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Let me pick your brains….

If I were to make a simple bench out of American white oak that is situated outdoors, does anyone know what the best kind of clear finish to put on it would be?

It does rain a lot here (UK)

Cheers
 

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Great question, Goss. All wood that is outdoors will require some on-going maintenance. How often it will need attention depends on several factors :

First, how much exposure it gets. If it is taken indoors except when used or before any inclement weather or baking sun, much less maintenance will be required than if it is kept out all the time in all kinds of weather. Always being kept under good shelter or kept covered with a tarp are also helpful measures to lessen the maintenance required.

Second, what type of finish is put on. It's my opinion that good outdoor paint will last the longest but, often, that's less preferred because it hides the beautiful wood underneath. Some like marine varnish. It lasts a good while but it's pretty expensive.

I, myself, tend toward oil finishes because they can be wiped on, making periodic maintenance less burdensome than brushing or spraying it on and they are fairly inexpensive. The maintenance is pretty regular but it's pretty easy.

The least preferred finish, I have heard, would be commercially prepared waterproofing as they tend to last the shortest time, thereby requiring the most regular attention.

I would love to hear others' preferences on this.
 

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I have used Spar Urethane and DO NOT recommend it! A few months of our sun and it cracked and peeled. BLO makes the most sense to me as it is so easy to redo as needed. Maybe wax over the BLO.
 

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I tend to agree with Yonak.

"I, myself, tend toward oil finishes because they can be wiped on, making periodic maintenance less burdensome than brushing or spraying it on and they are fairly inexpensive. The maintenance is pretty regular but it's pretty easy."

The oil tends to just keep soaking in and even if it fades due to the Sun or other conditions, usually a light wipe over, or a light brushing with the same product brings it right back.

Rick
 

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Here in the US we have something called Thomson's water seal. It is used for decks outdoors. It is available clear or tinted and causes water to bead up on the surface of the wood. Needs to be reapplied each year usually. Something like that might work if it is available over there. I wonder if it could even go over the top of an oil finish like a Danish Oil or something?

-Brian
 

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With no knowledge of what finishing products are available to you, you should give untinted exterior paint some consideration. The paint base will have UV inhibitors, and be very durable. Be aware, any clear finish will need repair after a while, but this will last a very long time. The only thing I like better is a true marine spar varnish, like Epifanes. I have used some waterborne exterior paint, but the item hasn't been out in the waether enough yet to pass judgement (one year). But a product like Olympic Icon exterior #5 base dries clear.
 

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Light sanding and oil finish/BLO every spring. Only uncover during good weather. For various reasons most people can't execute this simple routine. I also do not recommend spar varnish UV protected or not - it doesn't last and yearly maintenance is a hassle compared to oiling your bench.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks everyone for your input. I am leaning towards an oil finish for ease of maintenance, the design is such that a wipe on finish will be much easier to apply than something that has to be brushed.

Oil it is.

Cheers.
 

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Goss,

Don't forget to seal the ends that sit on the ground with glue. Let the end grain soak up the glue, then it won't soak up water later.
 

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I was painting a house and they had several surfaces that they varnished when they were installed. A door and some window surrounds faced southwest and sun and rain. A porch deck faced north and had shade all day long. The porch deck held up well and just needed a light sanding and topcoat to put some gloss back. I had to scrape and sand all the other areas that faced the weather. I used marine varnish the first time (I don't know what the original finish was) and next year they wanted it done again as it already was failing. I went the untinted oil based paint route and it looked great. For a year. They finally caved in and asked me to use paint on the surfaces that see heavy weather. They bought Behr latex enamel and it has held up much better. Varnish and oil based paints just don't flex at all.
 
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