How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?

Wooden furniture is a great addition to your backyard. It’s great for inviting guests or when you just want to be comfortable outdoors. However, it is worth remembering that, like any furniture, and even more so made of wood, such furniture requires some care if you want it to serve you for a long time and look great at the same time.

How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?
How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?

In this article we will tell you about how to waterproof you wood furniture and share step-by-step guides with you!

So what can be done to prevent wood decay?

When you waterproof wood furniture, you help it better resist the elements and keep it in good condition for a long time.

Let’s discuss in this article what the waterproofing wood furniture procedure is useful for and how easy it is to do it yourself.

Does outdoor furniture need a special waterproof sealing?

Yes, you need to seal wood furniture in order to protect the wood from the influence of the elements, to prevent it from cracking and rotting. If water penetrates the wood, it can soften the fibers and cause breakage.

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Of course, there are types of outdoor wood furniture made from wood that already have some waterproof properties. However, these qualities may weaken over time and the wood will then need to be re-sealed to prevent rotting and decay. Refinishing furniture is essential to protect wood from outdoor elements, UV rays etc.

How to protect the furniture from the influence of the weather?

There are several ways to do this and each waterproofing method will have its own merits that the others do not, so it will be effective to combine these methods for the best result.

  • Painting
  • Solid stain coloring
  • Coating agents and sealers
  • Translucent coating and sealers
  • Transfer furniture indoors when not in use
  • Cover it with a tarp

General Guide On How To Waterproof Wood Furniture If It’s Painted

Step 1. Clean the furniture

Use a solution of cleaner with water and a rough sponge to thoroughly remove any dirt that may be in the way.

Step 2. Let dry

Rinse off the cleaner and let your wood outdoor furniture dry completely for several hours.

Step 3. Apply the sealant of your choice

Before that, apply a primer to the surface so that the coating grabs better. Use a natural bristle brush and choose an oil-based variety of polyurethane or varnish, these are better for painted outdoor wood furniture.

Step 4. Dry the furniture

Dry the furniture for at least a day to ensure that the surfaces are completely dry.

Step 5. Wash your brush

Wash your brush in mineral spirits.

How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?
How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?

Some work tips

  • Some of the coatings can be slightly toxic, so it’s best to play it safe and wear a respirator.
  • Apply a thin layer, but be sure to wipe off any dents and cracks.
  • Do not apply second layer before drying to prevent hand rubbed oil finishes, especially if you use natural oils.
  • Rinse your brushes in mineral spirits after use to prevent deterioration.
  • Let your outdoor furniture dry completely before using it.
  • Work in ventialted areas, make sure that humidity is not to high and not too low.

Types of substances to waterproof wood furniture:

The chemical water sealing will preserve the appearance of the outdoor wood furniture without staining it. Coating is actually a method for waterproofing furniture to protect the furniture from moisture and rain and sometimes the coating has the effect of protecting it from the sun damage.

Main types of sealants:

  1. Polyurethane sealers commonly used for painted surfaces
  2. Urethane. They are oil based and water based. This is usually indicated on the packaging.
  3. Hardening oils. There are also teak oils or tung oil.

What to look for when choosing sealers

It depends on what is most important to you, what qualities do you want from the sealing and what is needed for your DIY projects?

It can be environmental friendliness, long-term, transparency.

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The list is inexhaustible and having tried a large number of types of coverage and sealers, we came to the conclusion that there are no bad products, but you need to understand that there are no completely universal sealers and you should understand that your expectations may depend only on what this or that type of coverage was made for.

If the wood is left unprotected against the weather elements, it will inevitably change color. Consequently, a coating without sun protection will not be able to preserve the color and brightness of your favorite furniture, since it is the UV rays that destroy the cellulose structure, leading to a graying of the tree.

Penetration or wood surface sealing.

Many experts are of the opinion that penetration is just a marketing gimmick, which varies greatly depending on the brand. No sealant will penetrate the wood deeper than a few cells, moreover, such an action will not at all increase resistance to deterioration, and may not even have any effect.

