Repairing Rotten Garden Seat Legs

Repairing Rotten Garden Seat Legs


This post describes: How to repair garden seat legs that have gone rotten where they come in contact with the ground. The basic method is to remove the rotten wood and replace it with polyester resin.

In particular: See the update for 3rd October 2019 entitled, “Replacing The Cap On A Leg.”


I have two teak garden seats which spend all their time outdoors on the lawn or patio. They go back to the 1980’s and the bottom of all the legs has rotted where they are perpetually in contact with the ground. I first noticed the problem while I had them upside down when I was cleaning and sanding them ready for repainting. I dug a penknife into the underside of the end of each leg only to find the wood was soft and easily dug out. I had painted them with exterior paint several times over the years but this wood wasn’t good to paint anymore.

I had noticed a deterioration in the wood previously when I painted them but just put plenty of paint on the bottom of the legs after letting the wood dry out. The problematic area was in the bottom centimetre of each leg. It had got to the point where the wood was crumbling away and the legs were now all different lengths. I had to find a method of repairing these rotten garden seat legs.

My Method of Repairing Rotten Garden Seat Legs

A Repaired Leg
A Repaired Garden Seat Leg Ready For Painting

I decided to remove all of the bad wood by prodding and poking the leg ends with a penknife and sanding as necessary. I then let the leg ends dry thoroughly before applying polyester resin in the form of David’s Isopon P38 (a car body filler.) (Other brands of polyester filler are available.)

I built up the leg ends beyond the original length. A few measurements and a bit of guess-work were required to determine what length to make the legs. The jagged nature of the leg ends made a good bond with the resin filler.

Polyester resin sets in fifteen minutes and it can then be sanded. I wrapped a quarter sheet of course grit paper around a block of wood to sand the polyester resin. I sanded it until it was flush with the sides of the leg. Then I sanded the end of each leg until it was reduced to its original length.

As is often the case when building up with polyester resin unevenness in the surface may appear after sanding to shape just because there wasn’t enough resin applied in the first place. It’s very easy to mix some more resin and apply it where necessary. Be sure to remove any sanding dust first with a brush, by blowing or using an air duster. Then after another fifteen minute wait it can again be sanded down.

The polyester resin I used is grey but with two or three coats of paint the repaired area soon blended in with the rest of the seat.

Yes the seats are teak and I used Sadolin paint. Some people leave teak to go grey and others oil it. Well if left to nature green stuff grows on it and it splits and deteriorates. After a couple of years outside the natural oil has gone and it takes paint. I have used Teak coloured Sadolin for years but now I have changed to Mahogany to match my windows.

I Repaired All The Rotten Garden Seat Legs

I actually repaired one seat in 2013 and the second in 2014, after I found the first seat’s repair was satisfactory. I found that the polyester resin was very well adhered to the original wood. Being water resistant it kept the bottom of the legs from soaking up any moisture from the wet ground. Here is the final result as seen in the featured image. It’s rubbed down and ready for painting.

Four Repaired Rotten Garden Seat Legs
Garden Seat No.2 repaired in 2014 – before painting.

Previously the paint on the bottom of the legs soon got worn away by moving the seats about. The abrasions from the lawn and the patio let the moisture into the wood. As soon as I covered the bottom of the legs with 5mm of polyester resin the legs were permanently waterproof. This has proven to be such a good method I would recommend building up new wood by 5mm before garden seats are put into use. This would prevent them rotting in the first place. However I am not sure if the oily nature of wood like teak would prevent the polyester resin from adhering when the wood is new.

Time Has Passed Since I Repaired All The Rotten Garden Seat Legs

Today, 6th October 2015, I examined the seat I repaired in 2013 and that has faired well. It looks as good as when I did it:

Garden Seat No.1 repaired in 2013 and photographed on 6th October 2015.
Garden Seat No.1 repaired in 2013 and photographed on 6th October 2015.

However the one I repaired in 2014 has problems on two legs:

Garden Seat No.2 repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.
Garden Seat No.2 repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.

