7 Steps to Restyling A Garden Bench

Is your bench rotten, and all its pieces are falling apart? Or have you been doing some redecorating and want to transform its look to match your current style? Restyling a garden bench yourself can be a fun DIY project as long as you know what you're doing. 

If you've never undertaken a DIY project like this before, there is a good chance you'll encounter some challenges. This is especially true if you don't have much experience with woodworking or carpentry. But, you're in luck — this article will walk you through all the steps involved in making an old bench look new and exciting again. 

How to refashion an old garden bench

It would be best if you come up with a plan before getting started. Making decisions on a whim for a DIY project isn't the best idea. There are tons of design inspirations you can find on the internet, especially on platforms like Pinterest. Once you have a mental image of how you want it to look, gather all your tools and follow the steps below. 

1. Measure all parts of your bench

Knowing the size of every part will help you figure out how much wood you'll need. 

  • Check your local hardware store for wood in different widths and lengths so you can determine the best combination. 
  • For accuracy, unscrew all the pieces and measure every bit separately. 
  • If the bolts are too rusty to be removed with a screwdriver, you can split them off with a cut-off wheel. 

2. Remove rust and blow all dust off 

First, you're going to need some rust-removing spray or paste. WD-40 or distilled vinegar can also be used for this purpose. 

  • You then want to get a scouring pad or a wire brush to scrub the rust off. It can be operated manually or attached to a drill machine for thorough oxidation removal. 
  • Using an air hose, remove all the dust and ensure you leave no particles behind. You can also apply a sandblaster instead of a wire brush, but it won't work if the material is powder-coated. 
  • With a cupped wire brush wheel attached to a drill, you should be able to clean even the most hard-to-reach parts. 

3. Pre-clean the metal parts for paint 

After sweeping dust and rust from all the metal parts:

  • Apply acetone on them to prepare the surface to paint. It is critical that you don't miss a spot and rub the liquid all over.
  • Then spray all metal surfaces with a clean-metal primer and apply two coats for best results.
  • Try to spread the primer from all sides to ensure maximum coverage, and then leave them to dry. 

4. Replace rotten wooden planks 

There are various types of wood that work well for outdoor benches, but redwood is the most resilient. Cedar is also a good choice because it will not rot. To ensure the accuracy of the cuts, it's crucial to take precautions before you start sawing: measure twice before taking the following steps. Once you've made your first cut, there's no going back — if you're off by a fraction of an inch, you could mess up the whole piece and have to start again. 

  • Saw all the slats to length and mark the holes where you will attach them to the bench. 
  • If you don't want the metal bolts to show, use a Forstner bit beside the regular bit to drill holes into the front side. 
  • Also, it is best to use stainless steel hardware to prevent it from rusting. 

5. Paint the metal frame

It is up to you to choose what color you want to paint the bench with but make sure you apply at least three coats. It is also essential to start painting only once the primer on the metal parts has completely dried. 

6. Apply finish to the wooden slats 

You'll need to make sure that the wood has a clear, UV protective finish on it. You can brush this on or thin it down and spray it. 

  • If you're brushing, use a high-quality brush to ensure an even finish. Also, apply three layers of finish.
  • If you want to cut down the gloss, you can apply a single coat of something called a satin additive. 

7. Put everything back together

The last step is to put all repaired and new pieces back together. This is relatively simple, as all the cuts and holes have already been made in the right spots in the earlier stages. All that you need to do is put the slats and metal pieces together and screw them back exactly how they were done before. 

How to choose suitable replacement wood slats for your old bench

Replacing the wood is one of the main tasks in restyling an old bench. Often after years of use, the slats become moldy and rotten to the point that painting or applying a new finish on them wouldn't be enough. You might also want to get new planks of a different type for a new look. When choosing the replacement wood, consider the following factors: 

  • Climate and weather 

The most common woods used for outdoor benches are redwood, cedar, teak, and Ipe. The climate of the place you live in plays a significant role in deciding which type is most suitable for your garden. In an area with cold winters, you'll want something made of a material that's durable in cold temperatures, like cedar. If you live in a dry climate, then a more porous wood like redwood will be best as it will not dry out as quickly as some of the other types out there. 

  • Moisture content 

One of the most important things you can do is make sure the wood has the right moisture content. If it is too high, the wood will crack or warp. If too low, it will be prone to cracking or splitting. You can check by using a moisture meter. It should be around 8-10%, as anything lower than that could result in cracking. 

