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This Garden Art Is For The Birds, And It Needs Your Help

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Hardscaping and Projects,

I first saw these architectural birdhouses several years ago, in the grocery store, of all places. I resisted them until they went on sale, and then I couldn’t resist at all.

architectural birdhouses
It’s the details in these birdhouses that make them so appealing.

Since I’m not usually a collector, it surprised me how many of these birdhouses came home with me. While I found most of them at the grocery store, I also found them in the home decor section of a few other stores. I have seen them sold online for much more than I paid. I suspect the ones I have are seconds, but they looked fine to me when I purchased them.

The tag that comes with each one emphasizes that they were designed with birds in mind:

I really wanted them to be displayed outside, and I really wanted them to stay looking nice. I did not want them to weather. So I bought a gallon of spar urethane. It promised “exceptional protection from sunlight, rain and moisture, temperature.” Sounds perfect.

I painted on a coat, let it dry, sanded lightly, and applied a second coat. It was tedious work, not my cup of tea. But hey, it was winter, and I was looking forward to displaying them outside.

The results were very disappointing.

Birdhouse chimney delaminated
The plywood of the chimney delaminated.
Birdhouse rocking chair also delaminated
The rocking chair fell apart.
The roof peak is peeling and the “shingles” have mildew.
Birdhouse window showing damage.
This window is delaminating.
birdhouse porch railing showing damage
The porch railing is not faring much better.

This is what I thought would happen if I didn’t apply the spar urethane. They were only outside for the growing season. They did not have to endure the rigors of an upstate NY winter. Looking at this makes me want to cry.

I’m not a crafty or DIY person. I see these results and wonder, what did I do wrong? Did I miss painting the edges where the delamination occurred? What exactly does sand lightly mean? Did I not sand enough? Did I use the wrong grit? Should I have applied a third coat?

What should I do now?

I only varnished and put out about a third of my birdhouses. The rest have been inside, waiting for me to make time to work on them. But clearly I can’t do what I did before.

Readers, I need your help. If you have more experience with these types of things, please give me your advice in the comments.

Should I try the spar urethane again, except pay more attention to the edges, do more sanding, and give everything three coats?

Should I try something different, like automotive clear coat (affiliate link)?

Or how about this stuff?

Or do you know of something that works better?

That takes care of the unspoiled birdhouses. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth my time to repair and repaint the ones that got damaged. What do you think?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She gardens in rural upstate NY, which used to be USDA Hardiness Zone 4 but is now Zone 5. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002. Find her on Instagram as kopurdy.

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