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5 Essential Renovation Tips for a Neglected Bench


Garden benches are uncomplicated pieces of outdoor furniture. In terms of teak hardwood garden benches, they are mightily robust and durable, able to withstand most of what the British weather can throw at them.


How Can You Renovate an Old Bench?

Over time, everything gets worn down by the weather. The combination of damp and dryness, heat and cold, means that many materials, especially natural materials such as wood, can soon become damaged.

Here’s the good news, however. A lot of this damage is reversible! We show you how to revive your bench in five easy steps.


Step 1 – Check for repairs needed

The first step is to thoroughly check the bench to see if it is actually salvageable. This means giving it a thorough check over to understand the extent of any damage and its severity.

However, this doesn’t mean that because the arm or some slats have broken that your bench is destined for the rubbish heap. The great thing about wood is that it can be repaired or replaced.

Take your time to determine what needs to be repaired. Do this before you start on the next few steps.

Sometimes it is just as economical to repair a wooden garden bench as it is to buy a high-quality new one. Take a look and see what is involved in repairing a bench.


Step 2 – Clean it

Now that you have made repairs, you can start the process of cleaning your wooden garden bench. Renovation often means stripping it back to its raw self, but you won’t be able to determine whether you need to re-varnish or repaint until you have rid the bench of detritus.

Over time, the combination of weather and dirt makes for a hard-to-shift layer on the bench. Thankfully, this too can be shifted;

  • Soft bristled brush – start by literally sweeping the bench, removing all the loose dirt, debris and bugs from its service. Pay close attention to joints and crevices.
  • Hard bristled brush – next, you need to get scrubbing to really get down to the wood beneath. As well as a brush, use warm water and you may want to use a gentle detergent for a little extra help. Always use an environmentally friendly cleaning substance so as not to contaminate watercourses.

The best time to wash a bench is on a breezy day. Rather than drying it with the heat of the sun – this can be too fierce and cause the wood to dry out too much – a light breeze will carry the moisture away, a process known as evaporation. Before moving on to step 3, make sure that the bench is dry so give it a few days for the moisture to be released from the wood.

Power or jet washers are a piece of equipment commonly found in the modern garage or garden shed. Whilst they make light work of keeping concrete or patios clean, even on their gentlest setting they are too abrasive for wooden benches, even hardwood benches.


Step 3 – Sand it down

Once dry, you can move on to step three which is to sand it down.

Most hardwood (and some softwood) benches are varnished or painted. This creates a useful protective layer against the weather.

Sanding is the process of removing all the last flakes of old paint and varnish, a process worth spending some time on. If you have one – if not, it is a wise move to invest in one – use an electric sander to start off the process.

Sandpaper, as you probably know, comes in different grades from very rough to a little sanding paper. Start with a very coarse sandpaper to remove the top layer, working your way down the grades to the light sandpaper, sometimes known as finishing papers.

Sanding is a skill in itself in many ways;

  • Don’t concentrate on one spot for too long or you will wear a dent in the top layer of wood.
  • It pays to spend time getting into the joints and crevices. This is where a lot of old paint or varnish will linger. Unless you remove all the old stuff, the new coat of varnish or paint won’t adhere as well as it should.
  • Always wear a mask so as not to inhale the very fine dust particles of old varnish or paint.

Once sanded down, garden benches are at their most vulnerable with the wood exposed to the elements. Keep the bench stored in a garage or shed where it is shielded from the weather. Make sure you brush it down well or wipe down with a damp cloth to remove all the dust before moving onto the next step.


Step 4 – Varnish or paint

Varnish or paint form the protective layer that protects the wood from the weather. There are many different colours and finishes available. But no matter which product you choose, make sure that it is for use on hardwood benches. Some products may soak in a little to the grain. But effectively, you want it to form a seal against the weather.

Varnish and paint, whichever you choose to use should be applied thinly and allowed to dry between each coat. You should use them in a well-ventilated area too, protecting your eyes and skin. Allow to dry naturally over several hours or even days.


Step 5 – Protect it

Renovating garden benches may be time-consuming but the end result is simply stunning. But you don’t want all this hard work to go to waste. Rather than allowing the weather to simply start beating away at the bench, why not invest in a made-to-fit cover for the bench?

A protective cover ensures that the cold doesn’t penetrate the grain of the wood. But, more importantly, it keeps the bench clean and tidy. All you have to do on a warm summer’s day is whip the cover off, take your seat and enjoy the view.

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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