Decking Oils, Stains and Treatments: Part 3 – Application & Protection

April 15th, 2014

How to apply decking oils, stains and treatments?

In part 2 of our complete decking guide we covered some of the common problems that affect decked areas and gave some handy tips and remedies to help you get it right. In part three, the final part of our decking guide, we look at how to apply decking oils as well as giving more top tips about how to protect decking so it looks fantastic for years to come.

The application techniques we’re going to discuss cover oil-based decking finishes as in our opinion, these are much easier to maintain and patch repair. As such this decking maintenance advice is suitable for:

  • new wood
  • preserved new wood
  • wood which only has oil on it

Once your decking is clean, dust-free and physically sound, with any damage mended, you can apply a clear or coloured decking oil.

Oils are easy to apply with no special skill required. It’s simply a case of making sure the oil is ‘pushed’ into the wood rather than leaving it on the surface.

If your decking is smooth a long-handled microfibre roller is ideal as it works really well with decking oils. If your decking is grooved you can attach a floor brush head to a wooden handle – the firm texture will help you push the oil into the wood much more effectively.

How many coats of decking oil do I need?

Because it’s the oil content that protects decking against water, sun damage and more, you need to get as much of the product into the wood as possible. It’s important to apply the oil in thin coats because thicker coats can’t penetrate the wood as easily and take ages to dry. It’s much quicker and more effective to apply three thin coats than two thick ones.

There’s no need to use a lot of elbow grease. Just move the oil around the wood and apply a little pressure until it has virtually all sunken in to the grain. A well applied coat of oil will comfortably dry in a day.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes – if the wood is already naturally oily such as Teak, Ipe or other exotic hardwood. In which case it might not take in any more oil or might just accept one thin coat. If your wood is already saturated with oil you’ll know because you won’t be able to get it to absorb any more. In which case you can simply wipe the excess off.

What happens if I use too much deck oil?

Sometimes people apply as much oil as they can in the hope that the more they get on the wood the better.  All this does, though, is leave deposits of oil on the surface that can take a very long time to dry, often more than forty eight hours. In the worst cases the oil can’t evaporate or sink into the wood and it forms a skin on the surface which can ultimately peel off.

Top tips for decking maintenance with oils

We highly recommend a quality deck oil like Barrettine Decking Stain, also known as The Complete Decking Treatment.  It contains rich resins and waxes and we invariably get excellent feedback about it.

  • Get an idea of how much oil is still in your decking first – if you can’t tell, test a small area with a thin coat of decking oil. If it doesn’t sink in, your wood probably isn’t ready for extra oil yet
  • Try to avoid sealer-type decking finishes. In our opinion, they’re not as good as decking oils
  • Always apply the oil thinly
  • Bear in mind that thin coats enhance the grain structure best
  • As a general rule the darker a finish, the better the UV protection
  • Sweep decking regularly – keeping it clean means it stays in better condition for longer
  • Attend to any visible problems like greying, blackening and dryness promptly and they’ll cause less damage 

How often do I need to oil my decking?

You can play it by ear. Less oily woods tend to need more frequent treatment than oilier woods. Keep a supply of your favourite decking oil handy and test a small patch somewhere unobtrusive every spring. If the oil refuses to sink in or takes ages to dry, you can leave it until it gets ‘hungry’ for more oil. If so, test it again at the end of the summer just in case it needs to be fed more oil to protect it over the winter.

Colouring your decking

Black finishes on decking are becoming increasingly popular, no surprise when the deep, rich colour complements the vivid greens of plants so beautifully. How do you dye your decking black? The easiest way to achieve the look is a black timber stain. The same goes for other colours. Osmo, for example, feature a vast range of lovely wood colours in oil tint form, from cool, subtle amber to rich gold, bright silver and dramatic white. 

Once you’ve achieved the colour you want, whether it’s black or something else altogether, simply apply two to three coats of good quality clear decking oil on top.

Can I buy non-slip decking oil?

Yes. If you’re concerned about slipping over, Osmo decking oil comes in a special anti-slip variant.

What’s next? Simply enjoy your garden decking!

When your decking has been cleaned, treated and restored, it’ll look beautiful, a real asset to your garden. Now all you need to do is magic up some sunshine, add friends or family, good company, food and drinks and you’re off. Here’s to a glorious summer!

Any questions about garden decking maintenance? We’re always delighted to help and even have a FREEPHONE telephone number for you to call Monday to Friday, 9-5:  0800 7818 123.

Wooden Decking Stains, Treatments & Oils : Part 2 – Problems & Cures

April 11th, 2014

Following on from part 1 of our decking guide, part 2 talks about some of the more common problems that can affect decking maintenance. We also take a look at the various types of decking treatments on the market and the differences between them.

Common garden decking problems

  • Wood blackening happens when fungus forms on the surface of the wood, usually because water has penetrated the wood and reacted with the brown tannin it contains. Different woods have different levels of tannin, but fungal blackening can be removed with a special fungicidal wash.
  • Greying or Silvering occurs when the wood has been water and sun-damaged, but the effect can be reversed with oxalic acid. There’s a great product from Osmo called Wood Reviver gel, which contains the acid which helps to restore the natural colour of the wood. Just like magic – it’s such a amazing transformation!

Garden Decking

How long does garden decking finish last?

Decking is one of the most difficult areas in a garden to keep in good order. During the year it gets a lot of foot traffic, in all weathers, and it’s open to the elements, insects, leaves, mud, all of which can remove the finish a little at a time. When the biggest contributing factor is the weather, life becomes very unpredictable. Which is why it’s difficult for manufacturers to give accurate timescales about how long a particular finish will last.

As a general rule the most exposed parts of your wooden decking suffer the worst weather damage, needing more maintenance and more frequent attention. The bottom area of decking spindles get all dry or go black or grey, suffering more than the top because of running water and gradually wearing the finish off. Decking oil comes into its own here, with the affected areas easily rubbed down with steel wool or sandpaper and repaired seamlessly by treating with Fungicidal Wash (if required) then using more oil.

Once it’s finished, one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your decking is regular sweeping. Other than that, regular use of a specialist decking cleaner will do the trick.

Decking treatment terminology

The wood finishing industry’s terminology is full of inconsistencies. Most people don’t know that a lacquer and a varnish are the same thing, for example, and pigments are often confused with dyes. So we thought it’d be useful to clear up a few popular misconceptions:

Decking Stains - A normal water based wood stain is purely a colour, usually a liquid. It doesn’t give the wood a sheen or protect it,  it just colours the wood, and you need to add a protective finish on top. Decking stain is different. It’s more than a colouring liquid, with added protection. But there’s more…


Take Ronseal. They’re one of Britain’s leading suppliers of decking finishes, yet they have two different decking products, both called a stain but both very different.  The product they call Ronseal Decking Stain falls into the sealer category, a paint-like material which does nothing to enhance the grain and over time, will likely start to peel and flake as the product degrades. Their Advanced Decking Stain is far superior and oil-based. In our opinion neither of them are decking stains. Our guide:

What is decking oil? – If it’s called a decking oil, it is probably exactly that. In our experience it’s always a good choice when made by a reputable company like Barrettine or Ronseal.

What is wooden decking treatment? ‘Treatment’ can mean either an oil or a surface coating. Be sure to find out which to make sure it meets your requirements.

What is a garden decking finish? As above, a ‘finish’ could mean more or less anything. Proceed with caution.

Next time, in the final part of our complete garden decking treatment guide, we’ll take a look at how best to apply decking treatments, plus top tips about decking maintenance and making the most of your beautiful decking all year round.

Garden Decking Stains, Treatments & Oils : Part 1 – Getting Started

April 8th, 2014

How’s your garden decking looking? Is it looking tatty, less than its best, in need of a good seeing to?

