Weekend DIY Project: Wow! Up An Old Park Bench

How-To Repurpose / Refurbish

Park Bench Rehab before and after

This post contains affiliate links.

Last week, I traveled down to my mom’s house in Laguna Niguel to attempt a furniture refurbishing project for the first time. Actually, that’s not completely true. At the time of this post, I had done some rehabbing – once on an old desk and dresser a few years back – but this was my first “DIY styling” of a furniture piece, more involved than sanding and sealing.

My mom’s courtyard needed a punch of color amongst the creams and muted pastels of her patio furniture. So, I decided to take inspiration from the striped colors of her cushions and paint them onto each slat of her park bench that’s been sitting outside in the elements for the past nine years. The cost? Only $35 for the supplies (we already had the basic tools). The results? A gratifying Wow!

Supplies:Rehabbed park bench supplies


painter’s tape 

• rubber or vinyl gloves

wire brush

Rust-Oleum primer (comes in different colors – we used white)

• pint of outdoor polyurethane paint (any color you wish!)

polyurethane clear coat

paint brushes


sanding block

• newspaper

breathing mask


Ryobi hand sander

hand sander

• pliers

• screwdriver


hand scraper


Wipe off dust and cobwebsWipe off dust and cobwebs on all surfaces with a damp rag.

Tighten screwsTighten all the screws…you may need to use pliers to hold the bolt in the back to tighten fully.

Wire brush off rustWire brush off rust. Really get into the nooks and crannies and “put some elbow grease into it,” says Klunkers.

Hand sand for rough rustUse a hand sander to take off the really tough rust. We used P60 grit sand paper here, but you can also go as coarse as P50.

Clean cast iron with soap and waterClean cast iron with soap and water to really remove excess rust dust and particles.

Wire brush wood slatsWire brush wood slats to remove peeling varnish, splintered wood, and weathered dirt and grime.

SandingUsing your hand sander, smooth out the rough surface on all slats, including the underneath. Use your sanding block (photo 2) to get into the hard-to-reach areas. I initially used P60 grit sand paper to work out the rough edges of the wood, then went to P120 to smoooooothen it out! In other words, I made it tooshie-smooth!

Mom gets in on the DIY actionMy 82 year old mom, Lois, gets in on the DIY action! (Oh, and yes, she gave me the “go ahead” to tell y’all how seasoned she is!) DIY is for ALL ages!

Round out the edgesOptional detailing: round out the edges of each of the wood slats for a more comfy sit.

Prime cast ironAfter taping off the wood around the cast iron, prime with a can of Rust-Oleum. Use smooth, back and forth strokes about 8-12″ away from surface to avoid drippage. Note: Rust-Oleum comes in different colors, so be sure to purchase the appropriate shade for your project.

…and now…the final steps!

Brushes-Wooster or PurdySturdy and smaller detail brushes will help finish off your bench faster and easier. Home Depot paint expert, Tommy, suggested we try both the Wooster and Purdy hand brushes, quality products that can be used again and again. The winner? Hands down…Wooster. It was more firm, substantial to hold, and painted smoother and more complete than the Purdy…in our opinion.

Tape off and paint cast ironBegin painting all the cast iron. We used two coats. Note: be sure to also paint the underneath as well. In fact, to avoid re-rusting, all surfaces should be painted.

Tip-helps to have two people for drip patrolWhen painting lattice work, it helps to have someone on the other side painting and catching any drippage. Thanks mom!

Behr paint testersAlmost finished now! The inspiration: mom’s patio cushion colors. Thanks Behr paints!

Line up color scheme with Behr paint testersBefore painting these colors, line up the color scheme from front slat color to back.

Paint woodPaint wooden slats.

Note: start with the underneath. We started painting the top, then turned it over and painted the bottom (using the cream color we painted on the cast iron). Unfortunately, we had to touch up the top slats again, as the brush strokes from the cream paint underneath smeared onto the colored slats. Ugh…lesson learned!

Project manager Klunkers always on the jobProject manager Klunkers always on the job!

Polyurethane looks like milk

Optional step: Polyurethane…its consistency and color is a little bit like milk.

Polyurethane apply, sand, applyApply, sand, then apply another coat (we only applied the sealant to the tops of the wooden slats-not any of the cast iron). Use regular, smooth brush strokes. Because we used exterior paint, this step is optional, but will finish and protect your bench nicer and longer. Note: A pint costs approx. $15 which will add to the overall cost of this project. The benefit? You’ll have plenty left over for your next DIY project!

