4 Effective Ways to Treat Wood for Outdoor Use

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 06/18/23 • 

When wood is used outdoors, you should take the proper steps to ensure it is protected and well-maintained to handle different elements such as the sun’s rays, rain, snow, and other elements. There are various methods you can use to protect wood when used outdoors. In this article, we’ll discuss several ways to treat wood for outdoor use.

1. Apply Spar Urethane

Spar urethane is a more durable type of polyurethane intended to be used outdoors. It is derived from the formula of spar varnish, but spar urethane uses polyurethane as one of its resins. Spar urethane improves on the qualities of polyurethane to create a product that is more water, scratch, and UV ray resistant.

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
$25.78 ($0.81 / Fl Oz)

The Minwax spar urethane is a durable finish to protect your wood outdoors and indoors. It is available in an oil-base, best for the outdoors, and water-base, best for indoors. It comes in different sheens, from satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.

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Spar urethane is also a flexible finish because it contains high amounts of oils. This means it expands and remains flexible when exposed to different temperatures. It is also a durable finish that can last up to 10 years when properly maintained.

Farmhouse Bench Coated with Spar Urethane

Farmhouse Bench Coated with Spar Urethane

Spar urethane can easily be applied using a brush to outdoor furniture, doors, and window sashes without a problem. Before applying spar urethane, ensure the surface is clean and smooth for the best results. Check our our best exterior polyurethane for more information.

2. Use Exterior Paint

If you want to color your outdoor wood, exterior paint might be what you need. Exterior paint comes in two main types – oil-based (Oil or Alkyd) and latex-based paint. Oil-based exterior paint takes longer to dry but leaves a smoother, more durable surface that can stand up better to elements.

Latex-based exterior paint dries up faster and can easily be cleaned up using soap and water. Latex also expands with temperature changes, making it harder to crack, so you will not have to apply the paint as often.

Outdoor Painted Wood Furniture

Outdoor Painted Wood Furniture

Exterior paint protects your outdoor wooden projects and helps hide flaws on the wood’s surface. Before applying exterior paints, prime the surface, which will help the paint adhere properly and create a uniform and lasting finish. If you want to paint your outdoor furniture, check out our best paints for outdoor use.

3. Stain and Sealant Combo

Depending on the wood’s condition, you can apply a stain and sealant combo. Unlike exterior paint, a stain and sealant combo enhances the natural beauty of wood. It is available in different levels of transparency, like transparent, semi-transparent, and solid stain sealants.

Stain and sealant combos are available in oil- and water-based variants. Oil-based stain sealants penetrate deeper into the wood fibers and offer better protection against elements while showcasing the wood grain’s beauty. Water-based stain sealants also offer good protection and are durable.

Applied Stain and Sealer Combo to Deck Rails

Applied Stain and Sealer Combo to Deck Rails

For the best performance, the stain and sealer combo needs to penetrate the wood. Therefore, before applying the stain and sealer combo, ensure your outdoor wood project is clean and free of dirt, debris, old finish, mold, mildew, and graying. If you’re looking to stain a deck, check out our best deck stains.

4. Pressure Treating The Wood

Pressure-treating wood meant for outdoor use is another to make it last longer and handle different elements. Pressure-treating wood involves infusing chemicals and preservative agents under high pressure. This helps protect the wood from insects and rotting, especially when used outdoors.

Generally, all wood meant for outdoor use should be pressure treated for better durability. Pressure-treating wood is an industrial process and not a DIY method. So, you can only buy pressure-treated wood to use rather than make it yourself.

Once your pressure-treated wood is dry, you can choose to paint or apply a sealer over it. This will improve its quality, make it more durable, and help it withstand harsher conditions.


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