In our special series of three posts about wooden decking stains, treatment and oils we’re looking at how to make your decking look beautiful and last longer,  exploring the differences between the myriad of products on the market, their application and common sense decking maintenance.

By the end of our third post you’ll know exactly how to keep your soft and hardwood decking in tip top condition from one year to the next.

Getting the most from decking oil and stains

Getting the most from decking oil and stains

First… laying your decking the right way around

Did you know you were supposed to lay grooved decking face down? The smooth side is, believe it or not, less slippery than the grooved side, which is actually designed to face downwards. The smooth side also requires less oil than the grooved side because there’s a smaller surface area. Imagine a piece of concertinaed paper that is grooved but then stretched out flat, hey presto, it becomes bigger than when folded. Smooth decking is also easier to keep clean and finish.  Apparently The UK is the only country to predominantly ‘expose the grooves’!

About decking

Decking is both useful and good-looking in any garden, but left untreated and unloved will soon start to look tired and worn. The good news? Even if your decking has suffered from the ravages of the British weather is that it can be revived without too much fuss by simply following a few basic steps.

When it comes to treating decking there are numerous factors to consider.  In this article we’ll address them all, but if you have a specific question feel free to contact us. We’re on hand 9-5 Monday to Friday to help and even provide a freephone UK landline number:  0800 7818 123. 

Is your new wooden decking pre-treated?

Most new decking nowadays comes pre-treated with a wood preservative that offers protection against wood disease and insect attack. But few, if any, come “pre-finished” with a decking oil or decking stain.

To check if your timber has been pre-treated, look for a green/brown tinge or a surface that’s darker than the inner cut face. Pre-treated decking is sometimes called tanalised timber, or tanalith, which is the industrial name for a wood preservative. If it has already been treated, it’s ready for finishing.

Decking treatment – Is a wood preservative necessary?

Although clear wood preservers don’t contain any pigments or dyes, the ingredients always influence the colour of the wood. If your decking is bare wood with nothing on it at all, applying a wood preservative comes highly recommended for a smarter appearance and a longer life.

What finish is currently on my old wooden decking?

If your decking has been finished already and just needs a makeover, you need to identify the wood’s existing finish. Most decking top coat finishes fall in to one of two categories, either oils or sealers, but because manufacturers don’t always use the terminology on the tin, this will be helpful:

  • Decking oils penetrate into the wood and become a part of it, with only a small amount remaining on the surface. The grain tends to show through very well and the wood retains its natural texture. Oil based decking products are easier to maintain and repair, and most people also prefer to see the natural beauty of the wood grain rather than cover it up.
  • Decking sealers bond and produce a film on the surface of the decking much like a varnish or paint. Because sealers sit on the surface of the wood rather than penetrating it, the grain is covered up slightly or dramatically, depending on the product. It actually looks like a semi-translucent paint and feels smoother than an oil, without that typical woody texture. Sealers can be problematic because they will at some point start to peel and flake, it’s just a case of when. When it comes to re-coating, you have to remove all the flaky material first, and can only use a similar product on top. If any remains, the finish tends to peel and flake faster because it’s sitting on top of an already unstable surface.

How to remove decking finishes

Once you’ve determined which finish is currently on your decking, it’s time to either prepare it for re-finishing or remove it altogether to start fresh.  Your decision depends on two things: what colour you want to achieve and which finish will give you what you want. Here’s a run-down of each method.

  • Sanding is only practical if the decking is smooth, with no grooves, and you want to completely remove the decking sealer.
  • Jet washing is a popular choice for removing decking sealers that have peeled or flaked with age. Decking oil finishes can also be cleaned this way, but you need to take care not to push the existing finish out of the wood and into surrounding plants, ponds and soil.
  • Remove oil-based finishes with white spirit if you want to retreat your garden decking with a sealer. If you want to re-treat a previously oiled exterior deck with a fresh coat of oil, you don’t need to remove all the existing oil. Just clean the surface with white spirit.
  • Use a varnish stripper if you want to completely remove decking sealer and retreat it with an oil-based product.

In general, if the wood has been treated with a decking oil and you’re happy with the colour, it’s a simple matter of cleaning the decking and re-applying two or three coats of fresh oil.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the colour of the wood will influence the eventual colour of the finished decking. Using a cedar red decking stain, for example, will give you three distinctly different colours depending on whether the wood is new and untreated, new and treated or old and untreated.

Hard wood decking or soft wood?

Assuming the wood is either new or has had the previous finish removed, knowing what type of wood you’re dealing with helps you identify the best performing wooden decking finish. Exotic woods like Ipe and Bangkarai are naturally very oily, as are many hard woods, and decking sealers don’t perform at all well on oilier woods. If you don’t know the exact wood type, simply knowing whether it’s a hard or soft wood will help enormously.

How to use oil based decking products

Different hard woods contain different levels of oil. If the hard wood is new or has only been felled during the last few months, it will contain more oil than if it was cut down three months, six months or two years ago.

Some woods, for example teak, remain oily for longer than others and remain weather resistant for much longer than soft woods or less oily hard woods. If your decking is teak, it may be best to do nothing for at least a year then only apply one coat of decking oil or teak oil.

The best way of knowing whether wood is ready for oiling is to drop a small amount of water on the surface.

  • If the water beads up and sits there the wood is already nice and oily
  • If it sinks in and forms a blot mark, the wood needs oiling.
  • If the water sits on the surface for half an hour or more then starts to sink in, there’s already a reasonable oil content and your decking probably just needs one thin coat of fresh oil

Alternatively, you can use a simple sight test: if the wood looks, dry, patchy, black or grey it is asking to be treated or oiled, although some people like the look of silvery grey, worn, weather-beaten wood.

If you’ve decided on an oil, the idea is to get as much of the product to sink into the wood as possible so it becomes completely water repellent. 

How to maintain decking?

Next time, in part 2 of our complete decking guide, we’ll be taking a look at some of the more common decking problems that can occur, plus their causes and cures.

How to Varnish Wood… So It Looks Really Good!

April 3rd, 2014

Add several coats of varnish to wood and it will enhance the natural colour of the timber, delivering a lovely, rich sheen. Varnish protects wood, providing a durable surface that helps to prevent damage and keeps it in good condition. So far, so simple. But there’s a bewildering array of wood floor varnish and other products on the market. Here’s our guide to varnishing wood and wood varnishing finishes, with a few handy product recommendations thrown in.

Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish

Wood varnish guide

How to varnish wood?

Whatever product you want to use, as a general rule you will have to completely remove any existing varnish, waxes, oils, wood stains, dust, dirt, grease, uneven areas and sticky stuff before applying wood varnish.

Your workspace needs to be dust and dirt free, otherwise it can collect on the surface of the wood and the freshly applied varnish spoiling the sheen and smooth finish.

It’s best to use a brush with natural rather than synthetic bristles for oil based finishes, and synthetic brushes (often called ‘nylon’ brushes) for acrylic or water-based varnishes. But you can also use rollers or rags for both kinds of finish.

Every wood varnish product is very slightly different. All the products we sell come with detailed instructions and you should always follow them to the letter. With varnishes, short cuts invariably mean you won’t get the quality finish that you were hoping for.

Here are some useful generic tips.

