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How to Protect Your Outdoor Wood Furniture and Other Items

Outdoor Wood

Outdoor furniture and decorations help transform the landscape into a welcoming environment that feels like an extension of the home. These details are a great way to show off your personality to neighbors and guests alike. Wood is commonly used for building outdoor patio sets and other backyard decorations to balance the need for durability with low cost and a stylish appearance. Wood furniture and other outdoor features need a little more attention than other materials to resist weathering and rotting. Make sure that sun exposure and moisture don't shorten the lifespan or change the appearance of your favorite wood items with these techniques tailored to common yard features.


Outdoor Furniture Sets

Outdoor Wood Furniture

There are three options for protecting wood furniture that's used outdoors. Painted furniture just needs recoating once every few years and offers some of the best water and sun protection. However, paint doesn't let you appreciate the natural beauty of the wood. For that, you'll need to choose between penetrating oil and spar varnish. Spar varnish offers the best UV protection and creates a shiny, flexible coating over the surface. For a more natural look, penetrating oil works best but needs reapplication every year at least. Regardless of the sealant you choose, try to keep outdoor furniture out of the direct sunlight and put it away in the winter to help it last as long as possible.


Swing Sets

Wood Swing Set

Wood remains one of the most popular materials for putting together a backyard playset because it's widely available and easily adapted to work with a wide range of kits. Homeowners can order affordable sets of connectors and fasteners and pick up the required lumber locally to save on shipping costs. However, that leaves you responsible for protecting the wood as well. Kids won't be so eager to climb on playsets or use swing sets that give them splinters every time. Look for wood playground sealant products to ensure the coating is safe for constant contact with kids. Other sealants can be unsafe to use on these kinds of surfaces. These latex-based sealants tend to wear off after just a year or two, so make sure to reapply regularly so that the wood stays well-sealed and intact. You can cover the swing set or playset with a tarp in the winter to help limit UV and moisture exposure as well.


Bird Feeders

Wooden Bird Feeder

Like with outdoor furniture, placing bird feeders out of the direct sun and moving them into a garage for the winter is recommended for longevity. Most bird feeders are painted, so you'll need to find a wood sealant product designed for paint. Unlike outdoor furniture, few bird feeders are painted with a durable outdoor latex that will properly protect the wood. This means a clear sealant product is necessary to finish off the surface and keep it from absorbing water or fading in the sun. Even unpainted birdhouses made from natural materials should be sprayed with a clear outdoor sealant product to keep them looking good for as long as possible. These products aren't necessarily safe for birds, so avoid them on birdhouses designed for actual nesting and bird feeders. Use natural oil-based sealants instead for these surfaces or keep them painted with a non-toxic product like milk paint.


Gazebos, Pergolas, Arbors, and Trellises

Wooden Gazebo

Larger yard structures like gazebos, pergolas, and arbors are commonly built from wood to give them a natural look while also keeping them affordable as backyard additions. Yet even a well-built custom design can last only a few years if the wood is left exposed to the elements. Much like with outdoor furniture, the three main options are paint, penetrating oil, and spar varnish. Varnish and paint are the two most practical options since they can both be applied with a sprayer or roller that reaches the top of tall structures. Penetrating oil is best applied to the wood before it's assembled into the finished product since it needs to be applied by brush.

Don't let the elements shorten the lifespan of your favorite wood decorations, furniture, and features. Anything from a gazebo to a small wood sign can be protected with the right sealant product. Stick with sealants designed for both UV and moisture resistance to make sure neither form of weathering runs the look of your outdoor furnishings.


While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.