The Ultimate Guide to Garden Benches
Garden benches are one of the most popular types of outdoor furniture – and for good reason.
A bench can transform how you use your garden, even in the smallest of spaces. It offers the perfect place to enjoy your morning coffee outside, catch up with a friend, or admire your blooming flowerbeds in the sunshine (for all of 5 minutes, until the clouds roll over!)
If you’re looking for a garden bench, you might be wondering what you need to consider – including what style and material is best and how you’ll need to maintain it. To find the answer to all your bench-related questions, read on for our ultimate guide to garden benches. You’ll soon be off the fence and comfortably seated on your new outdoor bench!
What to consider when choosing a garden bench
Garden benches come in various sizes, ranging from compact 2-seaters to larger styles capable of seating 6 – 8 people. When choosing a bench, consider the size of your outside area. Make sure to leave enough space for access and perhaps a side table to hold your coffee cup (or wine glass!)
The classic garden bench has a long seat and backrest. Many styles have armrests, and some also feature an overhead cover, turning them into an arbour or egg chair. This can be useful if you want protection from the sun or rain, or to decorate your garden bench with outdoor lighting.
Garden benches can be made from a variety of materials. Wood is the traditional choice, but other popular options include plastic, rattan, metal and stone. Here are some of the benefits of each:
There’s a reason wood reigns supreme in the world of garden benches! This natural material is strong, sturdy and waterproof. This is especially true of hardwood, which is denser and more durable than softwood – although the price usually reflects this. Common hardwoods used for benches include teak, oak, acacia and mahogany.
Outdoor benches can also be made from softwoods, including pine and cedar. Although these are a little less hardwearing than hardwoods, they grow faster and tend to be cheaper and more sustainable. Whichever wood you choose, it’s a good idea to treat it regularly to maintain weatherproofing and keep it looking its best.
Plastic garden benches can bring a more modern look to your garden. They are often more affordable than other materials – whilst still weatherproof – and may be lighter and easier to move around the garden than wood. Plastic benches sometimes come with storage in the base, which can be useful for storing outdoor cushions when not in use.
Rattan is another popular material for outdoor furniture, including garden benches. This may be natural or PU rattan, which gives a similar appearance, but with the increased longevity and affordability of plastic. Our Hampstead Bench by Garden Trading is made from a combination of all-weather bamboo and powder-coated steel.
Although perhaps less common, metal is another excellent choice for a garden bench. By choosing a non-corrosive metal such as aluminium, you can be relatively certain your garden bench will remain rust-free and in tip-top condition. Metal garden benches may be powder-coated for extra durability or to add a funky colour!
Can I leave my garden bench outside over winter?
Depending on the material, your garden bench should be ok outside over winter – however, it will be subject to weathering, and this may shorten its lifespan. If it is possible to bring your garden bench inside over winter, do so, as this will ensure it stays in the best possible condition. If not, you can also use a cover to protect your bench from the elements.
What is a good wood for a garden bench?
Teak is one of the best woods for a garden bench. This hardwood is popular for its strength, durability and rot-resistant properties. Teak is also one of the most attractive woods, thanks to its rich brown colour and straight grain. The downside is that teak is a little more expensive and less sustainable than other woods. For a more affordable yet still highly attractive option, consider a pine garden bench, such as our Alexander Rose Marlow Bench.
What height should a garden bench be?
Most garden benches are approximately 40 – 50 cm high. This is a comfortable seating height for most adults and means you won’t be left with your legs dangling or your knees up around your ears!
Do I need to treat my garden bench?
Depending on the durability of the wood used, most wooden garden benches will require regular treatment to protect against damp, decay and UV weathering and keep the wood looking its best. Apply a waterproof wood protector oil every 1 – 2 years, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. In between treatments, keep the wood clean and ideally cover it during winter.
If your garden bench is made from plastic, metal or PU rattan, it will not need treating, but you should still look after it by brushing or wiping it clean and covering it over winter.
How do I paint my garden bench?
A fresh coat of paint can transform a tired-looking garden bench and make it look as good as new! To jazz up a wooden garden bench, you should first clean the surface of the bench and sand it down with sandpaper. Remember to wear protective clothing and ensure the area is well-ventilated before you start.
Wipe away any remaining dust particles after sanding, then apply a primer. Once this is dry, you can apply your paint (make sure it is suitable for outdoor use!) Apply several thin coats of paint, allowing it to dry fully between coats until your desired colour is achieved. Finish with a layer of outdoor acrylic sealant to seal the paint and protect it from the elements.
Give everything a couple of days to dry, and it’ll be time for you to enjoy your colourful new sit-uation!