7 tips for varnishing wood

  1. Vacuum the area to remove dust and dirt, before starting work. A slightly damp mop also works well for removing sanding dust from the surface of the floor.
  2. Choose a day when the weather isn’t too humid. Varnish will dry slower in humid or cold conditions, there’s more chance of dust and dirt settling on your project before it’s fully dry… which means you’ll have an imperfect finish. If working indoors, use the heating to get the room temperature somewhere between 20 and 25C. If the room is too hot the varnish will dry too fast and messy bubbles might form
  3. Remove any existing varnish or finish with a suitable paint and varnish remover / stripper. Sand the wood to remove any surface imperfections, then use a damp cloth to remove any debris and let the wood dry
  4. The first coat can be thinned if required but this isn’t necessary with many of the modern water based varnishes. Leave it to dry for 24 hours, then sand it with fine sandpaper and wipe down with a damp cloth or vacuum to remove the dust
  5. Apply your first coat of pure varnish, working with the grain, then let it dry completely
  6. Create a key by gently sanding the surface with very fine sandpaper
  7. Apply as many more coats as you need, generally 2 to 3 coats is the norm but additiuonal coats can be applied for greater depth of finish, gently sanding in between each coat. Don’t sand your last-but-one or final coat, and go with the grain for the final coat for a super-smooth finish

How to varnish a wood floor?

We think Ronseal’s video about how to varnish a wood floor is excellent. Here it is:

YouTube Preview Image

Choosing the right wood varnish

‘Varnish, polyurethane, lacquer and shellac… they’re all different and they’re not supposed to be interchangeable. So what’s the score? Let’s look at a few different types of wood varnish.

Shellac varnish

First there’s shellac varnish, something we’re asked about frequently. But what, exactly, is shellac? It’s actually a natural resin secreted by an insect called a lac bug, which lives in Indian and Thai forests. The substance comes exclusively from the female insect and is scraped off the tree branches, processed into dry flakes then mixed with ethanol to create a liquid. The end product has loads of interesting functions, used as a food glaze and colouring as well as a wood varnish.

It’s a remarkable material. As well as a durable natural primer it seals, blocks tannin and smells, stains wood and acts as a high-gloss varnish. It has excellent insulation properties, keeps moisture out and was even used to make old-school 78 rpm gramophone records.

Shellac used to be the most popular wood finish on the planet until polyurethane came along, a much more durable, heat and chemical-resistant material with a longer shelf life. These days, since it is compatible with most other finishes, shellac is often used as a barrier or primer to prevent wood stains from blotching. It’s a major ingredient in Manns Shellac Sanding Sealer, which we sell on-site, ideal for blocking knots in wood, filling open grains and covering fine scratches.

Polyurethane varnish

Polyurethane is a plastic in liquid form. It comes as either a water based varnish or an oil based varnish, anything from satin varnish to high gloss and absolute matt.

Water based varnishes

Water based varnishes have come a long way over the last decade or so and are now just as good or better than the traditional spirit based varnishes used in the past. Excellent examples of modern day water based varnishes include Manns Interior Varnish, for interior doors and furniture and Manns Floor Varnish for floors and staircases. If you’re looking for a strong general purpose water based varnish that can be used for almost any project, Manns Extra Tough Clear Varnish is certainly worth concideration.

  • low odour
  • low toxicity
  • Goes on clear without adding colour
  • Dries much faster than oil-based varnishes
  • Doesn’t stand heat and chemicals very well
  • Ideal for indoor wooden items that are protected from the extremes of temperature you get outdoors
  • Can be applied over latex or acrylic paint without adding colour

Oil based varnishes

  • Slightly more durable than water-based varnish
  • Handles heat better
  • Adds a slight colour to enhance the wood
  • Must be used in a well-ventilated space
  • Takes much longer to dry and cure than water-based
  • Can be applied over latex or acrylic paint, adding slight colour

Spray varnish

morrells-lacquer-spraySpray varnish is wonderful if you have large areas to cover, and is ridiculously easy to apply. Take Morrells Nitrocellulose Lacquer Sprays, which come in a broad variety of sheen levels. Interestingly, it comes highly recommended by luthiers, who say it’s perfect for varnishing guitars.

Floor varnish

Floor varnish comes in all sorts of colours as well as completely clear. The pigmented version of Ronseal’s clear floor varnishes, Diamond Hard Coloured Floor Varnish, comes in six lovely natural wood shades and gives a remarkably hard-wearing, satin varnish sheen.
Ronseal Diamond Hard Coloured Floor Varnish


Believe it or not, lacquers are the same as varnishes. The trade often use the term Laquer while the general public tend to use the term varnish.

Acrylic varnish

Acrylic varnishes are usually water-based. They offer very high transparency levels and don’t go yellow. They are easier to clean up and don’t give off fumes, but don’t tend to penetrate the wood as well as oil based products. They feature good UV resistance and dust resistance, and are often used by artists to seal and protect paintings, sometimes with special ultraviolet light resistors to protect the paint against light.

Marine varnish

You’ve guessed it… marine varnish is simply a super-durable product formulated especially to withstand being submerged in salt or fresh water. It’s brilliant for boats, and US marine fitters Defender have created a handy guide to varnishing boats, here.
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Need help choosing the right wood varnish for the job?

No problem. Call us free on 0800 7818 123 9-5 during the working week for friendly, expert advice.

Types of Wood Finishes – Making Your Wood Beautiful!

March 14th, 2014

The British DIY scene first got going properly in the 1950s. Today, more than half a century later, there are more types of wood finishes on the market than you can shake a stick at. Everything from colours to stains, paints, polishes, oils, waxes and varnishes, all designed to help you make your wood look good enough to eat.

About wood finishes

Beautiful, durable and unusual, contemporary or traditional, here’s our comprehensive guide to the most popular and widely-used wood finishing products in town.

Beautiful Wood Finishes

About wood stain – Perfect for colouring wood and cork

There are all sorts of wood stain products on the market including water based, solvent based and oil based versions. Whether you want to stain a wood floor, furniture or something else altogether, whether it’s exterior wood stain or interior wood stain, they’re all easy to apply, let the beautiful grain show through and deliver a superb, durable, colour-fast finish. Best of all, these days there are all sorts of beautiful wood stain colours to choose from as well as the usual gorgeous browns and dramatic black.

What is wood stain made of and how does it work? We can’t really put it better than Wikipedia. Here’s what they say about wood stains.

“A wood stain consists of a colorant suspended or dissolved in an agent or solvent. The suspension agent can be water, alcohol, petroleum distillate, or the actual finishing agent (shellac, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, etc.). Colored or ‘stained’ finishes, like polyurethane, do not penetrate the pores of the wood to any significant degree and will disappear when the finish itself deteriorates or is removed intentionally.

Pigments and dyes are largely used as colorants. The difference between the two is in the size of the particles. Dyes are microscopic crystals that dissolve in the vehicle and pigments are suspended in the vehicle and are much larger. Dyes will color very fine grained wood, like cherry or maple, which pigments will not. Those fine-grained woods have pores too small for pigments to attach themselves to. Pigments contain a binder to help attach themselves to the wood.

The type of stain will either accentuate or obscure the wood grain. Most commercial stains contain both dye and pigment and the degree to which they stain the appropriate wood is mostly dependent on the length of time they are left on the wood. Pigments, regardless of the suspension agent, will not give much color to very dense woods but will deeply color woods with large pores (e.g. pine). Dyes are translucent and pigments are opaque.”

Polyurethane varnish – Satin to gloss and everything in between

Manns-extra-tough-clear-varnishPolyurethane varnish is a plastic in liquid form and comes oil or water-based, in any finish from satin to gloss. The water based version doesn’t smell much and usually has low levels of toxicity. It goes on clear, with no colour, and dries fast. On the downside it isn’t great at coping with heat and chemicals. Perfect for any wood that won’t be exposed to the extremes of temperature and weather. Oil-based polyurethane projects require a respirator and you should always work in a well-ventilated area. It takes longer to dry than water-based varnish.

As a general rule wood varnish provides a tough, transparent protective finish with no added colour. Varnishes are also useful when applied on top of wood stains to, where they bring out the colour and add protection. Some products combine stain and varnish to provide a one-stop finish. And there are special products designed for high traffic areas.

