As we move into the depths of Winter, now is a great time to sneak out to your garage (or kitchen floor if need be) and work on refinishing your outdoor furniture.  In 3 easy steps, you can upgrade your wood patio furniture back to new!

This is Sharon’s patio side table. The wood is looking dirty and mildewed, but there is absolutely no rot – so this piece is a perfect candidate for learning how to refinish your wood patio furniture…

and it’s not difficult at all.

patio side table before

This patio side table is so neat!  It folds down completely so it is easy to store, but when it’s set up it’s both beautiful and sturdy.  I may have to borrow this back sometime to figure out building plans to make my own. 


patio side table before

For now though, let’s walk through the three-step process for refinishing outdoor furniture.

I’m including Amazon (affiliate) links to the items I personally use.  Canadian links will be at the bottom of this post.

Step 1 – Sand

Sorry, there’s no way around it if you want a quality finish that will last.  Painting or staining over a weathered finish will just see your work slough-off next season.  But sanding doesn’t have to be difficult or painstaking.  I have both a random orbit sander and a mouse sander that do the majority of the work for me.  Very little of it will need hand-sanding.

If you know your woods you can determine what type you have and base your sanding grit decision on that – cedar is very, very soft, so a 60 grit will eat through it very quickly.  Oak is very hard, so a 60 grit sandpaper/sanding disc might be needed.

Because I wasn’t sure what this wood was – other than it’s NOT cedar – I generally start with a 120 grit sanding disc.  This will remove all of the weathered wood and most of the mildew staining.  Once I’m done with the 120, I generally use a 150 grit on furniture that is going to be stained.  220 grit makes the furniture smooth as butter, but it closes the pores of the wood so that the stain can’t absorb as easily as with the 150 grit.

You can see below the bottom section of the patio side table has been sanded clean, where the top section still needs to be done.

half sanded table

Step 2 – Wash

When refinishing outdoor furniture – any furniture actually – I do a wash-down after sanding.  This can be as simple as a high pressure (not to be confused with pressure washer) water wash, or a scrub with TSP.  I prefer TSP (Tri-sodium phosphate) because it is a fantastic cleaner, degreaser and stain remover in one.  Apply a diluted TSP solution with a cloth and rinse.

The table is looking fantastic already isn’t it?  But don’t stop here – you need to protect the wood for next season.

patio table after TSP

Step 3 – Stain

I have had unbelievable experience with Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat stain.  I’ve done patio furniture, the Muskoka chairs that go with this little table, my gate, my black fence – I can’t recommend it highly enough for refinishing outdoor furniture.  It stains – in clear, semi-solid or solid colours – seals, and protects in one coat.

In this case Sharon went with the same Oxford Brown in a semi-solid stain as she did on the Adirondack chairs.

I brushed the stain on with a foam paintbrush and then wiped off the excess after letting it set for a minute or two.

patio side table - after

It was too cold to be in the garage so the kitchen floor was my workspace for this.

This little table soaked up about half of a tester pot of Arborcoat stain and it looks fantastic!

Adding stain to furniture will cause the grain to raise slightly leaving the surface not-quite-buttery-smooth.  This step is optional, but I like to very lightly go over the stain (once dry) with a 320 grit sandpaper and my hand.  You don’t want to sand thoroughly; just a wipe really to knock down the ridges and give you a smoother surface.

patio side table after

If your stain is lighter than you’d hoped, now is the time to add a second coat to darken it up.

This table looks so good and is tucked away now ready for the first hint of Spring.

That’s it!  Three steps (with the option of a 4th) for refinishing outdoor furniture.

Refinishing outdoor furniture in 3 easy steps

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Have a great one!