Do not paint a teak bench. This is the easy way out, and almost universal answer to the question. Teak furniture is a worthwhile investment that goes great in the backyard, in the home or wherever it is needed. The durable and long-lasting Class 1 hardwood ranges from a light straw color to deeper and richer hues. Because of its admirable characteristics, it usually costs a bit more than other types of wood, but customers know they are getting a good buy for their money. That said, why would anyone try to cover up a teak bench with paint or stain? The reality is, if furniture is scratched up, old or just in general disrepair, the prospect of a fresh coat of paint could sound really appealing and sometimes be the best option. Before breaking out the brush, though, make sure you know what you are doing. A botched foray into painting will only leave wood looking worse than when you started.
However, in addition to simply covering up beautiful grain and color of the wood, painting a teak bench is discouraged for a more logistical reason. The reason? Teak is notoriously hard to paint because the wood produces natural oils which make the adhesion of paint much more difficult. On the positive side, these oils help keep the wood from splitting and cracking, as well as repel fungus and insect infestations.
If you still insist on going ahead with the project, you will need to first clean off the surface of the wood. An already finished surface will need to be wiped off with mineral spirits to remove grease, wax or other grime. If the wood is unfinished or you decide to strip off the finish, you will need to clean the wood with acetone. The acetone breaks down the natural oils. Failure to do so will not allow the primer to stick properly. Next, use mild sandpaper or a scotchbrite pad to smooth the exterior surface. Once the wood is clean and even, apply a coat of primer, like Zinsser 123 for example. Allow the primer to fully dry, which usually takes a day or so, before proceeding to the paint. Try to only use outdoor latex paints. Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore are probably the two most popular brands on the market. Using a semi-gloss or gloss paint is best for keeping away dirt. Whatever you choose, apply one even coat to your teak bench, then let that set. After it has dried fully, administer a second coat of paint. The more coats you apply, the stronger the color will come through, and especially with teak being such an absorbent wood, you may even want to use three coats.
Now you will be finished, and hopefully achieved the results you were after. Unfortunately, even those who are extra careful can find the results of painting a teak bench disappointing. Paint, especially after a time has a tendency to peel or even scar the wood, and tricky teak is especially known for this. Before you try your hand at painting, the best course of action is to consult a specialist at your local hardware and garden store who can best recommend a product for your specific case.
So should you paint a teak bench? The answer is still yes and no. If you do a good job with it, painting can breathe new life into otherwise old and dilapidated furniture. Also, with the countless paint colors available, you have the benefit of being able to match furniture with other décor. In conclusion, painting depends on what you own. New teak furniture really does not benefit from being painted. You are just covering up the natural beauty of the wood, which you probably paid more for, anyway. When purchasing new furniture, just use a sealant once to twice a year to protect it. The natural oils in the wood will help your teak bench continue to look great on its own, with little maintenance necessary.