About Shellac

Shellac is a natural varnish. Here’s what the DIY network says about it.

“This finish is actually a natural product (it’s made from combining a secretion from the female lac bug with a solvent such as alcohol) that is very safe once dried and hardened. In addition to adding a protective coat, it also can add a warm amber color to wood. It can be affected by heat (white rings will appear under a hot bowl or mug) or chemicals, so a kitchen table might not be the best place to use it. Fine furniture items can be greatly enhanced with shellac. Some shellac manufacturers recommend using it as a protective coat on non-wood items. Apply it with a natural bristle brush or with a cotton rag.

Shellac is available in most home centers as a liquid in a can. It also comes in solid form or in flakes that must be dissolved, and it has a shorter shelf life than other finishes. The liquid variety is the best option for the average homeowner.”

Wood paint – Colouring your world

Specialist wood paint comes in more or less any colour on the planet, ideal for completely changing the look, feel and mood of your wood, inside and out. Our top tip? Always take the surface right back to bare wood to get the best quality, best-looking and most durable finish.

Wood oils – Inside and out

osmo-polyx-oilWood oils have for many years been a popular way of protecting interior and exterior wooden surfaces. Traditionally, oils such as Danish OIl, Tung Oil and Linseed Oil were and still are used. Alternative products called ‘Hard Wax Oils’ that are formulated from a blend of natural oils, waxes and resins, provide better durability and protection, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Osmo Polyx Oil and Fiddes Hard Wax Oil offer an easy way to protect wooden surfaces including floors, doors, stairs, kitchen worktops and more. Exterior wood oils are also available to give either a clear or coloured, opaque or semi translucent finish to sheds, fences, garden furniture and any number of other exterior wooden features.

Wood preservative – Making wood last longer

Ronseal Total Wood PreservativeRot, algae and mould are wood’s worst enemies. Creosote is nasty stuff, no longer available to the public, messy and toxic, but luckily there are plenty of excellent alternatives, both solvent and oil-based. We particularly rate Ronseal’s excellent solvent-based Total Wood Preservative, which does all this for your interior and exterior wood:

  • Penetrates deep to prevent rot and decay
  • Kills woodworm
  • Protects against re-infestation
  • Colours and preserves rough and smooth exterior wood
  • Repels water

French polishing – A process, not a product

French polishing is a wood finishing technique with a wonderful high gloss finish, deep colour and shine. It consists of applying multiple thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol , applying it with a special pad lubricated with oil. The finish is more delicate than modern varnishes and lacquers, prone to white cloudy marks when you spill liquids on it.

It tends to be a job for the experts but here’s an excellent YouTube video about how to do French polishing.

YouTube Preview Image

Wood dye – A popular and simple wood treatment

Manns Water Based Wood DyeWood dye is brilliant stuff, available in brilliant colours as well as black, white and various lovely, natural wood colours. You can use it neat if you want a strong, vibrant finish, or dilute it for something more subtle. You can even mix the primary colours together to create beautiful, unusual shades and heritage-like colours. It can even be used to tint various other wood treatments and wood finishes.

We love Manns water-based wood dyes and, like we do with all our products, we have created a detailed guide about how to use it to its best effect.

Wood polish – Plus plenty of elbow grease

Wood polish is one of our most popular wood finishing products. Wood polishes give a splendid mirror-finish to wood, especially good for precious furniture. Top quality wax polish plus elbow grease is the way to go, and over time your hard work results in a stunning shine. Unless, of course, you want to go matt… in which case we can recommend a product for that, too.  Head for our wood polishes department and take your pick.

Any wood finishing questions?

Do you want to know about wood finishing, types of wood finishes or how to choose the best wood finishes for the job? Let us know and we’ll be delighted to help.
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How To Stain Wood?

March 6th, 2014

Why would you want to stain wood? You might be bored of the colour. The surface might be damaged, in serious need of a facelift. Perhaps you’re changing your décor and your wood floors and furniture need to change to match. Maybe your decking needs refinishing. Whatever your motivation, using a wood stain rich in pigments on bare or stripped-down wood changes the colour and also highlights the lovely grain.

Staining Wood

About staining wood – Know what type of wood you’re dealing with

Before you go anywhere near an interior wood stain or decking stain, you need to know what type of wood you’re dealing with. Is it softwood or hardwood? They behave differently, and the application process and end results are different.

How do you tell them apart? Soft woods include pines, firs and cedars. Hard woods include oak, walnut and birch. In between you have a few oddities. Box, for example, is a surprisingly soft hardwood and fir is a very hard soft wood.

  • Soft woods tend to have an uneven grain, often with patterns or blotches, and can stain unevenly. You might want the grain to stand out from the background and dye darker, since it’s a great way to enhance the wood’s beauty. If not, you can use a special pre-stain conditioner which sinks into the wood fibres to give an even base. We stock special Manns Pine wood stain specially formulated for pine and other soft grain woods, and they also make a range of stains for hard woods
  • Hard woods tend to have a neat, even, finer grain. You can use any stain you like on hardwoods, but you may need multiple coats to achieve the same effect as you get on softwoods

 Top wood stains tips

Every piece of wood is different. Every tree is unique, even within the same species. So our first tip is this: Always do a test area first, trialling your interior or exterior wood stain product on a small, hidden area to make sure things aren’t going to go pear-shaped and you end up with the colour you want.

How to stain wood in 8 simple steps

  1. First, remove any dust, stickiness, polish, wax, paint, grease or dirt
  2. Next, sand the old surface to provide a clean, fresh key for your wood staining product.  You might need to resort to coarse paper then work your way up to finer (120 – 150 Grit) sandpaper to finish, or dive straight in with a light paper when there’s less preparation to do. This is a vital stage because wood stains won’t give an even result if the surface is mucky. If you leave the surface too rough, it will absorb more stain and give a darker finish and the smoother the finish, the lighter the colour. Experiment on scrap wood or a small area on the real thing first
  3. Wipe down your beautifully sanded surface with a damp cloth to remove any debris
  4. Put on your rubber gloves and stir the wood stain
  5. Follow the instructions to the letter, applying the stain with either a sponge, brush or cloth
  6. Use smooth, continuous movements, following the grain rather than working against it and applying the wood colour evenly
  7. Leave it to dry according to the instructions. As a general rule the longer you leave it, the darker the tone. You can always wipe small areas off and back on to check progress. Bear in mind it’s much easier to apply more stain than try to remove it when you’ve gone too far
  8. When you’ve achieved the right depth of colour leave it to dry, again as per the instructions

Exterior and interior wood stain – Oil versus water based

Wood staining products penetrate the wood rather than sitting on top of it.

Oil-based wood stains last for ages, penetrating deep into the wood, sealing and protecting it and enhancing its beauty.  They dry more slowly so you have more time to work with them. If you’re staining large areas like floors, cabinets and doors, oil-based stains are best because you are less likely to get dried-on marks when some areas dry faster than others. They don’t raise the wood’s grain either, so you don’t need to do extra sanding. It’s best to apply them with a natural bristle brush. Pastels are also oil-based, giving you a lovely pastel colour while highlighting the grain.

Water-based wood stains deliver an even colour and won’t absorb unevenly like oil based wood stains can. They smell less and dry faster, usually within a couple of hours. You can clean up with ordinary soap and water instead of solvents and you get a much wider choice of bright colours. It’s best to apply water-based products with a synthetic brush.

What else is there? You can also buy varnish-based wood stains like Sadolin Extra Durable Wood Stain. These are pigmented (coloured) varnishes that are ideal for softwood and hardwood projects including doors and windows, for extra-long lasting protection.

