My patio chair refinish and refresh has been my favorite DIY of 2021.

Actually, I refreshed the table too, but that is another blog post you can read here.

We have this beautiful set of wood chairs that were in desperate need of some TLC.

They had faded from the sun and needed a face lift.

old wood table with six chairs on patio - J Dub By Design™
The table and chairs before the refresh.

So, I decided to give then a few fresh coats of exterior approved stain and seal them for protection.

I was shocked at how easy the process was, including the prep work to prepare the chairs for the stain.

Prep work is key. This stain works marvelously over existing surfaces.

But, you must have a clean, smooth surface to work with or the stain will fail.

This post does contain affiliate links.  This means if you click on certain links and purchase a product I recommend, I will receive a small commission.

Materials Needed

General Finishes Black Walnut Exterior 450 Stain

General Finishes Exterior 450 Flat Top Coat

2 inch Foam Brushes

A good quality synthetic paint brush

A small artist’s brush for detail work

Lint free shop towels (not regular paper towels)

lint free cloths

drop cloths to protect your surfaces

80 grit sanding block or sandpaper (you can use an orbital sander, but I found the block easier to work with for the chairs)

dawn dishwashing liquid



denatured alchohol

spray bottle

220 grit sanding block

paint stirring sticks

Steps to Prep the Chairs for Stain

  1. First, I sanded the chairs with 80 grit sandpaper. The chairs were in pretty good shape. But, I specifically looked for any rough patches and smoothed them out.
  2. Next, I filled a bucket with warm water and Dawn dishwashing soap.
  3. I wiped the chairs down liberally using the lint free cloth.
  4. Next, using a Scotch brite pad and the Dawn soap, I went over the chairs again to remove any grease, dirt, etc.
  5. I rinsed the chairs with clean water and allowed them to dry.
  6. While the chairs are drying, I mixed a spray bottle with 50 percent denatured alcohol and water.
  7. I sprayed this mixture liberally on each chair and wiped away any remaining dirt and grime.
  8. Then, I allowed the chairs to dry.

Photos of Prep Work

sanding the back of the wooden chairs with 80 grit sandpaper in preparation for stain - J Dub By Design™
I sanded the chairs down with 80 grit sandpaper.
woman cleaning wood chairs in preparation for staining - J Dub By Design™
Then I washed the chairs with soapy water and a Scotch-Brite pad before wiping them down with denatured alcohol and water.
beginning the staining process on wood chair - J Dub By Design™
I allowed the chairs to dry completely before starting the staining process.

Steps to Stain the Chairs

  1. I placed a drop cloth on a small patio table so that the chairs were easier for me to tackle.
  2. I placed a chair on the patio table.
  3. Next, I sanded the chairs with 220 grit sandpaper.
  4. I wiped away any dust with an oil free tack cloth. (Do not use a tack cloth containing oil. This stain is water based and does not adhere well to any oily residue.)
  5. Using a paint stick, I stirred the stain for about 2 minutes to mix the stain well. You do not want to shake the can. This will create air bubbles.
  6. Then, using a 2 inch foam brush and working in sections, I started liberally painting on the stain.
  7. I let the stain sit for approximately 1 minute, before I wiped the stain back using a blue shop towel.
  8. I repeated this process over the entire chair working in small sections all around the chair.
  9. For me, this process looked like this: front legs, front face, seat, sides, front back rest, back legs, back rest.
  10. I used a small detail artist’s brush to get the stain into the wooden holes on the back of the chair and I used the foam brush to get the stain in the slats. Then, I used a regular paint brush to feather the stain out and stop any potential drips.
  11. I allowed the chair to dry for approximately 4 hours.
  12. Then, I applied a second coat of stain using the same process.

Photos of the Staining Process

using a wooden paint stick to stir the stain before applying - J Dub By Design™
Stir the stain thoroughly to mix well. Do not shake the can. Stir frequently throughout the entire staining process.
applying first coat of stain to the leg of a wooden chair using a 2 inch foam brush - J Dub By Design™
I used a two inch foam brush to apply the stain liberally.
using a synthetic paint brush to feather stain to keep it from running down the leg of chair - J Dub By Design™
I used a synthetic paint brush to feather any areas where the stain wanted to pool and then run down the chair.
wiping back the stain with a blue lint free shop towel - J Dub By Design™
After allowing the stain to sit, I wiped the stain back with a lint free blue shop towel.
first coat of stain applied to the front legs of wooden chair - J Dub By Design2
I started with the front legs of the chair.
first coat of stain applied to the seat of the wooden chair - J Dub By Design™
Next, I moved to the seat of the chair.
first coat of stain applied to the sides of the wooden chair - J Dub By Design™
Then I applied the stain to the sides of the chair.
first coat of stain applied to front back of chair - J Dub By Design™
Next, I stained the front back of the chair.
applying stain to the back slats of the wooden chair using a two inch foam brush - J Dub By Design™
I used the two inch foam brush to apply the stain the back slats of the chair.
using an artist brush to apply stain to the detailed circular cut outs of chair - J Dub By Design™
I used a small artist brush to apply the stain within the circle cut outs in the back of the chair.
first coat of stain applied to two wooden chairs - J Dub By Design™
Two of the chairs after one coat of black walnut stain.

