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How to Restore and Maintain Teak and Wood Garden Furniture

I’ve been eyeing various antique and vintage items lately. My current wishlist includes an antique oak secretaire cabinet and writing desk, a classic MGB convertible, a unique lamp crafted from a large Bailer shell, and a set of vintage apothecary jars and skeleton keys. I also recently discovered a beautiful vintage teak garden chair that reclines, which I absolutely adore.

There was a similar teak lounger I saw at Terrain that caught my attention, but its $900 price tag was steep, especially considering the exorbitant shipping costs to Australia. It felt as if I’d need to be in a fantasy land like Narnia to get it here affordably.

Fortuitously, I stumbled upon this vintage teak recliner for an incredible $50, and it was conveniently located in the neighboring suburb. After monitoring it for a couple of weeks, I decided to grab it. Despite my tendency to overestimate the carrying capacity of my Forrester, the chair, although a snug fit, managed to fit inside. It’s remarkable how spacious Forrester cars can be, almost like the Tardis!

how to restore teak garden furniture

Teak Garden Furniture

I have a fondness for teak garden furniture. On my front deck, there’s a charming teak bench I restored, a lucky find from Gumtree for just $20.00. My garden set is also made of teak.

Teak is not only sustainable but also an ideal material for outdoor furniture due to its natural resistance to weather. It contains oils that protect it from pests, rot, and warping. With proper care, teak furniture can last over a century, turning into treasured heirloom pieces.

However, the teak recliner I acquired had seen better days and was in need of some restoration to bring back its former glory.

Upon inspection, the chair was solidly constructed and didn’t require any major repairs. It had turned grey and still had some peeling varnish, likely due to being left outside under the harsh Western Australian weather for a few years.

Thankfully, it was still salvageable. Alongside this restoration project, the bottom of my backyard also awaited a bit of tidying up.

Linseed oil VS Tung oil

I opted to restore and shield my chair using a blend of Linseed Oil and Mineral Turpentine in equal parts. Initially, I considered tung oil, a natural oil known for its similarities to linseed oil. Tung oil is transparent, doesn’t darken wood, and produces a glossy finish. However, it’s quite costly, and using it for this project would have exceeded the chair’s cost.

Linseed oil, extracted from flax seeds (the same ones we eat), is a viable alternative. It’s notably thick and has a distinctive aroma. Raw linseed oil takes up to a week to dry, so I selected boiled linseed oil instead. This type isn’t actually boiled but contains additives that speed up the drying process.

Although linseed oil lacks added pigments, it does darken the wood slightly. It’s not as inherently weather-resistant as tung oil and needs more frequent reapplications for similar protection. But for this project, that’s not a concern.

Mineral turpentine, a petroleum-derived solvent, is added to the mix to thin the oil, enhancing its absorption into the wood.

Restoring Teak Garden Furniture: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Cleaning and Repairing

Begin by thoroughly brushing the furniture using a firm bristle brush, ensuring the removal of any insects or cobwebs. This process also allows for a detailed inspection of the wood for significant cracks or areas that need repairing.

Should you find any damages, such as holes needing patching or screws requiring replacement, address these repairs at this stage. Complete these fixes before moving on to the subsequent steps.

Step Two: Cleaning and Stripping

Utilize a water pressure cleaner to meticulously clean the chair and remove any peeling varnish, eliminating accumulated dust and grime. If you’re working in a sunny, breezy location, drying will be expedited. Ensure the furniture is entirely dry before moving to the next step.

In the absence of a pressure cleaner, opt for specialized wood cleaning and stripping products. Adhere to the product’s guidelines and confirm that the furniture is thoroughly dry prior to advancing to step three.

Step Three: Sanding Process

Proceed with a gentle sanding of your furniture. This step is crucial for eliminating any remaining traces of previous treatments, such as varnish, ensuring that the new oil treatment penetrates and protects the wood uniformly and efficiently.

Sanding a chair with numerous slats can be time-consuming, but the effort put into preparation is invaluable for the end result.

Step Four: Application of Linseed Oil Mixture

Prepare your mixture by blending equal parts of boiled linseed oil and mineral turpentine in a ceramic or glass container, maintaining a 50:50 ratio. Be cautious, as this mixture can stain and discolor the surface you’re working on. Use a drop-cloth underneath your piece to catch any drips.

Start by turning the furniture upside down and begin applying the mixture from underneath. The linseed oil and turpentine blend is quite thin; avoid overloading your brush to prevent flicking or dripping, which can create a mess.

Aim for a uniform, thin coating. It’s easy to spot areas that need more oil, especially since wood tends to absorb the oil quickly. Pay extra attention to the exposed ends where the wood may absorb the oil more readily.

Rotate the piece periodically to ensure every surface is evenly coated. It’s more effective to apply several light coats rather than a single heavy one, which could become tacky and take longer to dry and cure.

Removing Excess Oil

After applying the oil, let the furniture sit for 10 minutes, giving any leftover oil time to penetrate the wood. Then, take a clean, lint-free cloth and gently rub over the furniture to remove any excess oil. This is a great use for those single cotton socks without pairs!

It’s crucial to perform this step to avoid the accumulation of residual oil on the surface, which can turn tacky and delay the drying process. Ideally, allow the piece to dry overnight.

Step Six: Multiple Thin Oil Coatings

Proceed with a second application of oil using the same mixture and method detailed in steps four and five. Applying two to three thin coats will provide robust protection and sealing for your furniture. This process might span over a few days.

The durability of this protection can last up to a year, depending on the exposure to elements and their intensity.

Annual maintenance of your wooden garden furniture is an excellent summer activity. Opt for a sunny day (and don’t forget to use ample sun protection!) as a cool breeze will help speed up the process.

Start Your Garden Furniture Restoration Journey!

Be on the lookout for charming garden furniture pieces in local classifieds that are just a few restoration steps away from regaining their former splendor! Often, you can discover items that would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars when new, available at a much lower price. They simply require your care and effort to shine again!

Embracing the concept of recycling, reusing, and repurposing is not only eco-friendly but can also reveal the hidden beauty and utility in items that were once considered unwanted.