Your outdoor furniture and decorations transform your yard into a welcoming extension of your home. An outdoor living space lets you entertain and show off your personality to neighbors and guests alike. But after a few seasons, outdoor wood furniture can start to deteriorate.

If you’re wondering how to protect outdoor wood furniture from the elements, here are the steps you should take. With proper care, your wooden furniture can resist weathering and rotting. You’ll ensure that the wear and tear outdoors, like sun exposure and moisture, don’t shorten the lifespan or ruin the appearance of your beautiful outdoor wood furniture.

3 Ways to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture

Wooden chairs

There are three options to protect most outdoor wood furniture and yard accessories. The method of wood protection depends on the type of furniture, the size of the item, usage, and personal preference. When it comes to protecting outdoor wooden furniture from the elements, your best methods are:

Method 1: Painting Outdoor Wooden Furniture

Painting outdoor wooden furniture

You can paint outdoor wooden furniture with a brush, roller, or spray, depending on the size of the item and your comfort level. You’ll need to recoat painted outdoor furniture every few years, but paint offers some of the best water and sun protection.

The drawback of painting outdoor furniture is, of course, that you don’t get to fully enjoy the natural beauty of wood. However, there are many colors and options when it comes to paint, so most people can find a look that suits their personal preference. Depending on your outdoor décor and style, you may want to choose an outdoor paint that’s formulated to protect the wood from the elements.

Method 2: Sealing Outdoor Wooden Furniture

Sealing outdoor wooden furniture

Sealing is another method of preserving outdoor wooden furniture. The benefit of sealing is that it’s a clear coating that allows the beauty of the wood to shine through. Sealing can even enhance the look of the wood grain. Sealing closes the “pores” of the wood, so moisture, dirt, and other elements can’t get through.

Sealant is quite durable and can last for several years, especially protecting wood against the hazards of water exposure. It’s important to note that some sealants aren’t UV resistant, however, and certain types of sealants can turn yellow or degrade over time. It also takes time to apply sealant, as it needs time to cure.

Method 3: Varnishing Outdoor Wood Furniture

Varnishing outdoor wooden furniture

Exterior varnish is another method for protecting outdoor wooden furniture. Varnish is a type of sealant that adds shine to the wooden surface and offers UV resistance. Varnish is often less durable than a polyurethane sealant, so it requires more frequent applications, but some people prefer it as it brings out the natural beauty in the wood.

Marine or spar varnish is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture because it’s waterproof and specially formulated to last under damp outdoor conditions. Explore our exterior varnishes, stains, and finishes to find your preferred method of protecting your outdoor furniture.

How to Protect Outdoor Wood Patio Furniture from Sun

A wooden outdoor patio set consists of a couch with cream cushions and yellow pillows, a chair with cream cushions, and an ottoman with a cream fabric top. The deck beneath the furniture is dark grey, and there are decorative tables and lanterns arranged around the furniture.

We all know that the sun can cause fading over time. Those bright and beautiful rays bring us joy in the summer, but they can also cause outdoor wood furniture to look dull, especially if the furniture is painted. Even with sealant or varnish, you may need to touch up the wood every few years to keep it looking its best.

There are a few ways to protect wood furniture from the sun, but your best bet is avoidance. Cover your wooden furniture when it’s not in use or move it out of the direct sun. If you have a south-facing patio or another area that sees a lot of UV, you may want to keep your patio furniture under an awning or umbrella to help avoid fading.

During the off-season, you should store wooden furniture in a protected area like a shed or garage. Even if the weather isn’t sunny, it’s likely to be wet, which presents an even more significant hazard to your outdoor wood furniture. Outdoor furniture is an investment, and it requires special care to ensure it looks good for many years.

As mentioned above, spar varnish is an excellent choice for protecting outdoor furniture from fading. Spar varnish offers excellent UV protection by creating a shiny, flexible coating over the surface of your furniture. For a more natural look, penetrating oil works well too, but needs reapplication at least every year.

Regardless of the sealant or finish you choose for your outdoor furniture, try to keep the items out of direct sunlight and put them away in the winter. Taking these simple precautions to protect your outdoor furniture will help it last as long as possible.

How to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture from Rain

Rain on outdoor wooden table

Moisture is a natural enemy of wood. It can lead to mildew, rot, and degradation over time. Not only that, but wood furniture can warp from moisture and eventually crack. That said, outdoor wooden furniture is made specifically for the outdoors. Many manufacturers have selected the best type of wood for outdoor furniture and have taken precautions to treat items to help them last.