There are chips and a crack as you can see below:

Garden Seat No.2, Leg No.1, repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.
Garden Seat No.2, Leg No.1, repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.
Garden Seat No.2, Leg No.2, repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.
Garden Seat No.2, Leg No.2, repaired in 2014 and photographed on 6th October 2015.

I will now have to wait for dry weather to repair these legs. It’s getting towards winter so when it is dry it might not be warm enough for P38 to set quickly. So I might find that I’ll have to wait until spring.

Update: 3rd October 2019

Replacing The Cap On A Leg

Today I have repaired a leg on one seat. I found the polyester resin cap detached from one leg a couple of days ago. I found the cap virtually undamaged on the patio. See below:

The leg & cap awaiting repair
The two parts fit together with their respective corners together,e.g. A-A, B-B, C-C & D-D.

I presume it had become detached as it was knocked against a raised part of the riven patio paving.

Today I glued it back in place with weather resistant RESIN “W” (EVO-STICK weatherproof wood adhesive). Neither the leg or cap had got damaged after separation and they fitted together extremely well. So, a permeating water based liquid adhesive seemed ideal for the job. This type of adhesive is ideal if the wood may be damp.

The picture below shows how I applied even pressure with a clamp to squeeze the two parts together. In this position the clamp had to be tilted. So, I let the edge press down on the cap evenly by placing it on the cap’s centre line.

The repaired leg
Repaired leg with the cap clamped on and setting. The letters A, B, C & D show the same corners as before.



14 responses to “Repairing Rotten Garden Seat Legs”

  1. Clive Wright avatar
    Clive Wright

    I have a similar problem with our garden seat. I have just removed all of the paint with a Heatgun and have rotting feet. Just wondering what to do and this has given me an idea. Wondering whether Woodfiller Resin would do it in a similar way or whether the P38 bond might be stronger.

    1. Helpful Colin avatar

      Hi Clive,

      I don’t have experience of wood filler resin. I have filled cracks with a liquid cellulose substance for dealing with rotting timber. I’ve been using P38 since the 1970’s. Initially I filled car bodies (in an amateur way) where they were rusting away or had been damaged. I read in the instructions how it can be used to repair many products. I have repaired broken corners on concrete slaps and filled the vertical letter mail slot in my front door before cutting a horizontal one. I have repaired a concrete fence post damaged by a car with an alternative brand of polyester resin. I had to paint it with paint for concrete because it cured to a bright pink colour.

      I think it can bond to any surface with free electrons to bond to. That’s why there can be issues with some plastics and why roughing things up with sand paper helps. The good thing about it, in my opinion, is the way it sets in around 15 minutes and is ready to sand down or to have another layer added on top. You won’t want to use a product that cannot be worked on until some hours have passed. Other epoxy resins can set quickly. They are fine to use if the price compares favourably. One issue with any resin – what is the final colour and does it matter – can it be painted? Make sure your garden seat timber is dry and free of oil before you start – you do want it to stick. Remove anything that isn’t solid timber with a penknife, chisel , scraper or sandpaper.

      Good luck.

      1. Clive Wright avatar
        Clive Wright

        Hi Colin, thanks for that info; I have used quick drying Woodfiller before and it sets rock hard in about 15 minutes and can be over painted. However, I have not used it on anything which will be quite moveable like a garden seat. As you have used P38 for a long time I will try that on our seat; I notice that Halfords sell it so will give it a go. Many Thanks

        1. Helpful Colin avatar

          Hi Clive,

          I got most of my P38 from Halfords over the years. It had grey hardener in the past but it too has pink hardener now. It doesn’t show up too much when set but I thought it was a bad day when that happened. It is still basically light grey but will start to disappear under a couple of coats of garden furniture paint.

          1. Clive Wright avatar
            Clive Wright

            Hi Colin, I bought a tin of that P38 from Halfords this morning. I imagine that it’s a bit like the ‘Bondapaste’ that I used to repair my car sills with many years ago. I’ve just finished stripping the seat so just got to give it a good sanding, repair the feet and then let the wife decide what colour she wants it stained.

