Teak furniture will last for centuries. That’s because the teak oil, infused in every cell of the wood, is a natural preservative, giving teak furniture a legendary resistance to rot. However, lasting long is not the same as aging well – as we human beings all find out ourselves! In particular, harsh Winter conditions can take their toll on teak. Just like your car, you’ve got to “winterproof” your teak furniture if you want it to get through the winter undamaged. Let’s look at what can happen to teak furniture during winter… and what you can do to protect it.
The biggest danger is from cracking. Temperature swings are the culprit here. This is true all year long, but in winter, many temperature swings occur right around the freezing point of water. (That’s 32°F in case you weren’t paying attention in junior high science class.) When the temperature is above freezing, small amounts of moisture are always finding their way into any existing cracks in the wood — even those hairline cracks you can’t see. When the air temperature dips below freezing, this moisture in those tiny cracks freezes as well. And whenever water freezes anywhere on earth, it expands. This expansion is powerful — and virtually unstoppable. It’s what rips potholes out of city streets and churns up cement sidewalks. So, it’s no wonder that the freezing of a few drops water will widen the cracks in your teak furniture.
This cycle of freeze-and-thaw repeats itself dozens of times in a typical winter season, as the temperature bounces around between 30° and 40°. Such repeated stress can turn an unnoticed crack into an ugly scar in just a single winter!
Now that you see why winterproofing your teak furniture is so necessary, let’s look at what options are at your disposal.
Teak Wood Sealer
One way to prepare teak furniture for winter is to use a sealer. As the name implies, a teak sealer applies a thin waterproof coating to the wood. This blocks moisture from getting into those tiny cracks in the first place — effectively preventing that freeze-thaw-freeze cycle from doing its damage.
Plus, teak sealer does more than keep out the water; it helps maintain the original color of your furniture. The sealant contains a UV blocker, which prevents your furniture from getting bleached by the sun. Sunscreen for your teak. And, in addition to “clear”, teak wood sealant comes in a number of tints. Many teak furniture owners prefer to use a tint. That way, your once-a-year winterproofing project serves double-duty, by keeping your furniture color just like new.
Teak sealer comes in a one gallon can. About enough to cover 200 square feet of teak wood as a first coat. It will go about twice as far on the second coat – and just like regular painting you always want to use two coats. Give the first coat an hour to dry before applying the second coat. The easiest – and best – way to apply teak sealer is with a hand-held spray bottle. You’ll get a nice even coat with little effort. And if chemicals and applicators are not your cup of tea, you’ll be able to find professionals in your area to do the job right.
Teak Furniture Covers
A nice, heavy-duty cover is another great way to winterproof your teak outdoor furniture. Covers have the added benefit of providing real protection to the flying objects – branches, chunks of ice, showers of acorns, and whatnot – that get driven by blizzard winds with more than enough force to mar your furniture.
There’s one thing you need to look out for when you winterproof your teak furniture with a cover. It’s got to be “breathable”. Yes, you need it to be watertight. Just not 100%. There’s no problem finding such covers. Most outdoor furniture covers are made to be 95% watertight (check the label.) They won’t let your furniture get wet, and that 5% breathability factor is just enough to prevent mold and mildew from taking hold.
Storing Teak Furniture Inside
Now you might think that the ultimate way to baby your teak furniture is to bring it inside. As long as you have the room — and a strong back — it’s fine. But there are a couple of concerns with this approach. Here again, temperature change can be a problem, especially if you bring the furniture inside your house to a heated room. Depending upon the time of year you make the move, your furniture might get jolted by a 30-40 degree temperature change. On top of that, most indoor spaces are less humid that the outdoors. The added heat wants the wood to expand. The drier air wants the wood to contract. The result is – you guessed it – more cracks!
Often a better approach is to put your furniture in an unheated room, a sheltered porch, or a garage. Your furniture will get all the protection – without the shock of that big heat and humidity change going from outdoors to a heated interior room.
So, what’s the ultimate way to winterproof your teak furniture? We happen to favor a once-a-year treatment with a good teak wood sealant. Because it stops the potential for cracking at the source – by keeping moisture from penetrating the wood in the first place. Plus, the sealer does more than winterproof your furniture, it keeps the color looking like new. Of course, you’ll do fine with any of the ideas we talked about here. The important thing is to just do something – especially if you want your teak furniture to age gracefully.