply the top coat in the same manner as the primer, allowing it to dry between coats as needed. Once you're finished, let the paint dry until morning or the next day. Check that the results are satisfactory before giving the paint another full day to dry.

Step 7 - Go Over with a Weather-proof Sealer

Even though your paint should be resistant to weather, it's still a good idea to reinforce it just in case. Purchase a weather-proof sealer at your local home improvement store and spray it over your entire bench. Be careful that you don't miss areas; otherwise, your paint may wear out in some areas long before others.

Once the sealant has dried, you can follow it up with a coat of clear gloss if you want the bench to be shiny.

Step 8 - Return the Bench and Clean Up

Let the bench dry completely before you move it to its permanent home in your garden. Then, you can clean up the drop cloths or newspaper in your painting area, disposing of them properly.

If you didn't move your bench to paint it, then simply go straight into clean-up.

Step 9 - Maintain It

A wood bench can last many years as long as it is kept up. It should be well oiled with an oil-based wood preserver yearly to keep the wood from drying out, or more often in dryer climates.

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