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How to rescue a tired-looking garden bench

How to rescue a tired-looking garden bench

A few years ago for our garden, we purchased a basic wooden bench from… somewhere. I can’t remember where exactly, but I know it wasn’t a huge investment in terms of cash, but we have enjoyed having it in the garden and being able to use it. Especially useful when people visited during Covid-19 and had to sit outside 2 metres apart.

But a few winters outside in the Scottish weather had worn away the paint and it needed some TLC. After having read up on the best techniques, I thought I’d give you my beginners guide on what to do.

1. Remove the old paint

Main thing to get right, is to remove as much of the old paint as possible. This important as it makes sure the new paint can protect and stick to the wood, without it the paint won’t “key” properly – I swear I was going to slap my fiance if he mentioned that word one more time during the bench work. Also, it will leave an uneven attractive surface. So, what are our options?

Scraping – Using a sharp blade on a handle (like the one on the right hand side of the above picture) to shave the paint off. This didn’t work; scrape too hard, you’ll damage the wood. Don’t scrape hard enough? You’ll barely touch the paint. It was a handy tool to remove excess paint that had clumped from the first time we painted it. But would not recommend it as your only tool.

Sandpaper and sanding block – So this is where you wrap the sandpaper around a piece of wood or in our case rubber handle with paper grip nails. It had the advantage of being more controlled, but at the downside of requiring serious elbow grease to remove the old paint. Our paint was too embedded in the paint for this to a feasible idea – it would have taken days of solid graft and frankly who can be bothered?

Powered Mouse Sander – I already had this tool in the garage, so I fired it up. Poor thing was several years old and Greg had used it many a time on lots of projects, so I think it was at the end of its life. I say that because it broke within 5 minutes me using it on an unseasonably warm Scottish afternoon in the sunshine. Greg loved it, so he bought another one. It did the job perfectly, it made light work of the paint. Yes, it was a noisy one, but it took the paint and the rough layer of wood that had built upon it. So this one gets the Chloe seal of approval.

2. Choosing the best paint

I assure you this picture was taken before I did Step 1.

Now to ensure you don’t have to spend every summer doing step one on an annual basis, you need to choose a paint that can survive all weather. Indoor paint is not used to getting rain, snow or sunshine on it, so it needs to be a good outdoor paint. Thankfully, the colour choice here is still very good. We chose a Ronseal branded Garden Paint in Cherry Blossom. Simple, effective, nice colour and durable.

Don’t skimp on the brushes, as you’ll end up spending hours picking up broken bristles out of the paint. But have a smaller brush for dealing with narrow angles like I had to underneath this bench. Recommend a minimum of two coats with at least a day between them, keep it dry in the meantime. Getting it wet too soon will wash off some of the paint before it has a chance to settle and cause streaks.

3. Don’t have to, but it helps

Hello reflection!

Finally, there are a few things you can do to make the paint last longer. One is to apply a protective clear varnish. This will make the paint more durable, but it will be at the cost of making the paint glossy and slippier when wet. Now it’s likely you won’t be sitting on it during rain anyway! But we didn’t do it to ours as we wanted a matte finish to the paint, which this one did straight out of the tin.

What isn’t pictured is styling the bench. There are a huge selection of outdoor friendly scatter cushions and even a whole bench cushion to make it more comfortable for yourself and yours guests.

After that, keep it dry. Put it away in the garage over winter or look at getting a cover for it. If it’s too cold for you to use it, you should cover it where you can to keep the wood from rotting, the paint from fading the small cost of investing in protecting the bench will save you the cost of buying a replacement one!


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