When you take the time to prep your outdoor wood furniture for winter, it will live on and look beautiful, year after year. Wood furniture does great outside in the elements, especially here in the mild Bay Area winters, but we still need to protect it. The biggest culprit for wear, strain and eventual cracks and break down of your wood furniture (anywhere, but especially outside) is moisture – if you’re on the Coastside, that’s you year round – and temperature change. Even the smallest cracks fill with moisture and though it rarely freezes in the Bay Area, it certainly does up in Tahoe, Bear Valley, Twain Harte, Sonora, all those mountain places where you may have a second home and some lovely wood furniture. That moisture will freeze and expand, making the crack just a little bit bigger every single time.
So what’s a wood-furniture lover to do?
There are several ways to prep your wood furniture for winter.
You can always bring it inside during the winter – but that’s not a complete solution, the wood will still expand and contract with fluctuations in temperature, so you need to treat it no matter where it winters over.
You can cover your furniture, which again is a great partial solution. If you go this route, make sure you buy 95% watertight, not 100%. That little 5% of breathability keeps your furniture from growing mold and mildew.
Whether you bring it in, leave it out, cover it, or a combination of the above, you’re also going to want to treat your wood furniture with a sealant once a year. This keeps the moisture out so it doesn’t crack, warp or rot, seals the color in and helps it look great and age well.
What you’ll need:
Warm soapy water
Clean rinse water
Vinegar for tough stains
Baking soda for rings and water marks
Sandpaper for splinters, knicks or very tough stains
Sealing your wood furniture
Begin by dusting off your furniture with a clean rag. Use your soft brush for anything that doesn’t brush off with the cloth. If you have stains, use your rag and warm soapy water, wiping with the grain. If your stain is persistent you can up your game and add a little vinegar, or if it’s very stubborn, you can also add baking soda to your water and vinegar to make a paste. Rub or brush with the grain and rinse with clean water – using a rag to rinse is better than soaking with a garden hose, and never use a power washer on your wood furniture.
If you’ve rinsed and dried and you still see stains, never fear. That’s why sandpaper was invented. Well, probably. The first known record of sandpaper comes from China in the 13th century and Anthony Hay found an advertisement listing manufactured sandpaper dating back to 1775.
But we digress. Make sure your furniture is completely dry before sanding. Sanding wet wood is just a mess – the wood gets stuck to the sandpaper, rendering it unusable, and any results you have are likely to be uneven, defeating the whole purpose. So, dry wood. Using 120 grit sandpaper, sand off a layer. Sand only with the grain and if you need to go deeper, move on to 80 grit.
Pro tip: Don’t use anything finer than 120 grit or your wood may not absorb the sealant as well.
You’ve got the wood cleaned and sanded if need be, now it’s time to seal.
We love these products:
Cabot Wood Toned Stain & Sealer Low VOC
Paint the sealer on in big, broad strokes and be sure to get good coverage on the ends and corners. You’ll want to use two coats and let the first dry completely in between applications.
Note: Ready Seal’s website states that it is meant to be a two-coat sealer. However, Thompson’s and Cabot require only one application, though with Thompson’s, according to TheSpruce.com, you may apply another coat – but on a specific timeline. Wait for the first coat to dry completely and apply the second coat within four hours. We recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions, as applying more than one coat, when not needed may result in that second coat not adhering properly. For the one coats, apply generously, making sure to go back and eliminate any drips or puddles.
Pro tip: Paint from your shoulder, not just your wrist for more even and better coverage.
Now that you’ve sealed your furniture, you can enjoy it throughout our relatively mild Bay Area fall and winter. Now that it’s all pretty and looking good, you’re probably dreaming up ways to dine outside for Thanksgiving, and we’ve got you covered with turkey tips and tricks as well as great recipes for grilling your Thanksgiving meal. We accept leftovers as thanks.
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