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Garden Bench – The Ultimate Care and Maintenance Guide


Garden furniture allows you to relax and enjoy the surroundings of your lush, colourful garden. Despite such a vast array of garden furniture, many people still enjoy the garden bench.

Informal and comfortable, the garden bench is a welcome addition to any garden. Use it in its basic format for half an hour watching the sun set or dress it up with comfy cushions and throws for when you have friends dining al fresco. The garden bench is a truly versatile piece of outdoor furniture.

But, like most garden furniture, the humble garden bench will need some care and maintenance from time to time. Thankfully, none of these care and maintenance tips cost a heap of cash nor hours and hours of your time. Neither do they require specialist knowledge or skills and can, in the main, be projects for anyone with a smattering of DIY skills.

How to Secure Your Garden Bench

The great British weather is a constant source of conversation. Complaints about rain, wind, sun, ice and snow is an almost daily occurrence. The weather will, of course, impact on your garden bench, with everything from the sun to rain slowly eroding away at its strength and structure.

However, we will go on to examine a number of ways in which you can slow the progress of time and the effects of weather on your garden bench but first, we must talk about securing or tethering your garden bench securely to a fixed, immovable object.

Gales can damage your bench, pushing it and possibly overturning it if the weather is severe enough. But we must also talk about the possibility of person’s unknown liking the look of your bench and deciding that they want it for themselves.

Theft of garden ornaments, furniture and benches is sadly an all-too common an occurrence. Being the victim of theft is an uncomfortable experience, even if the item stolen is ‘only’ a garden bench, a plant pot or two or a garden sculpture.

Your garden bench is a valuable addition to your garden thus, but securing it you minimise the possibility of storm damage and opportunistic theft.

The answer lay in L-shaped anchor brackets that secure your garden bench to a hard surface. If your garden bench sits on a concrete platform, then this is the ideal solution. An L-shaped anchor bracket is securely fixed to the leg of your garden bench with four screws. The whole thing – bench and bracket – is then secured to the concrete plinth or platform via a heavy-duty bolt that will take a long time for anyone to remove, should they be wanting to make off with your garden bench.

Inconspicuous, by the time the would-be thief has realised your bench is secured to the ground by these anchor brackets, they will have to leave – empty-handed.

The brackets are also firm enough to hold your bench in place should an autumn gale or a winter storm rips through the garden.

How to Repair Your Garden Bench

Due to weather and continued use, there may be times that your garden bench is damaged. With a quality hardwood, however, your garden bench is unlikely to face too much damage as it is a material that stands firm in the face of all kinds of onslaught but when damage does happen, acting quickly stops the damage from becoming worse and also makes for a simple repair.

With some garden benches, it is the slats that form the seating area and the back rest of the bench that can become weak or damaged. It may be possible to replace a broken slat but always use a hardwood intended for outdoor use. It may also be that it looks ‘new’ compared to the rest of the bench until it has weathered or been varnished etc.

To repair a slat, measure from the length you will need and cut to size. Carefully remove the old slat and manoeuvre the new one into place. Fix securely into position.

Avoiding damage is better than spending time repairing your garden bench and for more ornate garden benches, such as those with a shaped backed in the Luytens range or the Banana half Moon bench, this is by far the preferred option.

Protecting your bench means protecting it by ensuring it cleaned, varnished and treated regularly, as well as protected from the worst of the weather, four elements which we will now examine in turn.

How to Clean Your Garden Bench

Hardwood is exactly that – a hard wood from a tree that is slow growing. Thus, when felled and cut, the wood is made into a delightful garden bench. Robust and long lasting, a hard wood bench is ideal for any application in the garden.

Teak is possibly one of the best hardwoods to opt for. A slow growing tree found in Indonesian rainforests, it is a wood that is impervious to changes in moisture levels, heat and humidity, welcome news with the changeable British weather. With only the minimal amount of care and attention, the appearance of teak ages beautifully over time, another reason why so many people opt for a teak hardwood garden bench.