In addition, on most surfaces, the top layer will come off quite quickly and you will have to resort to re-sealing of the furniture.

The best sealants for outdoor use

Spar Urethane

This is a sealant that can be used and it will do its job well to waterproof furniture and protect it from moisture and breakage. It’s finish may be matte, velvety and shiny. Also available in clear and tinted versions, so you have a wide choice.

This coating can be applied with a roller or brush, it dries quickly and you can get your result in just a few hours. Among other things, it has sun protection properties.

  • Prepare the wood by rubbing it a little with fine grit sandpaper and wiping it off dust and dirt.
  • Spar Urethane must be applied in two or three coats for best protection.

Its effect will last for two years, after which you can repeat the procedure. This is a good durable coating that will not disturb the look of the natural wood.

Exterior paint

Painting furniture is a good way to refresh the color and give the furniture protection at the same time. Just be sure that you chose the paint for exterior use and not for indoor furniture. Oil based paints are best for outdoor furniture and are very durable and waterproof.

Latex paint also does a good job, just check once again that they can be used for exterior wood furniture.

You can choose a paint that already has a sealer or just apply sealant on top after applying paint. The coating will need to be renewed every few years to protect the outdoor furniture from direct sunlight and bad weather.

How to waterproof wood furniture for outdoors?

It is also worth spending your time pre-treating the wood with a primer, so the paint will lie better on the wood and it will give maximum protection. Although some paints do not require this, so check the manufacturer’s instructions on the package first.

  • Pre-treating the wood with a primer.
  • Make sure the surface is clean and let the furniture dry completely before painting.
  • Apply paint only on bare wood.

Combination of stain and sealant

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This is a good way to bring out the natural color of the wood, but if it’s not indoor wood furniture, but outdoor furniture, you should mix it with the sealant.

  • For a start, seal your furniture with wood stain.
  • When the substance dries, apply a second coat of sealant on top to protect the furniture from outdoor elements.

Wood oils

If you want a more natural look for your outdoor wood furniture, then you should consider using natural oil sealant. There are many types of oils that are designed for different types of wood.

You can use linseed oil, also known as raw linseed oil, the most powerful kind. There are also boiled linseed oil and polymerized linseed oil. For a stronger spar-like urethane effect, tung oil would be the best.


You need to soak the wood with oil if you want to use it as a complement to the wood stain, as it can block the path for the oil and prevent it from creating the protection it needs.

  • For natural oils, you can use a paint sprayer, a piece of cloth or a brush.
  • The surface needs to be clean before starting.

Of course, the effect of the oil is short-lived and will have to be updated regularly, but the quality of such a coating is worth it and it’ll waterproof wood furniture very well and protect wood from UV rays.

Wood coating oils are a material that does not cause any difficulties when working with it. At the same time, each type of oil reliably protects the treated surface from all biological pests and from external climatic and mechanical influences. With the right sealing oil, you can keep your outdoor wood objects in perfect order for an indefinitely long time.


Varnish for outdoor use, especially marine varnish, will very reliably protect your wooden furniture from damage. Such a sealant dries with a durable layer that will not crack from bad weather.


This type of coating is quite laborous and you will have to spend time on it, you will have to apply about eight thin layers and wait for each one to completely dry before starting to apply the next one.

Polyurethane sealants

It is often believed that this is the same as varnish, in fact, polyurethane is plastic in liquid form that is not affected by water and is difficult to scratch. It is possible to purchase water-based polyurethane or oil-based polyurethanes, but only oil-based polyurethane can be used on outdoor wood furniture.

Polyurethane has a high level of volatile organic compounds compared to varnish.


This type of sealant will give your furniture a high gloss finish. Most often it can be found on cabinetry. It is resistant to scratches and damage.

Lacquer is much thinner than polyurethane or varnish. It has high levels of volatile organic compounds.


