Weatherproofing Outdoor Furniture: Wood vs. Wicker

As comes with the territory, outdoor furniture is bound to get hit by the rain at some point or the other, depending on where you live. To maintain the quality of your furniture, there are multiple ways you can prepare for weather damage in order to protect and preserve it. 


All outdoor furniture materials will require some form of maintenance to prevent issues such as rust marks, mildew, stains, and water damage. Keep in mind that depending on the wood your furniture is made of, it might perform better than others. For example, teak wood is incredibly low maintenance and teak outdoor furniture is an excellent option for keeping your outdoor space both stylish and weatherproof. Other common options are white oak, cypress, ipe, and cedar. Weatherproofing wicker furniture has its own tips and tricks depending on whether your furniture is made out of natural wicker or resin wicker.


When waterproofing outdoor furniture, you have a few options:


Types of Waterproofing Agents for Wood

  • Tung Oil: Tung oil is an eco-friendly, non-toxic finish that can be applied in thin coats on outdoor furniture to preserve it. You can choose between pure and dark tung oil: pure tung oil has an amber tint and won’t darken your wood, whereas dark tung oil (as the name suggests) contains pigments that will color the wood. Tung oil is moisture-resistant and also stands up to scratching that can naturally occur because of use or weather conditions. You also won’t have to worry about it yellowing over time. It’s even safe enough to be used around children! However, tung oil needs several coats, and each will need days to dry, on top of suggested sanding in-between coats.

  • Clear Coats: Clear coat options include exterior varnishes and lacquer, and can be applied with both brush and spray, meaning it may be a better option for outdoor furniture with small nooks and crannies. It’s fairly easy to apply and offers long-term protection, but since clear coats come in such a great variety, you will need to choose a clear coat suitable for your specific project. While they’re less work than tung oil, you’ll find that they’re not non-toxic. Clear coats only sit on top of the wood, which means they will require consistent upkeep.

  • All-In-One Stains: All-in-one stains add color but also protect from general weather conditions such as moisture and UV damage. However, not all woods take stains well — if your furniture is made of softwood (such as redwood and pine), stains will absorb much better than if applied to hardwood. If you decide to move forward with a stain, you’ll need to figure out whether oil or water based would suit your project best. Oil-based stains are typically made of linseed oil and penetrate the wood much deeper, whereas water-based stains dry quicker and are better at keeping moisture out, but do not last as long as oil-based ones. The application process is fairly easy since most all-in-one-stain coats only require two coats for adequate protection, but the drying time depends on the base. 

  • If you’re looking for a sturdier, lower-maintenance wood, teak is naturally water resistant option. It does not need to be sealed or stained like some other wood alternatives, which cuts out most of the weatherproofing process. Teak’s durability comes froom the natural oil (note that this is not the same as commercial teak oil) that saturates the wood itself. The oil is resistant to not only water damage, but also mildew and similar infestations. You can check out some of our teak outdoor furniture options (here: LINK).



    Looking to protect Wicker? Try these methods instead:


    The process of protecting your outdoor wicker furniture depends on whether it’s made out of natural wicker or resin wicker. Wicker furniture should be cleaned regularly, but there are more steps you should be taking in order to preserve its quality. 


    Wicker constructions all have plenty of gaps and narrow spaces in between the weaving that gives wicker its specific look. So when weatherproofing natural wicker, remember that these openings are the perfect place for mildew to grow. Spot-cleaning wicker regularly is important as a frequent brush-down might not be enough to get rid of stains trapped between the weavings. Ideally, natural wicker should be kept as dry as possible to avoid the material becoming deformed. (The thin layers of rattan used to create wicker furniture are more susceptible to any weight added on top of it when wet, such as sitting on a damp wicker outdoor chair.) 


    Painting your wicker furniture with a specially formulated wicker can both freshen up the color and help guard your pieces against the elements. Paint and varnish can be applied directly onto the material, just remember to apply varnish on top! If you’re not looking to change the color of your furniture, a few coats of marine varnish on their own will work, too (marine varnish can be applied both as a spray or using a paintbrush).  While painting wicker is a great option, it will not stand up to heavier rain and consistent water damage. 


    You can also use tung oil on natural wicker, like with standard wooden outdoor furniture. Because tung oil dries hard, it’s great for keeping moisture away from the rattan material. Unlike paint, though, you will likely need to reapply tung oil once a year or at the start of every season. 


    Short on time? Try a wood alternative!


    For those looking to save some time (and money) in the long run, it’s worth considering investing in some resin wicker furniture instead. Resin wicker holds up well against both rain and sun, which is perfect for outdoor environments. Because of this, most resin wicker furniture will hold up well as long as it’s dusted off and wiped down with some dish soap and water when dirty. Resin wicker is a great alternative for those who want to cut out most of the maintenance process when it comes to their outdoor spaces.