Wood is a very flexible product. It can is used for all sorts of applications. This handy material is found in everything from buildings to small ornaments. Properly cared for wood is highly durable.
This useful material does have a few weaknesses. Water or high humidity levels can damage wood, especially if exposed to water for a long time or if the wood is porous and can easily absorb the water.
If you use wood outside in the form of patio or garden furniture, you must waterproof.
Waterproofing is a layer or coating applied to wood to keep the moisture locked out so the wood won’t absorb too much moisture.
A proper waterproof coating offers plenty of excellent benefits. These coatings can protect your wood from rain and water, and it also creates a protective layer that shields the wood from damages such as scratches. We find that the benefits make waterproofing a no brainer and highly recommend.
Are Some Woods Naturally Waterproof?
Some wood types are quite resistant. All wood responds to water, but some wood species such as hardwoods can last much longer in wet or high-humidity environments.
Hardwoods are more resilient against water damage because the wood fibers are tightly compacted, allowing less water absorption.
Not all hardwoods are water-resistant. Maple and oak wood are good examples of wood that will expand and contract a lot if there is too much moisture in the air.
Some wood types like white oak and teak can, however, last quite long in moist and wet environments. Many of these woods can hold up pretty well for over 20 years without any waterproof coating. Instead of waterproofing layers, these woods might be layered in wax or oil-based sealant to keep wood from cracking, bending, or rotting.
Ideally, all outdoor woods should be waterproofed to enhance their durability and maintain the woods’ natural aesthetic appeal.
Different Types of Waterproofing Treatments for Wood
Wood sealants come in a variety of brands and types. These sealants do however fall under two main categories;
1. Oil or Solvent-Based Sealers
Oil or solvent-based sealers have a strong smell that can linger for a few hours. Tools used when handling these sealers need to be cleaned with thinners or turpentine. Some sealers can also be diluted with turpentine or thinners. The drying time for oil or solvent-based sealers can be quite long. Some sealers require several days to cure fully. In these sealants, your wood requires two to three coats before being properly sealed.
2. Water or Acrylic Based Sealers
Water or acrylic-based sealers don’t have quite such a strong smell. The tools used for applying these sealers are cleaned with water and soap. Make sure to clean your tools after each use to keep them in good condition. Many of the most popular sealers can be diluted with water. They are also more environmentally friendly since they don’t contain as many chemicals. These sealers usually don’t offer much tinting, but they require more coats for a proper seal. Ideally, you should apply four coats for proper water protection.
The most common waterproofing treatments for wood are varnish, polyurethane, shellac, and lacquer. Here is a quick look at the difference in these products;
Varnish is one of the most common finishes for furniture pieces. This product is available in an oil or water base and is very durable. Oil-based varnishes are more durable compared to water-based varnishes. While these finishes are superb for sealing your indoor furniture, they are not ideal for outdoor furniture that might are exposed to lots of water. Too much water will discolor your varnish, but it takes a lot before the wood is exposed to water.
Polyurethane is also available in both water and oil base. This is a great product for bookcases, desks, side tables, and picture frames. Oil-based polyurethane is also used on floors and over paint. Polyurethane doesn’t hold up too well in the heat, and the finish of this product van varies from satin to glossy. This is one of the best sealants for outdoor items that might get wet often.
Shellac is a natural product made from the secretion of female lac bugs and alcohol solvents. The product is water-based, and you apply it to various furniture pieces. Shellac isn’t ideal for outdoor furniture or for areas such as the kitchen table where there is lots of heat. The product can turn white when heat is applied to it. Many manufacturers do recommend using this product on non-wood products, as it can be used to seal the wood.
Lacquer is the hardest finish to apply to wood because you need a low-pressure sprayer to apply this product. Lacquer is an oil-based product that does have a very intense odor. But the finishing result is intensely glossy and is incredibly resistant to damage despite a thinner coat needed to seal furniture.
7. Oils and Waxes
In addition to waterproofing sealants, you can also treat outdoor furniture with oils or waxes. These sealers penetrate deep into the wood to protect your furniture inside and out. They are not exactly waterproof, but they do offer good water resistance. The only downside is that you need to reapply fresh coats of these products regularly to keep your wood protected.
How to Waterproof Your Wood Items
Not that you understand the different types of products available for sealing your furniture, it is time to take a look at the best way to apply these products.