But keeping it clean means there is less chance of it being damaged and eroded from the detritus and grime that sits on the surface of the wood. Keeping your garden bench covered will help minimise dirt but when your bench needs to be varnished or treated, you will need to clean the surface grime off it.

And here’s how;

You will need;

  • A scrubbing brush
  • A bucket filled with hot soapy water
  • A few hours of sunshine in the garden
  • In this step, you are removing the surface vegetation. And that means a good scrub all over with a scrubbing brush and hot water. Start on the top side of your garden bench and then, turn the bench over the remove any detritus from the underneath – get help to turn the bench over.

Once you have scrubbed and removed the surface debris, rinse the bench off with clean water. You could use your hose pipe to do this but we don’t recommend using a pressure washer. Even with the ‘soft setting’ selected, the force of the water can be too much and if you linger with the pressure washer in one spot for a fraction too long, you can cause significant damage to the wood.

Once you have removed the surface vegetation, simply allow the garden bench to dry in the sun for a few hours.

Should you use bleach on stubborn stains, is a question we are commonly asked. We know of some customers that do and their garden bench is no worse the wear for it. But we also know of some horror stories in which people have spent money on a garden bench only to use bleach on a stubborn stain to find that there is significant discolouration.

We would suggest being cautious when you use anything other than diluted detergent as anything with a bleaching agent will lift the colour of any material, including hard wood.

How to Varnish Your Garden Bench

Protecting your garden bench from the elements can be as simple as flinging a protective cover over the top but taking further steps will help too. Some people paint their garden benches but most of our customers buy our hardwood benches to enjoy the look and feel of wood. So why hide it?

Instead, why not varnish it to bring out the unique grain features of wood? And this is how;

Step 1 – Strip Away Old Varnish

From stain to paint to varnish, over time they become dull and lifeless. But it is tempting with time short to simply a new coat over the top of the old finish. The problem is, the new varnish won’t stick so well. It will bubble and peel, causing moisture and grime to get underneath. This means it will lift and look a mess in no time.

To remove an old finish, you will need either a good quality paint or varnish stripper or, if you have one and are confident in using it, a heat gun.

  • Always work in a well-ventilated area
  • Remove old and flaking paint or varnish with a stiff bristled brush
  • If using a chemical paint or varnish stripper, ensure that it is suitable for use on hard woods
  • Follow the direction of the product or using a medium sized paint brush, stroke the chemical stripper onto smaller sections. Leave to ‘soak’ for 20 minutes and then remove using a plastic scrapper or a rounded putty knife with long, even strokes across the surface
  • Once you have done the whole bench, let it dry naturally for several days before moving to step 2

Our helpful tips

  • Use a chemical stripper that says it is ‘no clean up’ or ‘wash away with water’ as these will not leave a residue. Paint strippers that don’t advertise themselves as this will need to be sanded away once dry.
  • Using a heat gun is quick and effective – aim the heat at small patches at a time but as soon as the paint or varnish begins to bubble, remove the heat and scrape away with a metal paint scraper, being careful not to ‘jab’ or damage the wood beneath.
  • For stubborn paint or varnish surfaces, use a combination of heat gun first, followed by a chemical paint stripper.

Step 2 – Sand it

Once the bench is thoroughly rinsed and dry, you should now lightly sand it. This helps the new coat of varnish to adhere to the surface.

Start with a medium or low-grit sandpaper and then clean off the dust – wiping the newly sanded garden bench with a damp cloth removes the dust effectively. Follow this by using a medium-grit sandpaper (when you buy sandpaper, it will have the description on the packaging) to prepare the final surface ready for varnishing.

Our helpful tips

  • Remember you are not sanding the bench to change its shape but to take a light layer off the surface of the wood so don’t use a harsh sandpaper
  • As well as sanding lightly, sand your outdoor wooden bench with the grain – any swirl marks will stand out when you varnish the bench so take your time.

Step 3 – Varnish it

Varnishing wood builds a protective layer over the wood, contributing not only to how long the hard wood garden bench will last but also its beauty.