Coloured wood stain

The beauty of coloured wood stain is the sheer variety of shades and tones. Everything from clean, crisp white wood stain for contemporary living and working spaces to subtle grey wood stain, dramatic black wood stain… a multitude of beautiful wood stain colours.

We stock a vast range of coloured wood stain, including the glorious Osmo Country Colour: opaque, satin-matt and available in a host of beautiful shades including blues, greens, greys, reds, oranges and more.

Wood stain dos and don’ts

How do you remove coloured wood stains? This very much depends on the type of wood being stained and the stain used. If it’s purely a water based stain then Wood stain remover is your first stop.

Spirit Based Wood Stains can usually be removed by scrubbing with cellulose thinners, methylated spirit or white spirit depending on the type of stain. It can be tricky to fully remove a stain and it may be neccessary to sand the wood back if the removal process doesn’t fully work. Many shop bought wood stains contain a stain and sealer (type of varnish) as an ‘all in one’ product. The only way to remove these is by sanding the wood back.

Stainable Wood fillers are available but many ‘off the shelf’ fillers will not accept a stain. Fillers that have been specifically designed to be stainable can often be overcoated with wood oils and varnishes. Although these fillers will take a stain, the final colour may still differ from the surrounding wood so it’s important to do test areas and comparisons before starting the main project.

  • Always use the best quality products you can afford
  • Never leave hinges, handles, knobs or pulls on, since wood finishing products can change the colour of the metal
  • Don’t let unabsorbed stain sit on the wood for any length of time. It’ll only peel off and won’t give you a darker finish
  • Never apply a finish before the stain is completely dry. The solvents will damage the stain’s  finish

Wood staining video

Here’s a handy YouTube video about how to stain wood:

YouTube Preview Image

We provide Britain’s biggest choice of water, solvent and oil-based wood stains for tinting more or less any wooden, cork or stone surface you can think of – inside and out!

 Beautiful Wood

A guest post by

What Is PVA Glue?

March 4th, 2014

I don’t mind admitting it. I love glue. I have at least six different kinds in the cupboard at any one time, and PVA is a can’t-do-without staple. I’ve used it for all manner of creative, practical and DIY projects. It’s low cost, safe, easy to use and incredibly handy. But what is PVA’s secret? What lies behind this seemingly simple product that makes it such a useful piece of your wood finishes kit… what is PVA glue?

What is PVA?

What is PVA glue made from? Our first stop is Wikipedia. Here’s what it says about PVA:

“PVA is a rubbery synthetic polymer with the formula (C4H6O2)n. It belongs to the polyvinyl esters family with the general formula [RCOOCHCH2]. It is a type of thermoplastic. Polyvinyl acetate is a component of a widely used glue type, commonly referred to as wood glue, white glue, carpenter’s glue, school glue, Elmer’s glue (in the US), or PVA glue.”

PVA glue facts

Polyvinyl acetate, PVA’s main chemical component, was discovered by the German Fritz Klatte in 1912. The resulting glue doesn’t give off smells or dangerous fumes and is perfectly safe to handle with bare hands.

As well as ‘real’ wood you can use it on plywoods, chipboards and MDFs. It can be  used as a high performance sealer, primer, bonding agent and dust proofer.

PVA sets when there’s good air circulation, and dries fastest at room temperature. You get the strongest seal when you clamp the pieces being glued. It’s quick drying with a very high bond strength.

The yellow exterior version of PVA is often called Carpenter’s Glue… but it’s still PVA. In fact there  is a bewildering array of specialist PVAs but the formula is much the same.

PVA is flexible, permanent and only toxic if you eat it. It has a neutral PH.

PVA is water soluble. You can add water to thick glue yourself to create a thinner, less gloopy one. It’s best to add water to the glue (not the other way around) a small amount at a time and stir it well, to make sure you don’t over-dilute.

Here’s what Woodwork Basics says about PVA:

“This glue is now very popular and in many opinions it is the best timber adhesive available because it dries clear, it’s very easy to apply and has super strong holding strength on wood.

They can creep over time but a tight joint helps to prevent that. Because of its many great features Polyvinyl Acetate is excellent for bonding woodwork joints together or as a furniture and carpentry adhesive.

Polyvinyl Acetates are very versatile and are relatively fast drying but excess glue must be wiped away after applying or it is very difficult to remove when dry.

Polyvinyl Acetate glues are available in white and yellow and are relatively inexpensive compared to most glue, they also have a reasonably long shelf life.

The white one is better for interior use because moisture weakens it over time and the yellow is better for outdoor use because it is water resistant but it doesn’t dry completely clear.”

And here’s what the Woodworkers Institute says about PVA:

“Most woodworkers today use the white wood glue, PVA. This provides a strong, and as far as we know, durable joint. The only glues that have really been tested by time are the animal glues and natural resins and gums. These are likely to be affected by heat and damp, and the animal glues, being rich in protein, are an invitation to insects and moulds if there is moisture present. Although some PVA glues are advertised as suitable for outdoor use, it is best to use a formaldehyde resorcin.

One possible drawback with PVA is that if you are gluing oak (Quercus robur), it may react with the tannin in the wood and go black, even staining surrounding wood if the surplus is not wiped off immediately.”

Plus, here’s a Youtube video about applying PVA glue.

YouTube Preview Image

PVA glue uses

What is PVA glue used for? As an emulsion, soluble in water, it is particularly useful for glueing porous materials, particularly for wood, paper and cloth. It doesn’t contain solvents and acts as a useful consolidant for porous building materials like sandstone. PVA adhesive is flexible, delivers a very strong bond and, unlike many polymers, it is not acidic. PVA wood glue is most often used:

  • as a wood adhesive
  • as a paper, fabric and leather adhesive
  • in bookbinding
  • in arts and crafts,  for example mosaic
  • as envelope adhesive
  • as wallpaper glue
  • as a drywall primer
  • as a filler, by adding sawdust to it

A mixture of 50/50 PVA and water makes a very good sealant for plaster, preparing it for painting or wallpapering. It can also be used as a non-waterproof interior varnish, perfect for papier mache projects.

7 steps to using PVA to glue wood

PVA is a low cost, water based, non-toxic way to glue wood to itself. Wood glue is a particularly strong version of ordinary PVA, ideal for heavier jobs. It dries completely clear but you can also buy pre-coloured versions that are less visible on wood surfaces.

  1. Squeeze the glue onto the surface of both of the bits of wood you want to glue together
  2. Remove any excess or spills immediately using a damp cloth
  3. Use either a specialist plastic spreader or a brush to spread a thin coat of glue over the surface of both pieces of wood
  4. Push the pieces together, rubbing the surfaces from side to side to remove trapped air and make sure the glue spreads evenly
  5. Grab a G-clamp or two and clamp the pieces securely
  6. Leave it for 24 hours before taking the clamps off
  7. Sand off any dried excess glue

The disadvantages of PVA glue

  • Various fungi, algae, yeasts, lichens and bacteria can break down and degrade polyvinyl acetate
  • PVA shouldn’t be allowed to freeze because it breaks up the polymer, which makes the glue useless
  • You can’t varnish over PVA…but you can paint over it
  • It takes 24 hours for the bond to achieve full strength
  • It is not fully waterproof

How to remove PVA?

To get PVA off wood, sand it. If you get it on your clothes, a couple of warm washes should remove it.  If it gets on your carpet, scrub it with warm water then Vax it up.

The most impressive PVA story on the planet?

I used PVA to varnish a decorated ceramic bowl, which I embellished with coloured papers and fabrics. It has been out in the garden for eight years through some of the worst winters and hottest summers on record, and it is still going strong. The surface goes a little milky in wet weather as the glue absorbs water and turns back into something sticky, but that’s about it. So while it isn’t supposed to be frost or water proof, under some circumstances PVA seems to be more or less indestructible.

