How can I best protect my outdoor wood furniture?

My wife and I are building a couple of Muskoka chairs out of eastern white cedar. Since I’m making them fold-able, I plan to store the chairs indoors. What finish provides the best protection against sunlight while enhancing the beautiful grain of the wood?

Finishing outdoor wood furniture is tricky because exterior conditions are so harsh. And in the case of your chairs, a peeling finish is an especially distasteful proposition because it’s so very difficult to repair. Anything with many nooks and crannies poses that problem. With this in mind, I recommend a couple of options:

  • One is an exterior oil finish that can be renewed each year. There’s no chance of peeling with a product like this (since it doesn’t create a surface film), and scratches are easily repaired as they occur.
  • A friend of mine uses an exterior teak oil product on his outdoor furniture, reapplies it each year, and has good results.
  • Keep your chairs out of the sun as much as possible during the summer, and store them indoors during winter for maximum finish life.
  • A completely different approach involves a Canadian product called Lifetime Wood Treatment by Valhalla Wood Products. It comes as a powder you mix with water. When applied to wood the mixture creates an even grey colour by chemical reaction, much as you see on weathered wood only more even and better looking. This is a one-shot proposition, requires no periodic maintenance and is said to enhance rot resistance.