Finishing outdoor furniture


rgdaniel

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Hello all... I just finished a couple of Western Red Cedar Muskoka chairs (as we Canucks call Adirondack chairs) and I'm at that point where they're still in the garage while I agonize over whether "to finish or not to finish"... last year I made a couple in a different style, Western Red cedar as well... last years have weathered to a nice Western Gray Cedar :)

Now I'm very laissez-faire (lazy) about finishing, so I'm not about to spend a lot of time and finesse on outdoor chairs... I GET that it's a losing battle... but I'm wondering if it's worth just wiping on a coat or two of some kind of oil or deck finish... I do NOT want to sand and refinish every year or two... so I guess I'm asking, is there some kind of quick and easy wipe on finish that will delay the gray for a while, and not degrade in an unsightly way, requiring me to sand it off in a year or two... I don't mind wiping on another quart of something in a couple of years, but not if I have to sand off the old first...

...or should I just learn to let go? :D

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I feel your pain.

I did this chair (western red cedar) in boiled linseed oil (BLO) It did great for the 1st year or 2. But hey its outside in the elements and mine was in full sun and snow. The chair did grow green mold and got dirty looking after the 2nd year. Outdoor wood just needs attention every couple of years like decks, just the way it is.

The reason I went with the BLO was exactly for the reasons you stated. Also, I didn't want a clear topcoat that would start to peel and fuzz every few years. Yeah, I think a deck oil would be fine...now what color...hmmm? <_<

I miss that chair, had it by my garage door, but a powerful thunderstorm had other plans, blew the chair across the front of the house smashing into the neighbors house. :o

-Ace-

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Nice lookin' outdoor furniture.

In the past, I used Danish oil, teak oil, and such for these types of applications. But MUCH better for your application is a marine spar varnish.

Based on my experiences, here's why:

The problem with teak oil is that it tends to trap dirt and make the furniture darken with age. This effect is even more pronounced if you use lighter-colored woods, or have sapwood mixed in with heartwood.

Contrary to popular belief, Danish oil has poor water and stain resistance. Not exactly the best combination when you're relaxing too much with your preferred beverage.

Also a major concern is the fact that a majority of the teak and Danish oils out there contain linseed oil as an ingredient. When linseed oil reacts with water/moisture, it is possible to get black spots in your furniture. It has also been my experience that linseed oil can tend to make the wood appear "yellowish" over time.

So now we potentially have yellowed wood with black splotches- bumblebee patio furniture; maybe we should apply for a patent? :D Or can we sell the furniture and say "Hey, it's made out of spalted yellowheart!" :blink: Obviously these are over-exaggerations, but you get my point- I've come across some really weird stuff.

The point is, you're trying to preserve the initial look as much as possible.

A spar varnish is considerably more durable; it is also stain resistant and extremely water resistant. Don't worry- it is indeed flexible enough to withstand the inevitable movement of wood.

Also, mold/mildew can easily be cleaned off by using water with a small amount of bleach. This is of no detriment whatsoever to the surface.

The spar varnish can also be applied over a previously stained or oiled finish. So if you want a custom color with stain, no problem putting spar varnish over it (as long as the undercoat is dry before you apply the varnish).

Properly applied, a good spar varnish coating can last a couple of years, whereas the traditional teak/Danish oils can sometimes require maintenance several times a year, depending upon conditions in your area. And after a couple of years, reapplication of the spar varnish is fairly simple, too. Simply scuff (lightly sand) the surface with fine grit (I usually use 320 or 400), wipe off the sanding dust, and recoat. None of the usual stripping or grinding of the old finish is necessary.

The various brands of marine spar varnish all seem to have their own "secret recipe". Nevertheless, the primary ingredients are a combination of tung oil and phenolic resins, plus some other junk. Those two primary components have a natural resistance to UV light, so that should help delay your "Gray Cedar" problem. Still, if you can, try to get one advertised as having UV blockers/absorbers. While not 100% failproof, it can only help.

