What Should You Use to Paint Wooden Garden Furniture? Stain, Oil, Varnish or Paint?

From the differences between paints, oils, stains and varnishes, to how to prime your furniture to achieve the smoothest, glossiest finish possible - if you’re looking to paint wooden garden furniture, you’ll find everything you need to know in our guide below.
There are many ways to treat wooden garden furniture and your choice of finish will depend on the type of wood and what you want to achieve. If you have a hardwood bench for example, an oil will hydrate the wood’s fibres, adding extra protection to the furniture and emphasising its natural style. Oil won’t change the colour of the bench; it just restores its condition.

Varnish adds a solid protective film to the wood and is better at protecting wooden garden furniture from moisture. This extra protection is needed for soft woods. Varnishes are mainly clear finishes like oils, since they enhance the natural colour of the furniture.

Paint has pigment. This allows you to completely transform the look of your furniture.

Stains are like paints in that they add colour to your furniture, but they soak into the surface of the wood so as not to alter its unique patterns and texture. Paint however sits on top of the wood and completely coats its surface.

 Wooden Bench Set

Can I Paint Wooden Garden Furniture?

Most wooden garden furniture can be painted, but new hardwood furniture that is well oiled may prove problematic to cover. New untreated furniture won't require any priming for painting but old furniture that hasn't been treated, has gone mouldy, or has fractures, will need some prepping before you can paint it.

How Do You Prepare Garden Furniture for Painting?

Before painting your wooden garden furniture you should always clean it. Combine washing up liquid and warm water in a bowl and using a soft brush, apply the solution to the wood. Allow to completely dry after cleaning, before moving onto the next step.

If your furniture is older and suffering from mould and mildew, see our cleaning recommendations article.

Once clean, you should check the wood and patch up any areas that are splintered or fractured.

Chisel away any loose chips and use a waterproof glue to add these back to the furniture. You can also use sealant to fill any gaps in the wood. Leave a little extra on top of the gap as sealant will shrink as it dries. You can sand this down after. Use sandpaper to smooth down the surface after both patching efforts so you can't see where the area was affected, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.


How to Repaint Wooden Garden Furniture

If you have previously painted or varnished your garden furniture, you will have to do further priming before you paint it.

Use a scraper to remove any large areas of intact paint. Next, use sandpaper to smooth over the surfaces of the furniture ready for painting.

Sanding can be quite dusty so use a paint brush to remove any dust, then a damp cloth to make sure the area is clean. Any dust or debris left will leave a rough finish once painted. Once dry, you can prime and paint as normal.

How to Paint Wooden Garden Furniture

  1. The main secret to getting the best finish is the preparation. Don’t paint over chipped paint, mould and debris. Make sure the wood is clean, smooth and free of fractures.
  2. You should paint your furniture outdoors in a well ventilated area. Put down a dust sheet or paper to avoid getting any mess on the patio or lawn. Paint can dry too fast in summer so ideally wait until it’s cooler outside.
  3. Make sure your furniture is completely dry before moving onto step 4.
  4. If possible, remove any hardware to avoid covering it in paint. If you can’t, and it does get coated in paint, you should be able to remove the stains later with hot water.
  5. For best results, or if you’re using brush on paint as opposed to spray on paint, use a primer. The number of coats you need will depend on the colour change. Allow the primer to dry overnight before applying a second coat, or painting.
  6. Smaller brushes are better for benches, chair and table legs, but rollers are ideal for painting table tops.
  7. Once you have your brushes, check your paint is designed specifically for external use. It doesn’t matter about the finish as long as it is ok to use on outdoor furniture.
  8. Paint according to the instructions on the can, but usually at least two coats are needed. Ideally leave overnight before applying the second coat.
  9. When painting using a brush, paint along the grain of the wood. If using a spray can, make sure the nozzle is clean and apply each coat in a different direction to ensure you cover all areas.
  10. Once painted, allow to dry completely before use.

 Kelkay Arch

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