Skip to Content

How to Seal Outdoor Wood Furniture and Keep it Looking Great

Imagine the hours you can spend outside on your wood furniture, freshly sanded and painted. Unfortunately, such a splendid location damages wood over time; rain and snow may lead to rot and distortion, heat causes warping, and wind simply wears down the grain.

To prevent this, you need to learn how to seal outdoor wood furniture. We’ll explain!

Woman showing how to seal outdoor wood furniture with sealant and brush

What You Need

The first step is to make sure that you have all the right tools and materials for sealing outdoor wood furniture.


You can’t find out how to seal outdoor wood furniture without a sealer! If you already love the color of your furniture, opt for a clear version.  Water-based formulas are the most eco-friendly, though they leave a dull finish.

By contrast, oil-based formulas make wood look more vibrant, but they also have an odor and may cause the wood to turn yellow over time.

Most domestic woods will do well with any density sealer, but exotic woods, like teak, need something thick. Check the label to see what woods are intended for the sealer before buying it.

Sandpaper or Sanding Pads

If you want to keep your furniture’s natural color or plan to paint it before applying the sealer, then you’ll need to use sandpaper. This will smooth out the wood’s texture and help you prepare the grains to absorb the chemicals you put on them.


As with most DIY endeavors, sealing outdoor wood furniture can get messy. Throughout the project, you may need to clean up dust, dirt, wood particles, or stray drops of sealant. That’s why you can never have too many microfiber rags or tack cloths.

Towels or Bed Sheets

Like rags, old towels and bed sheets will help you maintain a clean workspace. If you don’t already have some old ones that you don’t mind getting dirty, find some inexpensive thin ones. 

Multi-purpose tarps or plastic drop cloths are good options, but towels and bed sheets normally last longer, making them more cost-effective.

Paintbrushes or Paint Sprayers

There are several ways to cover an object in sealer, though paintbrushes are a common applicator. Synthetic bristle brushes normally work best with water-based sealers, since the bristles aren’t made to retain water and swell like natural fiber does. Save the natural bristle brushes for oil-based sealers

Applying wood sealer with a paint brush

A paint sprayer is another option. Remember–the thinner the sealer, the less damage it’s likely to do to the machine.


Whether it’s sawdust, fumes, or paint droplets, all sorts of particles can find their way into your mouth or nose while sealing outdoor wood furniture. Keep yourself healthy by wearing a mask over your face for the duration of your project.

Safety Goggles

The same particles that can damage your internal organs can also irritate your eyes. Wearing safety goggles will help you stay comfortable and reduce any risks to your vision.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Once you have all the right tools, you’re ready to learn how to seal outdoor wood furniture. You’ll achieve the results you want as long as you follow these instructions!

Set Up Your Space

Finding a ventilated workspace is crucial if you’re using an oil-based sealer. The sealer has an unpleasant smell and could potentially be toxic. There’s no such concern for water-based sealers.

Either way, choose an area with plenty of room. Lay out towels, bed sheets, tarp, plastic sheets, or another floor covering of your choice to prevent sealer or sawdust from getting onto the floor.

To keep children and pets away, surround the floor covering with obstacles, like baby gates or overturned chairs, sofas, or tables.

Prepare the Furniture

When sealing outdoor wood furniture, we recommend taking it apart as much as possible. That way, you can easily reach every nook and cranny of the entire piece, ensuring uniformity and consistency.

Also, the individual pieces will be smaller, lighter, and less awkward to position in whatever way you need in order to sand and seal the wood.

Sand the Wood

Before sealing outdoor wood furniture, you must make the surface smooth. This will help the sealer adhere to the grains and prevent loose or uneven wood particles from contaminating the sealer. Plus, the furniture will feel more pleasant and comfortable, and you’re less likely to get splinters.

Sanding outdoor wood furniture

Rub your sandpaper or sanding pads everywhere you can reach on the wood. To optimize the smoothness, go over the entire piece at least two or three times.

When finished, use a clean rag or tack cloth to remove the sawdust and any other wood particles left behind.

Apply the First Coat

If a paintbrush is your preference for sealing outdoor wood furniture, employ consistent strokes in a single direction. Back-stroking or taking the bristles on and off the wood could result in uneven texture, drips, and visible strokes. It also helps to avoid putting more pressure on the brush than necessary to move the paint.

For those who picked the paint sprayer, stay a foot away from the furniture and start guiding the nozzle across the surface shortly before pulling the trigger. Go over every area twice.

Once the top coat is done, leave the furniture to dry for one or two hours.

Sand Again

Although it may seem counterintuitive, sanding again is a good idea after applying the top coat. It removes any blemishes or particles that may have come up while brushing the sealer on the wood.

However, use gentle pressure so that you don’t scrape all your hard work away. As before, clean off the residue with a rag.

Apply the Second and/or Third Coats

You’ll get the best results from sealing outdoor wood furniture if you apply more than one coat. This reinforces the sealer, making it more durable and better at protecting your furniture.

Two to three coats are usually perfect. Brush it on the wood the same way that you did before. This is also the perfect time to sand down any imperfections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even after learning the basics of how to seal outdoor wood furniture, you may still have questions, which is understandable. To help you get the most out of your project, we’ll answer the most common ones.

Should you also stain or paint your furniture?

Whether you want to give your furniture extra protection or simply alter its appearance, you can stain or paint it before applying sealant; the wood will not be harmed. In fact, check out our beginner’s guide for painting furniture or our recommendations for staining!

Applying a sealer with stain to outdoor wood furniture

If you want to do one or the other but can’t decide between them, we can help by explaining the pros and cons of each.

Some sealers include stain so that you can put both on your furniture at the same time. If you want to seal outdoor wood furniture without an extra step for staining, this is it!

How can you fix a mistake?

The process of sealing outdoor furniture can be difficult, so mistakes will probably be made. If this happens to you, there are a couple of possible solutions, depending on what happened.

Let’s say that there are drips or conspicuous brush strokes that you overlooked before allowing the sealer to dry. In these cases, pick up your sandpaper or sanding pads and rub the wood until you’ve removed the offending layer of sealer. Clean up the particles with a rag or tack cloth, and you can start over.

Maybe you don’t like how the color or finish turned out. Sanding off the sealer can also help with that, but another idea is to sand it just enough to lighten the color and paint over it with something you find more agreeable.

How often should you seal outdoor wood furniture?

Sealer doesn’t last forever, and even with such protection, outdoor furniture is prone to wearing down faster than indoor furniture simply because of its constant exposure to the elements. Plan on sealing outdoor wood furniture every one or two years to keep it in good shape.

What else can you do to keep your outdoor wood furniture looking good?

Besides sealing it regularly, you’ll prolong the life of your furniture by simply preventing it from staying outside more than necessary.

If a storm is coming, cover your furniture with tarps or plastic sheets until the sky is sunny again. If you don’t use your outdoor wood furniture in cold weather, move it into a garage or storage shed during the fall and winter. Sweep, dust, or hose it down weekly during the seasons that you do use it.

Outdoor table and chairs sealed with the best wood sealer

Seal Your Wood Furniture Today!

Knowing how to seal outdoor wood furniture is the key to having peace of mind about its longevity, no matter the weather. In fact, you may feel confident enough to find more furniture that you’d like to put inside or outside your home!

To personalize or preserve it, read our advice about how to paint anything from wood to metal for any room.