Why and How to Paint Teak Furniture

Is it really sinful to paint teak?


Purists will say you’re crazy to paint teak.

Why ruin an expensive and beautiful piece of wood that possesses warm golden colors and delightful grain patterns?

Don’t do it, they’ll say!

Nevertheless, there could be valid reasons to ruin paint your teak furniture.

Maybe you’re redecorating and you want your teak furniture (table, chairs, chest of drawers, etc.) to match the new colors in your room instead of buying an entire room of new furniture.

Or, maybe your teak pieces have been neglected and abused for so long you believe there’s no way they can be successfully restored—even though they can be—but you just don’t want to do it.

In short, there are reasons why you may want to paint your teak furniture.

Even though I’m against painting teak, I’ve fielded quite a few (more than two) questions from potential customers who’ve asked if we have a teak this or that…in black.

Why black? I have no idea. But black lately appears to be the hands-down winner in the color of choice.

So, out of curiosity, I researched if it's possible to to successfully paint teak--and if so, how to do it.

And in this post, I’ll show you exactly what I learned about painting teak.


But, before we begin, this is the reason why (aside from hiding the beauty of teak), it’s often said: you can’t paint teak.

And that's because of the gold inside teak.

The gold being teak's natural oil!

Good quality teak (read mature growth teak) is swimming in natural oil. And it’s this oil that makes teak waterproof, mold and mildew resistant.

And it’s that oil that’s constantly bubbling to the surface—ok, not exactly bubbling—nevertheless, the oil is continuously secreted, rising up and out onto the wood’s surface.

Which, in turn, makes it almost impossible to get anything (read paint) to stick to teak’s surface.

However, where there’s a will there’s a way.

So let’s begin with a quick overview of the process:

First, you’ll need to clean your furniture to get rid of any dirt or excess oil.

Then, you’ll need to apply a special primer before you can paint the wood.

Sealing the wood after painting is advisable if it’s outdoor furniture subject to harsh weather conditions.

Easy enough, right?

Ok, now let’s see exactly how to do it.

How to Paint Teak Wood

Please do not skip any of the following steps. Otherwise, the paint will peel and crack as the teak’s natural oils bleed through the paint.

(Just so you know, I could receive a gratuity, pennies actually, for any products linked to and bought in this article)

Step 1: Wash the teak.

Wash it thoroughly to remove any dirt, excess oil, and mold that can interfere with the paint’s adhesion.

Some experts recommend mixing half to one full cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a gallon of warm water and wipe the wood using an abrasive sponge.

Others recommend washing the teak with acetone.

Either or. They’ll both do the job.

Step 2: Sand the wood.

If the wood is already painted, and you want to repaint, chip off any loose or peeling paint then sand with 120-grit sandpaper.


If the wood has not been previously painted, sand using 180-grit sandpaper so the primer will adhere to the wood.

Step 3: Using a putty knife

…fill any holes or gouges with epoxy wood filler, so they won’t be visible after you paint.

After the filler is completely dry and hard, scuff it with sandpaper so the primer (next step) will adhere to it.

Step 4: Brush on primer.

After you’ve wiped or brushed off all residue from the sanding, apply a stain-blocking shellac- or lacquer-based primer.

Apply with a natural-bristle paintbrush.

Brush with the grain of the wood, and let it dry completely.

If you can, wait for a week before proceeding to see if the oils bleed through the primer. If they do, apply another coat.

Step 5: Paint the teak.

Paint with either a latex or oil-based paint.

Use a synthetic bristle brush if you’re using latex paint, and use a natural bristle brush for oil-based paint—always brushing with the grain of the wood.

You can also use a spray gun if you’re painting several pieces of teak furniture.

After the paint completely dries, scuff with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out any imperfections and create a better surface for the next coat to adhere to.

Be sure to wipe away any dust with a clean cloth before applying your second coat.

Depending on the color and type of paint you’re using, you may need to apply additional coats to achieve the desired color and coverage.

In general, 2-3 coats are recommended.

Be sure to allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Step 6: Seal the paint.

If you’re painting outdoor furniture, after the paint is completely dry, seal the painted teak with a coat of clear polyurethane.

This topcoat will give the wood extra protection from the various weather conditions.

Now guess what?

You’re done!

Unless of course…

You’d rather stain your teak—instead of painting it.

Why stain your teak?

Wood stain is designed to completely soak into the wood and can be used to enhance or change the color of your teak—without hiding teak’s unique grain patterns.

How to Stain Teak Wood

Preparing your teak wood for staining is pretty much the same as for painting it.

Step 1: Clean the teak.

Clean the wood with mild dish soap and water using a soft bristle brush to wash away any dirt and debris on the surface.

If it’s in need of more vigorous cleaning to remove ground in dirt, excess oil, and mold, clean it with trisodium phosphate or acetone.

Step 2: Sanding.

If the wood has been stained or sealed before, sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper.

Step 3: Sealer.

Brush on a sanding sealer to create a smooth, even surface.

Wipe off any excess sealer no more than a few minutes after application. Otherwise, the sealer may start to pool and dry unevenly.

Step 4: Stain.

Brush on the stain of your choice, using a wood stain that’s specifically designed for teak wood.

It can be either a water-based or oil-based stain.

Oil-based stains tend to last longer, while water-based stains are more vibrant.

But first test the stain before applying it to the entire area—to make sure you like the color after it’s completely dried.

Then, depending on the brand of stain you use, you may want to apply several coats (allowing the stain to dry between coats) for a deeper, richer color. 

Does stain wear off?

In a word, yes.

But if you applied the stain correctly, it can last for years.

Darker pigments tend to hold their color the best, lasting up to 7 years on outdoor furniture.

Solid color and semitransparent stains let some of the natural wood grain pattern through for a more natural-look.

But because these stains have a thinner base, they need to be redone every 2 to 5 years in most cases. 

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