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Thread: protecting outdoor wood furniture

  1. #1

    protecting outdoor wood furniture

    Hi all,

    I am planning on building sitting benches and a table for my backyard. Probably from framing lumber (e.g. 2x4).

    I am looking for a finish that is easy to maintain. I have used exterior paint previously but they crack and peel after a couple of years. Scrapping the paint and repainting is a lots work. What are other options?
    Look is secondary and I am not a big fan of paint as it covers the wood grain.

    Typically, would cedar and redwood last much longer than fir? The cost difference is quite big.

    I live in northern California. We have hot summers, but winters are mild, and humidity is low. Thus outdoor furniture will have lots of sun exposure and occasional rains.



    Thanks much

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    There are two goals: protect it from decaying, and protect the look. For the former, you need to either use a decay resistant wood (cypress, redwood, cedar, ipe, white oak, etc) or frequent maintainance of the finish. Where it sits on the ground is particularly vunerable: many people use epoxy on the leg ends to keep them from wicking up. I myself voted for decay resistant wood. For the look: UV will eventually turn any wood to a uniform gray. Either accept it, or regularly renew a finish the absorbs the UV (it's a sacrificial absorber). Spar varnish is the classic for a sailboat, I've used Watco outdoor oil. But mostly I vote for letting them turn gray.

    Terry

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    New growth redwood only has a fraction of the decay resistance that old growth had. New growth redwood sapwood is almost like spruce for rot resistance. Only a few years before that sapwood rots. If you use white wood, SPF, it'll be lucky to last 3 years with ground contact. Black locust, white oak, catalpa, and osage orange are great domestic wood choices too.

  4. #4
    Spar varnish is very high maintenance. Some people report good results with Cetol finishes which have good uv protection but are said to be easily renewed. Oil finishes are easily reapplied but provide less protection. No finish will protect framing lumber with ground contact very long.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    New growth redwood only has a fraction of the decay resistance that old growth had. New growth redwood sapwood is almost like spruce for rot resistance. Only a few years before that sapwood rots. If you use white wood, SPF, it'll be lucky to last 3 years with ground contact. Black locust, white oak, catalpa, and osage orange are great domestic wood choices too.
    I'd add cedar also to the list of woods that are less rot resistant than their reputations. Cedar is really good at shedding water, but if it stays wet it rots nearly as fast as most soft woods.

  6. #6
    Okay, since there is a request …. I try again ,even though great old truth….gets little traction compared to new stuff. Use any kind of wood or plywood. Use
    Titebond 2 to glue on light canvas. Then paint it with primer and a good exterior paint, will last for years. Use the “bark side “ of wood as the
    top surface.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    Spar varnish is very high maintenance.
    Will you elaborate on this?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    WNY
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    There is only one way to avoid maintenance with outdoor wood furniture. No, actually, there is no way to avoid it. You can use rot resistant wood and just let it turn gray. If you are lucky it won't get black mold; if it does you will have to clean it regularly. If you paint it, stain it, or worst of all put clear coat on it you will be in for continual maintenance. Of those three option, stain requires the least maintenance. Clean it and apply a new coat of stain every year or so. Paint is second best but still requires maintenance every few years, Mel's approach excepted. Clear coat requires maintenance every year to guard against blistering or cracks in the finish that lets water get underneath and, when it inevitably does, it's a real PITA to strip it off and redo it.

    The best option I've found is to keep covers over my clear coated black locust bench and Sapele table when I'm not using them. Zero maintenance for the 3 or 4 years since I started doing that.

    John

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Houston, Texas area
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    1,244
    Quote Originally Posted by joe webb View Post
    Hi all,

    I am planning on building sitting benches and a table for my backyard. Probably from framing lumber (e.g. 2x4).

    ...Thanks much
    Joe, if you don't want to or can't spend for Redwood, Cedar, White oak, and other suggestions, please at least consider treated SPF (spruce/fir/pine), such as used for decking material. Normal untreated construction 2*4's are most likely going to cup and twist in a couple months, making your seats and table top problematic. Even when used indoors we put blocking between SPF studs in Texas to help keep them straight.

    New growth framing lumber is cut very wet and its going to move as it drys, even if you coat it well.

    Considering the amount of time you will spend building and finished this furniture, I would not want to make it from construction 2*4s. It's kind of like painting with cheap paint: you spend a day prepping walls, and you save $30 today, but the first time you wash a wall you're in trouble, and you end up needing to repaint in 5 years.
    Mark McFarlane

  10. #10
    Redwood in Northern CA is not that expensive compared to construction lumber these days. IMO it's well worth the price. The sun is your biggest enemy, I would be sure to get a preservative with some UV inhibitors. I would not use any type of pressure treated wood for the simple fact that it likes to split/splinter, not conducive for seating. I don't know your located but you can try
    Berco Redwood
    https://www.bercoredwood.com/
    You can also look at TWP stain
    https://www.twpstain.com/twp-wood-st...BoC3dQQAvD_BwE

    Good luck

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Houston, Texas area
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    1,244
    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Weber View Post
    ... I would not use any type of pressure treated wood for the simple fact that it likes to split/splinter, not conducive for seating.
    Redwood is certainly preferable but in Texas we have had pressure treated wood decks and I made built-in deck seating from 2*6's that held up well for 15-20 years with no finish ever applied. Lots off sun, lots of rain, a light freeze every few years . It can split or twist and there is the occasional board to replace.

    If you do use pressure treated wood then use decking screws, not nails, and don't drive them too far below the wood surface. Then it is easy to pull out a board and replace it. If you drive the screws too deep the wood will swell over the screw head and they become much harder to remove. Use good screws, not cheap ones, and you'll have an easily repairable table or seat.

    Again, if you can afford Redwood, that is probably a much better choice in your area.
    Last edited by mark mcfarlane; 11-11-2021 at 10:45 AM.
    Mark McFarlane

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    Okay, since there is a request …. I try again ,even though great old truth….gets little traction compared to new stuff. Use any kind of wood or plywood. Use
    Titebond 2 to glue on light canvas. Then paint it with primer and a good exterior paint, will last for years. Use the “bark side “ of wood as the
    top surface.
    That may be okay for a door, or other large flat surface, but would be extremely difficult to implement on something like a bench, besides being horrifically ugly. And is won't show the grain all that well, which is what the OP desires.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Pratt View Post
    That may be okay for a door, or other large flat surface, but would be extremely difficult to implement on something like a bench, besides being horrifically ugly. And is won't show the grain all that well, which is what the OP desires.
    Not difficult, the cloth can be lapped. And the lap will be much thinner than that of aluminum siding. Framing wood is usually not fit to
    be uncovered….but yeah people have gotten used to seeing it. And it ain’t like it’s gonna be around for a long time !

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by derek labian View Post
    Will you elaborate on this?
    What John said, "Clear coat requires maintenance every year to guard against blistering or cracks in the finish that lets water get underneath and, when it inevitably does, it's a real PITA to strip it off and redo it."

  15. #15
    Thank you everyone for all these very valuable tips. I watch lots of YouTube videos and they almost never talk about the maintenance part.

    So it sounds like paint is the more durable option and also easier to strip and recoat.
    At my local big orange store, a 2x4x8 fir is $4 while redwood is $18. I wasn't sure how much longer redwood would last.

    I was also wondering if using a product like Thompson Water Sealer would help slow down the impact of humidity.

    Thank you again

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