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How to Restore Teak Garden Furniture

Currently, there’s the antique oak secretaire cabinet and writing desk that I am lusting over, plus a vintage MGB convertible, a lamp made from a large Bailer shell and a collection of vintage apothecary jars and skeleton keys. Recently, I found a gorgeous vintage teak reclining garden chair.

I have had my eye out for a slatted teak lounger like the one I spotted at Terrain. But the $900 price tag was more than I was willing to pay. And besides, delivery to Australia is an expensive nightmare. I might as well be living in Narnia.

Luckily, this vintage teak recliner was a bargain at just $50 and was in the suburb just next to mine.

So after it sat on my watchlist for a week or two, I finally caved and picked it up! I have a spacial-estimation problem where I think just about everything will fit in the back of my Forrester. The chair was a tight fight, but it did fit. Forrester’s are like the Tardis on the inside!

I love teak garden furniture.

I already have a lovely teak garden bench on my front deck that I restored after finding it on Gumtree for just $20.00. My outdoor setting is teak too.

Teak can be sustainably grown. It is also one of the best woods to use for garden furniture because of its natural weather resistance. Teak wood contains oils which protects the tree against pests, rot and warping. Well cared for teak outdoor furniture can become heirloom pieces that will last a century or more!

But, this recliner had seen better days. It was going to need a little love to restore her to her former beauty.

A quick check revealed the chair was beautifully made, solid, with no repairs required.

It had faded to grey and still had some flaking pieces of varnish. My guess was, it had been left in a spot for a few years that had exposed it to our harsh Western Australian elements.

Fortunately it was not beyond repair. As you can see, the bottom of my backyard was in need of a tidy too!

Linseed oil VS Tung oil

I decided restore and protect my chair using a mix of Linseed Oil and Mineral Turpentine in a 50:50 mix.

I was intending to use tung oil, a natural oil, with similar properties to linseed oil.

Tung oil is clear, will not darken the wood and gives a glossy finish. Yet, tung oil is expensive, a supply to complete the job on this project would have cost more than the chair itself!

Linseed is pressed from flax or linseeds, yes, the same linseeds that you eat! It is very thick, with a distinct smell. Raw linseed oil will take up to a week to dry, so I chose boiled linseed for this chair. It is not actually boiled, rather it has additives in the oil that hasten the drying process.

While linseed oil does not have added pigments, it will darken your wood. Linseed oil is not as readily weather resistant as tung oil, repeated applications are required to achieve the same level of protection. However, in this project, I don’t mind at all.

Mineral turpentine is a petroleum-based solvent that helps to thin the oil and allow better penetration into your wood.

How to Restore and Maintain Teak and Wood Garden Furniture.

Step One: Inspect, brush and make repairs.

Brush down the furniture with a stiff bristle brush and remove any insects or spiders. It is also a good opportunity to closely check the timber for any large cracks or repairs that may be required.

If there are any repairs, like patching over holes, or replacing screws, do them now, before progressing to the next step.

Step Two: Clean and remove any residual varnish or paint.

I have a water pressure cleaner and went over the chair to remove the flaking varnish and to give it a good clean. It was so dusty!

Thankfully, I was able to work in a sunny area with a strong breeze blowing and my chair took very little time to dry. Do not proceed to step three until you are certain your piece is completely dry.

If you don’t have a pressure cleaner, there are some wood cleaning and stripping products you could use at this step. Follow the instructions on the product and be sure your piece is completely dry before progressing to step three.

Step Three: Sanding.

Give your furniture a light sanding. This will remove any residue trace of the previous treatment, (varnish in this case) and allow your oil to penetrate and protect the wood evenly and quickly.

This chair, with all those slats, took some time, but the prep time was worth it!

Step Four: Apply your linseed oil mix

Mix your boiled linseed oil and mineral turpentine together in a ceramic or glass container in a 50:50 ratio (equal measures).

This oil will stain and discolour the surface you are working on, so if this concerns you, be sure to place your piece on a drop-cloth to catch any drips.

I like to begin by flipping the piece over and start on the underneath. The linseed oil and mineral turpentine mix is very thin, so don’t be tempted to load your brush, as it will either flick or dribble excess oil and make a bit of a mess.

You want to evenly coat your piece with a thin application.

It will be very easy to see which spots need an application, and in this instance, the wood sucked up the oil very quickly!

I pay special attention to exposed ends, you may find the wood soaks up the oil much more readily on these spots.

You may need to rotate your piece a few times to ensure that every surface is coated with the oil.

It is much better to apply a few light coatings of oil than to attempt a heavy-handed application that will become tacky and take an age to dry and cure.

Step Five: Clean up excess oil

Leave the piece for 10 minutes to allow any remaining oil to soak in. Then, using a clean, lint-free rag, rub the piece over to collect any excess oil. This step is where your orphaned cotton socks come in handy!

This step is important, as any residual oil will collect on the surface, becoming tacky and slow to dry.

You can see that this was the point I started to turn pink with sunburn! Although it was a coolish day, the sun still had bite.

Leave the piece to dry overnight if possible.

Apply aloe vera for sunburn!

Step Six: Apply a few thin coats of oil.

Reapply a second coat of the oil using the same blend and process as per steps four and five. Two to three coatings will ensure your piece is well protected and sealed. This may take a few days to complete.

Depending on the exposure and the ferocity of your elements, your piece should be protected for up to a year.

How to restore teak garden furniture

Cleaning and maintaining your wooden garden furniture is a great annual summer job. A sunny day, (wear more sun protection than you think you’ll need!) with a cool breeze will hasten the job along.

Step Seven: Relax and enjoy your hard work!

Once your piece is completely dry, position in your favourite spot in the garden and enjoy. I’ve placed mine under the frangipani tree where it gets the afternoon shade.

Add a favourite book, a cool drink and enjoy your garden from a comfortable vantage.

How to restore teak garden furniture

Relax and feel great about the treasure you have given a second chance at a meaningful life!

Time to find and restore your own garden furniture!

Keep an eye peeled for beautiful pieces in your local classifieds that need just a little love and attention to restore them to their former glory! You can find pieces that would otherwise be hundreds or thousands of dollars new, for a fraction of the price. All they need is your love and attention!

I love recycling, reusing and repurposing all kinds of things. You would not believe how useful and beautiful unwanted things can be.