A few days ago I shared a photo of the tropical garden taken from the deck at the back of the house (aka my “outdoor office”).
When I snapped the shot, my focus was on how green and lush everything was. But after staring at the same view for a while, it started looking less lush and more shaggy and overgrown. And the wood path was just kind of this dirt-colored “meh” thing lying on the ground drab and uninteresting. Eventually (okay, maybe 24 hours), I became obsessed cleaning up the jungle and doing something about that dirty, boring wood walkway. It wasn’t just a path after all, it was a transition from the public to the private spaces of the acre.
Now, the old me would’ve been making plans haul this old thing out, back up a lumber truck and build a whole new walk. But the new me is on a budget and must consult with his wife on any project that can’t be done with what I already own, or costs more than I can find in the couch cushions.
Coincidentally, I was rooting around in the garage a couple of weeks ago and found a big can of “gunstock red” stain left over from some long-forgotten project.
The benches and table on the front patio had needed a little reviving, so I re-stained them with it.
Despite some early concerns, they ended up looking pretty good.
I still had about half a can of stain and I could buy disposable chipboard brushes for couch money, so I figured I’d give the path a facelift.
A couple days of plant trimming and power washing, followed by a couple days to stain and dry the path, and I’ve got a whole new walkway that’s not just a way to get through the garden, but now adds color and contrast to it as well.
Check out these before and after shots. (Click the image for a larger view).
The Stain — I used an oil-based wood finish stain (the type for furniture) rather than a deck stain. I prefer that kind of stain for both indoor and outdoor applications because I think they do a better job of highlighting the richness of wood grain (deck and water-based stains seem like thin, chalky paint to me) as well as maintaining their color, bug and water resistance longer. You can usually pick up a quart (1 liter) for under $10 at your local home improvement or hardware store.
Stain Application — I use disposable chipboard/economy brushes for application. Weather-exposed wood is rough and has lots of cracks and splinters that will snag and tear cloth or sponge brushes. A 3-inch (8cm) economy brush does a far better job at application and will only cost you $2 or so. And there’s nothing to clean up at the end. Just dispose of the brush properly.
Drying Time — One of the disadvantages to oil-based stains is the longer dry time. Even those that say they dry in 2 hours, really need 24 – 48 to really set color deep before they can get wet. Make sure there’s no rain in your forecast for a few days after application so the wood fully absorbs the stain.
Total Cost — Re-staining old wood is an inexpensive way to bring it new life. I spent about $5 on brushes and $7.50 on an additional quart of stain when I ran low near the end of the project, so the whole project cost me $12.50 — easily within my couch money budget and definitely worth the investment.
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