How to Refinish Wood Benches

Guest Post by David Crader
Wood benches are a beautiful addition to any exterior or interior space. If they’re not taken care of though, their quality can quickly diminish.

The procedures mentioned in this short tutorial should not be applied to any kind of bench that is not made of one hundred percent wood. People often mistake a wooden bench for a bench that actually only has wooden-like paintwork on it. Any good wooden bench will weigh a ton and should cost a hefty amount of money, that is, if you did not inherit one. In addition, I would like to note that any procedures performed on an exterior bench can be also be performed on an interior bench.

Step one

Since you will be working with slightly toxic material, I strongly recommend you to refinish your bench outside. Wait for a nice, sunny, dry day where time will not be an issue. Rushing can lead to injuries, so be patient and take each step slowly.
Things you will need:

  • heavy duty gloves
  • protective glasses
  • working suits
  • equipment to disassemble the bench if needed
  • stripper for loosening up the old protective layer
  • sanding paper
  • stain
  • finishes

If you have all of these things, you’re ready to start refinishing! The first step is coating the current protective layer with a stripper. This is a cheap chemical substance that you can find at any supermarket or hardware store. Apply just a little bit on the bench and let it sit for at least an hour. This will loosen up the old protective layer and make the bench easier to sand in the future. You might think the next step is sanding, however, I’ve found that scraping down the loosened up protective layer makes for a far easier sanding phase. Depending on the design of the bench, you might want to disassemble its parts to gain access to each corner before sanding. Once you’re done scraping and disassembling, you can start sanding.

Use a 150 grit sandpaper to get your bench exactly where it needs to be. Stain won’t stick well to ultra-smooth wood so please be cautious not to sand too vigorously. Use light pressure on your sanding machine and always try to cover the entire width of the wood at once, because this will result in an overall better and even sanding.

Step two

Next, apply a couple of layers of stain. This is pretty straight-forward, just apply one layer of stain at a time, leaving each layer time to dry completely before applying the next one. Stain will seep into the wood well, but it won’t create a protective layer for your bench. A protective layer is important because it will give your bench that extra glossy or matte look. Step three will guide you through this process.

Step three

There are two types of protective finishes for wood benches. The first one is a hardwood oil finish that will give your bench a matte look. The second one is a varnish finish that will create a glossy finish. Differences between these two types of protective layers are not solely based on looks though. Hardwood oiled finishes have to be applied annually in order to preserve their protective properties. It also repels water a bit better, which is good thing if your bench has a lot of metal parts. The varnished finish is a lot more durable and cost effective, as this protective coating preserves its protective properties for at least three years.

I hope this tutorial was able to help you along your refinishing journey. Many people often give up because it just seems too complicated. The key is patience, education and the correct materials. We’ve given you the education, now all you need are the materials and a full day of free time. Good Luck!

About the Author

This post was written by Dave C. from Dave is a painting enthusiast who enjoys any and all types of DIY projects. His blog features many more how-to and DIY projects relating to painting, staining, stripping and repairing wood furniture.

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