This is 9 Useful Tips for Finishing Outdoor Tables. In this post, I’ll show you several ways to finish an outdoor table so it lasts longer through the elements. It’s amazing how a couple changes can make such a big difference. Enjoy.
Finishing Outdoor Tables
Though most woodworking projects end up staying indoors, there are times when you have to make something that’s going to have to survive in the great outdoors. One of the more common projects as a table.
Tables are great for outside. They serve as gathering areas when company comes over, and they can hold up food and drinks for everyone to enjoy. That is, as long as the weather doesn’t destroy the table.
Tables that are outside need a little bit more attention than tables that are inside. The safety of the home offers a lot of protection that mother nature does not. Thankfully though, there are a few things you can do to make your finish last as long as possible
Here is the list, and I’ll go into each one of them in greater detail coming up in the post:
- Consider the Climate First
- Consider the Placement Second
- Pick the Best Finish for the Conditions
- Prepare the Table Really Well
- Coat all Surfaces Thoroughly
- Follow the Directions on the Product Exactly
- Allow the Table to Fully Cure
- Consider Buying a Cover for the Table
- Care for the Table and Clean After Use
Consider the Climate First
The first thing that you need to do when working out the best way to finish your outdoor tables is to consider the climate you live in. After all, this is the big thing that you need to defend your table from while it lives outside.
Climate means everything. In a very cold climate, especially one with snow, you might be looking at different methods of protecting the surface than in a hot environment. In warm places, it’s the sun that does the majority of the damage.
Maybe you live in a rainy climate? In that case you’ll need a lot of water protection. Wherever you live, make sure that you have a good understanding of the weather before you start shopping for products to protect your outdoor wooden projects.
Consider the Placement Second
Once you understand your climate, the next thing to take a look at is where the item will be placed outside of your home. There is a big difference between an item that is covered and shaded versus an item that’s left out in the middle of the yard.
Obviously the item in the middle of the yard is going to get a much harsher rendition of the weather than the covered item. This is important to think about, because it will directly affect how long your finish will last.
When in doubt, it’s best to store your table someplace that it’s protected from the weather, and also shaded. If you have a covered porch, this is a great place for a table. It will age better, and last longer too.
Remember, we are talking about how long your finish will last, not making it last forever. The great outdoors eventually returns everything to the earth, so all you can really do is slow down the process by making good decisions. You will never stop it.
Pick the Best Finish for the Conditions
Once you know the type of conditions that you are up against, which includes the weather, and where you plan on storing your outdoor table, it’s time to pick a finish. Since you know what you’re trying to protect, choose the best product.
If you’re in a place with a lot of sun, and the table is going to be out in the sun, look for a product that has a lot of UV protection. Most outdoor wood finishes offer a lot of protection from the sun, which is a good thing for an outdoor table.
Outdoor tables that are going to be in wet weather can use extra water protection. There are products for wooden decking and other high traffic outdoor wooden projects that you can use on your table with great success.
Once you understand what you’re up against, make sure that the outdoor finishing products you buy are rated to protect you from those things. Thankfully there are a lot of products available, all you need to do is look.
Prepare the Table Really Well
The first step to any good finish is surface preparation. Outdoor tables are no different, and the better you prepare the surface for accepting whatever finish you decide to apply, the better that finish is going to look.
Even though you are essentially dooming this piece to a very slow, deteriorating fate, because weather is a force that eventually consumes all natural products, you still want to put some time into preparing for the finish.
For at least the years that you have the product, it’s nice to have it look as good as it possibly can. This means sand the piece really well, deal with any splinters or defects, and prepare it like you would prepare any other piece for a finish.
Don’t cut corners because the piece is going to live outside. At some point you’re going to have people over to your house, and it’ll be nice when they sit down at your outdoor table that they enjoy it instead of pick out the defects.
Coat all Surfaces Thoroughly
One trick to finishing your outdoor tables is too coat all of the surfaces thoroughly with finish, and that doesn’t mean just the surfaces you see. Any surface that is exposed to air needs to be coated with finish.
Outdoor furniture takes a beating, and water and light can get into cracks that are very small and hard to see. Even the places that are hidden or covered are not immune to the effects of weather and moisture.
This means you need to finish absolutely every exposed surface on your project. This table needs to have a coat of finish on every surface, including the bottom of the table top, and under the table base.
The better you apply this coat, the longer your piece will last. If you apply a poor coat, or skip sections that don’t seem important, the table top will show signs of wear a lot earlier than it should.
Follow the Directions on the Product Exactly
Outdoor finishes tend to apply a tiny bit differently in some cases than indoor finishes. If you have one of these finishes that has special instructions, or extra steps, make sure you follow them in order to be successful.
When the manufacture of a finish tells you how many coats, or what timing you need between applications, they aren’t just printing that for fun. It’s important to follow those directions properly in order to get the best from your finish.
Again, the outdoors is already going to do everything it can to try and consume your tables and chairs as fast as it can. Following the directions and applying your finish properly will slow that down as much as possible.
See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking
Allow the Table to Fully Cure
This is very important. Before you put that table outside, or any other wooden pieces that you are going to leave outside, make sure that the finish is fully cured. This is different and fully dry, and it’s important to know the distinction.
A dry finish is one that you can touch, without the surface feeling sticky or wet. A cured finish has absolutely no solvents left at all in the layer, and is dead dry. Dry to the touch will still have solvents, and not be full strength.
A surface that is not fully cured will not offer of the full protection of the finish as the manufacturer intended it to be. This means you might accidentally expose your furniture in an unprotected way to the elements.
Don’t do that. Instead, wait the full cure time as recommended by the manufacturer of the finish you are using before you put the piece outside. Not only will the piece last longer, but I’ll also look better while it’s in use.
See Also: 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing
Consider Buying a Cover for the Table
Though this doesn’t have anything to do with the actual finish itself, there are some things that you can do to help your outdoor tables and wooden furniture last longer. One of these things is buying a cover for your table.
A simple cover that protects the table top from direct sunlight, and being rained or snowed on can make a huge difference when you’re finished. This means a lot less direct abuse and that means a better looking and longer lasting finish.
Covers can be found in a number of different places that sell patio furniture, you can also find them online. They are much less expensive than applying more finish or replacing your furniture after the weather destroys it.
Care for the Table and Clean After Use
Another thing that you can do to help your finish last longer is to clean up after yourself. I know that sounds crazy, but when you leave food debris and liquids on the surface of your tables, it doesn’t do good things for your finish.
Even though this table is outside, and it’s going to be rained on, and it’s going to be beat up a little bit, you don’t need to celebrate it. Clean up after yourself, including wiping down the table after eating and drinking.
The less of your own waste and debris you leave on the table the better. It will be easier for the finish to do its job, and you won’t have to worry about any food substances weakening the surface over time.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know nine different ways to finish your outdoor tables so they last longer in the weather, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. Use this new knowledge, and finish or refinish that outdoor table you’ve been thinking about.
Think about the weather and where the table is going to be stored. Use those two bits of information to select the perfect finish, and then apply it carefully to the table, coating all surfaces very well.
Follow the recommendations from the manufacturer, and make sure to let the table finish cure completely before you put the piece outside. Wipe it down after you use it, and clean up after yourself, and your outdoor table will last longer.
If you have any questions on finishing outdoor tables, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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