To get the best finish and protection, you must choose the right kind of varnish. Always choose a varnish for hardwood and for exterior applications. Don’t be tempted to buy a cheaper varnish intended for interior use, assuming it will offer the same protection because it doesn’t and it won’t.

An exterior varnish sets or cures to a flexible finish. The flexibility in the varnish coat stops it from cracking during seasonal wood movement e.g. as humidity increases and decreases. A good quality exterior varnish will last two to three years before it starts to look chalky and needs refreshing.

Our top tip when using exterior varnish

As well as using a high-quality exterior varnish, use a natural bristle brush when applying it

Epoxy with exterior varnish

If you want to make it a really good job, then take a leaf out of a sailor’s book and use an epoxy layer before you apply the exterior varnish. This combination means that the finish and protective coating lasts a long, long time and will put up with all kinds of weather and use.

The epoxy forms an impenetrable moisture barrier on the wood, further preventing seasonal shrinkage and swelling. This supports the top layer of exterior varnish as the flexible coat it forms doesn’t have to work too hard when this shrinking and swelling of the wood occurs.

Apply three thin coats of epoxy. Again, copy sailors and use a small foam roller. And always follow the instructions of the epoxy mix you are using. Curing or setting times vary depending on the ambient temperature and the size of the project.

Mariners, once the epoxy is dry, will then lightly sand the surface (using a fine grit sandpaper) and only then will they apply a top coat of high-quality exterior varnish. Allow the garden bench to dry naturally and then sit back, confident you have done everything possible to protect and preserve your garden bench.

Our top tip

• If you don’t sand over the final layer of epoxy, the exterior varnish will not have anything to adhere to. This means it will peel and bubble, and all your hard work is wasted.

How to Treat Your Garden Bench

Of course, varnishing, sanding and epoxy mixes are not the only means of protecting hard wood garden benches and furniture. There are other treatments too, mainly in the form of oils.

Exterior teak oil is a protective and decorative finish to wood, including garden benches. Teak oil works well with teak hardwood benches and other items, although Danish oil also adds a protective layer. Although not as durable as varnishing, many people use oils as they bring out the natural patterning of wood. But once applied, the residue can make it difficult for varnish or paint to stick to the wood surface so make sure that before you use oils, that this is the final look and finish you want.

But it is important you use the right oil for the right application. For exterior wood furniture, for example, you need to choose an exterior oil that is water resistant and offers some kind of UV resistance too, to stop the sun bleaching the wood.

Teak oil is great for garden benches. This oil nourishes the wood, stopping it from drying out and weathering, giving a fantastic revitalised appearance. It also stops wood from splitting, caused by excessive dryness deep within the wood.

Even better, applying oil is not difficult either and takes less time and hassle than sanding and varnishing;

When applying teak oil…

  1. Use a soft brush or a piece of cloth to apply the oil
  2. Once touch dry, lightly sand the surface with a fine grit sandpaper
  3. Apply three to four layers of oil
  4. Make sure you wipe excess or dripping oil from around joints etc.
  5. Don’t try to cut down on oiling by applying one thick layer – three to four light layers soaks in much better than a thicker coat

How to Protect your Garden Bench from Weather

Weather is the main enemy of any outdoor wood installation, including your garden bench. Protecting it from the worst of the weather is essential and varnishing or oiling helps to maintain its appearance, as well as a much-needed protective layer.

Give your bench even more of a chance of surviving year on year by investing in a protective cover. Easy to use, you slip over the cover at the end of the summer, and peel the layer away when the warmth of spring arrives. Should there be a bad weather forecast, a summer storm maybe or a gale expected to blow through, you simply pop the cover back over.

Don’t forget, it is not just rain that causes wooden garden furniture a problem but the sun, ice, snow and wind too. In fact, the biggest enemy of hardwood garden benches is frost and ice.

Water that permeates into the grain of the wood and freezes during sub-zero winter nights can cause damage within the structure of the wood. Ice, as it thaws, expands and causes damage to the wood. Whereas your treated garden bench can handle a downpour or two, it is essential that if ice or frost is forecast that you protect the bench with a fitting cover.