Do you have a thrilling PVA tale to tell? If so we’d love to hear it!

Want to buy extra strong PVA?

Here’s a link to our Morrells Probond PVA Adhesive page, which also contains all sorts of useful information about using the product.


How to Remove Paint from Wood

February 19th, 2014

We get a steady stream of customers asking us for advice about paint stripper use and how to remove varnish from wood. Here’s some practical information about stripping paint from wood, designed to help you choose the right product.

Stripping paint and varnish from an old door

Removing paint from wood

You might be the lucky owner of a lovely period home. Or have an old wood floor that you’re sure will come up beautifully with a bit of work. You may have found a fabulous piece of old furniture smothered with nasty, brown, shiny varnish that’s begging for some TLC, or you might suspect there’s something really special under all those layers of ancient paint on your doors. Whatever you want to do, you’ll need to get all that rubbish off the surface to reveal the stunning wood beneath. Thankfully contemporary stripping products are relatively simple, effective and safe to use. Much better than the bad old days when your only choice was pure caustic soda, nasty stuff!

What kinds of wood can you strip?

You can strip any kind of wood, even heavily-carved wood, as long as you use the right products and materials and follow the instructions meticulously, particularly if you want to strip something expensive, rare or precious.

  • Outdoor and indoor furniture
  • Exterior and interior doors and door frames
  • Stair rails and bannisters
  • Antique and vintage furniture
  • Window frames and sills
  • Floorboards
  • Parquet flooring
  • Built-in furniture
  • Skirting boards

How to remove paint from wood – 3 ways

There are three ways of removing paint from wood: sanding, a hot air gun and chemical paint strippers.

  1. Sanding is best kept for small projects unless you want to hire an industrial sander to remove paint and varnish from your floor. A quick word about sandpaper and wire wool, both of which can cause damage to wood unless you take it easy:  When you sand wood you take the surface off, and you need to do it as evenly as possible without rubbing it thin in places or creating gouges. Power tools help because their design forces you to apply even pressure. Whether you’re sanding by hand or with a machine, experts recommend you take it slow and easy until you get a feel for it. There’s plenty of good advice online about sanding wood to perfection, and some excellent guidance here on the Period Property website.
  2. An electric hot air gun removes paint in no time but can scorch the wood if you’re not careful. Scorching is less important, of course, when you’re planning to re-paint the wood. Bear in mind, also, that a hot air gun can only be used as a paint remover, not a varnish remover as varnishes tend to go very gooey, almost glue like, when heated.
  3. Chemical stripping is the best paint stripper for carved wood with hard-to-reach, intricate areas, but in reality you will probably use a combination mechanical and chemical methods for your project, especially if you have layer upon layer of old paint to take off. Chemical paint remover for wood delivers the best results, removes varnishes and paints faster than sanding and tends to be the least harsh. Care needs to be taken when using chemical strippers as these present their own care and safety issues. 

As Kirsty Allsop says on the Channel 4 Homes website:

“Chemical strippers, available from DIY stores, are good for intricately carved wood. You will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as these vary. Make sure you keep the area you’re working in well ventilated. Protect the floor with dust sheets or thick newspaper. To get a chemical stripper into nooks and crannies on intricate woodwork, use wire wool. Also, check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if you need to neutralise the stripped woodwork.”


Different types of chemical wood stripper

Solvent paint remover takes off all kinds of finishes, even contemporary ones. They are usually very gentle on the wood and won’t damage it, which is why they’re used in the antique trade. There’s no discolouring and solvents get the wood cleaner, deeper down into the grain. On the downside, you tend to use more of it so it can end up more expensive than a caustic stripper. Solvents can also cause burns, smell awful and must only be used in a very well-ventilated space. Last of all, you might have to work a bit harder to remove heavy paint build-ups than with a caustic paint stripper.

  • More expensive and messy to use
  • Not so good at removing heavy paint
  • No damage or staining
  • A clean, finer finish
  • Perfect is you want the natural look
  • The best product for stripping old, damaged items like beams

Caustic paint removers take off most finishes and are particularly good at getting rid of thick layers of paint and varnish. They give off fewer fumes than solvent-based paint strippers, are cheaper and tend to work faster. On the other hand caustic products usually contain a very strong alkaline which may react with chemicals in the wood resulting in staining or scorching of the wood. This is more common with dense woods such as mahogony and some types of oak, especially old oak. Caustic substances also cause burns if you get them on your skin.

  • Perfect for removing heavy paint build-ups
  • Great for complicated mouldings
  • Best reserved for stripping pine doors that will be repainted or stained
  • Works best of all on plaster, stone and metal (May not be suitable for aluminium)

Stripping Paint with Caustic Soda
What’s the best paint stripper for wood? You can always test drive a few different products to see which best suits the job and matches your capabilities. Just carry out testing in inconspicuous areas and keep your test areas small.

Does the paint you’re stripping contain lead?

Most paints manufactured before 1960 contain lead, so if you’re stripping something older than that it’s wise to check. You can pick up a lead testing kit at your local decorating centre or DIY store.

If you find lead the British Coatings Federation have produced a leaflet about how to deal with it, which you can read here: “Old Lead Painted Surfaces – A Guide on Repainting and Removal for DIY and Professional Painters and Decorators”.

How do chemical paint strippers work?

Chemical paint stripping and varnish stripping products partially dissolve the paint or varnish. You can buy paste and gel paint stripping products, handy because they’re so thick that they stick to vertical surfaces, perfect if the item you want to strip can’t be moved.

4 steps to stripping paint from wood

  1. Obviously every product is slightly different. But as a general rule your first step is to apply a thick layer of stripper with an old paintbrush you can throw away afterwards. Make sure you force the product into any carved, intricate areas. Don’t paint it on like emulsion, dollop it on generously then work it into the surface
  2. Step away! Different products work over different timescales. Leave it alone until the product has done its thing, according to the instructions
  3. Once the paint has softened, scrape it off with a metal scraper. You can use steel wool to get rid of stubborn areas of paint or varnish, and old toothbrushes and wire brushes are also useful
  4. If there’s still some paint left, reapply the stripper and go through the process again until it’s all gone.  Then, if the instructions tell you to, wash the piece to neutralise the chemicals

Paint removal from wood – safety recommendations

  • Wear old clothes
  • Chemical paint strippers give off fumes, some of which are toxic. If the instructions say you should only use it outdoors, obey them!
  • Whatever product you use it makes sense to wear gloves and a face mask
  • To avoid causing damage to the surrounding area, lay old newspaper, a tarp or drop sheet underneath the item you’re working on
  • Never leave the lid off – you don’t want fumes evaporating into your workspace

paint remover and varnish remover products

We highly recommend Panther Paint and Varnish Remover, one of the best wood strippers on the market for day to day paint and varnish removal on flat surfaces. It’s great for removing varnish from wood, and paint. It’s a remarkable product, highly effective and incredibly fast, removing as many as six layers in just five minutes. It’s a gel, sticking conveniently to vertical surfaces.  And it’s ideal for removing water, oil and solvent-based paints, varnishes and lacquers.

We also love Peelaway One and Peelaway Seven, both used to restore antiques and decorative items like carved fireplaces, coving and ceiling roses. They work by dissolving the paint and pulling it out of the nooks and crannies.
peelaway 1 paint remover

Peelaway 1 is better suited to paint aged 30 years and older, the old-style metal and lead based types.  Peelaway 7 works better on modern paints dating from the last 30 years or so. For some projects you might need to bring both into play, using Peelaway 7 on the newer layers and Peelaway 1 on the deeper layers. Like many paint remover products it’s caustic, so always try a test patch first.
peelaway 7 paint remover and varnish remover

Here’s a link to an old blog post in which we give the Peelaway paint remover a rigorous trial.

