DIY & Inspo

How to extend the life of your barrel

By Midwest Barrel Co.

July 1st, 2021

Image of spraying a barrel

Nobody wants a home decor barrel that looks like it’s about to fall apart. Luckily, barrels are fairly sturdy and can hold up against outdoor conditions for quite some time.

But – and there’s always a but, right? – everything has a lifespan.

Barrels are held together only with pressure. The rings hold the staves together. Given enough time, though, those rings and staves will loosen up and the whole thing could start to look a little shaky.

Still, there are a few ways you can extend the life of your decor barrel and help it look great even longer no matter where you put it up on display – business, man cave, she shed, home office and more.

Secure rings with screws

All barrels will eventually loosen up. Once they get too loose, the rings start to move (or even fall off) and the staves can wiggle or buckle a bit.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this. Simply use self-tapping screws to secure each of the rings to the barrel. The barrel will look better if you space the screws evenly and use the same amount on each ring.

Image of spraying a barrel

Add a protective coating

If you know your barrel is destined for the outdoors, then it’s probably best to apply a coat or two of sealer. Your barrel can hold its own against just about any type of weather – rain, snow, wind, temperature shifts, etc.

There are a number of different sealers you could use that would do the trick. Our craftsmen over in the barrel shop like to use polyurethane. You’ll want to pick up an exterior-grade polyurethane if the decor is going to be placed somewhere outside.

Image of spraying a barrel

Stain when the color starts to fade

Now, some people want to adjust the color of their barrel a bit, so they’ll apply a stain. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you can also decide to go without the stain if you want to preserve the natural color. Honestly, we’re fans of the latter option, as the color (and any variations) tell a part of the barrel’s story.

However, enough time out in the sun will start to take its toll on any barrel decor. We recommend staining from time to time if you want the wood to remain a certain color.

Kettle pouring hot water on a small barrel to swell it

Swell it!

Sometimes, a decor barrel needs to look like it’s capable of getting right back into the bourbon, whiskey or wine aging business. To get the rings and staves perfectly tightened up again, you may want to give swelling a try.

When you swell a barrel, all you are doing is helping that wood soak up water and then expand, putting more pressure on the staves and rings. This helps everything stay intact.

While there are several methods for swelling, the easiest option will get the job done for your decor piece.

First, fill the barrel with hot water that’s at least 180ºF. Then, let it sit for a while.

Don’t worry about leaks right away. That should be expected, especially with a retired barrel that hasn’t aged a beverage in a while.

We can’t stress patience enough here. Just let the water do its thing! The leaks should stop or at least slow to a point where the entire barrel begins to tighten up and look better.

However, the swelling process could take anywhere from an hour to a few days. Again, just be patient.

Image of swelling barrel

store it indoors

So, what’s the best way to keep a decor barrel looking as great as possible for as long as possible?

Store it inside.

Along with all the other tips we’ve just gone through, you can make sure your decor or furniture piece lasts as long as possible by keeping it indoors and out of the elements.

Add a coat or two of sealer, screw the rings to the staves and any indoor barrel will be a statement piece in your home for years to come!

Two small barrels with various beer glasses in front of them

Want More Barrel Care Tips?

We have tons of additional tips for taking care of all types of barrels, including those used for decor and furniture.

You can also find many more helpful resources by reading our other blog posts! And, as always, we’re happy to answer any questions. Just send an email or give us a call, 402-704-8226!

Cheers! 🍻

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Midwest Barrel Company

Just your resident barrel slingers delivering some damn good content

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