How to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Elements? | Top 6 Methods

how to protect outdoor wood furniture from elements

Outdoor wood furniture continuously faces temperature variations, humidity, rain, sunlight, wind, and many other outdoor elements all over the year.

As a result that, outdoor furniture tends to crack, scratch, discolor and ruin quickly than indoor wood furniture.

When I was making my expensive first outdoor patio furniture set, I was afraid of ruining it because of outdoor elements. So, I have researched How to protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Elements?

Here is what I know by experience of making outdoor furniture for years:

Outdoor wood furniture can protect from elements by painting, sealing, varnishing, changing locations to minimize exposure to elements, waterproofing, covering, and many more. By preparing outdoor wood furniture for specific weather conditions and elements they’ll be protected to lengthen their lifespan. Otherwise, outdoor furniture will damage easily by rotting or facing discoloration within few months.

 But that’s a quick snapshot. There is a lot more you need to know about protecting outdoor wood furniture from elements.

So, in this article, I’m mainly focused on How to protect outdoor furniture from various elements, such as from sun, rain, wind, moisture, what are the best treatments you can follow to protect outdoor furniture to expand their lifetime with the best sealers, available in the market as well.

So, let’s keep going!

How Do You Protect Wood from Outdoor Elements?

There are several methods you can use to protect the wood from outdoor elements. Such as,

  1. Painting the furniture
  2. Sealing the furniture
  3. Varnishing the furniture
  4. Changing the location of the furniture
  5. Covering
  6. Keep the furniture clean

1. Painting Wood Furniture for Outdoor Use

Using paint is a great option to get strong protection from outside elements for your loving wood furniture. Paint has the ability to block the sunlight from getting into the surface of the wood.

Also, paint can block UV and protect the wood underneath from discoloration and many other problems.

In my opinion, latex paint gives better last long protection for outdoor furniture than regular oil-based paints. Latex paints are used as cosmetic fixes and are easy to apply.

Latex paints have massive varieties of colors and hide scratches. A good layer of paint will give better protection from outdoor elements the water and UV radiation.

Even after applying paint, you need to check whether your wood has scratches, dents, peelings, fading once for a few months, and reapply the paint all over the surface.

Here I have listed the advantages and disadvantages you get by applying paint to protect outdoor furniture from elements.

Available in any colorThe natural wood look is hard to gain
Give protection from UVTake a lot of time to apply
Give protection from moisture 
Regular maintenance are not need 

Because of losing the natural color of wood, some people tend to go with other options to protect the wood from outdoor elements.

So, let’s talk about how sealing outdoor wood furniture helps to protect it from elements.

2. Sealing Outdoor Wood Furniture

Sealing is pretty much useful if you live in an area that receives a lot of rain. By applying sealer your outdoor wood furniture will protect from water.

Most of the time outdoor furniture ruin because of moisture and rain. Water molecules easily penetrate inside of the wood and cause a lot of trouble.

By applying water sealant, the natural look of the wood will never go away like applying paint. Water sealant is transparent and does not change the color of the wood like any other protector.

Never leave any part of your wood furniture unfinished. Seal underneath, joints, and even the bottom of the legs to fill all the cracks.

Plus, make sure to maintain the finished furniture properly for the long run.

Most importantly, sealants not also protect your outdoor wood furniture from moisture, but also allow damp wood within the sealant to speed the drying process.

This will avoid the rotting, splitting, and warping of the wood.

The popular sealants you can use for this task are,

  • Polyurethane sealant
  • Lacquer

As you can see sealing outdoor wood furniture gives better overall protection without ruining the natural look of the wood.

So, let’s see what the benefits and drawbacks are of sealing outdoor furniture.

Protect wood from moistureTake a lot of time to apply
High durabilityYellowing
Give a rich warm unique look to the woodBrush cleanup is difficult and requires turpentine or spirits
Scratch resistanceStrong fumes can cause health issues

3. Varnishing The Furniture for Outdoor Use

Varnishing is also considered as a type of sealing but there is a lot more to specialize about varnishing.

By varnishing the furniture you’ll be able to protect outdoor wood furniture from moisture because it has water resistance.

Varnish is known as the best alternative option you can go with rather than sealing or painting. Varnish won’t change the color of your wood furniture and keep it natural.

The varnish layer can absorb UV rays which is one of the main attacks for wood and its appearance. By absorbing UV, varnish gives protection to the wood furniture from sun damage.

This will prevent discoloration of the wood and increase its lifetime.