Safety Tips to Keep In Mind
If you are using an oil-based product or chemical product, you should wear the right safety gear. A respiratory mask can protect you from inhaling these toxic fumes. It is also best to wear protective gloves to avoid direct contact with chemicals such as thinners and turpentine. These chemicals can burn your skin if your skin is exposed to these products for too long.
You should also wear old clothing. Both water and oil-based sealants are very hard to remove from clothing, especially once these products have dried off.
It is important to work in a well-ventilated area because the fumes of these products can make you feel light-headed or nauseated.
- Linseed or tung oil
- Sealant (varnish, polyurethane or shellac)
- Sanding block
- Sanding paper
- Turpentine (if you use an oil-based product) or water (for water-based sealants)
- Dust mask
- Old clothes
Before we get started on the instructions, there is one important thing you should consider. You should check the current state of your wood. Before sealing the wood, you needs to clean it properly.
What if the old surface is worn?
If there is glue, worn paint, or damaged varnish on the wood, remove these coatings. You should remove old varnish, paint, or sealants before starting with a new coat of sealant. If not removed, your new coat of sealant can easily crack and peel. You will have wasted a lot of time, money, and effort.
If these coatings are still in good condition and if you want to keep these coatings, you can proceed with a waterproofing sealant over the old finish. Some waterproof sealants are applied over other products such as paint. You should first check the labeling. Some oil-based sealants might clash with other oil-based paints and can result in discoloring.
If the wood is dirty, you should properly clean it. Any dust, pet hair, or other dirt left on the wood, will be sealed in with your wood if you don’t remove these elements. You can also use thinners to remove oil stains from your wood. Oil and dirt can cause your new sealant to peel off.
Once you properly clean the wood, proceed with the following steps;
Put on your safety gear. It is also preferable to wear goggles to keep the dust out of your eyes. Remember to work in a well-ventilated area if you are using an oil-based finish.
It is best to sand your furniture, even if it doesn’t have any old glue, paint, or varnish. You can use a 120 to 220-grit sanding paper to smooth out the surface. Sanding your wood will remove splinters, loose wood fibers, and bumps from your wood. Always sand along with the grain and don’t apply too much pressure. Remember to also sand inside the grooves of furniture pieces.
If the wood is ancient and dry, you can apply a thin layer of linseed or tung oil. These oils will help revive your wood. Allow your wood to sit for at least 24 hours before proceeding so all the oils can be absorbed. If the wood still looks good, you can skip this step.
You should now prepare your sealant. Properly stir all sealants before applying them to your wood.
The first layer of sealant applied to wood can be thinned so the wood will absorb more off it. Deeper penetration or absorption will provide a more durable finish. Take your sealant and thin it to one part sealant, one part water, or thinners (thinners if you have an oil-based sealant).
Grab your paintbrush and apply a thin layer of sealant all over your wood. Different sealants may have different drying times. Some can take only a few hours to dry, while others can take a lot longer. Check the label for instructions and allow it to sit for the recommended duration. Oil-based sealants will take much longer to dry than water-based sealants.
When your surface is fully dried, you can take your 220-grit sandpaper and sand the surface lightly. This will remove any dust that might have settled, and it will smooth your surface. Dust your surface once finished.
You can now proceed to apply a second coat of sealant. There is no need to dilute the sealant this time. Allow the coat to dry for the recommended duration again. Once dried, you can lightly sand it again.
If you are using an oil-based product, you can stop at this point. Your furniture piece might have sufficient protection. But if you are using a water-based sealant, you should repeat the step. For some products like shellac, it might best to apply four coats.
Allow the wood to cure fully. For some products, the curing time is 24 to 48 hours, but some products can take days to dry thoroughly. If you are using a product that takes a very long t dry, you should cover your furniture piece to avoid dust from settling in your coating.
When these steps are completed, your wood will have a water-proof finish and should be able to handle high humidity levels as well as splashes or even water exposure.
Not all waterproofing products are equally durable. Some products like oil and wax treatments need to be reapplied every six months. Other more durable products like varnish can stay in great shape for 20 years or longer. It is always best to read the instructions on your sealant properly before you buy it or use it. It is also important to inspect your wood items every now and then to see if the waterproofing layer is still holding up well.
By reapplying a fresh coat of waterproofing on treated furniture, you can enhance the previous layer’s durability. This can help you avoid an extensive restoration project that involves stripping and removing the old sealant before you can apply a fresh coat.
We do hope that this guide helped treat your wooden pieces so you can avoid damage to your delicate and valuable wooden items and enjoy them for many years to come. By following these simple steps, you will protect your furniture from any wear or damage from water.