Protecting Outdoor Wood Furniture

Due to seasonal exposure to weather, outdoor wood furniture needs protection. Whether you live in a rainy, snowy or warm climate, one element or another will wreak havoc on wood furniture if it is not protected. Water, wind and ultraviolet light will gradually get the best of wood, causing its color to fade and its fibers to rot. With a few preparatory steps and some preventative action, outdoor wood furniture can be made to last for years.

Preventative Measures

While it is no substitute for coating wood furniture with a layer of sealant, paint or other protection, consider bringing wooden furniture indoors during the rainy or snowy season. Especially if the furniture is not used during the fall and winter and you have space in a garage, basement or storage shed, this preventative measure can dramatically extend the life of wood furniture. Another option is to cover wood furniture with vinyl or waterproofed canvas. If you go this route, be careful not to allow any water to pool up underneath the cover or it could lead to damage.


Raw wood requires some type of coating which serves as both a water sealant and an ultraviolet light-resistant barrier. Thanks to its durability, versatility and dual levels of protection, latex paint is a tried and true method for coating outdoor wood furniture. The latex works both to seal the wood fibers from water penetration and protects it from UV light damage. Paint is available in virtually all colors, so the material presents endless aesthetic options.


As an alternative to paint, varnish allows you to enjoy the natural beauty or luster of the wood. Whereas paint tends to diminish the details found in wood grain as well as the pure look of the wood, varnish brings it out. Varnish highlights attractive grains while sealing the wood from water. Exterior varnish must be used since it is for outdoor furniture. Some type of marine spar varnish is most effective, but it tends to dry darker than the wood may be naturally. For light grains, a different stain or water sealant will be best. Exterior varnishes are also UV resistant, protecting wood from the harmful effects of sunlight overexposure.

Stains, Sealers and Repellents

Both paint and varnish seal wood from water, protect it from sunlight radiation and give it an attractive coating. Various kinds of wood stains and water repellents are yet another alternative. Waterproofing stains allow you to achieve the desired color for a finish while providing a measure of resistance against water. They also allow for natural wood movement and water evaporation, lessening the likelihood that wood furniture will rot or split over time. Waterproof stains tend not to last as long as other coatings, meaning you'll have to reapply them every 2 to 3 years in order to retain maximum effectiveness.

Each of these measures gives outdoor wood furniture a fighting chance against rain, snow and UV light. Anything you can do, such as moving furniture indoors or covering it during the harshest weather can help, but some type of paint, varnish or waterproof stain is a must.