Some ways to protect your outdoor wood furniture from rain and moisture (an inevitable part of being outdoors) is to take the steps outlined above of painting, sealing, or varnishing your outdoor wooden furniture to help it stay preserved and beautiful.

As with protecting outdoor furniture from the sun, keeping it covered when not in use will also help protect it from rain and moisture. Even moving your wooden furniture to a covered porch or a gazebo in the yard will help protect it from the elements.

Another important way to protect your furniture from the effects of water—mildew and rot—is to keep the furniture clean. When dirt and grime build up on the furniture, it can trap moisture under the surface, holding it close to the wood. Over time, these tiny pockets of moisture degrade the wood and eventually cause permanent damage. Be sure to regularly wipe down your outdoor wooden furniture and dust it, just as you would with indoor furniture pieces.

How to Maintain Outdoor Wooden Bird Feeders and Small Items

A grey, black, and white chickadee perches on a rustic wooden birdfeeder, hanging from a backyard tree with white-colored rope.

Of course, some outdoor items in the yard are much smaller and easier to maintain. As with outdoor patio furniture, placing small objects like bird feeders out of the direct sun and storing them away in the winter will help longevity.

Sealing smaller items also helps preserve them. Since most bird feeders and houses are painted, look for a wood sealant product designed for paint. Unlike outdoor furniture, bird feeders often aren’t painted with durable outdoor latex that protects the wood. What’s more, the debris left by the birds themselves can also degrade the wood. A clear sealant product can finish the surface and keep it from absorbing water or fading in the sun.

You should still spray clear outdoor sealant on unpainted birdhouses and accessories made from natural materials to keep them looking good for as long as possible. However, keep in mind that some sealants aren’t necessarily safe for birds, so avoid them on birdhouses designed for actual nesting, as well as bird feeders. Instead, opt for natural, oil-based sealants on these surfaces or non-toxic paint.

How to Protect a Wooden Swing Set Outdoors

A wooden playset features a yellow plastic slide, two blue swings, and a blue infant swing. The playset is in a grass yard and includes a sandbox.

As we explore some common pieces of outdoor wooden furniture, many of us think of those wonderful outdoor swing sets. There’s nothing quite as relaxing as swinging back and forth in the yard, enjoying the gentle breeze created by the sway of your swing.

Wood is one of the most popular materials for backyard playsets, swings, and furniture because it’s widely available and easily adaptable for a wide range of kits. Homeowners can easily order affordable connectors and fasteners while picking up lumber locally to save on shipping. But that DIY spirit leaves you responsible for protecting the wood as well. No one wants to use a playset or swing that gives them splinters.

Look for wood playground sealant products to ensure the coating is safe for constant contact with kids. Other sealants may be unsafe to use on these types of surfaces. It’s also important to note that latex-based sealants tend to wear off after just a year or two. Be sure to reapply the sealant to your outdoor swing set or playset regularly, so the wood stays well-sealed and intact.

Swings and playsets can be unwieldy to move and store. When cold weather hits, you can protect large outdoor wooden furniture by covering it with a tarp. This will also keep the bulk of moisture away from your playset and limit UV exposure.

Best Protection for Outdoor Wood Furniture: Gazebos, Pergolas, Arbors, and Trellises

The interior of an unfinished pine gazebo features a wrap-around bench and a hexagonal table.

Like playsets, large outdoor structures like gazebos, pergolas, and arbors are challenging to move and protect. These outdoor wood furniture items are often built with wood to give them a natural look while also keeping them affordable backyard additions.

So how can you protect large outdoor wooden furniture? Even well-built designs can only last a few years if the wood is exposed to harsh elements. Much like other outdoor furniture pieces, the options for protection are paint, penetrating oil, or spar varnish.

Varnish and paint are the two most practical options since they are easily applied with a sprayer or paint roller that can reach the top of these often-tall structures. It’s best to apply penetrating oil to the wood before it’s assembled into the finished piece since you must apply the oil with a brush.

DIY Outdoor Wood Furniture Protection is Easy

Family eating dinner on outdoor wooden table

If you’re concerned about protecting your outdoor furniture investment, don’t worry—protecting your outdoor wooden furniture is easy. Don’t let the elements shorten the lifespan of your favorite outdoor decorations, furniture, and features. You can protect every item, from a big gazebo to a small wooden sign, with the right sealant product.

Look for sealants that offer UV protection and moisture resistance to ensure neither form of weathering ruins the look of your outside furnishings. While do-it-yourself projects are fun and fulfilling, always take extra precautions for safety so as not to risk personal injury or property damage. Test products first to ensure they are suitable for your particular item, and leave any projects that seem too challenging to the professionals!