I highly recommend going with marine varnish for the outdoor furniture, because they have great water resistivity than other varnish types. (For indoor furniture, spar varnish is the best choice).

So, let’s dig into what are the advantages and disadvantages you’ll get by varnishing the outdoor wood furniture in order to protect it from elements.

Keep the natural wood colorFrequent application is needed
Give protecting from UVLess resistant than polyurethane sealants
Protect from moistureDries slowly
Easy to applyBubbles can give hard time when applying
Brushstrokes aren’t visible 

4. Changing Location of The Furniture

This is what we mostly do whenever we feel that furniture gets damage because of extreme weather conditions.

Actually, this is the best option you can go for if you have space in your garden or any other outdoor area and when you have plenty of areas to keep your loving furniture.

No sealant, paint, varnish, or shellac gives 100% protection from outdoor elements.

So, I highly recommend you avoid keeping wooden furniture that is open to constant sunlight, higher moisture conditions, and other critical weather conditions because wood is highly sensitive to outdoor elements and has very low natural protection.

Move your outdoor furniture inside the garage during the winter season to avoid harsh weather conditions. Because winter is full of moisture and many finishers, sealants, paints cannot withstand and give the same protection as they gave in other seasons during winter.

So, it’s your job to move furniture to somewhere safe, especially during winter.

Apart from moving the furniture here and there, you can make some shades to avoid catching direct sunlight to the wood surface.

This will prevent furniture from UV damage and shades can absorb or reflect 98% of UV rays and let only the visible light go through it.

So, let’s talk about the pros and cons you’ll get by changing the location of the furniture to protect them from outdoor elements.

Protect from UV raysDifficult to move heavy furniture
Protect from extreme moisture conditionsNot every piece of furniture can move frequently
Protect from winter harsh conditionsFurniture can damage during movement

5. Covering

Covering outdoor wood furniture is an easy method to protect them from outdoor elements.

As a full-time, woodworker, I highly recommend covering your outdoor furniture, especially in harsh weather conditions even though paint or sealant is applied earlier.

With proper coverage, the furniture will protect physically from moisture, rain, UV rays in sunlight, and other bad weather conditions.

You can use patio furniture covers, protective mantle, or other fabrics for this task. But make sure to get them in the right sizes that cover your furniture completely.

Covering is essential for outdoor wood furniture when they’re not in use.

Normal roofs or roofs with UV filters also do great covering from outdoor elements like rain and sunlight.

So, here are some pros and cons of covering your furniture to protect them from outdoor elements.

Protect from UV raysApplicable only when furniture is not in use
Protect from rainLess resistant from moisture

As you can see, even though covering is a good method to protect your wood furniture, covering without applying prior paint or sealer is not a wise idea.

Covering is a bonus enhancement that strengthens the shield of furniture from outdoor elements.

6. Keep The Furniture Clean

Regular cleaning is a must for outdoor furniture, not only to protect them from outdoor elements but also to keep them lifelong.

Mud, mold, and dirt cause deterioration of the wood.

Cleaning is a must even though the furniture is fully covered or painted. Dirt and mud can easily accumulate on the wooden surface and cause rot.

For a small amount of dust, you can just simply blow away dust using a tack or microfiber cloth.

Tack cloth can pick up every bit of dust and make the surface clean 100% perfectly. For a higher amount of dirt, follow the method given below.

Take a sponge, mild dish soap, and warm water and soak a sponge in soap water and wash carefully until soap residues are rinsed away.

Let the furniture dry completely before the placement.

When we look at the advantages and disadvantages of keeping the furniture clean, there are zero disadvantages. So, cleaning gives you lots of benefits with no drawbacks at all.

So, let’s take each common outdoor element and discuss how to protect outdoor wood furniture from them.

How Do You Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from the Sun?

There are two things include in sunlight that can damage wood furniture. They are,

  • Heat
  • UV rays

The heat from the sun can crack and dry out the wood and also lighten the surface over time.

You can protect outdoor wood furniture from the heat of the sun by,

  • Covering the furniture
  • Changing the location
  • Moving the furniture

UV rays cause the discoloration of the wood furniture and it’ll damage the wood. You can protect outdoor wood furniture from the UV rays of the sun by,

  • Painting the furniture
  • Sealing the furniture
  • Varnishing the furniture

To keep your wood furniture outdoor for last long, selecting high-quality wood is highly important that less likely to fade over time.

How Do You Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Rain?

Rain is considered one of the main elements that can ruin your wood furniture quicker. So, protection from rain is a must. To protect outdoor wood furniture from rain, you can follow the following steps.

