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What are the Best Tips for Refinishing Teak?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Teak furniture is known for its strength and durability, as well as its unique ability to become more beautiful as it ages. Even so, teak can still be damaged under certain conditions, especially when used outdoors, and if the finish wears off. There are various methods for refinishing teak, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The first step in refinishing teak furniture is to remove the existing finish. In some cases, all that will be needed is a simple finish stripper. These products are usually are a liquid or gel, and are applied using a clean rag directly onto the wood. Some stripping agents are better than others, so if the wood has multiple coats of finish or varnish, it is a good idea to buy the most powerful solvent available.

Varnish should be applied in layers when refinishing teak.
Varnish should be applied in layers when refinishing teak.

Even the best stripping agent on the market fails from time to time. When this happens, it may become necessary to sand the entire piece-thus removing the varnish in the process. Sanding becomes even more necessary if the piece is badly damaged in more than one location. It is important to sand evenly to ensure the teak is left smooth and ready for paint or finish.

It is advised to use a soft brush when painting teak.
It is advised to use a soft brush when painting teak.

Refinishing teak properly requires deciding where the piece will be used. An outdoor piece can be left unfinished and the natural aged teak wood will acquire an attractive silver/gray color. If finish is applied, more than one coat may be needed to ensure that it is not stripped away due to sun and harsh weather conditions, and it is essential to purchase a finish made specifically for outdoor use. An indoor piece can be finished using just a thin clear varnish. The furniture may also be stained prior to finish in either case.

Apply the varnish in layers, allowing the first coat to dry before painting on another. Follow all manufacturer's instructions for applying varnish, making sure to go with the grain. It is especially important to remember that even if refinishing teak furniture for indoor use, varnish should always be applied in a well ventilated area. Outdoor applications are recommended, weather permitting.

Some choose against fully refinishing teak furnishings and opt instead to paint the piece. Painting allows full customization for color choices and any stenciled designs that may be desired. To get the best results, apply a spray-on primer before any paint is added. Then, use either a paint sprayer to apply the paint or use a soft brush to glide it on, paying very careful attention to detail. Be sure to only use the exact amount of paint to prevent runs and drips that may be visible on the finished product. Allow any varnish or paint to dry completely before putting the furniture back in place.

Discussion Comments


I bought teak furniture from a garage sale, and it had been outside for a long time. The owners did not take good care of it. I found a cleaner made specifically for teak wood, and it restored the furniture back to it's original color.

Now, all I have to do is apply a sealer once a year to keep the furniture looking nice. I love the look of of teak!


Teak furniture kept outdoors often needs cleaned periodically, and I've found that using a solution of one part bleach and four parts dishwashing liquid does the job nicely. Just use a soft-bristled brush to wash the furniture and rinse it well after cleaning.

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    • Varnish should be applied in layers when refinishing teak.
      By: kanvag
      Varnish should be applied in layers when refinishing teak.
    • It is advised to use a soft brush when painting teak.
      By: Rob
      It is advised to use a soft brush when painting teak.