What is the Best Protection for Wooden Decking?
Wind and rain will test your home’s exterior, and the effects begin to show more quickly than we might expect: Woot rot, metal corrosion, colour greying. But you don’t have to let your deck suffer the elements and meet an untimely demise.
With a few proactive steps, your deck can add beauty and function to your garden for years. This bit of advice will make a difference.
First and foremost, take action while your deck is still under construction. Install joist, bearer & rim tape as you build the wooden substructure. This tape covers the top of the joist, rim joist, and ledger board and helps prevent your wood from developing rot and timber decay. It also keeps your metal screws and fasteners from corroding as they come in contact with the ACQ in your wood. Additionally, a quality butyl tape such as Trex Protect holds deck screws longer and stronger than acrylic or asphalt-based tape.
Once you complete your deck, you’ll want to let it weather naturally for at least a month and up to six months before applying a wood treatment. Why? The preservatives already in the wood need that amount of time before they will absorb sealers or preservers. If you want to see if your new deck is ready to be sealed or stained, pour water on the deck boards and see if it beads up. If the water beads up, you probably should wait a bit longer.
There are a few options when applying a decking treatment:
- Use a natural oil to create a beautiful and protective hand-rubbed finish on the surface of the wood
- Protect the wood with a sealant that contains polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer
- Waterproof wood and deepen its colour simultaneously with an all-in-one stain/sealant combo with UV filters
- Prime and paint the wood with an outdoor/decking paint that offers durability
A professional product will protect your outdoor timbers against mould, insects, warping, weathering, and mildew.
The big question: Should you choose paint, oil, a stain, or just a clear sealant? That decision really lies with your personal style and aesthetic.
With paint, you’ll have a wide range of colours and the ability to create a truly customized deck. However, many homeowners choose to paint the railings and accents and stain the deck floor because of the paint’s propensity to wear more quickly.
Decking stains also come in various colours and finishes while protecting your deck boards. Both stains and oils require regular re-application to keep their colour and protection.
Oils enhance the beauty of the wood, replacing lost resins and natural oils in your wood. The colours are more subtle, but they show wear over time.
A clear sealant offers basic protection for your wood without changing its colour. This decking protector will help guard against rain, sun damage and foot traffic.
No matter which product you choose, be sure to follow the instructions. Choose the best applicator and tools to get the job done. Also, make sure the weather looks clear for a couple of days so you have time to apply and let it dry. Don’t move back any garden furniture onto the deck until the surface is completely dried.
What tools will you need?
- Brushes – needed for those areas where a roller may not easily reach.
- A roller — this will help you cover more decking more quickly, especially if you use an extension pole. Try a thicker pile if you’re applying coloured stain or paint.
- A paint pad may also be used with a pole and works well to apply stain to grooved or smooth decking.
- Paint sprayer — this premium choice uses less product than rollers or brushes.
Note that you will need to clean your deck before beginning any staining, sealing or painting project. Even if you hire a pro, cleaning is an easy DIY step to take. Be sure to apply decking cleaner properly and dry your surface thoroughly before starting. Be careful with power washers that may splinter the wood fibres on your decking boards. If you do see splintering after you’ve cleaned the deck, you may need to spend some time sanding.
Additionally, if applying a professional wood stain, be sure to wear heavy-duty rubber gloves and safety glasses. Find supplies at your local hardware store or an online supplier such as Amazon. Old clothes are also recommended.
While paint may cover the grain, it also adds personality to your deck. Some homeowners paint patterns, stripes, checkerboards or faux rugs on their boards.
Before you apply your paint, be sure to cover the wood with a primer. If you are in the construction phase, you may consider priming and painting all four sides of the wood and sealing it to protect against moisture. If it’s not fully sealed, humidity may affect the exposed timber causing it to expand and contract and stress your paint job, causing it to crack or flake.
When choosing deck paint, you may select oil or acrylic-based paints. The advantage of oil is that it can be slower drying, making it easier to apply outdoors. Acrylics, on the other hand, can be easier to clean up. Quality paint with an anti-slip texture such as Cuprinol will make your deck, especially the stairs, safer.
Deck stain is popular and available in many natural finishes. Before buying buckets, you might get a sample and stain a small area before deciding which is best to complement the wood’s natural colour. Be sure to choose a quality product such as Ronseal that has a built-in sealer.
When deciding how much stain you’ll need, find out the average coverage and measure your deck. Remember, it will likely require two coats. Look for a stain that protects against UV rays.
Oiling offers a lovely natural look, whether you are working with new construction or old decking. Natural oils allow your wood to breathe.
Decking oils can be applied with a roller or sprayer, but a paintbrush maybe your best tool for this job. A soft-haired brush will allow the product to spread more evenly, especially if you have grooved boards. Remove excess oil with a lint-free cloth. Always brush with the grain, not against it. A quality product such as Liberon with UV protection and is made for decking.
As you would with sealant, begin with a thin coat, let it dry thoroughly before applying a second coat. Each coating will darken the colour pigments.
Pros & Cons of Sealing Your Deck
Whether you choose to stain, paint, or oiling, all will require some maintenance. Sealing each year will enhance your deck’s beauty and protect against moisture.
If you’d prefer a more maintenance-free approach, consider composite decking. Made from recycled plastics, the boards require no regular staining or sealing, just a quick clean-off.
Whichever way you go — stain, oil, or paint — be sure to protect your timber with quality products and waterproofing. The UK’s climate will challenge your wood with frequent moisture. Be sure your garden deck is up to the challenge!