Most woods used in outdoor furniture naturally withstand decay, but their lifespan can be greatly extended and their colour better preserved by some ongoing care. A combination of dirt, dust, pollen and pollution will fill exposed cells in the wood, which turns it a dull grey. This weathering process is accelerated by direct sunlight and salt and so a little regular maintenance will go a long way to protecting your outdoor timber furniture.
Step 1. Clean
Before you even think of oiling or staining your furniture you must give it a proper clean. This will not only help to remove any contaminants like dirt and salt, but will also allow the finish to properly penetrate the wood.
Brush away dirt using a soft bristled brush. Give your furniture a gentle clean with soap and water, or a specially formulated wood cleaning product. If dirt is caked on, scrub only in the direction of the grain. Rinse well and pat dry. Found some mould? Sand it off gently and dispose of used paper to avoid spreading spores.
Step 2. Protect
All wood has a certain amount of natural oil, but this will evaporate under the heat of the summer sun, leaving your furniture exposed to the elements. Furniture oil such as Intergrain Nature’s Timber Oil helps to preserve the colour and condition of the timber. Oil will also allow the natural grain patterns and tones to show through, without drastically changing the colour. Use a brush or a rag to apply oil all over the wood. Do this out of direct sunlight so the oil doesn’t harden before it’s had a chance to soak in. Wipe away any excess as you see it. Apply a second coat after waiting about ten minutes and allow it to dry completely (6 hours).
An alternative to furniture oil is a stain such as Cabot's Exterior Varnish Stain. These products often provide excellent UV resistance and protection from damp problems like mould and fungi. You will need to thoroughly sand and clean the wood before applying a stain and it will generally result in a darker shade than the original natural timber. To apply a stain, use a natural bristle brush and work with completely dry wood. Paint it on as evenly as possible and use a rag to remove excess as you go.
Whether you choose to oil or stain, the trick to extending the life of your furniture is to keep up maintenance and reapply product as often as directed, onto clean, dry wood. For more advice on caring for your outdoor timber furniture, visit your local Inspirations Paint store.