Without regular staining, an unfinished Adirondack chair (and indeed all outdoor wood furniture) will soon turn gray and suffer wood rot. While some people prefer the coastal style of an unfinished Adirondack chair, most homeowners would much rather transform and protect their unfinished Adirondack chairs with a rich, weather-resistant stain. By following our staining tips below, you defend any unfinished Adirondack chair against the natural elements.
Step 1: Sand Your Way to Smoothness.
Older unfinished Adirondack chairs almost always have a few splinters. Even a totally new unfinished Adirondack chair might have a rough spot or two. Sandpaper is the solution for both situations. Begin with 150-grit sandpaper, and then switch to 220-grit sandpaper to create a velvety-smooth surface. Remove excess sawdust with a damp rag.
Step 2: Get Your Safety Equipment Ready.
Wear gloves and protective goggles. Be sure to stain in a location with excellent airflow, to protect your lungs. Lastly, because staining can be a messy job, you may want to protect the floor of your workspace with a tarp.
Step 3: Condition Wood.
Applying wood conditioner is a great way to avoid discoloration later on. Simply put down a thin layer of conditioner, and allow 15 minutes of drying time before brushing on stain.
Step 4: Select a Stain.
There are two main categories of wood stain: oil-based and water-based. (A few manufacturers do create oil/water hybrids.) Dyes, pigments, and mineral spirits combine to create oil-based stains. In general, oil-based stains need more drying time, since oil penetrates deeper into wood pulp than does water. This trait also results in a more even finish. If you plan on leaving your previously unfinished Adirondack chairs out in harsh weather, oil-based stains are the superior choice, since they are more durable than water-based stains. Those who live in moisture-prone locations should be sure to select oil-based stains with mildew inhibitors.
One advantage of water-based stains is that they exist in more colors than their oil-based cousins. Those with lung conditions should also choose water-based stains, since they don't release noxious fumes. For the same reason, water-based stains are the more eco-friendly choice. Water-based stains dry faster, resist flames better, and are easier to clean up with soap and water. Don't worry about looking for a mildew inhibitor; water-based stains resist mildew naturally.
Once you've selected a stain base, decide on a tone that will flatter your home's exterior, as well as an opacity level. Opaque stains offer more protection, but more translucent stains better showcase wood's natural beauty.
Step 5: Stain like a Pro.
Distribute color in the can with a thorough stirring. You can apply stain with a brush or a rag. Some people prefer disposable foam brushes when staining unfinished chairs. Saturate every inch of the unfinished Adirondack chair with stain. Leave the stain on to encourage a darker tone, or wipe away excess stain to achieve a lighter color. Promote penetration by wiping in the same direction as the wood grain.
Give the stain a day or so to dry. Apply another layer of stain if the color doesn't strike you as quite bright enough.
Step 6: Apply a Protective Finish.
To make sure unfinished Adirondack chairs last a long time, it's important to apply a protective finish. Oil-based finishes are best for patio furniture. Some time saving products contain both stain and finish.