Many of us will regularly clean out our houses, touch up paint and care for indoor soft furnishings on a fairly regular basis. So don't we apply this kind of upkeep to our outdoor benches and garden spaces too?
How can you look after your outdoor benches?
These days, garden furniture is designed to be left outside. Despite this, it is still important to maintain a little seasonal upkeep. When not in use, store your garden furniture in your shed, garage or outbuilding to keep it protected from the weather.
Just because the weather is getting cooler- it doesn’t mean you won’t use your furniture! What’s nicer than wrapping up in a big scarf with a cup of tea and a good book under a beautifully clear winter sky? Keep your garden bench looking great and help it last longer with our tips on winter care for your outdoor furniture.
Softwood benches need fairly regular care to ensure they stay healthy and strong. Treated softwood includes woods such as pine which is an inexpensive and readily available choice for a garden bench. Softwood is already treated to protect against the elements, but there are several things to can do to keep your bench in top condition over the winter months:
- Keep your softwood bench clean by washing it down with a wood-cleaning product on a regular basis. Dust and dirt can accumulate and cause a weakening of the wood.
- Treat with a wood stain to keep your bench fresh and protected from the elements
- When the weather is dry, give your bench a coat of preservative paint. Make sure to pay particular attention to the areas on your bench that come in the most contact with moisture. Keep an eye on horizontal surfaces and the feet if they are touching grass or soil.
Hardwood is one of the most durable kinds of outdoor furniture. This furniture is made with woods that contain lots of natural oils which cause them to be more weather resistant and strong. In the winter months, hardwood benches are a great choice as they can withstand lower temperatures. Woods commonly used for hardwood furniture include:
Unlike softwood, there is much less upkeep required for hardwood furniture. But it’s a good idea to give your hardwood bench, chairs or table a clean once a year with a brush and soapy water. This will get rid of any lichen or algae buildup.
Moisture combined with cold weather is the main problem for outdoor benches. Keep your hardwood bench away from collected moisture by keeping it raised above grass or wet soil, and by using a cover to keep out any rain or dew.
When new, teak furniture is a warm golden-brown colour which gradually turns silvery-grey over time. If you want to keep the original colour you can use teak oil. However, this is not necessary for keeping your teak healthy! It can survive for many years without any protection at all.
To apply teak oil, clean the teak first with soapy water and a brush. Once it’s dry, lightly sand the wood and paint on the oil with a clean brush. Make sure to get into all the crevices and under each foot.
Wooden furniture is usually built with screws. It’s a good idea to occasionally check the condition of your screws and tighten any loose ones. Brass screws don’t need much upkeep as they won’t rust, but steel screws should be maintained by using petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to protect them from moisture.
Metal is another popular choice for outdoor furniture. Like wood, a metal bench needs to be cleaned relatively often to keep it in top condition.
Over time, moisture can cause metal furniture to rust which can cause permanent damage. Check for rust and remove any loose bits by gently brushing them away. Apply rust-preventing paint, especially to horizontal surfaces and the base of the legs which are typically in the most contact with water. Repaint every couple of years to keep your bench weather-resistant and looking great.
As with wood, the screws and fixings of a metal bench need to be oiled regularly to keep them lubricated and the structure of the bench sound.
Plastic outdoor benches, tables and chairs are an inexpensive and low maintenance choice of outdoor furniture. As there is no wood or metal to get weathered, the only upkeep it requires is occasional cleaning with warm soapy water. This will also keep it looking shiny and clean for your use.
Although plastic furniture is relatively weather-resistant, it’s a good idea to keep it stored and sheltered when not in use. This protects it from the sun which can cause it to weaken if left out for long periods of time.
Outdoor soft furnishings
As well as keeping your furniture healthy over the winter months, it’s important to care for your soft furnishings. Cushions, pads and outdoor throws need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Wherever possible, regularly machine wash your cushion covers and pads. Make sure you check that they are machine washable - some soft furnishings require a hand wash.
When not in use, store your outdoor cushions and throws inside in a dry, clean space. If your garage or shed is prone to damp, it’s best to keep your soft furnishings in the house. If you have a parasol, avoid leaving it out in all weather and make sure it is dry before storing it.
In general, it’s a good idea to regularly check your garden bench for signs of rust or damage. If it rains or snows, check that no pools of water or soggy leaves are collecting and keep an eye on it as the weather gets colder.
We hope these tips help with the upkeep of your outdoor benches so you can carry on using them all year round! If you still can't decide which kind of garden bench is right for you, it's worth having a look around to find the best bench material for your needs.