How to refresh a timber outdoor table

It’s no secret that, over time, timber outdoor furniture can take a battering from the weather, but providing it is still sound, it can be easily revived to have it looking its best and save it from landfill. We show you how to transform a worn timber table from battered to (almost) brand new.

Bunnings magazine, September 2020

Tools and materials

20mm galvanised button-head screws for brackets

38mm stainless steel screws

50mm-wide paintbrush



Decking cleaner

Drill with driver bit

Exterior timber filler in a matching colour

Exterior varnish

Four plastic and rubber feet

Galvanised brackets (optional)

Measuring jug or cup

Mini mohair roller with tray

Random orbital sander with 60-, 120- and 180-grit abrasive discs

Safety equipment including gloves, eyewear and mask

Sanding block with 180- and 240-grit abrasive paper

Scrubbing brush


Water sprayer or hose

The weather takes its toll

The key to reviving outdoor furniture and keeping it looking good is to make sure it’s watertight and that the parts are protected from the elements. When timber is exposed to the weather, it changes in a few ways. The faded silvery-grey effect is a result of rain gradually washing out the pigments and tannins. Blackened sections also form when harsh UV light oxidises the tannins, breaking down the natural glues in a process that attracts mould and mildew. As it dries out and the original varnish begins to wear away, the top woodgrain is raised, making the surface dry and rough. Follow these tips to bring timber outdoor furniture back to its former glory.

1. Study the structure

Wipe away loose dirt with a damp cloth while checking the piece is structurally sound. Use a drill to replace any rusting screws with new stainless steel fasteners and add galvanised brackets to reinforce a wobbly base if required.

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

2. Get sanding

Use a random orbital sander with a 60-grit abrasive disc to remove flaky varnish and smooth over cracks, then remove as much varnish as possible by sanding all over with a 120-grit abrasive disc, including underneath and around the base. Tip: Timber restoration requires lots of sanding. Wear a mask, work in a well-ventilated area and regularly empty the dust bag of the sander.

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

3. Clean and prepare the surface

Wet the surfaces and dilute the deck cleaning solution in a bucket (following the manufacturer’s ratio). Apply with a brush, scrubbing over all blackened areas, then rinse thoroughly with clean water in a spray bottle or hose, leaving to dry.

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

4. Fill holes and sand

Apply timber filler to holes and screw heads with a spatula, leaving to dry. Use a 120-grit abrasive disc to remove excess filler, then sand all over with 180-grit to remove residual varnish, which dries white and flaky. Sand along edges and around corners to remove splinters.

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

5. Apply varnish

Wipe all over with a damp cloth to remove dust. Using a paintbrush between boards and a mini roller on flat surfaces, apply varnish, then leave to dry. Smooth the top and edges with 180-grit abrasive paper. Wipe away dust, apply a second coat of varnish and leave to dry. Tip: Varnish is a great long-term solution as it adds a protective layer, and choosing a semi-transparency or stain will enrich the woodgrain even more.

6. Add furniture protection

Lightly smooth over the top and edges with 240-grit abrasive paper, wipe away dust, then apply a third coat of varnish over exposed surfaces, leaving to dry. Add new rubber feet or glides to the base to raise the timber off the ground and help prevent water absorption.

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

Now you’ve refreshed your timber table …

Try reviving a metal and timber seat with our step-by-step guide.


Photo Credit: Natasha Dickins

How to refresh a timber outdoor table

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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