We spend a lot of time and money making our gardens look great. Wooden furniture and fittings are some of the most versatile and popular methods of garden decoration in the UK, but like any natural product, a little maintenance is needed to ensure that all your time and effort hasn’t been put to waste.
What happens if I don’t look after my wood?
Wooden furniture can last for years if looked after properly, but like any natural product, its quality can be affected by the weather. Most people will first see the decline in quality in the spring when they begin to use their outside spaces again and assume that the damage was done during the winter. Whilst the winter weather does cause most of the damage, it’s only because of conditions in the summer; a long, hot season of bright sunshine and occasional high humidity and showers can cause a lot of strain on the fibres in the wood. This strain makes it more likely that a combination of water and cold in the winter will cause either mould or mildew to form, which causes weaknesses and rot in the wood.
How often should I treat wood?
Treating your wooden products should be a priority, and depending on your local conditions and wood type this may need to be done from once every 3 months, to once every 12 months. Failure to do this may lead to decay and damage caused by exposure to rain and the elements.
Preservation – the basic method
The key to wood preservation is the prevention of water getting into the wood. There are a few key steps in achieving this and this method can be applied to furniture, fence panels, sheds and exterior wooden window frames. These steps can be undertaken at any point in the year and should be done in as dry conditions as possible.
Step 1 – Clean your surface: Over the summer, your furniture will naturally accumulate a layer of dirt and residue. This detritus not only looks bad, but it can be a carrier of moulds and spores that can seep into and destroy the wood. To do this, simply wipe down your furniture with a damp cloth and some soapy water. Be thorough and get into all cracks and crevices, particularly screw holes and hinges. Larger items like fence panels and sheds may be cleaned with a pressure washer – but always check if this method is suitable first.
Step 2 – Wax and varnish: To treat wood you will require treatment products specific to the material, be that teak, oak, pine or wicker. Apply it thoroughly, making sure you apply it to all sides of the furniture, over and under. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. Make sure the surface you are trying to treat is dry before applying your treatment product and follow the product’s instructions.
Step 3 – Dry and cover: Once your furniture is clean and protected, allow it to dry, and find an appropriate place to let it sit over the winter.
- Sheds and garages are ideal places to put small items of wooden furniture as they are generally drier than the outdoor alternative.
- For those items too big for a shed, consider investing in a cover to keep them dry over the winter.
- Remove soft furnishings and cushions from the furniture and store these inside.
These are the basic steps that need to be taken to protect the wooden furnishings in your garden. Some other things you can do include putting pieces of wooden furniture on a pallet to allow for the circulation of air and reduced risk of standing groundwater and making sure that any covers are secured with bricks or pegs so they won’t become uncovered by strong winds. If you take these steps every year you will be extending the life of your wooden furniture by about half. Some types of wood can be bought pre-treated, however, this does not mean that they do not need any further treatment once bought, and different types of treatment will require different levels of upkeep.
- Untreated wood – Untreated wood is the most susceptible to rot, fungi, and general weathering and should be treated as soon as possible with the method above.
- Dip treated & paint stained – Protection may begin to fade after 6-12 months and may offer little or no more protection against the weather than it originally did when purchased. This kind of wood can be treated at any time of the year and treatment should be reapplied about once a year.
- Pressure treated – If your wood has been pressure treated (a premium wood preservation technique), it will have longer lasting protection than a wood treated with a base layer preservative. Pressure treatment forces the preservatives into the lumber through the use of a vacuum. However, pressure treated wood is not waterproof; a weather-proofing top coat or base layer preservative is recommended every 12 months to fully protect timber through the winter months. However, it may not be best to treat pressure-treated timber straight away, as it needs to weathered (this should take 2-3 months).
Wood treatment is an often overlooked part of annual garden maintenance, but neglecting it can often lead to higher expenses in the future as you will more than likely have to replace damaged wood in a few years. The steps outlined here are the basics of preserving your furniture or wooden buildings. Some wooden products may require extra protection, and it is best to always check any instructions that came with the item. Either way looking after the wood in your garden properly and at the right time will mean when it comes to it, you will be able to spend long sunny days relaxing in your pristine garden.
Gary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.