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Thread: Low-maintenance finish for outdoor furniture?

  1. #1
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    Low-maintenance finish for outdoor furniture?

    I'm building a bench that will live in my back yard, and I'm wondering what kind of finish I should use, if any. The bench is made of western red cedar, with white oak legs.

    Realistically speaking, I'm not going to sand and re-finish the whole bench on a regular basis. I've seen videos of people doing that, and there's just no way it's going to happen. Well, to be more precise, if the finish were easy to apply, I could imagine putting on a new coat yearly. It's the sanding that I don't want to do. I could imagine sanding or hand-planing the top, but not the whole thing.

    I'm looking for finishing recommendations, given my laziness. Or should I not even bother? I can accept that the bench will slowly be worn down by the elements, but if I can slow it down with minimal effort, that's what I'm looking for.

  2. #2
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    Using "outdoor" and "low maintenance" in the same sentence relative to outdoor wood furniture (or anything) is kinda like beating your head against the wall, honestly. No matter what, you're going to get color shift to grey from UV and weathering. That said, a film finish will present the most work to maintain over time because once it's compromised, it has to be removed to be fixed. A non-film finish, such as some of the penetrating products will be "easier" to maintain in that respect.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    I recently used "One Time" on an outdoor bench. The name comes from supposedly only having to apply the finish "one time" for 7 years. Can't give you any feedback except that it went on easily and is a penetrating finish that cures in sunlight.

    John

  4. #4
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    I've had good success with Cabot's Australian Timber Oil. Here we get little rain, no snow and are primarily concerned with a lot of sun exposure, drying wind and higher than average temps.
    I always forget . . . Is it the letter "S" or the letter "C" that is silent in the word scent?
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  5. #5
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    I made a couple of outdoor benches out of white oak several years ago. We have cold winters, hot & humid summers. I used Penofin oil on one and Cabot timber oil on the other. I put a new coat every Spring for the first few years, but then just let nature take its course. They still look fine in a natural color. Its outdoor furniture, and I would never have taken the effort to re-sand or scrape. The main thing being they were deck/fence finishes, not the usual indoor film finishes. I tried spar varnish on an previous bench, and that was a high maintenance finish - started peeling off after one season.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Penofin is good stuff, so is General Finishes Outdoor Oil. But I’ve been moving away from solvent-based. Honestly, Odie’s Oil is pretty fantastic stuff. Non-toxic, smells good, looks good, and is easy to apply. I’ve used it on some outdoor cedar benches as well as a cedar hail hut (for my wife’s garden) and it holds up great.

  7. #7
    The very lowest maintenance wood finish for outdoor use is paint, not a clear finish.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    The very lowest maintenance wood finish for outdoor use is paint, not a clear finish.
    I would think that opaque stain would be even better than a film finish like paint...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    I would think that opaque stain would be even better than a film finish like paint...
    If that were true it is what everyone would use on wooden boats, which suffer some of the worst conditions imaginable.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    I recently used "One Time" on an outdoor bench. The name comes from supposedly only having to apply the finish "one time" for 7 years. Can't give you any feedback except that it went on easily and is a penetrating finish that cures in sunlight.
    Thanks - I hadn't heard of One Time before, but it looks interesting. I might give it a try.

  11. #11
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    Jun 2010
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    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. It sounds like film-forming finishes are definitely not the way to go for me.

    I came across this useful Woodcraft blog post on outdoor finishes when I was looking for information on One Time finish:
    https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entri...tdoor-finishes

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