Beautiful, clean, stripped wood… revealed. What’s next?

You’ve stripped it. Now it’s time to choose your wood finish. We have a huge selection of amazing products designed to breathe new beauty into your wood, whether it’s a gorgeous old floor, a splendid piece of antique or vintage furniture, a pine door or rococo picture frame.

Here are some ideas to help you get creative with your good-as-new wood:

  • Polish it to a stunning mirror-like sheen with a deep-nourishing wax product
  • Colour it with a vast choice of superb wood stain shades
  • Oil it
  • Preserve it
  • Lacquer it
  • Dye it
  • Re-paint it
  • paint and distress it for a cool shabby chic look

Any questions? We’re always delighted to help. Just get in touch. Otherwise, we wish you the best of luck with your next wood stripping project.

How to Clean Decking

February 13th, 2014

Before and After Wood Reviver

Sun, rain, frost, humidity, snow, sleet… we get it all in Britain, and every year our weather breaks yet another record: the wettest, hottest, driest, coldest.

As you can imagine all these temperature changes and different extremes can really knock the stuffing out of your decking, adding to the effects of everyday wear and tear. On the bright side there are some brilliant products out there for cleaning decking and preserving it, all specially designed to keep your deck looking its best and in tip-top condition.

We’re not going to tell you how to do decking. That isn’t our job. But we can tell you how to do the best possible job of decking maintenance. Here’s how to look after yours in the most effective way, for long-lasting life and beauty.

How to clean wooden decking

When to clean wooden decking? It might seem obvious, but you need a spell of dry weather if you want to prepare your decking for a (hopefully!) glorious spring, summer and autumn of gardening pleasure, leisure and alfresco fun.

How to clean garden decking?

Wooden decking is a wonderful feature, as practical and long-lasting as it is good-looking, but it can look very tatty if you leave it untreated and unloved. Thankfully even the ravages of the British weather can be overcome as long as you have the right products to hand. Better still, it’s a reasonably simple job. But first, what kind of problems might you have with your garden decking?

Common hardwood decking problems

  • Blackened wood is common, caused by fungus growing on the surface of the wood. This usually happens when water gets in and reacts with the natural tannin in the wood. Different woods contain different amounts of tannin, so the problem varies in intensity.  You can remove black fungus with a special fungicidal wash.
  • Greying or silvering of the wood happens when it’s sun-damaged. Some people love the mellow effect but if you prefer your wood to retain its lovely colour, you can reverse the process using oxalic acid. There’s a brilliant product from Osmo called Wood Reviver gel, which contains the acid and can help to restore faded wood back to its natural colour.

Osmo Wood Reviver Gel

How long do decking finishes last?

It can be a challenge to keep your decking in good order. Give it just a year and you’ll notice the effects of heavy foot traffic, spills and the elements, and see the surface deteriorating as the finish gets worn off a little at a time. This is why it can be so difficult for manufacturers to confirm how long a wood finish will last – there are so many variables. Then there are variations across a deck, where more direct sun in one area fades the wood more than in a sheltered area.

You may find you need more frequent decking treatment at the bottom of your decking’s spindles, where the wood can become extra dry, black or grey as the water runs down, taking the finish with it. This is where oils come in. Just rub the area with steel wool and treat it with more oil. Because oils deliver a seamless repair, they’re often a much better bet under these circumstances than finishes that seal the surface with a coating, much like a varnish.

What’s the best way to clean decking? The single most effective way to keep your garden decking in good condition is to sweep it regularly, keeping it free of anything that makes it damp or brings dirt to the party such as a build up of leaves and moss. If things are not too bad, a regular go with a good decking cleaner should do the trick.

Is your garden decking pre-treated?

Before you do anything, you need to establish whether your decking has been pre-treated. Most modern decking is treated with a wood preservative to protect against wood disease and insect attacks, but very few if any come fully finished, protected with an oil or decking stain.

Pre-treated decking is sometimes called ‘tanalised timber’, and you might also come across the term ‘tanalith’, the industrial name for a wood preservative. How do you know if your decking been pre-treated? Look for a green or brown tinge and check whether the surface colour is darker than the rest.

While clear wood preservers don’t contain pigments or dyes, the ingredients in them always influence the colour of the wood. As a general rule, if it has been pre-treated it’s ready for ‘finishing’.

Does decking treatment always involve a wood preservative?

If your decking is bare wood, with nothing on it at all, we highly recommend you use a wood preservative to lengthen its useful life and protect it against the elements.

If your decking was originally finished but needs a makeover, it’s important to get the right product for the job. You need to know what finish was used in the first place and use the same thing again. Luckily there are only two types, oils and sealers. Unluckily manufacturers don’t always use the same terminology, which means this’ll be helpful…!

Decking maintenance – Oils versus sealers

  • About decking oils – Decking oils penetrate into the wood and become a part of it, with only a small amount remaining on the surface. The grain tends to show through beautifully and the wood retains its natural texture. An oil based decking product is advantageous because it’s easier to maintain and repair. Most people also prefer to see the natural wood grain rather than cover it up.
  • About decking sealers - Decking sealers bond to produce a film on the surface, a lot like a varnish or paint. Because sealers sit on the surface the grain is slightly obscured, more like a semi translucent paint. It also feels smooth, without much texture. A sealer is more problematic because at some point it will start to peel and flake. It’s just a case of when. This means you have to remove the flaky stuff before you can re-coat your deck with something similar, which you must. If you don’t deal with the flaking, it peels and flakes even more.

Removing existing finishes from wooden decking

Once you’ve determined which finish is currently on your wood decking, you’ll either need to  prepare the surface for re-finishing or remove it altogether. Which is right for your deck? It depends what colour you want and which finish you use.

  • Sanding is only practical when your garden decking is smooth, with no grooves. If you have grooved decking, like most people, sanding won’t remove the finish from the grooves.
  • Jet washing is a popular choice for removing flaky or peeling sealers. You can use a jet washer to clean decking finished with oils too, but you need to take care not to push the existing finish out of the wood and into surrounding plants, pond or soil.
  • If you want to re-treat your decking with a sealer, you need to remove oil-based finishes with white spirit.
  • If you want to re-treat a previously oiled decking with a fresh coat of oil, you don’t need to remove the lot first – just clean with a decking cleaner to remove any surface dirt, debris or other contaminates prior to re-oiling.
  • A varnish stripper is ideal for removing decking sealer completely so you can replace it with an oil-based product

As a general rule, if you like the look and colour of decking oil, cleaning decking is your first step… then just re-apply 2-3 coats of fresh oil… easy!

Is my decking hard wood or soft wood?

Knowing the type of wood you’re dealing with helps you identify the ideal finish. Some exotic woods like Ipe and Bangkarai (also called Bangkirai) are very oily and sealers don’t work at all well. But don’t worry if you don’t know the actual wood type. It’s usually enough to know whether it’s made of hard or soft wood.

Making your garden decking water-repellent

Ideally, you want to make your softwood or hardwood decking water repellent. The idea is to get as much oil into the wood as possible, since hard woods are normally dense and oily. This means there are other things to consider.

Is the hard wood new or, more to the point, has it been cut down within the last few months?  Most people will have no idea, but it’s important because the wood will be more oil rich when freshly cut than it will be 6, 12 or even 24 months later.

Some woods contain less oil than others and will allow 2 coats of oil, others remain oily for at least a year. Teak, for example, is widely used for external decks because of its high oil content, making it very weather resistant. It’s often best in this case to do nothing to untreated teak decking for the first year, then apply just one coat of decking oil a year later.

The best way of knowing whether a wood is ready for oiling or not is to drop small amounts of water on the surface.

