Monday, April 14, 2014

How (Not) To Refresh Your Outdoor Patio Furniture

So I already alluded to the fact, last week, that we were working on staining our patio furniture.  Oh, how I wish it was just that simple.  You see, had it not been for one fatal flaw I made, fixing up our patio furniture would have only been an afternoon type job.  Instead, it turned into an entire weekend long torture fest.  This is a good time to mention the benefits of having patio furniture made out of real wood - the useful life you can get out of it is incredible when you have the ability to sand it down whenever it begins to show wear.  Metal sets are great too, with a clean coat of spray paint every few years.

This all began as I was looking at our patio table and chairs a few weeks ago.  They hadn't had a fresh coat of sealer in about two years and as cedar ages, it takes on a weathered gray color.
These are the chairs we have that also could use a little sprucing up - see how the finish is coming off the fronts of the chairs.
So I badgered Brent and the fam into going down to the hardware store to get some stain...figuring I would have this project knocked out by evening.   I picked up three products.  

Deck Wash
Brown Stain/Sealer for the Patio Table
      
Turquoise Stain for the Patio Chairs - hint # 1 that this was a bad idea.
      
To get started, clean any dust off of your furniture - I used the air compressor hose to blow all of the debris out of the cracks.
I transferred some of the deck wash into an old plastic container and brushed a coat over the entire table and chair set.
 Using a hose, rinse the product off completely.  No scrubbing required - unless you have some super dirty furniture!
 After the furniture is completely dry, you will likely need to do a little sanding because all of that moisture makes the wood look a little fuzzy.  An orbital sander loaded with 120 grit paper did the trick for us.  Blow the sanding dust off and you're ready to start applying the stain.  This particular product I'm using is a stain and sealer in one, so there won't be any need for a top coat.
 After I was done with the table, I was excited to move onto the chairs and this supposedly awesome blue stain I had picked out.  I don't know what I was expecting when I opened the can, but it wasn't this.  Now would have been a good time to do a test patch to see if I was going to get the results I desired - but....I didn't.  I decided to just throw a coat on the chair and deal with the consequences.  Not good guys....not good.
Crayola hasn't even invented this color.  It ended up being a muted blue brown yellow tone, because the blue stain is considered semi-transparent, it allows the wood grain to show through, except in my case, the chairs were sort of yellow brown from the old sealer which created this obvious disaster.
 Then I hit a stopping point because the following day, this happened:
After the snow melted, I not-surprisingly made mistake number 2.  I decided that maybe the chair just needed a second coat of stain and maybe that would bring out more of the blue and less of the brown/yellow.  At this point, I was either going to be sanding it all down or painting over the top anyways, so might as well just add more stain!  Well, the mossy green only turned a darker shade of mossy green.  As I type this, I'm slapping my forehead because, DUH!!!  Big surprise that it only got darker green.  Dangit!
 The other downside here is that I have an entire gallon of blue stain - I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what kinds of projects I can use it on.  And I can't think of many...not many at all.
Now I had to decide, prime and paint the chairs or sand them down and stain them a different color.  I searched all over Pinterest for some inspiring photos of painted patio furniture but honestly, the only painted chairs I could find were the adirondack style chairs.

I finally decided that there must be a reason people stain outdoor chairs instead of painting them, so with my tail between my legs, I asked Brent if he would help me get them all sanded down.  And as always, with a smile, he said he'd love to.  Luckily, I had only stained one of the chairs green but the others needed to come down to bare wood so the final stain would look even on all of them.

Between the two of us, it look us about 12 labor hours to get 2 chairs, one love seat and two little side tables sanded.  We went through more 80 and 120 grit sandpaper than I could count.
Brent mostly used the orbital sander to get the majority of green stain off while I used a hand sander to get into the tight spots.
After 2 hours of sanding by hand, and complaining the entire time, I realized we had a multi-tool with a sanding attachment.  SAVED MY LIFE!!  It quickly got into all the hard to reach areas (do I sound like a toothbrush commercial?).  Since there were so many nooks and crannies, it still took quite a while to sand but at least the multi-tool made it a little easier on the arms.

