In warm, sunny states like Florida, a relaxing hardwood deck is a must-have for commercial buildings and residences alike. Hardwoods and other natural products can add a warm, friendly, and rustic vibe to any location. However in Florida, hardwood is often at the mercy of fluctuating weather conditions and harsh UV light. If you have or are thinking about installing a hardwood deck, you should consider using wood sealer to seal it. It can lengthen your deck’s lifespan, keeping it looking healthy and new for years.
Any outdoor application will need some kind of protection against the elements. Hardwood decks are pricey to install and require time and effort — get the most bang for your buck and protect it ahead of time. Rain and excessive sunlight can be the most damaging to any wood product left outside. Rainwater causes the grains in wood to raise resulting in cupping and splitting — pricey repairs to fix. UV radiation breaks down the lignin that holds wood fibers together, a process referred to as photochemical degradation. Over time this gives your hardwood a grayish color.
With a little wood sealer, you can avoid this wear and tear. Sealants slow down absorption of moisture and tinted sealers have UV ray blocking qualities. They can be applied to your deck, interior hardwood floors, indoor and outdoor furniture, wood structures such as trellises and fences, and can be applied to a variety of different kinds of woods (though each one might require slightly different methods).
Wood sealer comes in different shades and different bases. Solid stains are thick, opaque, and look a lot like paint. These are great to use when you don’t want to preserve the look of the wood grain, but need to protect the wood from harsh UV rays. Clear sealers are transparent, so they don’t protect the wood from sunlight, but they do provide that layer from moisture so your wood stays dry even in harsh rainstorms. Toners and semi-transparent stains offer the best of both worlds: they offer slight protection from UV-rays and resist moisture, but they also allow the natural grain of the wood to show through (with a little extra tint of color).
Wood sealers also come in different bases: oil-based, water-based, and oil-modified. Oil-based is the oldest kind but is also much harsher on the environment. Generally, you don’t need to apply as many coats when using an oil-based sealer because they contain more solids than water-based and penetrate the wood better. On the other hand, water-based sealers offer better coverage, are less damaging to the environment (and our lungs), emit fewer odors, and clean up with soap and water. Water-based sealers also preserve the natural color of the wood better; they are completely clear while oil-based sealers tend to have a yellow tint to them. A downside to water-based sealers is that they are thinner so they require more coats to get the job done. They are also more expensive than oil-based. Oil-modified sealers are most commonly water-based, with added oil to improve flow and adhesion to the wood. These have the benefits of oil-based, but also clean up very easily and emit fewer odors.
If you have structures or furniture made out of less common woods (such as bamboo and eucalyptus), these require slightly different methods of sealing. Bamboo has a natural layer of silica that protects it from moisture, but this is sure to break down over time. See how to seal your bamboo here.
If you have a structure (or even an entire deck) made out of eucalyptus wood, there are some extra steps that need to be added in order to seal the wood. Eucalyptus is full of resin, and this prevents any finish from adhering properly. First, you need to sand the wood with 100-grit sandpaper. This activates and opens the pours, allowing the resin to flow out. After you have sanded the eucalyptus once, wait 4 hours. You should see small pockets of dark liquid forming on the surface — resin! Just wipe this off with a rag soaked in a light layer of acetone. It might take you a few times to get all of the resin out of the wood. Just keep repeating the sanding process until the resin no longer comes out (this might take up to 24 hours).
After you’ve finished sanding to get the resin out, use a sprayable lacquer and be sure to put on a respirator to protect your lungs. Spray it 8 inches away from the product and let it dry for one hour. After an hour, use 180-grit sandpaper and lightly sand until the wood is coated with a light layer of fine, light powder. Leave this on the wood — it’s lacquer dust and helps with the final coat’s adhesion. Spray your wood again and let sit for 4 hours. Apply as many coats as needed.
It can be tough to use natural materials in settings with changing weather conditions, but that shouldn’t deter you from creating your dream backyard. At amaZulu, we love using natural materials such as bamboo, eucalyptus, and thatch. Not only are they beautiful and unique, they are much better for the environment. All of our products are 100% sustainable and resource responsible. Thinking of taking your backyard project a step further with a new trellis or fun-spirited tiki bar?
Tags: Wood Sealer
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