With the fall season upon us, it's time to start thinking about weatherproofing your outdoor furniture. Protecting it from the elements will help extend its life and save you money in costly repairs or replacements. From refinishing wood to sealing fabric, here are several ways you can fall-proof your outdoor furniture, depending on the material it's made from.
The process of fall-proofing metal is not that different from wood. Start by removing all signs of rust with sandpaper. This step can be the most arduous, depending on the condition of the metal, but just try and get as much rust off as you can. Be sure to wear the proper safety equipment whenever sanding a surface and try to do it in a well ventilated room. Once the rust is gone, treat the metal with a fish-oil based primer, which binds to the metal and any remaining rust and helps ensure the paint sticks. After the primer has dried, apply a coat or two of fresh paint. Black paint is a good choice because it holds up well against heat and moisture, though any color will do.
Wood is naturally biodegradable and does not hold up well against the elements, particularly moisture. With a proper seal, however, your wood bench or patio furniture can withstand whatever Mother Nature throws its way. Begin by sanding the furniture to the bare surface. This will remove the old finish and help the new coat adhere at its best. Do not leave any part of the wood untreated, even if it's not directly exposed to the elements. Also use a sealer on areas of the furniture that come in direct contact with the ground. After the sealer has properly dried, apply a high quality stain to the entire piece. Remember to refinish the wood furniture on a regular basis to ensure its fall-proof quality.
Weatherproofing fabrics is a little trickier than with most other materials. You can keep moisture away by applying a waterproof spray, like the kind that is used on sailboats, but before you apply it, inspect and repair any rips in the fabric. Use the spray in a well ventilated area and avoid working on a windy day. Make sure to read the instructions and double-check that the spray is compatible with the type of fabric on the furniture. A good alternative to spray chemicals is wax, which has been used for hundreds of years to waterproof fabric. You may even consider covering the fabric if neither of these methods is an option. You can also store the pieces of fabric during the fall or when the weather turns bleak.
Wicker is perhaps the easiest outdoor material to fall-proof. Allow the wicker to completely dry before starting the weatherproofing process. Wicker does an excellent job trapping water, which eventually damages the wood fiber. Prevent this by applying a coat of varnish instead of spray lacquer. The varnish is better at sealing out moisture, though it will need to be applied once every two or three years to keep it waterproof. Just make sure you spread the varnish over the entire piece for maximum protection. Follow the directions on the varnish container and avoid using it on days with high humidity or heat.
There are several things you can do to extend the life of your outdoor furniture, no matter what the climate. The biggest enemies to outdoor furniture are moisture and heat. Avoid placing the furniture in areas that get a lot of sun or places where water tends to puddle. If you must have furniture in places of high moisture, consider installing furniture glides on the feet so they do not come in direct contact with the ground. If cushions do become soaked with water, dry them out in the sun to avoid odor and mildew buildup in the cushions. You can also install an awning above the furniture to help them last even longer in bad weather.