The most common methods of treating wood
If you want to protect the wood untreated, you can treat the wood with wood oil, lacquer, stain, or wax.
In our overview of the treatments, we show the differences with the advantages and disadvantages. And then you can decide for yourself how your wood comes out the best.
Wood in the form of furniture boards also ‘lives’ if it has not been treated. It adapts to the varying humidity of the room, so it absorbs and releases water while it works (expands and contracts).
You have the choice to leave the wood in its natural beauty or to change its surface.
Where the wood is exposed to prolonged light, it will discolor more quickly than in a more shady environment.
Spruce and pine wood are very sensitive to light if a varnish does not protect them with a UV filter.
Without a finish, the wood would look different every season, and this is because wood absorbs or releases moisture.
During the winter months, the wood will lose moisture, and it will warp. During the summer months, when it is more humid, the wood will absorb water so that the straightening will take its original shape.
UV rays from sunlight will negatively influence the appearance of the wood.
Due to the UV rays, the wood will become darker, and the beautiful detail will become increasingly dull and eventually disappear.
Certain paints have the property of blocking UV rays, which will preserve the wood’s natural beauty. You might want to read our article about how to maintain wooden furniture.
Which types of wood can be used untreated?
On our page about the durability classes of wood, you can see how sustainable the wood types are.
In principle, the more durable the wood, the longer the untreated wood remains good in the open air.
The following types of wood can therefore be used untreated:
Azobe (grade 1) will remain untreated for up to 25 years or more. It is therefore widely used for foundations and bank protection.
Western Red Cedar (grade 2) has a lifespan of 15 to 25 years. It is mainly used as wooden facade cladding
Larch Douglas or larch wood is also called Douglas Wood (grade 3) 10 – 15 years. A popular type of wood for garden sheds, fences, and canopies.
The above types of wood are therefore used in the open air without any protection against the weather. The higher the durability class, the longer the lifespan of the wood species.
In addition, there are many more types of hardwood that can be used untreated. The aging does not affect the lifespan of the wood.
Aging of hardwood for outdoors
Hardwood comes from South America or Southeast Asia and is the sturdiest wood for outdoor use.
Hardwood is virtually maintenance-free. The durability class of hardwood is category 1 to 2.
Hardwood falls into the higher price category because not all South American or Asia countries use sustainable logging.
Hardwood is particularly suitable for terraces, fences, posts, garden fences, carports, the pergola, and many more applications.
However, hardwood also ages over the years. You can counteract this if you want.
What happens to untreated wood?
For untreated wood, it depends on the durability of the wood, each type of wood ages when it comes into contact with water and sunlight.
Of course, the process outside is faster than inside. It is essential to consider carefully that untreated wood is protected against external influences.
Good wood protection extends the life of the product considerably without affecting the appearance.
Preparation before getting started with the finish
before you use a finishing product to treat your wood, it is always necessary to sand the wood.
Depending on the product, this can affect the appearance of the wood to a greater or lesser extent.
With lacquer, oil, and wax that is transparent, it will be more important to sand your wood nicely.
With lacquer and stains that are not transparent, this is of less importance for the appearance of the wood.
Methods to treat wood
Treating wood is to extend the life and color of the wood; there are some methods that you can efficiently perform yourself:
Treating wood with an exterior oil
Exterior Oil series is very useful for treating different types of wood and has a specific pigment for various types of wood, such as Douglas Wood.
Advantages of Exterior oil
Matte natural look
For both planed and raw wood
Faster than painting
Pulls into the wood
Easy to update locally
Disadvantages of Exterior oil
The transparent/natural version contains little UV protection and should be treated more often (once a year).
The advantage is that the same color is well maintained. In addition, there are also other colors/pigments to choose. These offer a higher degree of protection.
This results in lower maintenance intervals. The level of treatment depends on the direction of the sun’s rays on your facade, the oil you choose, and your desire to maintain the color.
Keep an eye on it yourself. Do you think there is a discoloration process? Then you can put it back in the same oil.
