A finish for outdoor furniture

A brief look at finish options for outdoor furniture. March 22, 2000

I have just completed a set of outdoor furniture that will have no finish (I know the owner won't maintain a finish).

But, for the first season I thought I'd put a coat of oil or oil/varnish so it looks good for delivery. Are there any consequences of applying either of these and then not "updating" them periodically?

I am not an expert on outdoor furniture finishing, but if you are using treated lumber, I believe there is a time for wood to dry before any finish is applied. Check with your supplier.

Also, applying an inadequate type of finish will result in quick failure that will make the product look worse, and require a lot of extra work to revive it.
John Buries, forum moderator

The best finish I know is Cetol 1 from Sikkens (Akzo Nobel).

After a few years, the furniture will still look good and not be scratched. For outdoor furniture it's more durable than varnish and oil (at least for the harsh winter here in the Quebec region).

The only disadvantage is the price, about $50 per gallon (Canadian).

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

I make Adirondack chairs from western red cedar and have used spar varnish with a high UV rating - the same kind used by boat builders. I figured if it was good enough on the high seas it was good enough in someone's backyard.

I spray a minumum of 3 coats with 24 hours dry time between coats. I began using spar varnish 3 years ago and the finish on those first chairs is still bright and fresh. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so they are in wet weather about 60% of the time.