Tips: here are just a few more tips to make this project easy-peasy!

tip-take smart phone photo of colorsTip: After purchasing your paints, be sure to take a photo with your smart phone in case you’d like to buy more of the same color…this label can easily be smeared or covered with paint.

tip-punch paint can holes and rubber band scraperTip: for reduced messes, here are two ways to keep paint in the can and not on your floors-#1, punch holes into the inside ridge of your paint can. After pouring you’ll find there will be less drippage (see our “Holey Paint Cans” blog for more info.). #2. attach a rubber band around the paint can and use to scrape excess paint of your brush. This works brilliantly!!!

After Wow!

Park Bench Rehab after

So darling!

Side bench heart detailI had never noticed this heart detailing…now it’s just part of the charm of this bench.

Project manager Klunkers pleased againKlunkers is pleased again!…and definitely eying those cookies!

Q. Would you attempt a DIY project like this?

All photography by Skaie Knox, HomeJelly

HomeJelly UPDATE!

Check out our HomeJelly Readers’ rendition of this fun project…see how fantastic they did!

Martine Engel (along w/site manager “Bella”)

Bill and Janet Schlegel

Great Job!

This post contains affiliate links to the tools and supplies we used in this project. This means we will receive a percentage of the sale if you make a purchase using these links, helping to fund our site to provide free how-to projects for you.
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Written By Skaie Knox

Skaie Knox is a storyteller on a quest to provide sparkling content through copywriting, songwriting and video production. She is founder of HomeJelly, Ruggable.com's key copywriter, a published singer/songwriter (Fervor Records/ASCAP) and kid's book author (Big Bug Lunch!). For doable DIY video tutorials, subscribe to her HomeJelly YouTube channel (for link, click on my nose!).

  • Robin

    Oh my goodness, I’m in LOVE. I was just recently handed down an old, weathered garden bench quite similar to this one and have been looking for ideas on how to paint it. What was the condition of the wood when you started? I’m afraid my slats aren’t strong enough to actually be used for sitting anymore, so I’m not sure if all the sanding work is necessary. What do you think? I’m keeping it for a decoration all the same! Also, what is the name of the lightest green you used? I think I will do the same thing with gradient greens for the seat. THANKS for this inspiration! 🙂

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      Hi Robin! Thanks so much for the wonderful comments! First off, the condition of the wood slats were not bad, weathered, but still strong enough for sitting. If you really wish to use your bench, you may be able to replace the slats using the old ones as a template. Otherwise, you can refurbish it and use it as a decorative piece (or a place to feature potted plants!). Here are all the colors of the bench, starting with the light green:

      (All paints were Behr Ultra flat, matte and bought at Home Depot)

      Lightest green: Grass Cloth, Base: UL204, id#107712196964
      Dark green: Jungle Trail, Base: UL203, id#107712196962
      Cream: Clair De Lune, Base: UL204, id#107712196967
      Light pink: Degas Pink, Base: UL203, id#107712196966
      Dark pink: Maroon, Base: UL203, id#107712196963

      Thanks again for stopping by! Please keep us posted on your project…we’d love to see a photo when you’re done!

      • Heather Hall

        Love it! I have two of these benches here at home and now I know how I can refurbish them!! Love the colors you used! Thank you!!

        • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

          That’s great, Heather! Please send over photos when you’re done with yours! Thanks for the kind words…my mom still loves her bench and shows it off whenever she can!

      • Kim


        Your bench is beautiful!! I recently bought a bench similar to yours, but not sure what colors to use. Your bench is a huge inspiration. Thank you:)
        Leaving for home depot soon. Your tutorial is excellent wtih tips and step by step instructions.


        • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

          Hi Kim! So sorry it took so long to respond! Your comment got lost in our comment feed! Thank you so much for your kind words. This was for my mom, so it was extra special to include her in the design and DIY process! Please email us with pictures…goodness…by now, it should be done! Thanks again!

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  • dionne clabaugh

    This is very inspiring! Thank you for your website and photo info to revitalize this cute park bench. Very successful! I have some arthritis in my hands, but when I saw the photo of Lois sanding the bench, I laid my concerns to rest. Thank you, Lois! You have inspired me!