Treating wood with stain
With stain, you protect and treat the wood so that it remains in optimal condition. With stain, you can give wood color without a thick layer covering the wood surface.
Use water-soluble stain; this is dissolved in a container according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Stains are transparent and may contain pigments.
Despite this, the grain structure of the wood remains more or less visible. Stain is usually applied with a brush or – efficient for smaller surfaces – directly on the bottle via a sponge.
With aqueous stains, it is often inevitable that the surface will swell slightly, which is not the case with stains containing solvents. The surface may then feel a bit rough.
Regardless of which color you choose, the stained wood still needs a protective layer.
Stain is a typical product intended for outdoor applications.
The stain penetrates deep into the wood during the application, creating a good protective layer against weather conditions.
Unlike lacquer, stain breathes, allowing moisture to evaporate from the wood and prevent rot. In addition to this outdoor application, stain also has a color function explicitly used for furniture.
Think of wood colors such as teak or walnut. In addition, pigments can also be added to stains.
The advantage of stain
The drawing of the wood remains visible; it penetrates deep into the wood, providing excellent protection against the weather conditions.
Disadvantage of stain
The product has to be applied in several layers, and sanding has to be done between each layer.
Treating wood with Laquer
Lacquer is intended for all types of wood (not for wood that comes into contact with ground and surface water) and protects against Moisture, blue fungus, Wood rot, Mold & Algae, UV, wasp, infestation, and aging.
Lacquer forms a layer on the wood surface, which is also automatically protected. Lacquer can be applied with a brush, foam roller, or spray gun.
Water-based paint in combination with water-based stain can cause stains.
Protecting against graying, it also protects against the negative influence factors on the life of the wood, allowing you to extend the life of the wood.
An advantage of lacquer
Is that it is very durable and is available in matt, silk gloss, and high gloss, especially for outdoor applications, much less maintenance-intensive than oil.
Lacquer can harden as a layer on the wood, which can be a perfect result for MDF.
The disadvantage of lacquer
is the same as that of stain; the wood has to be sanded between each coat, which is quite labor-intensive.
If there are scratches on the paint, these can hardly be removed, which means that color, unlike oil, becomes unsightly old.
Treating wood with wax
Wax usually comes from beeswax, but synthetic waxes are, of course, also available on the market. Natural wax is very similar to natural oil. The main difference is that oil absorbs more into the wood, and wax stays on it more.
Unlike oil, wax is not suitable for outdoor use. The big advantage of wax compared to oil is that it can easily be applied in several layers, one after the other.
The advantage of wax
is that the drawing of the wood remains visible and that it smells wonderful.
In addition, natural wax is very suitable for children’s toys, from 1 year, which children will bite into. Wax is easier to maintain compared to oil.
A disadvantage of treating wood with wax
is that the product has to be applied in several layers. In addition, it is not suitable for outdoor use.
Wax gives the wood surface a slightly matt, silky sheen. However, the wax layer is not water-resistant, nor is it scratch- and wear-resistant. Therefore, you can only use wax on surfaces that do not suffer much.
Some tips and specific properties of wood
Oakwood contains tannic acid, and because of this, it reacts differently to some substances. For example, if you use normal steel instead of stainless steel, you will get black spots in the wood.
With hardwoods such as Azobe, Padauk, Bankirai, and Abiurana, what you apply to it is more difficult to absorb by the wood.
Therefore, it can take longer before the material absorbs into the wood or a covering layer does not adhere well.
Rough/brushed/fine sawn wood absorbs more material than smooth planed wood. In addition, it lasts longer.
As mentioned, treating wood is very important to prevent mold, wood rot, or, for example, irregular discoloration.
Rain and sun affect the wood, and this can cause these problems. So you can solve this with a good stain or oil.
It would help if you kept it well maintained. Depending on the product used, periodic maintenance is required.
The amount of time between this varies enormously per product and per job. So keep an eye on yourself when the stain appears to be fading.
Maintenance can be done by applying a new layer.