Repair & Maintenance

Caring for redwood furniture

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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redwood bench
Redwood furniture is an attractive and weather resistant choice in outdoor furniture
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Many people believe that if they purchase redwood patio furniture that they'll never have to do anything to it to keep it looking as good as it did on the day of purchase. Not true. This widely held misconception is probably due to a sales person's eagerness to sell an expensive piece of outdoor furniture without explaining that care is necessary, and also is due to the lack of research done by the consumer.

Perhaps you've bought a piece of furniture (for inside or outside), gotten it home, torn off the tags without reading any of the manufacturer's care instructions, and forgotten about it, expecting it to look like new as time goes by. While this would be nice, it is unfortunately not realistic.

Redwood finishing

Though redwood furniture theoretically needs no finish, furniture made from redwood will look better and last longer if it is coated annually with a pigmented redwood sealer. Your local paint or builder's supply store can offer you a wide selection. The sealer will help the wood to shed water and keeps stains from soaking in. The underside of the furniture should be included; and to keep the wooden legs from soaking up moisture, several coats of sealer should be applied to the bottom ends. Before applying the sealer, be sure to clean and scrub the surfaces as necessary. Scrub with detergent and water, rinse, and dry thoroughly before sealing; sometimes sanding is also necessary.

Discoloration If you've had the redwood furniture for a while and it is starting to turn grey, colored sealers restore redness to grayed redwood. Before applying the sealer, wash the furniture and replace any fasteners that are starting to rust, as they will eventually stain the wood. Lightly sand all exposed parts with No. 150 or 180 grit sandpaper. Dust and finally wipe with a rag that has been moistened in paint thinner. The final step is to apply one or two coats of the water repellent sealer specially made for redwood.

Weather care and storage

It is recommended that in climates with extremely hot, dry summers or winters with an abundance of rain, snow, or freezing weather, the furniture not be subject to full outdoor exposure. Before storing, and when needed, scrub with detergent suds, rinse, and dry. For grease and soot stains as from outdoor cooking, wash with solution of 1 cup tri sodium phosphate in 1 gallon water, and rinse. Reseal as needed. A yearly application of redwood sealer will protect your investment and will almost certainly guarantee you years of enjoyment.

If the mere thought about destroying a magnificent redwood tree for furniture appalls you, do not worry; the questions and answers below will ease your mind.

Common Questions about Redwood:

Does most Redwood come from Parks or commercial forests?

Commercial forests. The commercial redwood forests tend to be different in nature from the parklands. These commercial forests are seldom 100% redwood; typically, they are a mixture which can include redwood, Douglas fir, white fir, hemlock and hardwoods. About 85% of the state's old growth coastal redwoods are preserved in 255 acres. This equals 350 square miles of parkland and is equivalent to a one mile wide redwood forest stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles. None of these preserved ancient forests are used to produce lumber. There are two native types of redwood; The Coastal Redwood (Sequoia semperviens) and The Sierra Redwood (Sequoiadendron gigantea). The Sierra Redwood, also known as the Giant Sequoia, isn't used commercially. In fact, 95% of the Sierra Redwoods are preserved in state and federal groves.

Isn't Redwood an endangered species?

No. Redwood is not an endangered species. In fact, growth rates have been steadily increasing over the years as a result of improved timber management and re-planting. The result, there are more redwoods today than when man first harvested the trees.

What happens to lands after Redwoods are harvested?

After harvest, lands are replanted for a second growth and managed to ensure that redwood forests are renewed. Given the rapid growth rate of redwoods the renewal process is very quick when compared to other harvestable woods that we might have selected for our products. The fact is, most of the redwood available to manufacturers is second and third growth redwood from lands that have been repeatedly replanted. Second growth trees are easy to regenerate (they sprout from stumps and root crowns) and grow rapidly. A 50-year-old tree might be 25 inches in diameter or larger, with 60% heartwood. Redwood is the fastest growing softwood (conifer) in the country. Some studies have shown that a redwood can reach 7 feet in one growing season.

Are we losing all our ancient Redwood forests to logging?

Definitely not! Over 95% of the ancient old growth coastal redwood forests are already in redwood parks where they are protected forever. Old growth is usually considered to be trees over 200 years old. More than 96% of today's redwood lumber comes from lands that have been previously harvested. Now you the facts about caring for redwood furniture and some answers to environmental questions you may have.

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