How to Restore an Antique Park Bench


Antique park benches are one of the most sought-after pieces of garden and yard furniture. Why? Because there is nothing like having a lovely antique bench in your backyard to sit on with friends on a summer day, sipping ice tea or lemonade, and watching the clouds disappear. Unfortunately, these old benches are getting harder to find, and when found, they may be in bad shape and need restoration before they can be put back into service again.

Things You'll Need

  • Large bristle brush, 4 inch
  • Outdoor furniture cleaner, 1 gal.
  • Bucket, 2 1/2 gal.
  • Mild dish soap
  • Rags, various sizes
  • Sponges, various sizes
  • Scraper
  • Sandpaper, 50, 80 and 120 grits
  • Steel brush
  • Steel wool
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Wood clamps, various sizes
  • Wood putty, 4 oz.can
  • Brushes, various sizes
  • Acrylic water sealer, 1 qt.
  • Acrylic outdoor paint, 1 qt.
  • Metal sealer, 1 qt.

How to Restore an Antique Park Bench

  • Take the large bristle brush and brush off any dirt or loose paint on the wooden boards or metalwork of the bench. Clean the surfaces with the outdoor furniture cleaner, followed by soap and water.

  • Scrape off any loose paint. Take the sandpaper and, beginning with a rough 50 grit, sand all the wood surfaces lightly. Repeat with an 80 grit and finish with a 120 grit. Use the steel brush on the metal parts of the bench, followed by the steel wool.

  • Repair any broken wood boards by gluing them with the wood glue and clamping securely with wood clamps. Allow to dry overnight. Putty any holes that need to be filled. If any of the cast iron parts are broken, take them off for repair or replacement. If the cast iron parts are rusted badly, consider removing them and having them sandblasted.

  • Apply water-based sealer to the wood before applying a new coat of paint. This will seal and protect the old paint and act as a base for the new color. If you prefer returning the park bench to its original wood finish, take it to a furniture restorer and have it stripped before applying the sealer.

  • Tape off the metal areas of the bench before applying the paint. Apply 2 to 4 coats of paint, following the drying instructions on the can.

  • After the paint is dry, apply 1 to 4 coats of clear water-based outdoor sealer varnish to protect it. It is not recommended to use polyurethane products on antique benches because they will affect the value. Allow to dry according to the instructions on the can.

  • Remove the tape from the metal parts. To preserve the cast iron and to protect it from rusting, apply 1 to 4 coats of clear metal sealant to the surface. Consult with your paint dealer to locate the correct product for this step.

Tips & Warnings

  • Apply motor oil to cast-iron bench parts to keep them from rusting.
  • Be sure to have your antique park bench appraised before you do anything to it. The patina, which is the aged surface, can be valuable. Take a photo of the bench and show it to an appraiser. Some antique benches are very valuable, particularly ones from the 19th century that are made completely from cast iron. These benches are sometimes sold at high-end auctions for thousands of dollars.

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