Outdoor Furniture 101

You recently bought new rocking chairs to put on your deck from your favorite local rustic furniture store. After several months you begin to notice that your beautiful chairs are looking a little dull, they’ve lost the luster and shine they had when you purchased them. Although they no longer look new, you aren’t worried because overall they are still great looking chairs, but a couple of months later you notice that they look drastically different than when you bought them. You didn’t skimp and buy the cheapest outdoor furniture you could find, so you expect it to last the test of time. What Happened?

Most people don’t think about maintenance when they buy new furniture. Unlike the furniture in your home, outdoor furniture has to compete with different environmental factors. The chief offenders being sun and rain. Anytime you put wood furniture outside expect to have some regular maintenance to keep it in good condition.

Species Matters

Every wood species differs in how it stands up to outdoor elements. Cedar, for instance, is naturally decay resistant and repels insects making it ideal for outdoor furniture. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t need an exterior stain, but rather that in general it will hold up better overtime if left outside. Pine, on the other hand, will quickly deteriorate, and does not naturally repel insects, so prolonged exposure will cause it to break down far more quickly than Cedar.

The best species for outdoor furniture include: Cedar, Redwood, Cypress, and White Oak among others. Know what type of wood you are buying when you intend to keep a piece of furniture outdoors.

Keep It Clean

Taking care of your outdoor furniture is similar to that of indoor furniture. Periodically clean and wipe down all surfaces, being sure to remove any dirt and debris from the surface. Frequently cleaning your outdoor furniture will allow you to notice when the finish is starting to wear off.

Keep It Covered

The easiest way to protect your furniture is to keep it covered when not in use. This means either taking it inside or covering it to shield it from harmful UV rays produced by the sun or the moisture from rain. You can find patio furniture covers at most home centers or on Amazon.

Regular Reapplication Required

If you don’t like the idea of covering or storing your furniture, the alternative is to re-apply an exterior stain as needed, usually annually. Unless you order outdoor furniture, all of our furniture comes standard with a polyurethane coating, which isn’t an exterior finish. Putting any type of furniture outdoors with a polyurethane finish will cause it to deteriorate quickly due mostly to UV light from the sun. However, you can apply an additional coat of Spar Urethane directly over top of the original finish by simply lightly sanding the surface with 220 grit sandpaper. Spar Urethane not only seals the wood to keep out moisture, but also blocks UV rays and lasts longer than standard polyurethane. Spar Urethane goes on clear, allowing the beauty of the wood to shine through. Re-apply when it begins looking dull again.

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If you specifically bought furniture with an outdoor finish, such one of our cedar chairs or benches, it’s best to stick with oil based exterior finishes. Stains protect wood in a similar manner to paint, but unlike paint, it doesn’t flake and peel over time. There are four main types of oil based exterior stains.

  1. Solid Color Stains: Stains which cover the wood grain completely; provides the most protection against UV rays and water. If applied improperly may peel and flake over time.

  2. Semi-Solid Stains: Stains with less pigment than Solid Color, but more than Semi-Transparent. Partially covers the wood grain. Re-apply every 2-4 years

  3. Semi-Transparent Stains: Stains which contain pigment to change the color of the wood, but leaves the wood grain visible. Provides less protection against UV rays and rain than solid color stains but more protection than clear stains. The darker the stain, the more protection you gain. Re-apply every 1-3 years.

  4. Clear Stains: Stains which go on clear and remain clear. Provide minimal protection against UV rays and water, must be re-applied annually.

Most of our outdoor furniture comes with a Semi-Transparent stain, which will need to be re-applied annually after a quick cleaning. If you decide not to apply additional coats of finish, it will start to grey and loose its natural beauty.


Furniture that has been left outside for years with no maintenance will require a full refinishing. This includes removing what remains of the old finish, sanding the entire piece until it looks like new, then applying a new exterior finish, either a spar urethane or an exterior stain.

As always, if you have questions about how to care for your furniture give us a call at 570-355-5550 or send an email to info@ezmountain.com.