Teak is one of the premium hardwoods in the world, and furniture that is made from teak is very popular due to the natural strength and beauty of this wood. With proper care and attention, high quality teak furniture can easily outlast its owner; there are still many teak furniture pieces around colonial homes that were produced hundreds of years ago.
Restoring teak furniture can take these older pieces and bring them back to the look and feel of freshly purchased teak with a little hard work. Below we’ll dig deeper in to the process of restoring teak furniture, and share some tips and best practices that will help transform your teak’s tired looks.
Things to Know Before Restoring Teak Furniture
Before you take on a restoration project to breathe some new life in to your teak furniture, there are a couple of points to have in mind. Restoring furniture, whether it’s a single Adirondack teak chair or an entire patio set, is not a simple task. It can take many hours to properly restore teak furniture to its original condition, and the work is manual labor that can be strenuous at times. If you don’t feel like you are up to the task it may be best asking a furniture restoration professional to take a look at your teak furniture.
If you are confident that you can handle restoring teak furniture on your own, you’ll need a few tools and other items. To clean your teak furniture, you’ll need regular laundry detergent, some household bleach and a few clean cloths. Sanding requires sandpaper and perhaps a sanding block for longer table and chair boards; medium-grain dry sandpaper will be sufficient for most of your restoration project, and fine-grain sandpaper can help put that finishing touch on your refinished teak furniture.
If you are restoring teak furniture that is going to be used indoors, you may decide that you want to use teak oil on it. Teak oil is not a required maintenance step and is purely cosmetic, but for indoor teak furniture it can help keep the wood looking as new as possible while the teak ages. If you are restoring teak furniture that will be used outdoors, it’s best to skip using teak oil as it will wear off rather quickly and won’t have much of an effect.
Finally, some individuals prefer to stain or paint their teak furniture. Teak is one of the finest woods on the planet, and if your teak furniture is made from Grade A teak you’re almost doing a disservice to it to apply a coat of paint or stain. However, owners of furniture made from lower grades of teak can apply stains or paints to cover up any flaws, knots or other superficialities in the wood. If you choose to apply stain or paint as part of restoring your teak furniture, you will need to pick these supplies up as well. Always apply stain or paint using a new, clean brush with even strokes. Stains can also be applied using foam brushes or even chunks of foam, which will distribute the stain evenly across the wood.
Proper Cleaning is Essential when Restoring Teak Furniture
Prior to beginning any project to restore your teak furniture, it’s important to ensure that your furniture is properly cleaned. Thoroughly cleaning all of the dirt and other grime that has collected on your teak furniture over time will help make the restoration process go much smoother.
Cleaning teak furniture doesn’t require any sort of fancy or expensive cleaning chemicals. Simply mix a half-cup of regular laundry detergent with a quarter-cup of household bleach in a gallon of hot water, and you’ll have a great cleaning solution that won’t cause any damage to your teak furniture. Use a brush with medium bristles to clean the furniture, and try to avoid scrubbing too hard which can put uneven wear in to the wood.
If your teak furniture hasn’t been cleaned in many years, or if you notice quite a few grease spots or streaks that won’t come off with hot water and a bit of scrubbing, try using some trisodium phosphate (TSP) powder, which is available at your local hardware store. TSP is used to clean household walls prior to painting, and can provide that extra bit of cleaning power to help get grease and other tough stains off of your teak furniture. (Note: please do not mix the TSP in with the above detergent and bleach cleaning solution! TSP and bleach do not mix well. Mix the TSP in its own fresh, hot water)
Once your teak furniture is fully cleaned, you’ll want to rinse it one last time to get all of the cleaning solution off. This is easily done with hot water and a clean cloth; wet the cloth and wipe down your teak furniture in full. Let the furniture dry off, and you’ll be ready to tackle the next step: sanding.
Tips for Sanding Teak Furniture
The majority of the work involved in restoring teak furniture lies in the sanding process. Sanding your teak furniture must be done by hand, and if you have a considerable amount of teak you may want to consider recruiting some additional hands to help.