    One of my summer projects is to create a visiting area in my back yard. I have three cast iron park benches. Two have wood slat seats and backs and need to be cleaned, the wood refinished, and the metal sides painted. The third one needs wood slats and a rod underneath to hold the side arms together.

    I plan to paint all three benches’ metal sides in a cheerful muted color and sand and seal the wood slats. I have some other wrought iron pieces to create a visiting garden area that will be painted in coordinating (but understated) colors: two cafe chairs that need seats and four wrought iron plant stands in different configurations.

    If you have any ideas or suggestions, I welcome them!

    Smiles, Dionne

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      @Dionne…thank you so much for the “shout-out” to my mom! This is exactly why I wanted her included in on this project…to show how capable she is and that we can DIY at ANY age! Please send photos of your benches to me here: [email protected]…I’d love to feature you and them and celebrate capable women DIYers! Yes! I also sent your comment to my mom…she was very flattered!

  • willie

    hi I have a similar bench the back is wrought iron with a hummingbird. I was thinking about dry brushing it and then stain and varnish the slats. there is a green on it now. any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      Hi Willie! I love the effects of dry brushing. It gives furniture a nice aged look. I was thinking it might be kinda cool to sand the green so it’s a bit distressed, then dry brush another color over that. It would definitely add dimension. Just a note: it’s a good idea to allow your outdoor friendly varnish to fully dry before adding additional coats AND/or placing it outdoors…wet varnish is not forgiving to brush strokes or falling leaves and dust. PLEASE send a photo of your before and after so we can feature your piece on HomeJelly! Send them to: [email protected]. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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  • Casey

    I scored a sad, weathered old park bench with gorgeous potential this morning – free – from a neighbor that is
    moving! I am new at refinishing furniture but have been looking at my wonderful bench all day and trying to decide what to do with it…then I stumbled upon your site and I adore what you did with your bench featured here!
    Thanks so much for the tips…can’t wait to get started on this project!!!

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      Hi Casey! So sorry for such the long delay in replying! Your comment got lost in our comment feed. We would SO love to see what you did with your weathered bench! I’m guessing you’ve completed the project by now. Would you mind sending us a photo? We’d love to feature it on our update blog post! Send to [email protected]. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  • Mark Coren

    Thanks for such a great post! Yesterday, a neighbor just gave us 4 of these benches from a home they are selling. The benches are thrashed, but they match one that we already have that needs refinishing as well. Your post gives me the perfect idea of how to do this in a manageable way! Your bench is beautiful!

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      Hi Mark! Your comment got lost with Kim’s in our comment feed! So sorry! Thank you so much for your kind words. We’d so love to see the results of your 4 freebie benches! Please email us ([email protected]) with any photos! We’d love to feature them on our blog!

  • Timothy Richards

    Love the name of your project manager. You’ve done a great job on that old bench despite the odd colour scheme!


    [Liverpool, UK]

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      Haha! Thanks Timothy. Klunkers picked the colors…dogs (sheesh).

  • Patricia

    What a wonderful bench you now have! And great that your Mum helped you.
    I have an old peeling,wooden bench and I feel inspired to try and do something with it even though I think I am hopeless at DIY!
    Thank you for sharing!

    (London UK)

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      Thanks so much, Patricia! Yes! It was really fun to do this project with my mom…it’s because of her that I feel so empowered to do these types of projects. She was raised on a farm in MN during the 1930s and 40s. She is quite the salt of the earth and an inspiration! Please send photos of your rehabbed bench when you are finished! We’d love to feature it on HomeJelly! Good luck!

  • Kathie

    This looks great! I have a bench that I am going to paint this summer. Your step by step guide and listing all the supplies you used is very helpful. I hope mine turns out as nice as your Mom’s did. Your Mom is a lovely lady.

    • http://homejelly.wpengine.com Skaie Knox

      Thank you Kathie! Glad this was helpful for you…my mom says “Thank you!” as well. Please send over any photos of your repainted bench when you finish! Send them to [email protected]. Good luck and have fun!

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  • Joan

    Thank you so much for your wonderful tutorial, I will be starting on my bench as soon as I have the materials. I just love what you have done with the bench. Thanks again for your help and guidance.

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      You’re so welcome, Joan! We’d LOVE to see what you do and add a photo to our updates page! Please send to [email protected] once you’ve transformed your bench. Good luck, have fun and thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.CommaQueenEditing.com Karen Tucker

    Some questions: Besides the wood on the back, did you tape off any other wood to keep from spraying the Rustoleum on the wood? Or is the taping off mainly to not get the paint you use on the cast iron on the wood? Was the primer what you used on the cast iron? (and if so, why primer there and outdoor paint on the wood? If not, where did you use the primer?)

