How To Prevent Wood Rot

So you’ve got your backyard patio all set up and ready to party, but the furniture is made of wood. Natural material adds character to an outdoor entertainment area, but requires some maintenance, as it is prone to decay.

how to prevent wood rot

Weathered wood can add character to your patio, but too much exposure to the elements can decay the wood, making it dangerous for guests to use.

Softwood & Hardwood

There is furniture made of softwood and furniture made of hardwood. Softwood may require an annual coat of paint, while hardwood is able to resist bugs and holds up longer.

If not primed or properly maintained, wood will hold moisture and begin to rot. This leads to safety hazards and costly furniture replacement.

Preparing and maintaining your wood properly will ensure your furniture and deck last for years, saving you money in the long run. We have put together a list of tips on how to keep your patio furniture strong and crisp so the party never stops.

Plug Holes & Fasteners

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No matter how securely your patio furniture is built, there will always be space between the nail heads and wood grain that water can soak into. Each hole has the potential to let water in. Seal them all off using wood glue or other synthetic filler. Once all holes are sealed, you are ready to prime the wood.

Prime And Seal The Wood

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Priming the wooden furniture is the first and most important step. Wood is very grainy, especially on sawn ends where the grain is exposed. This makes it quite easy to absorb water.

If you do not prime your wood, it will quickly become weathered, and will hold water internally. This leads to cracking and rotting. Let’s prevent that!

First, wash the furniture clean of any dust or dirt using a mild detergent and warm water. Water will always cause the grain to rise, so wait until it is thoroughly dry before applying primer. You don’t want to trap moisture in the wood.

It is very important to prime every single surface, side, and corner. We recommend two coats. A good primer will protect against sun damage from UV rays, but adding a coat of oil- or latex-based paint ensures maximum protection. There are also stains, varnishes, sealants, and repellants available on the market. Paints allow you to fully customize the look and colour of your furniture. Varnishes and stains work to enhance while maintaining the wood’s natural hues.

Allow For Runoff

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Water can gather upon flat surfaces and will sit there until it is absorbed. This causes the wood to expand. As it dries, it contracts. This cyclical process creates hairline cracks in the wood, allowing water to seep even deeper. When this cycle repeats enough, your wooden furniture will crack and decay quickly. Do not let your patio furniture sit outside through rain or intense weather conditions. If possible, choose patio furniture with sloping designs to allow for water runoff or drainage. We also recommend leaning all chairs against the table each night or when not in use.

Allow For Air Dry

It is likely that your patio furniture will be exposed to the outdoor elements at some point, especially rain. Wood also has the ability to suck water up out of the ground. For these reasons, it is important that wood has the opportunity to dry out completely. Even if covered your furniture with a tarp, for example, remove the tarp once the weather clears and allow the furniture to air-dry before covering it again, or putting it away for a season. Water always finds its own path, and if it is unable to soak into the furniture, it must be able to run off or evaporate.

Keep It Under Cover

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An easy way to protect your wooden furniture is by keeping it under a covered area, if possible. This can be as easy as setting up a UV-resistant umbrella over your table, building a pavilion, or investing in a waterproof tarp to cover the furniture during rainfall. If you live in a climate with harsh winters, it is best to store patio furniture in a shed or garage during off-season.

Take some care. If you have chosen wooden patio furniture, remember that it requires regular maintenance. Even the strongest woods, like teak or cedar, require some protection. We recommend annual coats of water repellent.  To stay on top of things as you build your backyard, you might also want to consider looking at the best types of naturally bug and rot resistant wood for patio furniture.  As well, investing in furniture that is naturally rot resistant can be a huge help. Check out our overview of the best rot-resistant wooden backyard swing sets.

Of course, it is up to you. Maybe you prefer the look of weathered wood as the sun fades it from shades of brown to neutral greys. However, in order to save yourself money and protect your guests from potential injury, protect your wood from moisture by sealing all holes with wood glue and layers of paint. Be kind to your patio furniture by protecting it against harsh rain and UV rays, and you will have a backyard setup that will entertain folks for years.


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