Our top tips

  • Invest in the right-sized bench cover that covers the entire bench
  • Bench covers are also available to accommodate the bench’s design, such as the shape of our banana garden benches and the high-back garden bench that is proving popular
  • Secure the cover under each leg of the bench to hold it down

Why Does Teak Crack?

Teak cracks because of humidity, wet weather, and temperature changes causing the wood to expand and contract. After a short while, these factors are likely to cause fine hairline splits, cracks or ‘checks’ to appear in the end-grain sections of the furniture. These cracks are a part of the teaks natural weathering process, which also sees the wood change colour from a golden, honey hue to a lovely silvery grey as it ages. You might notice cracks come and go as the weather turns, and the water content of the wood goes up & down, but these should eventually settle. Despite the hardy and long-lasting qualities of teak wood, it is entirely natural for this process to happen.

If you have teak wood furniture in your garden, it can be very alarming when you first spot signs of cracking – but there is no need to panic. Teak is strong enough to handle cracks and instances of splitting without compromising the durability of your furniture, especially when it is of a quality design and build.

Although at Sloane & Sons we love the look and feel of aged teak, there are some steps you can take to cover up the cracks if you aren’t keen on their appearance. After leaving a new crack to settle for at least three months, you can fill it in with a wood putty that is a similar colour to your furniture and seal it with polyurethane. There isn’t any way to completely prevent cracks from appearing in the first place as they are a natural part of the furniture settling and ageing. You can prolong the lifespan of your teak furniture by using furniture covers only in extreme temperatures conditions such as snow and ice, keeping up proper cleaning and maintenance.

A Fitting Tribute – A Memorial Bench

Learning to live without a loved one is one of the most difficult things we have to learn to do in life. From a beloved pet to a spouse, child, relative or friend, grief is a many-headed beast.

There are times when we crave to feel close to them again and although nothing will bring them back, enjoy the place where you both enjoyed together is an ideal way of spending time. For that reason, many people invest in a memorial bench. It is a fitting tribute, no matter what the design or where it is placed, it is a gentle and subtle reminder of the person or pet you have lost.

It is a chance to grieve and come to terms with loss, but it is also an ideal means for other people to do the same.

There are various designs of memorial benches, all within budget. Adding a plaque is a means of showing people who the bench is for, and many customers also add a small description – some humorous, some deeply personal – so that anyone who happens upon the bench has an appreciation of why it is there.

How to Treat a Memorial Plaque

Plaques for memory benches can be acrylic (a tough plastic) or metal, complete with an engraving of your choice.

Keeping them clean is important. Metal plaques are best cleaned with a suitable cleaning substance, and there are specific leaning products for both brass and stainless-steel plaques.

  • Wipe away any surface dirt with a clean cloth
  • Follow the instructions of each product, apply, wipe clean, and buff to a high shine. These cleaners will often leave an invisible residue that acts as a protective layer, keeping the plaque cleaner for longer.

Protecting Memorial Benches from Weather

Just like other benches, you will want to protect the memorial bench from the weather. The best way is to ensure that from time to time, the bench is either stripped and revarnished or oiled on a regular basis, just has been described.

You could also invest in a bench cover, specifically for the style of the bench that ensure the worst of the weather is kept off the bench. And don’t forget, if you can, secure the bench to a hard floor, such as a concrete platform.

In Summary

A hardwood garden bench is an ideal investment in your garden and one that you will use time and time again. But you want to protect it;

  • Secure your garden bench with l-shaped brackets and anchor bolts that stop any vandalism or opportunist thieves
  • Keep your bench in a good state of repair by fixing any damage as quickly as possible
  • Keeping the bench clean and free from surface detritus also helps it last longer
  • Stripping back old paint or varnish and recoating with exterior varnish ensures that the wood is protected
  • Exterior wood or garden furniture oil is an alternative treatment that nourishes the wood too and brings out the natural grain and pattern of the wood
  • Furniture covers are a must-buy to help your bench survive the harshest of weathers
  • A memorial bench is a popular choice for remembering loved ones that have passed but again, maintaining and protecting it is a must too.

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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