How To Apply Sealants

Quick Tips

  1. Make sure the surface of your let’s say outdoor table is clean and free of dust and dirt.
  2. If you have previously treated this furniture, it is better to remove the peeling paint or coating.
  3. A good way to check the coating is to drop a few drops of water on the surface, they should remain like beads on it, and if they are absorbed, then you need to recoat.
  4. For old dry wood, it is better to process the entire furniture, including legs and more. If the wood is young and a little greenish, it is better to wait with the processing of the legs and other things until it dries out.

Varnish. Step-by-step guide:

  1. If the furniture is old, first go over it with sandpaper.
  2. Use a coarse brush and a cleaner diluted with water.
  3. Rinse off the cleaner and let the furniture dry completely.
  4. If the furniture is new, apply a thin coat of varnish with a natural bristle paintbrush.
  5. Be sure to cover all dents and cracks.
  6. Leave the furniture to dry for say a day.
  7. Apply the next layer of varnish.
  8. Repeat eight times.
  9. In no case should the varnish be shaken or stirred before use. This will create air bubbles on the surface of outdoor wood furniture that will be difficult to get rid of.
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Polyurethane. Step-by-step guide:

  1. If the furniture is old, then just like with a varnish, treat it with sandpaper and wash it.
  2. Apply a thin layer of polyurethane with a natural bristle paintbrush.
  3. Walk over all the bumps and gaps.
  4. Let the furniture dry.
  5. Apply another layer.
  6. Leave the furniture for the day.

Lacquer. Step-by-step guide:

  1. Again, treat the surface if the furniture is old.
  2. Apply lacquer in a thin layer with a natural bristle paintbrush.
  3. Let dry for about two hours.
  4. Apply another layer and leave for another two hours.
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Natural Oils:

  1. Thoroughly clean the surface of wood furniture and sand it if it is old.
  2. Apply a thin layer of oil with a brush. Spread the oil evenly over the surface.
  3. Make sure the wood is well saturated. Remove excess oil with a cloth. Wipe well to get rid of residual oil.
  4. Leave the furniture to dry for at least eight hours.
  5. Determine the number of layers yourself, the main thing is to let the wood dry before use, drying oil is the same as drying other sealants, just let it rest for several hours.
  6. After about six months, repeat the procedure and renew the coating every few months.

Stained sealants:

  1. Clean the surface, go with sandpaper if the furniture is dry and old.
  2. Apply a thin coat of paint, make sure it’s at room temperature.
  3. Dry the furniture for 8-10 hours.
  4. Apply another layer and leave to dry overnight.


What is the best protection for outdoor wood furniture?

Any kind of coating will be a good waterproof protection for your outdoor furniture. Just make sure it’s a sealant designed for furniture for outdoor use. We recommend applying a primer before coating for the best protection. So your furniture will not be affected by the outdoor elements, such as the UV rays or rain.

What is the best product to waterproof wood?

Any type of sealant can be used. Urethane, spar varnish, oil based polyurethane. You can also use natural oils such as tung oil or linseed oil, but this option is not very durable although it will preserve the look of the tree better.

Can you paint wood to make it waterproof?

You can paint your outdoor furniture to protect it from water and UV rays, but make sure it’s a paint that contains a sealing agent, otherwise it may crack and chip over time. It is best to apply a thin coat of sealant on top of the paint to provide the best protection for you wood furniture for outdoors.

Can you leave wooden furniture outside in the rain?

Wood furniture for outdoors can be left outside if it has been well treated with a sealant and is well protected from the weather, then no rain will be terrible for it. Of course you can also just cover it with a tarp.

What is VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemical compounds that are released as gases from solids or liquids.
VOCs are volatile because they evaporate easily at room temperature and are organic compounds because they contain carbon. VOCs have a wide spectrum of activity and varying degrees of toxicity.


Protecting wood from mold, decay and bugs is a paramount task for any owner of a outdoor wood furniture. This question is very important if you are working with wooden products that will be used outdoors in the future. Homemade outdoor wood furniture also needs protection from moisture and other negative natural factors.

We now know that there are several types of sealants, how to use them and how they differ.

Wood is a material that is prone to rotting if left exposed to external moisture and it can lose color due to the sun, so it’s better not to be lazy to seal it, so it will last you much longer.

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