A few steps bring the luxuries of inside to the outdoors.

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patio furniture
Credit: Bryan Gardner

White plastic outdoor furniture not your style? It doesn't have to be. And you also don't have to buy new and expensive outdoor furniture to upgrade your space, because with a little work, almost any piece of furniture can be used outside if properly treated. Of course, metal or plastic are materials that have been designed to handle the elements way better and longer, which makes them well-suited to outdoor use. Any treated indoor piece will not be impervious to damaging heat, rain, and snow, so for the longest use consider placing treated indoor furniture on a covered patio or porch. With that said, here's how to transform indoor furniture into outdoor furniture.

Basic Materials Needed

For supplies, you will need gloves, a dust mask, a palm sander, high and fine grit sandpaper, a tack cloth, a drop cloth, paint brushes, wood stain, a stain sponge, outdoor sealant, and outdoor paint. 

Popular Sealants

Polyurethane sealants are good for light-toned wood as modern day polyurethane won't yellow. Oil-based polyurethane gives your furniture the greatest durability, but brush cleanup requires mineral spirits or turpentine, whereas water-based polyurethane cleans up with soap and water. Marine varnish is another option that contains UV absorbers to resist sun damage.

For best results, apply your sealant in a mild temperature environment, and don't shake or vigorously stir sealants before application because this causes air bubbles that can permanently remain on the surface.

Painting Furniture

First, choose a paint made for exterior use and that is suitable for furniture. Next, clean your furniture of any dirt an give it a light sanding to create a better bond for the finish. With the tack cloth, clean off any residual dust. Then—with gloves on—paint every surface that would be exposed to the elements. Store your drying piece inside for a few days to a few weeks for best results.

Sealing Furniture

If your furniture has a flat surface like a table, sand off the old finish by using a palm sander. Start with high-grit sandpaper and work your way to fine grit. (Always wear a dust mask.) If your piece has curves, sand by hand and start with high grit sandpaper and work your way to finer grit and then clean off the dust with a tack cloth. Now, you're ready to put on your gloves and put your piece on a drop cloth to collect any drips. Finally, apply your stain with a stain sponge. Tip: More coats equals a darker stain but allow each coat to dry. When finished, allow the stain to dry overnight then apply your chosen urethane with a paintbrush. Two coats are best. Remember to coat all parts of the piece, even underneath.

What About Cushions?

If your furniture will be enduring pool soaked bodies, consider replacing your existing cushions with water-resistant alternatives. Another option is to waterproof cleaned fabric with waterproofing spray. Spray one side, let dry, then flip over and spray the B-side. Two coats are recommended.

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