Tips for Selecting an Exterior Wood Finish Tips for Selecting an Exterior Wood Finish

An exterior wood finish not only protects wood, but it can also enhance the appearance of wood on the exterior of your home. That could be window frames, a deck or even some siding and shutters. The type of exterior wood finish you choose is going to depend on the type of wood, the location and the look you want.


A wood preservative is ideal for a wooden deck. It soaks deep into the wood and stops water, mold and mildew from causing damage. Decks tend to be high traffic areas so you want something that penetrates deep and won’t be chipped off by feet. It’s easy to apply and works equally well on wood fences (where it can be sprayed on). It does need to be renewed periodically but you can go several years before it becomes necessary.


You’d be most likely to use wood sealer on a deck where it will repel moisture, especially rain. Again, it’s easy to apply and should last for a few years before you need to re-apply. It will wear down from heavy use because it forms a coating on the wood.

If you’re not looking for a specific effect, you can use sealer on most wood outside the home. It’s a very versatile exterior wood finish, and it does exactly what it says. When you’re dealing with wood that touches the ground, you should always use treated wood and preservative will help the wood last longer. Never use untreated wood in the ground or for exterior use.


Varnish is a fine finish and quite delicate so it’s not widely used as an exterior wood finish. Exposed to the elements it can break down quite easily so it’s not recommended. Varnish is much better as an interior wood finish.


Oil can make a good exterior wood finish although you’d be most likely to use it on items like wooden furniture. It works very well with teak, for example, and gives a very rich finish and bringing out the grain of the wood. The downside to oil is that you need to re-oil regularly about every 3 months, so it can be quite labor-intensive.


Stain is one of the most common exterior wood finishes and a stain with pine, for example, can make the wood look a great deal richer. It’s very effective but you will also need to use a sealer with it as an exterior wood finish in order to stop water, wind and snow getting to the wood. Stain brushes on easily and enhances the wood as much as it masks it, making it the ideal finish.


Without doubt, paint is the most common exterior wood finish. The right paint will seal wood and keep out water. It provides color to a house and is suitable for use in most exterior areas from doors to shutters and wooden siding. It’s better to use an oil-based paint as an exterior wood finish. It will last longer and offer more protection.

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