One more thing: Three years ago I accidentally picked up a quart of spar urethane instead of varnish. This did not do so well. In less than a year, it started to peel. My guess is that it is not as flexible as the varnish??

Now I realize that coatings are improved on a continuous basis, so my info may be outdated by now. But I have heard of similar experiences from others who have used a urethane. I do not like callbacks, so I will stick with what has already proven itself to me and let others do the experimental legwork with a different product.

Hope this helps. The marine spar varnish is what I have found to provide the best (and longest-lasting) protection for the amount of effort expended. And I only learned this after years of banging my head on the counters at various paint suppliers. ;)

Good luck,

Rob

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Thanks folks... appreciate the suggestions... spar varnish was my leading candidate, though I think it needs brushing on, no? I'm a bit of a klutz with a brush, so drip marks would be inevitable.... all those slats... anyway, both the LOML and my MIL, who's also getting a pair of these, have indicated they LIKE the way they turn gray... our other chairs have a year head start, so we can see the progress... who am I to argue with the women in my life? (Someday I will learn that lesson :P )

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One more thing: Three years ago I accidentally picked up a quart of spar urethane instead of varnish. This did not do so well. In less than a year, it started to peel. My guess is that it is not as flexible as the varnish??

Now I realize that coatings are improved on a continuous basis, so my info may be outdated by now. But I have heard of similar experiences from others who have used a urethane. I do not like callbacks, so I will stick with what has already proven itself to me and let others do the experimental legwork with a different product.

Urethane *is* one of the types of varnish, so that's still spar varnish, technically.

I've had much better luck with polyurethane in thinning a first coat 50/50 with mineral spirits, and treating it that way; the mineral spirits let the varnish soak into the wood, instead of drying on the wood, and varnish *in* the wood will never peel off. It's a different look; without putting on a topcoat of almost full-strength varnish, it never looks like it would have, and that top coat will eventually peel, especially if it's outdoors and doesn't have UV-protectants built into it. Spar varnish is supposed to have those protectants, but, as with most things that don't have the ingredients on the label, I think it varies quite a bit.

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I just finished a new front door for my house using CPES and Epifanes. Think of the CPES as a primer - it's main just is to soak into the raw wood and fill all the pores that water would typically invade and therefore prevent rot. CPES epoxy needs a topcoat with UV protectants though, which is where the Epifanes comes in. This marine grade varnish stays flexible and moves with the wood. Another benefit of the CPES is that if you add the topcoat before it cures completely (within 24-48 hours I think) the CPES will literally epoxy the topcoat to the wood. They seem to be a great pair and I am hoping to get many years out of the combo on my door.

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I just finished a new front door for my house using CPES and Epifanes. Think of the CPES as a primer - it's main just is to soak into the raw wood and fill all the pores that water would typically invade and therefore prevent rot. CPES epoxy needs a topcoat with UV protectants though, which is where the Epifanes comes in. This marine grade varnish stays flexible and moves with the wood. Another benefit of the CPES is that if you add the topcoat before it cures completely (within 24-48 hours I think) the CPES will literally epoxy the topcoat to the wood. They seem to be a great pair and I am hoping to get many years out of the combo on my door.

What he said...

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I've had much better luck with polyurethane in thinning a first coat 50/50 with mineral spirits, and treating it that way; the mineral spirits let the varnish soak into the wood, instead of drying on the wood, and varnish *in* the wood will never peel off.

Oh, I like that idea... so a spar varnish, 50-50 with mineral spirits, WIPED on like the first coat of a wiping varnish... and then stop there... should soak into the cedar nicely, and give some durability and longevity to the colour

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Oh, I like that idea... so a spar varnish, 50-50 with mineral spirits, WIPED on like the first coat of a wiping varnish... and then stop there... should soak into the cedar nicely, and give some durability and longevity to the colour

You'll need to do several coats, and unless you wet sand the top coat in, it'll have a rough finish to it. It also won't be as protective as a thick film of poly over everything, but (from what I've seen), it also doesn't break down and peel. Anyone confirm who has a piece like this more than five years old?

