Spring is here, and it’s time to bring your patio furniture out of storage and clean it up before putting it to good use during the warmer months. If your patio furniture is made of wood, though, you may need to take some special care when preparing it for the season. Arguably, the most attractive outdoor patio and deck furniture is made from wood. Because wood is a natural product, it can respond in a variety of unappealing ways when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity. Proper maintenance of your wood patio furniture will help it last through years of extreme weather conditions.
Teak is one of the most desirable, but also one of the most costly, woods found in today’s outdoor wood furniture pieces. Teak is a beautiful, honey-colored, dense, tropical hardwood that is resistant to insect infestation and contains natural oils which also make it resistant to rot and decay. Unfortunately, teak trees grow very slowly and take at least 60 years to reach harvestable size, and, because teak furniture is in such high demand, teak is not found as easily as supplies of other woods like cedar, oak, or pine. With supplies not able to meet demand, the price of teak has elevated quite a bit over the years. The advantage of teak, though, is that, with proper maintenance, it can last for more than 50 years, which makes the initial investment worth it for many homeowners. While cleaning teak is not necessary, it is not a bad idea to clean outdoor teak furniture each year to remove any buildup of pollen, sap, or mildew. Follow each cleaning with a coat of teak oil if you wish to keep the wood its original honey color.
Other tropical hardwoods, like Eucalyptus, have gained in popularity as the price of teak has grown prohibitive for many homeowners. Eucalyptus wood, like teak, is alluring, durable, hardy, and resistant to rot and insect infestation. The rapid maturity of eucalyptus trees makes them more readily available and more easily affordable. Like outdoor teak furniture, outdoor eucalyptus furniture can be treated with teak oil following an annual cleaning to help preserve the wood’s natural color.
Other popular choices for outdoor wooden furniture include cedar, redwood, oak, and pine. These woods, though (especially pine), must be treated with a preservative to prevent decay, which can occur in a short time depending on the local climate and weather conditions. Protecting this wood furniture with a water-resistant stain, protective oil, or polyurethane is also recommended. Your local hardware store has many products from which to choose, and a store associate should be able to assist you in choosing the best product.
In general, outdoor wood furniture should be cleaned once a year. Mix one tablespoon of bleach, five tablespoons of a gentle dishwashing liquid, and a gallon of water, and gently scrub the surface of your wood furniture with a soft bristle brush. Wash the solution from the furniture, and allow it to dry completely in the sun. Repainting or restaining wood furniture may be necessary at this time to cover and protect any worn or damaged areas.
All woods are susceptible to rot and decay if left in damp, humid, and shady areas for extended periods of time. Wood that becomes saturated with rain water is more likely to warp and rot, so using protective patio furniture covers when your furniture is not in use is strongly advised to keep your wooden patio furniture in good shape. The bases of furniture legs are the most likely to be affected first when it comes to water damage. If wood furniture is kept in the grass, at the poolside, or on a surface that collects even a small level of rain water, the legs can soak up that water and quickly rot. Covering the bottoms of each furniture leg with rubberized material or small sections of cedar fencing will help protect your furniture from rotting from the bottom up.
Finally, exposure to chemicals including solvents and chlorine, and exposure to common items such as alcoholic beverages, plants and flower nectar, and hot items (off of a grill, for example) can permanently stain and damage wood surfaces. Also, it is important to prevent plastic objects, like plastic table cloths, toys, placemats, and appliance covers, from lying on wood furniture for a long period of time because plastic can discolor wood. Plastic can also stick to and damage a wood finish.
The lifespan for any wooden patio furniture depends greatly on the type of wood used and exposure to the weather. Properly maintaining your outdoor wood furniture can increase the furniture’s life and maximize your investment. Outdoor wood furniture makes an attractive, natural addition to any outdoor living space, and, with care, it will continue to make a beautiful impression for many seasons to come.