How To Protect Wood Outside

Wood is a natural material that is quintessential and is used in every household home, both indoor and outdoor. While wood has a long life, it is imperative to care for wood that is kept outside as it is susceptible to damage because of weather changes and other external factors. Let us deep-dive into how to protect wood outside.

Wood and water do not go well and it makes wood rot, warp, and decay.
Wood and sunlight do not go well and it makes wood crack and break.

A lot of it also depends on the type of wood that we are dealing with at hand. There are certain types of wood that do not get damaged easily and some which absorb water and can get damaged in as little as a few weeks. Your gazebo, deck, fences, floors, furniture and all wooden exteriors need and ask for attention from time to time.

Let us compare using softwood versus hardwood for our outdoor projects.

Softwoods vs Hardwoods

  • Softwood costs less than hardwoods.
  • Hardwood lasts much longer than softwoods.
  • Treated softwood can last for 10+ years.
  • Treated hardwood can last for many decades.
  • Hardwood is naturally weather-resistant and would therefore last much longer.
  • Softwood is more eco-friendly than hardwood.
Either way, if we have wooden furniture or wooden floors to take care of, here is what we need to know about how to protect wood outside the home.

Seal It

Skill: Intermediate Level
Duration: 5-7 days
Cost: $$
  • A water sealant is used because it gets absorbed into the pores of the wood and becomes the topmost layer of wood.
  • This is specially used to protect the wood from water/rain.
  • Water sealants help even damp wood dry quicker and help increase the life of the wood.

Stain It 

Skill: Beginner Level
Duration: 5-7 days
Cost: $$
  • Use Linseed Oil; extracted from flax seeds and boiled before use, to rub in the wood as the wood easily absorbs this oil and acts as a very good sealant. This oil could take anywhere between 2-8 hours to dry. Two or more coats of the oil may be applied for a longer effect.
  • Use Varnish; a mixture of resin, solvent, and drying oil to apply on the wood. This makes the wood scratch-proof and does not even turn yellow. This maintains the shade of wood as is.
  • Use Lacquer; a solution made by dissolving tree resin or synthetic resin with alcohol. This is available in many sheens and tones, however, it does emit dangerous fumes so you should have your hands, nose, and mouth covered especially while working with it.
  • Always test a patch of whatever oil or varnish that you decide to go ahead with. This way you are sure of the final finish and are sure of the same. This will avoid any duplication of work.

Paint It

Skill: Beginner Level
Duration: 2-6 days
Cost: $$
  • Painting wood is always a sure shot way to protect wood because you are creating an additional layer between wood and water/sun and this lengthens the life of the wood. 
  • Wood becomes less absorbent and is not easily damaged by waterlogging or snow.

Pressure Treat It

Skill: Expert Level
Duration: 2-6 weeks
Cost: $$$ (Buying ready PT wood would be extremely cost-effective)

  • Pressure-treating wood is achieved when wood is put inside a pressure chamber, following which all the air from inside the pores of the wood is removed. This air is next replaced by chemical preservatives that help save the wood from fungus and mold. 
  • PT wood is 30% cheaper than normal wood and it definitely has a longer life. This makes it a very popular wood especially when wood needs to be used outside.
  • PT wood is low on maintenance, termite free, and pest free.
  • PT wood looks the same even after years.
  • However, PT wood is known to release fumes, and inhaling them constantly could lead to respiratory trouble.
  • PT wood contains chemicals and so they are highly flammable. A small fire could lead to a major mishap. 
  • PT wood also takes much longer to dry, sometimes it could take weeks to months.

Natural DIY It

Skill: Beginner Level
Duration: 1-4 hours
Cost: $
  • Many argue that non-natural sealants release fumes that are harmful to us humans and they may prove to cause respiratory problems.
  • Here we have a list of household products that are as effective to use on wood to protect it from harsh weather.
  • However, these DIY solutions would need to be used more frequently on wood to avoid any damage or decay.
  • Olive Oil + Lemon: three parts of olive oil and two parts of lemon juice may be sprayed on wood to help it stay as fresh as new.
  • Coconut Oil: Just like our skin, wood can also get its due moisture and lock-in system by rubbing coconut oil on the surface. This would be absorbed by the wood. Use as much as required.
  • Oil + Vinegar: Yes, I am not talking about your salad dressing. If you have made some in excess, do not forget to use some of it on the wooden furniture as this is exactly what your wooden furniture or floors need. The vinegar is sure to keep all insects far away. (three parts oil and one part vinegar)  

While it may seem like a herculean task to maintain wood from time to time, it is much more cost-effective to do so as it increases the life of the wooden furniture/floors and makes them look fresh. It would be ideal to paint/seal/stain wood at least once annually. 

There is no one correct method on whether to paint/seal/stain wooden furniture or floors but it all depends on how exposed the wood is to external harsh weather and also your budget. We must also consider the fumes that treated wood exudes and if it is an area that is frequented by children or pets, we should use our discretion and use DIY methods to take care of that wood. 

The above-mentioned methods are the only ones that you will need to read about on how to protect wood outside.


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