How to refinish outdoor furniture


In June 2014 I made this patio table and finished it with Spar Urethane.


Two years later, it looked like this:


The finish failed within a year and mold grew all over the table!



I can only attribute this mess to the finish because I made this planter box two years before the table and, as an experiment, applied absolutely no finish to it. It has been exposed to the exact same weather conditions as the table since it is just a few feet from it.


The planter box still looks great. It makes me question the value of most outdoor wood finishes and whether their benefits are minimal and mostly marketing hype! Realistically, the best protection you can apply to an outdoor project is a coat of house paint, which will last for years without any fuss.

But if you want to retain the look of the wood, I recommend a transparent deck stain and sealer. I’ve used it on many outdoor projects and should have used it on this table to begin with.

To restore my table, I wanted to first remove the mold. I sprayed on some X-14 mold and mildew killer, let it sit for a while, then sprayed it off with my garden hose.




Unexpectedly, I began to notice the urethane finish was actually peeling away from the tabletop.



Here’s I decided to change my strategy and see how much of the finish I could remove with the water, in hopes of reducing the amount of sanding I would need to do. However, it was taking a lot of time and I needed a stronger stream of water, so I went to the home center and bought a new pressure washer, something I’ve been wanting for a long time anyway. (Yay, new toy!)

This worked out much better!


I let the whole table try overnight and began sanding the next morning. There was still a lot of stubborn finish that needed to come off. I used 80 grit sandpaper in my sander. It’s important to remove all the old urethane finish or the stain will not soak into the wood and work.

This was a LOT of sanding. Took about three hours.




I blew off all the dust with my air compressor and began staining. Applying deck stain is super easy: just brush or roll it on. You don’t even need to wipe off any excess as you would with a interior furniture stain.





Image18This dried completely overnight and looks fantastic. If it needs sprucing up in a couple years, I will just need to wash the table and splash on a new coat. No sanding necessary.


How to refinish outdoor furniture


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  1. Hello Steve
    Try Osmo Oil next time they do an outdoor UV type. Good for 10 years, totally weatherproof, but you must do two coats. Tremendous stuff just done all my outside doors and shed, water just beads off. If you ever need to re-coat than just wash down and slap it on no sanding needed

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  2. Steve,

    You might try a product called “Spray & Forget” to get rid of the mold/mildew down in between the cracks of your table. I’ve used this product for several years and I’ve had excellent results with it. Best of all, there is no need to rinse it off after application and it dries clear. If you have a mold problem around the exterior of your house this product is good to have on hand. Safe for pets, children, most plants, and lasts two years between applications (at least in my use it does). Also inhibits mold regrowth, something that bleach based cleaners don’t do.

  3. I used the same product and had the same results after one year. I live in Central Indiana.
    Same mold and peeling.

  4. In canoe world there are varnish people and oil people. After having to remove varnish from a set of gunwales I was convinced that oil is the way to go. Just run some thinned tung oil over the wood once or twice a year a year.

  5. Hahaha.”to minimize sanding i figured I’d save some time if i just head on down to the store and buy a pressure washer” hehehe. Continuing the article I was surprised you didn’t end up ripping it down, running threw the planer and reassemble. Hehe. Not a fan of sanding I’m guessing? Thanks for your videos, buddy. I enjoy watching/learning.


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