When you first unpack your new garden furniture, it is hard to believe how beautiful it looks on your patio and your lawn. But the climate is a hard test of every material and, by the end of the autumn, it can be looking a little sorry for itself. Do not despair. With a little tender loving care, modern furniture is designed to withstand the elements and face the next year renewed and refreshed.
Start in the Right Place
Of course, you get what you pay for and if your furniture is not of a good enough quality, it is not going to last terribly long. It is worth starting out with decent furniture, even if it may cost a little more than in the DIY superstore sales. Bridgman.co.uk is a good starting point to explore a range of sturdily made and appropriately treated furniture for your patio, including teak, rattan and aluminium products.
What Does the Damage?
During the summer, your furniture is exposed to repeated cycles of hot, cold and wet weather. The sunshine has the power to break down many chemicals, including some protective coatings. Warmth expands materials, cold shrinks them, and water gets into anywhere and encourages micro-organisms to thrive.
During the winter there is a lot less warmth and a lot more water. Water will linger longer in nooks and crannies, and expand when it freezes to force joints apart.
Before You Store
The first thing to do, when you decide the summer is over, is to give everything a good clean. Scrape off all the loose varnish and paint. Turn the furniture over and inspect every inch for mildew and mould. Get in with a stiff brush and remove all the growth that you can see. If it appears to be deeply ingrained, use a mildew treatment to kill it.
Wash the furniture, then rub it down with steel wool or sandpaper. With wooden furniture inspect it carefully for signs of rot, especially the legs, which tend to be wetter for longer than the rest of it, even more so if it spends much time on grass. Treat any signs of rot with wood preservative, standing the legs in little baths cut from old milk bottles. Let everything dry thoroughly.
Where to Store
How you store your furniture will depend on the space you have. Ideally, it should be in a shed or garage, where it will be isolated from the weather all winter long. If you don’t have that space, a covered patio or a lean-to will help, but provide good breathable covers to fit over your furniture as well. If you have to leave it outside, then stack it in a place where you know the rain will drain away quickly, and cover it securely with close-fitting covers.
Cushions and other soft furnishings need to be kept indoors and bone dry through the winter.
When to Restore
If you want your furniture to look great, you should ideally restore it every year. If it is going to be kept dry, it doesn’t really matter whether you do this at the beginning or the end of the season. In the late autumn it can be difficult to get a sufficient spell of dry weather; in the spring the chemicals may still be in evidence when you want to sit on it; of course, if you have a spacious shed you can do it at a time to suit yourself.
If you are going for a completely “as new” look, remove as much as possible of last year’s protective coating. It is good to do this by hand, but proprietary chemical solvents are available to do the hard work for you. If you use these make sure that the furniture is thoroughly rinsed clean and rubbed down.
Apply an appropriate preservative layer for the material you are treating. For teak, use a high-quality teak oil; for other woods, use a stain and a polyurethane which says that it is specifically designed for outside furniture and is sun and rain resistant. For plastic and aluminium, a coat of car polish can produce a good effect.
Time to Relax
There is nothing to compare with the sense of a rest well deserved that comes from relaxing on your patio chair at the end of a summer day. You can amplify that feeling by having a yearly routine to keep your furniture looking, feeling and smelling as bright and fresh as it can be.
Louise Saunders loves her garden and spends hours outside in the warmer months enjoying the peace and tranquility she has created around her.