Memorial benches are not uncommon sights across the UK. A fitting tribute in so many ways, many people choose to place the bench, commemorating a loved one in a favourite spot.
But no bench is immune to the vagaries of the unpredictable British weather. There is one certainty, however, and that is the British winter will unleash some harsh weather during the winter months. From gales to rain storms, to sub-zero temperatures to weak winter sunshine, there is no doubting that memorial benches are subjected to all kinds of harsh conditions.
You want to preserve and look after the bench so that it is safe for use, but also looks in good condition too. The good news is that with the right choice of material, as well as a few handy hints, the memorial bench will stay looking good for a long time to come.
Make the right choice of material
Before we get into the hints and tips for weathering the British winter, we first need to look at the materials used for memorial benches. Depending on where the bench is being put and any conditions that need to be met, you could opt for a metal bench.
Or, if you prefer the natural material of wood, opt for a wooden garden bench. Softwood is the cheaper wood but because the material is not dense, it is more susceptible to rain damage.
Hardwood, in the meantime, is far denser. Teak hardwood benches are super-tough as the wood is slow growing in the rainforest thus, it is more than capable of withstanding the great British weather!
Oil or Varnish
Before you decide on a suitable treatment for your hardwood bench, it is worth noting which weather pattern can cause the most damage. Surprisingly, it is not rain, often thought to be the main reasons why wooden benches breakdown quickly.
Clearly, rain soaking into the interior of the wood is not great and we will take a look at that in more detail, especially how to prevent it. But, it is the cold that causes wood the most problem, especially ice and frost.
When water freezes inside the wood, it could cause damage when it thaws because as it does so, it expands. This crushes the grain of the wood and this causes weak points in the wooden structure.
Hence, you need to treat the garden bench so that water is not allowed to penetrate. And you can do this effectively in two ways;
- Oil - Danish oil is perfect for teak memorial benches as it not only protects the wood but nourishes it too. Apply in thin layers, allowing each coat to dry before applying another.
- Varnish – exterior varnish is also good for protecting hardwood as it creates a hard, but malleable layer on the wood. As wood dries it shrinks and as it becomes moist, it expands. You need a protective layer that moves with the wood, such as varnish – otherwise, the protective layer will crack. If this happens, water seeps in something that you want to avoid. Again, apply in thin layers, allowing each coat to dry.
As well a layer of oil or varnish, the best method of protecting the memorial bench in winter is to cover it with a waterproof protective cover. This stops water resting on the wood and freezing when the temperatures tumble during the winter months.
If it is possible to cover the bench, then the few pounds that the protective cover costs is a worthwhile investment. Better still, give the bench a wash and clean, allow it to dry and then place the cover over the top. This allows you to simply remove the cover when the warmth of spring arrives and you, along with relatives and friends can enjoy the bench once again.
There is one final suggestion for keeping a memorial bench in tip top condition and that is to secure it to a solid plinth, such as concrete.
Hardwood benches are heavy and don’t tend to topple freely in the wind but, if the recent stormy winters we have encountered are anything to go by, the possibility of harsh winds and gales are very real.
With this in mind, as well as additional security, the L-shaped brackets specifically for use with hardwood garden benches are an ideal investment. Again, for a few pounds, you can protect your bench from being blown around by winter gales.
Memorial benches are a gentle, yet fitting tribute to a loved one, a chance for everyone to grieve and reflect, pondering over the good times and memories they have of their relative or friend. A wooden bench is also simple and easy to maintain and with only a little effort, will stay in great shape no matter when the bench is located.