How to Care for Interior & Exterior Timber – Timber Care

How to care for Interior and Exterior Timber

Article Summary: There are numerous timber stains, sealers and other timber care treatments that can not only add to your timber’s beauty, but will also prolong it’s life by protecting it against the elements. This article looks at some treatments and what they can do for your timber.
Sealers are generally used where timber end grain is apparent. This may include items such as turned legs, slatted wood blinds and louvre doors. A sealer will make the top coat more durable than would otherwise be the case by preventing the top coat from ‘sinking’ into the end grain. Some sealers act like fine wood filler and completely seal the wood for ultimate timber care. You will probably come across sealers in what appears to be a milky color, but after application they almost all dry completely clear. Application is by brush, roller or spray with drying times around three to five hours, depending on atmospheric conditions. After the sealer is dry, sand with a light grade of sandpaper in the direction of the grain. You will then be ready to apply the finish coating. 

Clear Finishes

Clear finishes of any kind will look much better if you prepare the wood surface properly. The big enemy of these is oil and grease, so after sanding back use a mineral turps to clear grease from the surface of the wood. Apply two or three coats of topcoat, leaving each to dry between coats. Use a fine grade (240 grit) sandpaper to cut the surface back between coats to give a good keyed surface. Always use good quality brushes and use long brush strokes, making sure that you maintain a wet edge as you go.

Wood Stains

Wood stains do a great job of changing the look of timber quickly and easily. It has the added benefit of enhancing the grain of the wood, bringing out textures that would otherwise not be seen. It is important if possible not to use filler in timber that you intend to stain as the filler doesn’t soak up the stain in the same manner as the wood, and you will always be able to see where the filler is. If you have to use it, first stain a small section of the timber and then try to get filler that matches the stained timber color.

Preparing and Applying Clear Finishes to a Timber Floor

Sand the floor until you achieve a completely smooth finish. For tips and ideas on how to complete the sanding task see my article on floor sanding. Always vacuum and wipe the floor with a cloth dipped in mineral turps so that all dirt, dust and grease are removed from the floor.

Apply two or three coats of your chosen clear finish. After each coat wait until it is dry (but not too long, see below) then use a buffing sander to scuff the surface and make a good keyed base for the next coat. Make sure between coats that all loose material is removed from the floor with mineral turps. One important tip is to not wait too long between coats. The reason is that if the surface finish gets too hard, the next coat will simply sit on top of it instead of adhering properly. The result is a patchy flaky surface.

Using Oil Based Finishes

Oil based finishes give a natural matt finish, ideal for timbers like teak. Oils allow the timber to retain its natural wood finish and do not obscure the grain of the wood. They penetrate deep into the timber, giving good protection against moisture which is important for good timber care. Use a minimum of two coats for best results, allowing the oil time to soak into the timber before the second coat, usually around twelve hours.

Apply oils by using 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper, sanding along the grain length. Use a dry clean cloth to wipe up any dust and residue. It is important to apply the oil liberally and to work it into the grain as you go. Using wire wool will give an even better finish. Allow to dry thoroughly, usually within 24 hours, before use.

Exterior Timber Care

Outside timber care can be achieved either by painting or by protecting with a clear finish to allow the natural beauty of the wood to show through. A good rot prevention technique for outside timber is to insert special pellets that gradually seep oils out into the timber. The pellets are inserted deep into the core of the timber by first drilling a small hole and then pushing the pellet down the hole. For a professional finish, a timber core drill should be use to make plugs that fit snugly into the holes after insertion of the pellets.

An alternative is the use of an exterior application by flooding the timber with a wood preservative. Pay special attention to all end grain. Allow to dry properly before finally finishing the timber with a finish coat of choice

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