Rocking Chair Rescue :: Updating Weathered Wood

Scott bought the weathered rocking chair sitting on our front porch back when he was an ROTC cadet at West Virginia, almost twenty years ago. A lot of great memories have soaked into that wood over time. Unfortunately, that’s about all that did. We weren’t taking care of the poor thing, and after years of sitting outside in New York and Hawaii and sitting in storage other places, it looked a mess.

As much as we love the look of weathered wood, this poor thing was so dry and worn out, it was beginning to crack. So over the course of a weekend, I decided to get it back to rights – before the next wave of hurricane rain comes through to break it down even more.

The first stage of this project looks a lot like the process we used to rescue our found mahogany boards back in Hawaii. The rest is just a lot – a lot – of sanding, staining, and sealing. But if you’ve got a piece of furniture you love that just needs some luster, this will have it looking new in no time.

How to Restore Weathered Wood

What You’ll Need:

How to Do This Project:

Note: I heavily recommend doing this outdoors. Using paint stripper in a closed space is just asking to breathe in fumes you shouldn’t be breathing in!

1. Prep your work area. Throw down your drop cloths and secure them with tape, and make sure you have enough space to work around the piece of furniture you’re working on.

2. Prep your furniture. Make sure it’s dry and free of dust. Take a pass over the furniture with a paint scraper to remove any loose or flaking paint or varnish. Then brush it over with the wood stripping gel. You’ll be able to watch the paint or varnish lift right off. Finish taking it off with your paint scraper. Scrape it into a plastic bag or container to discard.

Hint: To get in those grooves and detail areas you can’t reach with your scraper, try a putty knife.

You can see the scraped and sanded pieces and those that aren’t here. Quite the contrast!

3. Sand your furniture. Once the wood is dry, sand with medium grit sandpaper to get rid of any remaining finish and to smooth out any cracks or flaking. Then, using the fine grit sandpaper, take another pass over the furniture to make sure it’s smooth and ready for finishing.

4. Stain your furniture. As always, I recommend doing a stain test either on a piece of similar wood or a part of the furniture you won’t see. Put on your rubber gloves, dab a rag in the stain, and rub it over the wood. Wipe off any excess stain and let the furniture sit and dry according to your stain’s instructions. Use additional coats if you want a darker finish.

I just love that color. And now I know what color I’m redoing our banisters in the house.

5. Seal your furniture. Once your stain has dried, you want something that will protect your furniture from the weather that damaged it in the first place. A good outdoor polyurethane sealer will not only do that, but will give your furniture a nice bit of shine. Brush on the poly with one of the small disposable brushes evenly along the furniture, following the direction of the grain. Let it dry according to the instructions, and we recommend adding a second coat.

And, voila! You’ve brought your weathered piece of outdoor furniture back to life!

This rocking chair has a lot of memories attached to it, and with a little bit of TLC, it looks like it’s ready to stick around and make a lot of new memories!

Do you guys have any pieces at home that just need a little rescue?


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  • I love old rocking chairs like that. It looks great!

    • Thanks so much! We love this one, too. I wish our porch was bigger so we could have two. Maybe someday we’ll expand it and go thrift another one!