            1. Helpful Colin avatar

              Hi Clive,
              I have added some up to date pictures showing wear and tear if you want to look at them. Update is not 100% complete but I have to do something else just now.

  2. Bob Wolff avatar
    Bob Wolff

    You wrote:

    I wrapped a quarter sheet of course grit paper around a block of wood to sand the polyester resin. I sanded it until it was flush with the sides of the leg. Then I sanded the end of each leg until it was reduced to its original length.

    I do not understand this step. Are you wrapping the sand paper/coarse side in as a mold before adding the resin? What are you using as a mold so when you apply it, it is in the shape of the leg? Is it the sand paper?

    I appreciate you responding as I have a wooden bench that is my next project with some rot at the end of the legs.

    Thanks so much!!!!!

    1. Helpful Colin avatar

      Hi Bob,
      Thanks for asking for clarification.
      I didn’t wrap anything around the legs of the seats to form a mould. Having worked with Isopon many times I know it has the consistency of putty and I would get away without a mould. However the type of moulding you describe is not a bad idea. If I had chosen to make a cardboard mould I would have tried using cardboard from a breakfast cereal packet. If you do that and don’t want the resin to stick to it you should grease the cardboard with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. However since you expect to sand it afterwards that would remove any cardboard stuck to it.
      I just put a big blob of resin on the upturned end of the leg. While it was flexible and trying to hang over the edge I just kept drawing it up into shape with the plastic spatula used to mix and manipulate it. It stiffens up after a few minutes. Any excess is so easily sanded away once set.
      What I did with the sandpaper was to wrap it around a flat sided block of wood, with the grit on the outside, so that I could keep the sandpaper flat while I used it. That allowed a flat surface to be produced by the sanding process.
      I hope that helps you.
      Regards, Colin.

  3. Barbara avatar

    Hi. I am so pleased I found this info as I have the same problem with my garden bench. However, I feel if I dig out the rotten wood before using the resin, I will lose a lot of the leg, and would have to use some kind of mould.
    Should I make the mould from cardboard ?

    1. Bob avatar

      I finished the project. Cut the legs which cleared most of the rot… About 2 inches. Finished off the bottom with a waterproof coating. Then, bought a particle board letter from AC Moore and traced the bottom of each glide as a form, cut it, attached it to the leg and used the same, waterproofing on it too. Bought square plastic glides which is at the bottom of the leg. There is a foam sticky foamy part on the glide which is used to attach. I also coated the outside of it carefully. The glide I bought also has a screw in the middle which I used. I did not lose more than a quarter inch. I can send you a picture if you give me an email address.

    2. Helpful Colin avatar

      Hi Barbara,
      You’ve not said how long the rotten parts are. The longer they are the more likely there will be a failure after using the resin to perform a repair. Don’t get hurt if a leg breaks.
      Otherwise in answer to your question: Forming a cardboard mould would be fine. When the resin has set the cardboard will likely be stuck to the resin. Just sand it off with sandpaper and a flat block of wood.
      You might want to insert a long wood screw (No. 12 diameter) into the end of the leg before you start with the resin to reinforce it. Make a pilot hole first so it doesn’t split the leg.
      Regards, Colin.

  4. Jillian avatar

    Thanks so much Colin. Just wondering 4 years on how the legs are fairing. I’m just about to embark on this exact project with our village bench.

    1. Helpful Colin avatar

      Hi Jillian,
      It’s not a perfect solution. I have had to redo a few of them. Ikeep my seats off the lawn in winter. I put them on a slabbed area. One or two of the weaker ones got knocked off but I think that just shows that I should have cut more wood away in the first place.
      The only other solution might be to cut say an inch off the legs and glue on another piece of timber with some good waterproof glue like Gorilla Glue. But that timber would then rot away. Using epoxy resin lifts the leg out of the wet zone by a small amount.
      Good luck.
      Regards, Colin.

  5. Jillian avatar

    Excellent ideas Colin, our bench will be sited on tarmac and anchored to the spot so I’ll try the epoxy as I don’t have too much rot. If it fails I’ll go for the wood and gorilla glue option.

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