How to protect your exterior timber

Here at EcoChoice, we know the importance of protecting your external timber from weathering. Over time, all external wood will start to show the effects of being exposed to the elements. Some people like the silvery, grey sheen that natural wood mellows into over time, however for many this makes their home and garden look unfinished and messy.

Aside from any aesthetic choices that leave your external timber exposed poses, not treating external timber can be costly because the timber can start to decay due to water damage and eventual fungal attack. Both of those are issues which protecting your woodwork with oil, stains, varnishes or paint can protect against. But which one should you use? We are here to guide you through the pros and cons of each of the key protective treatments for external woodwork. 

One of the key things to remember when planning to work with paint, varnish, oils and stains on any external surfaces, is that you need dry weather to achieve a good finish, as @PromainPaint would concur “Tip from Promain: Now’s not the time to paint external wood – jet wash to remove mould & let’s speak in spring …” Well, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get mucky as autumn is right around the corner. 


Pros and Cons

One of the best ways to finish your exterior is with a splash of colour and according to @StyleflooringofyorkAdd colour to your #Garden” by using paint for a durable finish. These days there are so many colours to choose from when looking for external paint for your shed, gates and fencing needs. Long gone are the days of brown, green or white being your only choices for external wood paint, you are quite literally spoilt for choice now meaning that whatever the vibe of your garden, there is a paint colour out there that will fit the bill exactly. The advantage of paint for sealing and protecting your external woodwork is that because it has an opaque finish, it provides an excellently thick coverage. 

However, depending on whether your choice of paint is water-based or solvent-based, the amount of time your paint will take to dry will vary. Solvent-based paints tend to dry very quickly in cool or damp weather and can be applied easily all year round, which means that solvent-based exterior paints usually provide a better-quality finish than water-based paints. The disadvantage of paint for sealing and protecting your external woodwork is that if your wood has already been painted, you will need to put some work into removing the old layers of flakey paint. The same is true when you need to freshen up the surface later down the line. 


The Pros and Cons 

There is a reason that the boat industry uses a lot of varnish for sealing and protecting the wood. Varnish has a high quality finish but requires significant preparation and maintenance to ensure that it always has a high-end appearance. Varnish, just like paint, tends to become brittle and flakey over time and as both are film forming types of coating, moisture can get trapped underneath it damaging the wood over time. As such, it is important that the timber underneath is well weathered or kiln dried as these options have low moisture in their fibers. Paint and Varnish are therefore not an ideal choice for large areas of external woodwork but are great for anyone wanting to “enhance the natural wood colour in furniture”.


The Pros and Cons 

Oils create a beautifully silky finish for your external wood. Like stains, they are absorbed into the timber and therefore easy to apply. However, it is recommended that the wood is “oiled twice a year, usually in early Spring and again in mid to late Autumn to help protect it through the winter months”. It is recommended that you apply a garden furniture cleaner before applying your chosen garden furniture oil to make sure that you are getting the most out of your deck and wooden garden furniture. Despite being very easy to apply and maintain, the protection offered by wood oils is not as robust as that offered by varnish, stains and paint. An additional disadvantage of wood oil is that it takes a very long time to dry. Although as an eco-friendly choice, Linseed Oil Emulsion “is an eco-friendly, solvent-free matt finish which is perfect for internal & external timber” according to @TraditionalPaint


Pros and Cons 

Like external paint, timber stains are available in either water-based or solvent-based mixes. You can also get different levels of ‘thickness’. Many stains also have anti-fungal properties and water-repellent composites built into the formula to further protect your woodwork. By adding layers of pigment to the surface of the timber, stains protect your decking, fencing and garden furniture from the UV rays responsible for natural grey weathering. They allow the grain of the wood beneath to shine through meaning that you can keep some of the natural beauty of your woodwork. 

One of the greatest advantages of stains is that they are easy to apply and reapply. The pigment of the stain will fade over time, but the product won’t flake like paint and varnishes making this an excellent choice for large areas of external wood. It is, however, important to note the difference between light stains and dark stains. Light stains generally need more maintenance than darker stains because they screen the surface of the wood beneath from UV light. If you want further convincing of the advantages of stains for woodwork, then @ESWKnowles sings its praises saying “Wood stains are used to enhance the appearance of the wood grain, without distorting its natural presence. Providing qualities of durability and protection from damage and the elements of everyday use”.

Whatever your choice of protection for your external timber, make sure you do all the necessary research and preparation before rolling up your sleeves.

Image credits: Gligatron /, inalex /, Ja Crispy /, GCapture /, Taiga /




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