  • Grain of the wood

If its grain is straight and the lines are clear, then it is high quality and will last longer. Wood is a natural material, and different types will have varying grain patterns. Consider how you can use it to your advantage. For example, if you have dark wood with an intricate grain, you can use that to create a sense of luxury with a dark stain. 

The grain should go in one direction, and if that is not the case, then the wood is probably not very good quality. It's always better to use planks that have the lines of the grain going across the surface. This signifies that the wood fibers are running at right angles to the direction in which you'll be chopping. 

  • Durability

Wood is a popular material for furniture because it's natural and easy to work with. However, how durable it is, differs from type to type. You should pay attention to the label on the piece you're planning to use to see whether it is solid or laminated. For example, oak is hardwood, which means it can withstand the heavy wear and tear of everyday use—the harder the wood, the more durable it is. 

  • Treated wood

It's important to choose one that has been treated, so it's less likely to be attacked by insects. If you are unsure, you can get that done at any hardware store. Also, some are naturally better at protecting themselves from infestation. For example, the safest wood to use is teak because it's resistant to rot and insects. Plus, it's also tough and durable. And the best thing is that it's available in different grades, so you can get teak wood that's suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. 

If you're working with untreated wood, you'll have to paint it to protect it against the elements. Also, make sure that it doesn't have any insect infestation already before working with it. 

  • Properly cut

You can tell if a tree has been appropriately cut by looking at the ends of the logs. If they are rounded, it means it wasn't. They should be squared off, and the cut sides should be facing down. 

  • Clear and smooth

If you want a good-looking finished product, you need to start with a beautiful piece. Make sure to inspect it for any cracks, dirt, or fungus on the surface. This will ensure your project comes out looking professional and you're proud to display it. Especially if you're going to apply a lacquer finish to your wood, you need to ensure the wood itself is free of cracks, fungus, and dirt as they will seep into the lacquer and ruin the finish by dulling it down or causing it to look splotchy. 

Picking the color for your bench

Often when it comes to picking a color, we quickly start thinking about the ones we like. But especially for outdoor furniture, there are several other factors that you should take into consideration, such as: 

  • Stable and durable 

Choose a tone for the wood that is stable and long-lasting. Colors like red, blue, green, and purple can fade and change over time. Brown, beige, and khaki are more durable, and you can select one of these if you're also looking for something more neutral. You don't want to pick a color only based on current trends because it might not be trendy in a year or two. Instead, choose something that will be in style for a long time to come as quality furniture usually lasts for years. 

  • Compliments the wood

The best color to pick for your bench is one that goes with the wood you've chosen. Otherwise, it can look out of place and can ruin the overall appearance. Besides paint, if you use darker wood, you may want to go with a lighter color for your cushions to make the planks stand out. 

  • Blend with outdoor decor

The best way to choose is to start by considering the color scheme of your outdoor space. You'll want to select a tone that will complement your outside decor well and make the bench fit in nicely with the rest of the area. You don't want to choose something that's too much of a contrast with the other furniture in your garden. 

  • Easy to clean

Bright and bold colors are fun for your outdoor space, but they can be tough to maintain. Opt for neutral colors that will be easy to clean with soap and water if you spill anything. If you're just going to do a quick wipe down now and then, then you'll want to choose a shade that contrasts with dirt, like gray. 

Some essential tools you might need 

  • Hammer and chisel to remove the damaged wood if you are going to reuse some old planks.  
  • Wheel saw to cut the wood into slats for your bench. 
  • Hand plane to smooth out the edges and reduce tear-out. 
  • Sander to remove scratches and uneven surfaces. 
  • Screwdrivers and other tools to remove and install the parts. 
  • Measuring tape for marking hole spots and points for cutting. 
  • Set of clamps to hold pieces in place while you screw them in. 
  • Safety glasses and gloves to be worn throughout the process. 
  • Drill machine with required drill bits. 
  • A table or a workstation to set the pieces while you work on them.  
  • Paint and wire brushes. 
  • Painters pyramids to put the slats on for applying finish. 
  • Stainless steel hardware to replace rusted carriage bolts. 


A garden bench offers a great place to unwind outdoors, with friends and family, or just with a good book. They usually last for years, and you can easily restyle them yourself using a few simple techniques discussed in this article. Once you're done, they will be as good as new! 

Although if it is broken beyond repair, it might be a better idea to get a new one. Garden furniture styles are changing all the time. If you want to make a solid bet, here's a bench that will last for years and will look great for most outdoor places.