If you haven’t already, begin by disassembling your teak furniture as much as possible. This will allow you to get at those hard-to-reach areas without great difficulty, and will also allow you to use a sanding block for any flat teak boards which can greatly speed things up. Begin with medium-grain sandpaper and sand the teak evenly; the goal is simply to remove the aged top layer to expose the fresher looking teak underneath. As you will see after you begin, it’s not necessary to sand the teak too deeply to achieve this look.
After the teak furniture has been completely sanded down, you can either choose to leave the teak the way it is or to finish the sanding job using a finer grain of sandpaper. Outside of a softer feel, there is no real benefit to sanding your teak furniture twice, however those that own indoor teak furniture made from Grade A teak may want to go this extra step to really bring out the teak’s beauty.
Restoring Teak Furniture and Using Teak Oil
While many thousands of teak furniture owners swear by the use of teak oil, using these products is not required in any way and simply adds another step to the process of restoring your teak furniture. Teak oil can help keep your teak furniture looking somewhat less aged, but stopping the aging process entirely is impossible and your teak will eventually start to change color over time.
Individuals who are restoring teak furniture that’s meant for indoor use can apply a coat of teak oil after the sanding stage. Before applying the teak oil, wipe down all pieces of the teak furniture using a clean cloth and hot water to remove any sawdust. Apply the teak oil according to the manufacturer’s directions, ensuring that the oil is applied as evenly as possible to prevent any streaks or blotches.
Those who are restoring outdoor teak furniture can skip applying teak oil as it will quickly wear off once it’s exposed to the elements. If you choose to apply teak oil to outdoor teak furniture, it will need to be reapplied every month or two.
Staining or Painting your Teak Furniture
As mentioned earlier in this article, staining or painting teak furniture is not required and will add extra maintenance requirements down the road as the teak ages. Teak is a preferred wood for furniture making because it is highly resistant to water and other outside elements, thanks to its fine grain and the oily resin that teak naturally secretes. These two factors can cause a bit of havoc with stains – which can’t penetrate deeply into the wood – and with paint, which can be attacked from underneath by the teak oil that’s trying to seep out. This oil can cause paint layers to blister and crack, and once this process begins weather and wear will help do the rest.
If you prefer to stain or paint your teak, you will want to do it as the last step in the restoration process. Once the cleaning and sanding is complete, it’s time to apply the paint or stain. Quickly wipe down the teak with a clean cloth and hot water to remove any dust that has collected on the wood and to ensure it’s clean. Then, begin staining or painting the teak with the desired color. As with any project that requires the use of chemicals, it’s best to tackle the staining or painting outdoors with plenty of newsprint or a drop sheet underneath.
Once the staining or painting is complete, you’ll need to allow the teak to dry in an area that isn’t too humid or moist. If it’s a sunny day, you can place the pieces of teak furniture outside in an area that’s warm but shaded from direct light. If not, try the garage or basement as long as it’s room temperature. It’s rare that teak furniture will require a second coat, but if you have the time and supplies it’s best to tackle this now while everything is set up. Finally, reassemble your teak furniture and you’re ready to enjoy your handiwork!
Regular Teak Furniture Maintenance is Required
All of the work that has been put in to restoring your teak furniture will be of little use if the teak isn’t properly maintained. For indoor teak furniture that doesn’t have teak oil applied, annual maintenance is sufficient. If your indoor teak furniture does have teak oil applied, a new coat of oil can be applied once every few months to keep the teak looking fresh.
Outdoor teak furniture should be maintained once every year. This maintenance simply involves washing the furniture using the steps outlined above with warm water, detergent and bleach. The teak will change color naturally as it ages, and when it gets to the point that you are unhappy with the look, the furniture can be restored using the same processes outlined above.
By following the tips and steps suggested in this article, anyone can restore their teak furniture to a state that’s close to ‘brand new’. Once the teak furniture has been restored, regular maintenance will help keep the teak wood healthy and looking good. Remember – if you’re not comfortable with restoring teak furniture, it’s best to ask a professional to do it! It’s not worth potentially ruining thousands of dollars of furniture to save a couple hundred on the restoration of it. Put in the time and effort required to do a high quality job, and you’ll be rewarded with teak furniture that will look fantastic!