Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” While you might not be taking on a land war in Asia (everyone knows not to do that), you and your outdoor furniture will be facing down two enemies with a high level of endurance, and it is best if you know them and plan accordingly. They aren’t going anywhere. Your enemies are water and sun.

Water is a lazy enemy, but it is also persistent. It takes the path of least resistance and settles in, even if that settling is happening in the nooks and crannies of your beautiful deck furniture. Sun is equally persistent and very predictable. You always know when and where it is going to show up. And after showing up long enough, it can blister, peel, and destroy furniture.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep water and sun from destroying your furniture or your fun. Let’s go down the list.

Sealant

Ever gotten a protective sealant on your teeth when visiting the dentist? Sealants work pretty much the same way with your furniture. Wood sealant will preserve the beauty of the wood and provide a layer of protection against the elements. Sealant will not only prevent water from getting in, it helps dry the damp wood faster. Do your research and pick the brand that works best for your budget. Stains can also help retain the color, but a sealant will really fortify against your watery foe.

Wax is another kind of sealant that will protect your furniture. It works the same way you wax your car. Rub it in, let it dry, and buff it off. It might not shine like your convertible, but it will use less gas.

Paint

Paint is protection with style. Generally, you want to go with latex paint as it has the best sealing properties. Paint is a fun and inexpensive way to change up the style on your deck or patio and protect your furniture at the same time. It’s a classic strategy called misdirection. Water will fall for it every time. It also protects the wood from the sun. Think of it as a semi-permanent sunscreen lotion.

Maintenance

Not to dwell too much on the teeth metaphor, but a good brushing is also good medicine for outdoor wood furniture. Taking some time at the beginning and end of each season to give a good scrub and mild sanding to wood furniture will help get rid of anything that might weaken the wood. This might seem laborious, but it will pay off in the long term. And hey, you don’t need to brush morning and night or after you eat candy.

Movement and Prevention

If General Tzu were advising you on outdoor furniture protection, he might offer this counsel: “Think like water.” Look around on your deck to see where the water might pool. Avoid putting furniture in those spots if possible. If not, then put things in place to keep the furniture away from the water, such as furniture glides, coasters, etc. This will help protect both your furniture and your wood decking. Also, look for how water could damage furniture from the top, such as from plants, and mitigate accordingly.

If your wooden furniture has cushions, remember to rotate them and let them dry them out. No matter how much sealant or latex is on the furniture, if a wet sponge is left sitting on it long enough, damage could occur. Remember, water is lazy but persistent. Hang cushions out to dry as soon as you can, and flip them regularly to avoid stains and marks. Sun can also wreak havoc on cushions, so keep an eye on them and move them to keep the sun from taking its toll.

One difference between water and sun is that you have a good idea of when the sun is coming and how long it will be in a certain place in the sky. Meteorologists do their best, but rain is still hit and miss. Luckily the sun has a long and predictable history. When designing the outdoor living space, take into account when and where the furniture will be in the sun, and consider giving your furniture plenty of shade. It might be valuable to consider rotating your furniture throughout the season as the intensity and movement of the sun changes.

Understanding the two big enemies—water and sun—will help you as you fight their destructive tendencies, which means we can all sign a peace treaty and live together as friends with our freshly scrubbed and painted outdoor furniture. It isn’t peace in the Middle East, but it is a decent start. Take care of your furniture, and it will be around for a long time for you and all your friends.