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How to Restore Garden Furniture - Tips and Tricks

Before you can truly enjoy your garden, you probably need to restore your garden furniture and give it clean up. Nine months in the cold, damp, and drizzle can leave benches grey and wrought iron rusty.

Joanne Rushton
· 6 min read

Before you can truly enjoy your garden, you probably need to restore your garden furniture and give it clean up. Nine months in the cold, damp, and drizzle can leave benches grey and wrought iron rusty.

Rather than invest in yet another new garden furniture set, why not spend a weekend restoring what you have? It’s not as big a job as you think and you can even invite friends and family to help, with the promise of a barbecue the following week.

To get your garden ready for relaxing and entertainment, we’re going to cover:

  • How to restore wooden garden furniture.
  • What to do to restore wrought iron furniture.
  • Restoring and caring for your rattan garden furniture.
  • Cleaning up your plastic garden furniture.

How Do I Restore Wooden Garden Furniture?

You’ve spent good money on your hardwood garden furniture, and after a few years, it starts to look tired and silver. Is it time to buy a new set already? You can put your credit card away and reach for the sandpaper instead.

Typical British weather can take its toll on your wooden tables and chairs, but with a bit of elbow grease, you can get your set back to its former glory. Here’s how:

Step One – Be Prepared

Check the weather forecast for the days you’ll work. You need to have a couple of dry days lined up. Have a well-ventilated space to work in, too. Pay a trip to your local DIY shop and pick up:

  • A stiff bristle brush.
  • Different grades of sanding paper, from pretty coarse to rather smooth; or an electric sander.
  • Teak oil or any varnish or outdoor paint you want to use.
  • A paintbrush.

Step Two – Cleaning

Using your stiff bristle brush, give your wooden furniture a good brush down. Get into all the cracks and don’t forget to turn it upside down, too. You want to have all the dust, cobwebs, and wee beasties out of the way.

Step Three – Sanding

If you like a good power tool, you might already have an electric sander in the shed or garage. You can choose to invest in one, or go for the old school sweat and elbow grease method.

However you go, sand all over the wooden surfaces to get rid of any evidence of the old finish. There should be a noticeable change in colour when you've got down to the original wood. Get into all the nooks and crannies, so you get an even finish later.

Step Four – Finishing

Once back to the bare bones, it's time to add a finish to the restoration of your garden furniture. You can either apply a layer of teak oil using a rag, or a coat of varnish with a paintbrush.

Whichever you choose, apply it in the direction of the grain. Next, you’ll need to give it a couple of days to dry. If it looks like a summer shower might roll in, have a tarpaulin to throw over your restoration project.

What’s the Process to Restore Wrought- or Cast-Iron Garden Furniture?

Your metal garden furniture should be pretty hardy against the elements, but you will see signs of rust over the years. You’ve got two options when the rust sets in on your iron garden furniture:

  1. Patch it up by removing the rust with wire wool and repaint the area with enamel paint to match the current colour.
  2. Strip off all the paint with a chemical dip. Take your furniture along to your local paint stripping location to remove all the paint. When you get it home, wire wool off any rust and repaint with Hammerite or a similar metal paint suitable for the outdoors.

How Do I Restore My Natural Garden Furniture?

Hopefully, you remembered to bring in the cushions before last autumn set in! When your woven garden furniture has spent the winter outside, it’ll have accumulated some dirt and debris in hard to reach places.

Give it all a hose down and a going over with a soft bristle brush then let it dry in the breeze. If you want to restore your synthetic rattan furniture, this is as much as you need to do – just put the cushions back out.

For natural rattan garden furniture, you can revamp it with colour by using spray paint. After cleaning, spray on a coat of primer and leave it to dry according to the instructions. Next, spray your rattan furniture with an even coat of good quality spray paint. You’ll probably need to build up a few layers to get the effect you want.

What Can I Do to Restore Plastic Garden Furniture?

Buying plastic garden furniture can be a good investment if you’re aiming for low maintenance. Good quality plastic chairs and tables should see you right over plenty of summers, although they may lose some colour through the years.

Each year, wipe your plastics over with warm, soapy water. Don't forget to get underneath – this is where muck and cobwebs can build up if left alone. If your plastic garden set is pretty sturdy, a low setting on your pressure washer could also do the trick. Who doesn’t like an excuse to get the pressure washer out?

Safety First

It's essential to do things the right way when you're restoring your garden furniture. By default, most of your working will be outdoors, but you still need to protect yourself from hazards like dust and paint fumes.

  • Wear a mask when you’re sanding wood or using varnishes or paint – ask at the DIY shop when you buy your sandpaper and varnish, so you get the right mask for your needs.
  • Get into your scruffs; you never know when a stray nail could rip your jeans or paint could get spilt.
  • Have a back-up space to put your garden furniture restoration project in case a summer shower rolls in to dampen your day. Make space in the garage or have a waterproof cover handy.

Rounding Up

Having outside space when the weather is nice is a blessing. To enjoy it properly, you want to get your garden furniture in good shape. There’s no need to go and invest in yet another set of tables and chairs; look over what you’ve already got and see if a weekend’s worth of handiwork can bring things back to life.

Most types of garden furniture can be rescued with a bit of effort. Bring the younger generations round to do the hard work and reward them with long lazy afternoons in your garden for their good deed!

Joanne Rushton

Joanne Rushton

After working at the Co-operative Bank for five years, Joanne left to discover the world before returning to work helping customers understand their finances and get the most out of the banking. A career shift came after two more years, and she found herself working as a teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam before turning to her childhood of passion for writing.