After we had gotten as much stain off as we could reach, there were still some areas that needed attention, so we ended up taking apart the chairs to get into those spots.  Finally, ready for stain.  I put a thin, even coat on the chairs using the same product I had used on the patio table using a natural bristle brush.
 Here's a side by side - the one on the right has a fresh coat of stain.
And two weeks later, it was nice enough out to take some pictures!
 And finally, the best feature of our home are these double french doors from our dining room out to the patio.  We have these doors open as much as possible when the weather and humidity cooperate.
So refinishing our patio furniture wasn't difficult, just a big time and labor commitment.  Hard to believe that square patio table is 8 years old, built by my dad for Brent and I's one year wedding anniversary.  With the fresh coat of stain and sealer, it looks brand new.

The moral of this story is to be careful with your wood furniture.  If you feel like taking a risk and choosing a colored stain, try it in an inconspicuous spot FIRST before diving in.  Hopefully I can save someone from making the mistake I did and the hours and hours it took to correct it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The World's Tiniest Deck

Spring clean up has officially begun!  I wish I had some special tricks to offer you to get things done faster...but I don't.  If you want your yard to look good this summer, you've gotta put down that TV remote, put on some old clothes, pour a cup of coffee and get your buns in gear!  We've been waiting for the weather to warm up enough to allow us to work outside and Saturday morning, it happened.  It was probably below 40 degrees when we headed outside at 8am but that's an awful lot warmer than what we've been experiencing.

It's been a crazy month for us and it looks like things are only going to ramp up from here.  We were excited to find out that our workshop was pictured in a magazine!  Like, a real one, that people actually pay money for.  Unless you're the type that like to read them for free over coffee at Barnes and Noble.  Nothing wrong with that either - and if you are, pick up a copy of USA Today HOME and turn to page 61.  I wish this could be super awesome and I could tell you that we won some contest money for it - but we didn't.  It actually COST us $12.00 - the amount it set me back to buy a couple copies for memorabilia sake.  That's cool though, who needs more money, right?  I guess if we actually had a bucket list and we happened to write "Be in a magazine" on it, we could have crossed it off.


So right off the heels of the whole magazine thing, we get another exciting opportunity that I will tell you more about later - it might be a ways off so we'll wait until we know more to share the details.  But in order to get ready for this next opportunity, we needed to get our patio cleaned up.  I was looking at our patio table and chairs and they were looking a little sad.  We put a fresh coat of sealer on them a few years ago when I was hosting a bridal shower for my sister at our house, but they've been neglected since then.

Oddly enough, this story isn't about our patio furniture though - because that project isn't quite done yet - this story is about what happens when you are going crazy with the stain and looking for anything that might benefit was a protective coat.  Since I had all the stuff out to stain the patio furniture and it was busy drying, I decided it was time to tackle that teeny weeny little deck on the front of our workshop.

It was still just the construction lumber without any sealant or protective coat on it - unless a ton of muddy footprints are considered protective.  We went over the deck two times with an orbital sander using 120 grit sandpaper.

This is post-sanding and pre-stain.  Not perfect but that's where I like to throw in the word "rustic".

Here's the stain we picked up to use.  And honestly, usually I like to research this stuff a little bit before jumping into a purchase, especially since a gallon of stain is kinda spendy - but frankly, I was just so excited to get outside and work on a project that I just point to a stain color on the sample board at the store and said, "I'll take a gallon of that."  Luckily, it worked out great!

This is my trusty outdoor staining brush.  It doesn't look pretty but it really works well.  The natural bristles do a great job applying the stain and the short sturdy bristles make it easy to jam stain into hard to reach areas.

Here I am at the halfway point.  It probably took about 10 minutes, or less to do the first half of it.  I spent more time tugging my pants up so my neighbors wouldn't have to see my back side, than I did actually staining.  Poor plumbers - I understand.  

All done and looking fine.  Seriously, a 20 minute job guys and it looks way better!  Here's a before and after - because we all love a good before and after, don't we?!

As soon as our patio furniture is dry, we'll be able to get some pictures - I'm excited to see those before and after photos because they should be significant, too!