Preparation to Topcoat the Chairs

After the stain had dried, I was now ready to apply the protective exterior approved topcoat.

You can use this product as is or this topcoat can also be mixed with a stain color to create a custom color.

General Finishes calls this process toning. You can read about it here.

I planned to use this special toning mixture on the table that goes with the chairs.

Therefore, even though I darkened the chairs considerably using two coats of black walnut stain, I decided to darken the chairs even more by adding additional stain to the protective topcoat.

I chose to mix some black walnut stain with the protective topcoat.

You can use any ratio of stain to topcoat you like up to 50/50.

I used a formula of 1 part black walnut stain to 7 parts flat topcoat.

Just to be clear, you do not need to mix a custom topcoat. If your chairs are the stain you want them, then the clear topcoat is designed to be used alone.

Steps to Topcoat the Chairs

  1. Stir the topcoat well to mix in any solids at the bottom. Do not shake the can.
  2. I poured 1 cup of black walnut stain into a separate container.
  3. I added 7 cups of topcoat to the black walnut stain and mixed well. On hindsight, I mixed far too much of this custom stain as a little goes a long way.
  4. Using another foam brush, I liberally applied the topcoat mixture to one section of the chair.
  5. I then used another dry foam brush to feather any potential drip marks.
  6. The key to applying the topcoat is to go slowly and do not back brush over areas you have already covered.
  7. I followed the same process as I did with applying the stain – front legs, seat, sides, front of chair, back of chair.
  8. When I brushed the topcoat onto the seat, because it had grooves, I used the synthetic bristle paint brush to remove any extra topcoat that wanted to pool in those spots.
  9. I allowed the topcoat to dry 2 hours and then I gently sanded the chair down with 220 grit sandpaper.
  10. After sanding the chairs, I wiped them down with a lint free cloth to remove any sanding residue.
  11. Then, I put another layer of topcoat on the chairs.
  12. I allowed the chairs to dry thoroughly, and then sanded and wiped down again before applying the final layer of topcoat to each chair.

Photos of the Topcoat Process

custom topcoat and stain mixture in glass bowl with stir stick - J Dub By Design™
I mixed 1 cup of stain with 7 cups of topcoat for a 1:7 ratio of stain to paint.
applying the custom topcoat to the leg of wooden chair using a two inch foam brush - J Dub By Design™
Then, I applied the topcoat using a foam brush.
using an artist brush to apply stain to decorative circles in chair back - J Dub By Design™
I used the same artist’s brush to get the protective topcoat in the small crevices.

Trouble Shooting

  1. If you get any runs in the stain or topcoat, use an 80 grit sandpaper to buff the run or drip out.
  2. Wipe the area clean and then re-stain that area.
  3. Allow that area to dry, and re-apply the stain if necessary to get that area to match the rest of the chair.
  4. Allow the area to dry thoroughly before applying the topcoat.
topcoat that has run down the chair leg and dried - J Dub By Design™
The vertical white line is topcoat that has run down the chair leg and dried.
sanding chair leg with 80 grit sanding block - J Dub By Design™
To fix this, I sanded down that spot using an 80 grit sanding block.
restaining chair leg after sanding down a stain run - J Dub By Design™
After removing any sanding dust with a lint free cloth, I reapplied the black walnut stain and allowed the spot to dry before applying the next layer of topcoat.
six wood dining chairs with fresh stain and topcoat sitting on plastic - J Dub by Design™
I brought the chairs inside and set them on plastic to allow them to cure while I finished the table.


  1. I stirred the stain and the topcoat the entire time you are working with them in order to keep them properly mixed.
  2. When I was allowing the chairs to dry, I stored my foam brushes and synthetic brush in a plastic cup filled with water.
  3. When I began working again, I dried the brushes off with a lint free paper towel before using them again.
  4. I stored the remaining custom topcoat in a clean gallon paint can you can find at any hardware store.


Don’t forget to pin for later!

Black and natural wood dining table and chairs on outdoor patio in front of arched glass door - J Dub By Design™
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