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      Hi Karen! As to your questions…

      Yes. Taping off…when it came to spraying the Rustoleum on the arms, I also taped off the wood on the seat part, but only a few inches wide. I mainly didn’t want to deal with a lot of overspray on the wood, which would possibly create bumps that I’d then eventually need to sand again. Taping is a bit of a pain, but, it actually does save time in the end.

      Yes, taping off mainly was to get the spray paint onto the cast iron and not the wood. However, I didn’t tape off the back…there was no need, since the entire back was white.

      No, because Rustoleum is both a primer and prevents rust, the second coat was a brushed-on exterior paint.

      I used primer on all the wood surfaces. Mainly, because the bench was going to be placed outdoors. This was an added protection for the wood. The Rustoleum was just for the cast iron.

      I hope all this info. helps…if you have any other questions…let me know! And…thanks for stopping by!

  • Lara

    Your Mum’s bench looks amazing! Great job! Thank you so much for posting this, it has inspired me to spruce up my late Nan’s bench that is looking very sorry for itself in my garden. I’m painting the cast iron white and the wood Cuprinol’s ‘Coastal mist’ I am very excited to get the job done 🙂

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      Wow, Lara! “Coastal Mist”…what a lovely-sounding color! Pleeeease send us a photo when you’re done (send to: [email protected]). We’d love to post it on HomeJelly and show off a little! Thanks also for the kind words. This was quite a fun project and my mom still receives compliments on her bench!

  • Janet

    I have a very simiiar bench and feel very inspired now. Could the iron parts just be spray painted with a
    Rust oleum rather than hand painted? Thanks for the step by step instructions. That’s very helpful.

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  • Lee

    Thank you so much for this diy project. We had this 35yr old bench in my house that I decided to spruce up following your instructions! It took us about 5 hrs only because we took the bench apart. But it came out perfect! Thanks a bunch!

    • http://www.about.me/skaieknox Skaie Knox

      That’s fantastic, Lee! Any chance you can email a picture to us so we can show it off to our readers? If not, no worries. If so, please send a hi-res (at least 1000px wide) photo to [email protected] We’re so glad you were able to bring your bench into the new millennium!

    • David A. Lelli

      After 5 hours, I’d just be barely done the scraping and sanding.

      • HomeJelly

        Right?!? DIYing is definitely WORK! But, ohhhh, it’s so worth it when you’re done! Did you finish this project, or were you projecting the level of “elbow grease” that would have to go into this? In actuality, it wasn’t that bad, prepping. You may want to recruit someone (like I did with my, now 87 year old mom!) to help? It’s always more fun to “share the pain”! 😀 Good luck!

    • HomeJelly

      Yay, Lee!! That’s fantasticI I’d LOVE to see a photo! Any chance you could email one to me? If so, please send to: [email protected]. I’ve featured several other benches inspired by this post. Here they are:



      I’d love to include yours, too! Congrats and I’m so glad you had some DIY fun!

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  • Austin Brewer

    What grain sandpaper did you use for the wood slats? I’m hoping to repaint our old bench, but the cast iron isn’t rusted, so I won’t have to do as much to that. The wood is another story! I’m almost thinking I need to pressure wash it to get all the dirt off.

    • HomeJelly

      Hi Austin! Great question! I’ll add this to the post. First, start off with a P60 grit (if your wood is in really bad shape – lots of paint and weathering, you can even go to P40 or P50 – just be careful not to sand grooves in it…that’s why I typically go as coarse as P60 – it’ll definitely do the job).

      To smooth your wood to a nice finish, do a gentle sanding with P120 grit sand paper.

      Finally, depending on how fast you want to remove the dirt, a pressure washer will do. Just know that you’ll have to allow the wood to REALLY dry out (if it’s a hot, dry day 24 hrs…if it’s a normally cool day, about 2-3 days) before sanding and staining.

      Good luck…hope this helps!

  • Donna Andersen Klingenberg

    Awesome! We’re about to redo a client’s cast iron bench, but she wants all the wood replaced, and the green paint untouched on the cast iron. So mostly, we’ll clean that part up is all. I did wonder if there’s something i can put over the green paint to give it new life and stop the fading.

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