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Exterior Wood Finishes for Decks, Siding, and Raised Bed Gardens

Your Choices Include Paint, Penetrating Sealers, and Stains

© 2012 by All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.

A hand-crafted box with Zebrawood Drawer Faces and rosewood pulls

A hand-crafted box with zebrawood drawer faces and rosewood pulls

This article was last revised on 11/24/20.

Wood is the most basic and beautiful of all building materials, but due to its organic nature it has to be protected from the elements in order to avoid dry rot and guard against pests like carpenter ants and termites.

Your choice of wood sealer for a particular item depends on a number of things. Do you want to bring out the beauty of the grain in your Adirondack chair project? Do you insist on organics and non-toxic products for backyard decks or raised bed gardens?

Do you want to incorporate a specific color wood stain for your cedar siding? Whatever, you’re in luck; the choices on the market today are greater than they ever were.

Choosing a Sealer for Decks and Raised Bed Gardens

Sealer products need to be chosen with care because they inevitably come in contact with adults, children, and your pets. One of the best ones I’ve seen on the market is the CedarCideCedarShield Non-Toxic Wood Treatment Wood Sealer.

The CedarCide company refers to this product as a wood stabilizer and claims that it provides a one-time, lifetime treatment. I’m eager to try it out.

They put it like this, “Our cedar oil based, organic wood treatment products are safe and non toxic to people, pets and the planet. Our natural pesticides offer homeowners treated wood alternatives that are 100% non toxic. All of our non toxic wood treatment products for deck and garden applications feature perpetual protection from termites, carpenter ants, wood rot, and fungal attack.”

High self-praise indeed, but I’ve got to admit, the video on their site is very impressive. I am planning on trying it out next spring.

Exterior Wood Finishes Appropriate for Your Patio Furniture

Your wooden patio furniture has different requirements than your metal, plastic, or PVC items. The concept is not to “coat” your wood as paint does, but to apply a finish that completely penetrates and fills the outer cells of the wood’s surface.

This effectively will seal out Mother Nature’s moisture and will to some extent protect it also from damage due to bumping, dropping, etc.

The finish I like to use is a very traditional one called tung oil finish. There are various formulations today depending on manufacturer, but the original formulation was made from the nuts of native tung trees.

The ancient Chinese discovered the unique qualities and applied it to the exterior of their wooden sailing ships as a waterproofing method. All these years later it is still being used. And that's another woodworking tip -- if it works, keep using it.

Danish oil is a similar wood finish. It’s really a varnish/oil blend (no Danes, great or of the human variety, were sacrificed to make this product), so it avails the same penetrating capability of tung oil, but it will usually dry more quickly, which is sometimes of of the greatest considerations. That rain storm was forecast for when?

It should be pointed out that neither of these oil finishes should be used on butcher block countertops or maple cutting boards, “just because it’s handy”. Only food-quality mineral oil (or other food-grade products) should be used for food-contact wood surfaces. I recommend Watco Butcher Block Oil & Finish. It is also a good choice for your raised bed garden.

Finishes for Wood Siding

The finish products for home siding (cladding in some places) are usually clear or they have an added stain. The range of shades are seemingly endless. Because high-quality siding is costly and protects your house, it is advisable not to skimp on a sealer and/or finish.

Some homeowners choose to finish their picket fences to match the siding on their home and attached garage or deck. Some prefer to complement the color. This is why some home improvement projects should be considered in advance.

When you are deciding on a brand of finish, ensure that you shoot for high quality name brands like Benjamin Moore, Behr, Cabot, etc. You should know that some stains are built into the sealer but also feature UV protection.

If you are dealing with a new siding project remember that all surfaces need to be primed and sealed. Many contractors will skip this step to save both time and money. Don’t do this.

Seal the back, sides, ends, and cut surfaces. This is referred to backpriming. It is done to be sure that no moisture can come into contact with the wood in any area, whether you can see it or not.

If your building contractor is doing the job rather than yourself, insist that he takes this step. The bottom line? Use the correct exterior wood finishes for decks, siding, raised bed gardens, and other projects.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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© 2012 All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.