Last year, I built my first piece of outdoor live-edge furniture: What are the potential issues with this bench design? and What should be done to treat decorative wood for outdoor use?.
I expected there would be problems, and that's fine; making mistakes over and over is how we learn and grow. Often I expect to throw away my first couple attempts at something new and replace it with better once I've perfected my skills. However, I would like to 'save' this particular piece as it has meaning to me.
This bench was sanded down to 220 grit, then coated with 10 layers of Target Coatings EM-9300 exterior polycarbonate urethane applied with an HPLV sprayer. I then sanded this down lightly with 500 grit and rubbed it out for a mirror smooth finish. The bench was placed outside in April of last year and weathered the summer just fine. However, upon inspecting it this year after the winter, I'm seeing what appears to be water damage in some areas:
My guess is that the cold weather caused contraction and expansion which cracked the coating. I also probably shouldn't have tried leaving the bark on (or is that phloem or cambium?). What is the proper way to address this now, and prevent a recurrence next winter? Or is the most time and cost efficient option to take my lessons learned and create a new piece from scratch to replace this one?