extreme makeover: the outdoor setting

I'm actually so proud of this project, I don't really know how to describe it. The number of hours that has gone into this, and the spectacular result, as been overwhelming - I've never been handy, or thought I would be able to do anything this fiddly. When S and I moved in, I was delighted at his outdoor furniture - he'd bought it in Turkey years ago, and it was gorgeous, heavy-set, great quality. The only problem? It was years old, and showing signs of wear. Rusty wrought iron, split wood with small holes in it, and worn down over years of use. We didn't want to throw it out, so I started researching how I could rejuvenate it. Lots of research and advice from handy friends later, here's what I did!

I don't really have a good "before" shot (mental note - must take "before" shots before jumping into projects!), so this dark fuzzy one will have to do. You can see the dullness of the wood, and the cracks in it. Kind of.

old outdoor setting

We started by sanding it down - S's friend Brian helped us with this (I was still pretty injured at this stage so couldn't use the electric sander). He got it beautifully sanded down, as you can see:

sanded down outdoor setting

Then, we poly-filled all the cracks in the wood as well. You can see in the pic below - all the lighter bits are polyfilled. Kind of scary, the extent of how crackly the wood was.

polyfilled wooden furniture

After polyfilling (ps, this is so much fun!), we sanded it all down again. Oh yeah, sawdust EVERYWHERE. We also sanded down all the rusted iron, and got down to bare metal in most areas. We used a wire brush to get into nooks and crannies that were difficult to reach.

sanded back wrought iron

We also tightened any loose screws and planks that seemed a bit rickety.

Then I started painting. And oh man, was this a long process. I got anti-rust black paint (gloss), and a little teeny weeny paintbrush, and off I went.

painting the outdoor furniture

Let me tell you, it feels like weeks went past where I just kept sitting out on that deck and whittling away at it with my tiny paintbrush, a steady hand, music playing, and getting into every nook and cranny of those damn chairs.

painting the outdoor furniture

About 2/3 of the way through, my back flared up REALLY badly, and then Brian bribed his sons to come finish it off. They were not pleased, but did a GREAT job! Yay to child labour!

Then it was time to stain the wood. I was TERRIFIED of doing this - online tales and tutorials seemed too easy, like staining was this walk-in-the-park type activity that any fool could do. There HAD to be a catch, and as we all know, I'm a magnet for "UH OH" moments. I started with trepidation, just painted it on, and wiped it off with a towel.

staining outdoor furniture

And OH MY GAWDNESS people, it totally IS easy and idiot proof, and unbelievably, Sharon-proof as well! You just brush it on liberally, wait for the wood to soak it up a bit, then towel it off, and there you have it, you have STAINED. OFFICIALLY.

I finished the first (small) panel so quickly I couldn't believe it, especially juxtaposed with the hours and days I'd taken to paint the black wrought iron.

first coat of stain on outdoor timber furniture

The table was the most fun - just slapped it on, basically! At first I was worried about how even the stain was going to be, but I stopped worrying when I realised the wood was going to be as absorbent as it damn well wished, and there was nothing I could do about it. Besides we were going for the uneven/quirky look (yes, I kept chanting Β that to myself).

staining the table

I was even happier when I realised how GREAT the stained wood looked next to the freshly painted gloss black:

refinishing outdoor furniture

Here's what they looked like after the first coat of stain:

first coat of stain on outdoor furniture

first coat of staining on outdoor wooden furniture

(Yes, I alternated between painting the black and staining!)

And then I slapped on a second coat of stain, and it started looking a really nice deep colour:

2nd coat of stain on outdoor tablerefinish the outdoor table

I let all of that dry for about 2 days, and then went into the next phase of this project, namely, PRETTIFY and PROTECT. See, I'm a glamour girl and all this wood furniture was a teeny weeny bit too rustic for my tastes. Sooooooo, I thought about what kind of wood I liked that was outdoors - and genius me, it's WOOD ON SHIPS. You know, high gloss timber on yachts. Ahh, yes. Let me recreate my perfect yacht in my own backyard.

Off I went to Bunnings, and the nice men there recommended me MARINE VARNISH. Admittedly, they couldn't believe I wanted high gloss outdoor furniture, but I think they're starting to recognise me at the local Bunnings as "strange lady". Anyway, Marine Varnish idea was GENIUS! It's hardy, protects the wood, and is super tough against the elements.

I was only slightly terrified (after all, I'd conquered the STAINING!), bought myself a good varnishing brush to guarantee a good finish (DESPITE me), and off I went.

And it was surprisingly easy.

Here's how 1 coat of varnish looked:

varnished and stained table

stained, varnished woodstained varnished chair

What delighted me most was how the varnish seemed to meld the stain into the wood even more, and gave depth to the colours. It also dried ROCK HARD, which Β made me believe in its protective powers against dents and elements. SO I went with a second coat.

And you will not BELIEVE the Β squeals of delight that ensued, people, it was MIRROR finish perfect. Well ok, maybe not, but it was VASTLY improved lemme tell you.

varnished furniture high gloss

finished outdoor setting

glossy outdoor settingglossed and stained outdoor bench

Before moving it all back onto our freshly painted deck, we wanted to put some protecters on the bottoms of the chairs. But apparently, it is impossible to buy the right sized furniture protectors unless you're willing to spend the equivalent of a gold brick, or a handful of diamonds. And paying lots for crap like this really ruffles my feathers.

So instead we just bought 1/4 metre of felt-like carpet, and cut it to size using a 50cent coin as a guide.

small length of carpet

cutting carpet to size

carpet protectors for bottoms of chairs

Then we stuck them onto the bottoms of the chairs and table with contact glue (suitable for bonding metal). TADA! All up, it probably cost something like $4, instead of the $80 we were going to have to pay for the commercially sold ones. The cheapskate in me was VERY pleased, and now the very heavy chairs no longer scrape along the deck or make me nervous.

We gave everything a good wipe down with a damp cloth, and then positioned everything onto our deck. AND TA-DA!

refinished outdoor setting

stained and varnished outdoor furniturerefinished outdoor furniture chairrepainted black wrought iron

So there you have it folks, here's how ME (aka, can't be handy, very clumsy princess chick) managed to turn this:

old outdoor furniture

with the help of these:

polyfiller, wood stain oil, marine varnish

into this!!!

refinished outdoor setting gloss

I know I can't fully express how excited I am, but I AM. First of all, I have embarked upon the learning of a wonderful new skill. Also, you have no idea what an accomplishment this is, both personally, and in light of having had almost 5 months be written off by an injury. This is almost the only thing I have to show for it!