  • Painting the furniture
  • Sealing the furniture
  • Varnishing the furniture
  • Covering the furniture
  • Changing the location

Hereby painting, sealing, and varnishing you’ll be able to make the wood layer waterproof.

By covering and changing the location of the furniture, you can avoid the wood from facing rain.

In my experience, I do recommend both.

Waterproofing and preventing the furniture from facing rain both are important to protect the furniture. In case if the furniture is too heavy or cannot move, waterproofing is also enough.

When it’s raining, the water droplets will place on top of the wooden surface, and they tend to penetrate inside the wood through the porous structure of the wood.

This cannot be avoided naturally because every type of natural wood absorbs water. These penetrated water molecules will stay inside for long and start wood rotting. So, eventually, your beautiful outdoor wood furniture will get damaged from the inside.

Once you notice that, you can reverse it back and the wood is totally finished. The only option is to do the woodworking from the beginning with new wood.

So, it is your responsibility to waterproof the wood and take the relevant steps to prevent rainwater droplets to get inside of the wood.

So, let’s learn how to waterproof your outdoor wood furniture properly before the crisis.

How To Waterproof Wood Furniture for Outdoors?

Waterproofing protects your wood from outdoor elements like rain and moisture. There are main 2 ways to waterproof wood furniture outdoors. They are,

  1. Waterproof using tung oil or linseed oil
  2. Waterproof using sealer

Waterproof Using Tung Oil or Linseed Oil

Waterproof using tung oil or linseed oil is known as the easiest, most affordable, and quickest way to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors.

Here’s how you waterproof furniture using tung or linseed oil

  1. Stir well.
  2. Sand and clean the wooden surface properly.
  3. Apply oil all over the surface using the paintbrush.
  4. Leave the wood to soak oil properly and reapply the oil to the missed spaces
  5. After the full application of the oil, let the wood dry completely. This will take hours, days depending on the wood type and the oil type. However, never go for the next step until it dries completely.
  6. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper
  7. Reapply the oil coat and let the wood dry completely.

After 2-3 coats your wood furniture is mostly waterproof, and you can keep it outdoor without any issue. But make sure to redo the whole process once every few months.

This depends on the weather conditions at your location. For example, if you live in a frequent rainy location, do the process regularly.

Waterproof Using Sealant

Sealing gives you the best waterproof than any other method. Sealants have great waterproofing properties.

Polyurethane, lacquer, and varnish are the top sealants you can use to waterproof wood furniture. Simply follow the process below.

  1. Sand and clean the wooden surface properly.
  2. Apply sealant all over the surface using a paintbrush.
  3. Leave the wood to penetrate the sealant properly and reapply the sealant to the missed spaces
  4. After the full application of the sealant, let the wood dry completely. This will take hours, days depending on the wood type and the sealant type. However, never go for the next step until it dries completely.
  5. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper
  6. Reapply the sealant coat and let the wood dry completely.

Never stir or shake sealant before the application, because this can cause air bubbles to trap inside the sealant. They will remain on the wood even after the wood dries and cannot be removed easily.

Sealant not only gives protection from rain but also from sunlight and UV rays as well.

You can waterproof painted wood furniture outdoors using the same method we discussed.

Tung oil or linseed oil or danish oil waterproofing method is great for people with busy life schedules and beginners in woodworking. Professionals should always go with waterproofing with sealant.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Elements?

In this article, we mainly discussed how to protect outdoor wood furniture from elements such as moisture, rain, sunlight, and UV rays.

We examined all the possible ways to protect the wood from outdoor elements, we have discussed what are the best sealants you can go for to give the best overall protection to your loving wood furniture.

Apart from that, we have talked about how covering and location changing is important to keep your furniture lifelong.

As a woodworker, my advice is to whatever method you are going to use to protect outdoor wood furniture, always make sure to clean on a regular basis, because dirt and dust are the first elements that ruin the wood.

Finally, we have discussed waterproofing methods and how to waterproof outdoor wood furniture properly.

So, that’s it. I highly recommend giving it a try to protect your outdoor wood furniture by yourself as your next woodworking project.

Hope everything will go perfectly!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

1 thought on “How to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Elements? | Top 6 Methods”

  1. Thank you for sharing this informative article. All the information provided by you is really very helpful and important. I agreed that by using tack cloth you can keep your project dust-free and it is useful for cleaning fine dust off a surface and gives you a smooth finish. Keep posting! Keep Sharing!


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