Weekend DIY Project: Wow! Up An Old Park Bench

Park Bench Rehab before and after

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. I have 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!

Here’s what you’ll need: Rehabbed park bench supplies

Here’s what you do:

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.

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 mature 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?

Skaie Knox

Written by Skaie Knox

Decor/design nerd, freelance writer, and the Editor-in-Chief/Curator for the HomeJelly blog and soon-to-open, HomeJelly shoppe. Skaie is also a published singer/songwriter and kid's book author. She was voted "Class Clown", and is a rescue dogs crusader.


  1. Robin on August 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    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! :)

    • Skaie Knox on August 9, 2012 at 1:52 am

      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 on March 23, 2014 at 5:59 am

        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!!

        • Skaie Knox on March 24, 2014 at 5:45 am

          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!

  2. dionne clabaugh on May 26, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    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

    • Skaie Knox on May 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      @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: skaie@homejelly.com…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!

  3. willie on November 3, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    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.

    • Skaie Knox on November 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      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: skaie@homejelly.com. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  4. Timothy Richards on June 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

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


    [Liverpool, UK]

    • Skaie Knox on June 16, 2014 at 9:04 pm

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

  5. Patricia on June 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

    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)

    • Skaie Knox on June 26, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      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!

  6. Kathie on June 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    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.

    • Skaie Knox on June 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      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 skaie@homejelly.com. Good luck and have fun!

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