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(Before photo) ^Can you spot our little helper?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Thompson’s WaterSeal, but all opinions are my own. As always, thank you for supporting the partnerships that keep Kelly in the City up and running!

Home renovations are the worst. Since they’re essentially permanent, they can cause great stress–especially for first-time homeowners.

Am I making the right choice? Have I explored all options? Do I even like this?!

I can’t tell you how many freak outs Mitch and I have had over these decisions. But something that’s kept us sane? DIY projects. They’re small when compared to our other projects, they’re not permanently affixed to walls, and we have complete control over them. They have the potential to improve our lives, and they’re also fun. And some fun is just what we need amidst renovations, right?! ;)

The current DIY project we’re working on is an outdoor bar stand for our backyard. The space is a complete mess right now: it’s full of construction materials, we haven’t yet tidied up the landscaping this year, and everything looks pretty drab. But we have BIG dreams. We want to hang twinkle lights, finally set up our patio furniture, and get the area ready for entertaining. (With a newborn, we’re thinking that having family and friends over to our place this summer makes a bit more sense!)

I found the “bar stand,” which is really some sort of magazine stand, at an antiques market last summer. I adore Palm Beach-style chippendale furniture, but it’s hard to find and, as a result, really expensive. This piece, though, was only $35! And don’t we think it’ll make for the perfect little drink station in our backyard?

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The one little problem is that the bar stand is in rough shape and not treated to withstand the elements. The plan is to stain and waterproof it using Thompson’s WaterSeal Signature Series Stain & Sealer (available at Lowe’s), but first it needs to be cleaned and prepped for that process. So today I’m going to show you how Mitch did just that!

How to Prep Furniture for Staining & Sealing

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 Get your materials ready

We decided to use Thompson’s WaterSeal 3 in 1 Wood Cleaner, which cleans all wood types and helps restore the wood’s natural color and beauty. It removes stains from dirt, mildew, algae and fungus… and it eliminates tannin, rust stains and mill glaze on new wood. It’s also perfect to use on outdoor furniture, decks and fences before waterproofing. (Ding, ding, ding!)

Additionally, we picked up a spray bottle to apply the cleaner, a scrubbing brush to get in the nooks and crannies, and rubber gloves to protect Mitch’s hands. (Mitch also wore a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and his sunglasses, which he swears qualifies as “protective eyewear.”)

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Remove dirt, dust and debris

Who knows how old this piece of furniture is, and how many years’ worth of dust it’s collected. Mitch dusted it off using an old t-shirt rag. We recommend wiping down for a good five to 10 minutes!

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Apply the wood cleaner with a sprayer

You can also use a plastic pump-up garden sprayer, synthetic bristle brush or roller. As we recently sealed our fireplace marble with a sprayer, though, we felt more confident that we’d get an even application with a sprayer.

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Let sit for 10-15 minutes; scrub surface

We used a stiff, synthetic bristle brush to scrub the bar stand. Tip: don’t let the wood cleaner dry completely during this time.

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Rinse thoroughly

For best results, use a garden hose or a pressure washer to remove all residue.

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Let dry

Be aware that stubborn stains or missed areas may need to be scrubbed with additional wood cleaner and rinsed again. When you’re done, wash your materials with soap and water. Be sure to wait two to three days (depending on weather conditions) for the wood to dry thoroughly before applying a waterproofer or stain.

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Selecting a Stain & Sealer

Mitch and I decided to go with Thompson’s WaterSeal Signature Series Stain & Sealer, as it provides complete outdoor wood protection while also showing some wood texture and grain. It also prevents water damage, fading, mildew and UV damage! We chose “Timber Brown” in “semi-transparent,” as we felt that it was the closest to what we imagine the bar stand’s original color was. Tune in next week to see the final result, and in the meantime, learn how to stain wood here!

Thompson’s WaterSeal is running its annual contest to win the deck of your dreams. Enter for a chance to win a $20,000 deck makeover!