  • If it beads up and sits on the surface, the wood is oily.
  • If the water sinks in and forms a blot or mark, the wood is ready for oiling.
  • If the water sits there for 30 minutes or so before it begins to sink in, it already contains a reasonable amount of oil and will welcome one more thin coat of oil.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the colour of the wood before finishing will greatly influence the eventual colour. For example using a Cedar Red decking stain will give you three distinct colours depending on whether you apply it to new untreated pine, new treated pine or old untreated pine.

When do you need to start decking care and maintenance?

While you can find out when the wood is ready for oiling via the water drop test, it’s often easier to tell what’s what by its appearance. If the wood looks, dry, patchy, black or grey then it’s asking to be oiled.

Demystifying decking product manufacturers’ terminology

The wood finishing industry is full of inconsistencies. The terminology can be very confusing. Most people don’t know that a lacquer and a varnish are the same thing, and many of us confuse pigments with dyes. Here’s some guidance to help you get it right.

Decking stains – Tradesmen will probably tell you a stain is purely a colouring product, usually a liquid. It doesn’t give a sheen or protect the wood. Because it simply colours it, you need to add a protective finish. However a decking stain is rarely just a colouring liquid, it’s normally a colour with protective qualities. So far, so confusing. But things get even more complicated…

Ronseal are one of the leading suppliers of decking finishes in the UK and even they have two decking products, both called a stain although they’re very different.  Their Ronseal Decking Stain falls into the sealer category, a paint-like material that doesn’t enhance the grain and will eventually peel and flake. But they also make an Advanced Decking Stain that’s oil based and far superior.  In our opinion neither of these products should really be called a decking stain. And it’s a contradiction that isn’t unique to Ronseal.

How to differentiate them? Ronseal Decking Stain is best described as a coloured decking treatment while Ronseal Advanced Decking Stain is best described as a coloured decking oil.

Decking Oil - If it’s called a decking oil, it’s probably exactly that. In our experience it’s always a good choice when the product is made by a reputable company like Barrettine.

Decking Treatment – Beware! This could be an oil or a surface coating, and you need to find out which first.

Decking Finish – This could also be anything, so proceed with caution.

Best garden decking maintenance – The application bit

How do you apply decking oils and treatments to protect and keep your wooden decking looking good for years to come? The application techniques we’re going to talk about are relevant to oil-type decking finishes. There’s no need to discuss the sealer-type ones because we really don’t recommend them.

Note: This advice applies to decking that is either new wood, preserved new wood or wood that only has oil on it.

Once your garden decking is clean, you can apply a clear or coloured decking oil. Oils are easy to apply with no special skill required. It’s just a case of making sure the oil is pushed into the wood, not left on the surface. You can do it with a brush on textured decks, or with a long handled microfibre roller on smooth decks. If the decking is grooved you can attach a floor brush head to a wooden handle and use it to force the oil into the grooves.

How many coats of decking oil should I apply?

Try and get as much oil into the wood as possible. Because the oil content gives the wood protection against water, UV rays and more, it’s best to do a thorough and comprehensive job. You should apply the oil thinly since a thick coat can’t penetrate easily and takes ages to dry. It’s better and faster to apply three thin coats than two thick ones. Remove any excess oil with a lint free cloth.

As we mentioned earlier, oily woods sometimes don’t need further oiling for a while. Yours might only take one thin coat of oil before it won’t absorb any more.

It’s tempting to apply as much as you can in the hope that the more you apply, the better. But all you do is leave oily deposits on the surface which take ages to dry, sometimes more than two days. In the worst cases the oil won’t evaporate or sink into the wood because there’s so much oil it forms a skin on the surface of the wood, which could peel off.

There’s no need to use a lot of elbow grease. Just move the oil around on the wood and apply a little bit of pressure until it has virtually all sunk into the grain. A well-applied coat of oil will comfortably dry in a day.

8 top tips for beautiful wood decking

Barrettine Decking Stain

  1. Never use ‘sealer-type’ decking finishes. Use a top quality oil like Barrettine Decking Stain, also known as The Complete Decking Treatment.  It contains resins and waxes, and we get excellent feedback about it.
  2. Always apply the oil thinly
  3. Get an idea of how much oil is still in your decking – do you really need to oil it yet?
  4. Clear coats of oil best enhance the grain structure for a lovely look
  5. The darker a finish, the more UV protection and the longer it takes to fade
  6. Sweep your decking regularly
  7. Put grooved decking face down – it’s much less slippery that way, and requires less oil because the surface area is smaller. Which means it’s easier to clean and finish. Apparently The UK is the only country where it’s the norm to expose the grooves – everyone else lays their garden decking smooth side up.
  8. Attend to any visible problems like greying, blackening and dryness quickly.

Colouring your decking

Black finishes on decking are becoming increasingly popular and provide a wonderfully dramatic contrast with the vivid green of plants and the bright colours of flowers. The easiest way to achieve this it is to use 2 coats of Ronseal black timber treatment, finished with 2 coats of clear decking oil. Alternatively, use a clear ‘Wood Preservative’ followed by 2 coats of Osmo black decking oil. Gorgeous.

Now you know how to clean decking. Yours has been properly prepared, treated and restored. Well done. Just add good company, food and drinks and… enjoy!

Handy wood decking maintenance links


A Supreme Wax Polish For Furniture and More

January 7th, 2013

Wood waxes have been used for centuries, but it was only in the 20th century that they started to be blended and refined into the modern wax polishes that we know and love today. Although there are 100s of waxes in production today it’s the UK waxes that have become world renowned, partly driven by the pine furniture boom of the 80’s and 90’s.

Established over a hundred years ago and based in Cardiff, Fiddes are one such pioneer of the modern day wood wax and are always at the forefront of wax blending and development, driven by the ever changing market and demand for better performing waxes and polishes.

Fiddes Supreme Wax Polish

Fiddes Supreme Wax Polish is one such wax that has benefited from their years of experience. It contains a unique, environmentally friendly blend of waxes that naturally enhance the beauty of any wooden surface. Available in clear as well as seven shades, Fiddes Supreme Wax will feed, protect and finish almost any wooden surface throughout your home.

  • Toluene free – a chemical compound in many waxes that has been proved to be harmful
  • Quick drying – 3 to 5 minutes at room temperature
  • Low odour – making it easy to work with in small or enclosed areas
  • Soft consistency – can be applied by cloth, sponge or brush
  • A non-sticky wax – offers excellent results on bare or sealed wood
  • Versatile – can be buffed to a high sheen, or left as a natural matt finish

It’s been known for centuries that natural waxes can help to protect and enhance the appearance and beauty of real wood – used throughout history by craftsman, furniture makers and joiners – we’ve all seen how freshly spilled water beads on the surface of a freshly waxed wooden surface or even on a freshly waxed car! That being said, although a fine quality wax provides an effective barrier, it’s not an impenetrable one. If water or other liquids such as coffee, wine or fruit juices are left on the surface, they will eventually penetrate through the micro-porous structure of the wax to the wood and will potentially discolour or stain the surface of the wood – we recommend you wipe off any spillages as soon as you can.

An added benefit of waxed surfaces is that they are easy to repair and maintain. If your waxed floor or favorite peice of furniture does happen to pick up a minor scuff or scratch, it can often be repaired, buffed and polished to its original finish with no sign that it was ever damaged. A fresh application of wax from time to time as part of a maintenance program will help to keep wooden surfaces looking fresh and like new year after year.

The next time you come to wax the wood in your home, take a moment to think about the product in the tin that you’re about to use. It’s not simply a single wax that has been extracted from a plant or animal but rather centuries of development and testing with various waxes and compounds to produce the world leading products that we have today.