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You'll need to do several coats, and unless you wet sand the top coat in, it'll have a rough finish to it. It also won't be as protective as a thick film of poly over everything, but (from what I've seen), it also doesn't break down and peel. Anyone confirm who has a piece like this more than five years old?

I can do that... the wet sanding thing I mean... not so keen on multiple coats or a film finish... key word from the original post = "lazy" :P
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question with a entry story:

My dad recommended (a long time ago when he thought I wasn't paying attention to him) wiping wooden tool handles with linseed oil, to keep them from drying out and cracking. (wiping down probably once or twice a season; I wasn't listening THAT closely.) i don't know if he was referring to BLO or not; I didn't know there was a difference at the time, and I wanted to get out of the yard and back to my book.

Will BLO act the same as the theory he described, and can it be used in the same manner on furniture such as the Muskoka chairs? (Okay, so I do pay attention slightly still...) I ask because I'm contemplating a set of Adairondack furniture for some in-laws - they have the yard to spare, and I can use them as the guinea pig for first outdoor seating projects, especially with two fire pits the chairs can "accidentally" fall into if they would be better off disappearing. And, like the OP, I tend to be fairly ... lethargic ... on maintaining projects at other people's locations...

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RG,

Because outside projects get weathered so hard, I'd be hard pressed to put most ANY type of film finish on. I'd either go the oil route, or if you're as lazy as me, a solid stain. I use Behr solid stain on my pergola and recently my outdoor couch. I've been able to get three years without having to reapply and when I did, I only had to scrape a couple spots. I used a roller for most and a cheap brush for the tight spots. Btw, my pergola is on the south side of the house and we get an average of 300 days of sun a year.

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RG,

Because outside projects get weathered so hard, I'd be hard pressed to put most ANY type of film finish on.

Not even a 50-50 dilution of spar varnish and turpentine, which would hopefully soak in to the raw wood enough that it never actually becomes a film finish, as such? Because that's what I'm literally just about to do... slap it on with a foam brush, wipe it in, maybe wet sand it a little on the arms and seat, call it done... I did NOT like the sound of oil finish growing mold, which I think is happening with our planters... and the solid stain sounds like it would hide the wood, no? Like a paint, almost? We have a two-seater my wife bought years ago which I think has that on it, and while it HAS weathered fairly well, it does hide the wood and would not have been my choice, just for that reason.

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Yes, a solid stain will hide the wood, not the grain but the color. As far as the spar varnish, I have that in a can and have used it on old rusty cast iron "coat hooks" that I use for hanging wet towels coming out of the pool.

I've been pleased that I have NOT had to resand for a maintenance spray to be applied and stick. So, I think your approach will work. Btw, when I sprayed the well rusted coat hooks, it looked really cool.

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Just to follow up, here's a photo of the "finished" chairs... single coat of spar varnish diluted with turpentine... a few uneven areas of finish where I sanded away some drip marks, and the finish exaggerated some of the flaws in the wood, but that's the usual post-partum flaw-finding stage of the project talking... :P

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Oh thanks! Just don't look too closely! :rolleyes: Fortunately, most of the time, one's butt will be covering the flaws... :lol:

Unless I am entering a competition where people will look closely, I apply what my father called the "Blind Freddy test" to all my projects. So long as the thing is structurally sound, would blind Freddy, running for his life in a fire notice the mistake? If not, no-one will see it and you shouldn't worry about it.

I have SWMBO to test for the mistakes. If she can't see them, they aren't there.

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Unless I am entering a competition where people will look closely, I apply what my father called the "Blind Freddy test" to all my projects. So long as the thing is structurally sound, would blind Freddy, running for his life in a fire notice the mistake? If not, no-one will see it and you shouldn't worry about it.

I have SWMBO to test for the mistakes. If she can't see them, they aren't there.

Sounds like a sensible attitude... not something I'm always known for, but it's a growth area... :P

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