Is Your Wood Ready for the Ravages of Winter?

August 29th, 2014

Autumn seems to have come early this year in Britain, with much of August windy, wet and gloomy. Is your wood ready for winter? We thought now was a good time to look at why you should protect and preserve your wood from the coming season’s ravages… including cracks, blistering, peeling, rotting, flaking and warping.

UK Autumn Weather

UK Autumn Weather

Exterior Wood Preservative - Why bother?

You might think summer is a good time for exterior wood. But after a long, hot season of bright sunshine and powerful UV rays, occasional high humidity, heavy showers and summer thunder storms, wood left in the outdoors has already taken a hammering. Which means it really needs some TLC before winter sets in and makes things even worse.

What is wood’s worst enemy? It’s water. Water causes wood to swell, damages buildings and furniture and even shortens their useful lives. Which means letting it all go to hell in a handbasket can be an expensive business.

Water damage to exterior wood door

Water Damaged Wooden Exterior Door – from

Mould is another big nasty, and it can take hold of wood remarkably fast. All it takes is a light frost and any areas exposed by mould will soon be in big trouble.

How can you mitigate the effects of all this potentially disastrous British weather? Waterproofing is the bunny. As you’d expect we stock all manner of proven products to protect exterior wood throughout the dark winter months, including clever waterproof coatings that inhibit fungus and mould while letting the wood breathe.

What’s the weather forecast for winter 2014/15?

Last winter the UK didn’t get much snow. In some places in the south east the temperatures stayed above freezing for the entire season, although it was the stormiest winter for a couple of decades. The year before, 2012/13, was one of the coldest winters for decades. So there’s no place for wood treatment complacency.

While it’s still impossible to predict what the winter will be like with any real accuracy, or to any level of detail, the weather boffins can make educated guesses. So what’s it going to be like this winter?

According to the UK weather forecast website, which is sensibly vague:

“We have a devolving El Nino, which won’t guarantee a cold winter, but our winters during an El Niño tend to be drier than average. The last El Nino winter we experienced was 2009/10, which turned out to be a very cold winter, so the chances are that a repeat of 2013/14 will be very unlikely. There are some signals that this winter will possibly have some colder periods, however this is not a given with this time frame.”

In other words, nobody really knows! Which means there’s no getting away from it… ideally, you need to get busy with the preparation in readiness for wood preservatives before the clocks go back. How come? The later you leave it, the colder and wetter it’ll be and the longer it’ll take for the wood to dry so you can add a good wood preserving product.

What’s the best way to prepare exterior wood for wood preserver?

There’s no getting away from it. Preparation is everything. Wood treatment and wood preservative products will only penetrate into the surface of the wood if the wood is both clean and dry.

Almost all exterior wood will respond beautifully to a simple, thorough clean with warm, soapy water and a soft brush or cloth, and you can’t go far wrong with a little squirt of washing up liquid. Just make sure you thoroughly rinse the surface and let it dry completely before applying your chosen wood treatment.

What does mildew look like?

Mildew often looks like little black specks on the surface of the wood. But then again, so does dirt and soot. How can you tell if it’s mildew? Apply a tiny amount of household bleach with a cloth. If the spots lighten quickly, it’s mildew. If they stay dark, it’s something else.

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What about dry rot?

If, like last winter, it pees down for what feels like months on end, you might find you’re the unhappy owner of a home riddled with dry rot, which is actually far from dry. It loves moisture and totally destroys wood.

The experts recommend you do an annual inspection, checking for leaks, cracks, gaps and unpainted areas on the outside of your home. Find the places where water gets in, caulk or seal them, paint them with preserver or wood paint and you could save yourself an absolute fortune in the long run.

Black Mould on Exterior Wood

Black Mould on Exterior Wood – from

How can you tell your exterior wood is wet?

Easy: it will look and feel wet.

What about vertical wood surfaces?

Horizontal and vertical wood surfaces both suffer in winter. But as a rule, horizontal surfaces need more maintenance than vertical, especially high traffic areas like garden decks.

What about old wood stain?

When an old layer of wood stain starts to break down, the fibres of the wood surface can become loose. You can take the fibres off the surface by lightly sanding, leaving it all fresh and lovely, ready for a new coat of stain or whatever.

Which wood preserving product to choose?

There’s such a wide choice, everything from tough exterior wood paint in a huge variety of colours to specialist wood stain, decking paint, shed and fence paint. It depends on the type of wood, its purpose and your taste. You might pick an outdoor wood paint in a jewel-like colour to give your outdoor space a beautiful boost when it’s all dim and dark outside. Or go natural and use a product designed to enhance the material’s considerable natural beauty.

If you want expert advice from someone who knows our products inside out we’re always happy to help, and because you can reach us on a Freephone number it’ll cost nothing except your time.

7 more handy wood-related tips to make your home ready for winter

  1. Check wood window frames for rot or decay, and repair it to maintain the windows’ structural integrity
  2. Check for draughts around exterior doors – and caulk it inside and out if you find a gap
  3. If your home is under trees, can you get them trimmed to ensure water drips off them onto the ground instead of deluging your house?
  4. Clean and dry wooden patio furniture and either store and cover it or use a wood preserver so it’s in good nick for next summer. As a rule it’s best not to leave garden furniture outdoors over the winter unless you absolutely have to
  5. Inspect your decking. Check for splinters, decay, warping, insect damage and dirt that collects between the planks. The more dirty your deck, the worse it’ll suffer in the winter and the higher the risk of funguses and moulds
  6. If you have exterior stairs or steps, check any wooden handrails to make sure they’re secure and in good shape. If your steps are wooden, check them carefully too
  7. A sensible guide: if it’s made of wood and it’s outdoors, it will need looking after
Broken down wooden shed

Shed of the Year? – from

Specific guidance about decking, sheds and other exterior wood preservation projects

We’ve already written in detail about how to tackle a whole suite of wood-related projects. If you need specific guidance for decking maintenance, sanding wood or wooden floor maintenance, for example, there’s a specialist post waiting for you in our blog. Why not explore it?

If you have any questions you can always call our experts on Freephone 0800 7818 123.

What are Wood Oils and Where are They Best Used?

August 28th, 2014

There’s a lot of confusion about how, when and where to use wood oils. It’s no surprise really, when there are so many to choose from: teak oil, tung oil finish, Danish oil, oak furniture oil and many more, some of which are specifically designed for certain types of wood. Oil for oak furniture, for example.

We thought it’d be helpful to take a look at wood oils and how to use them, and answer some of the most common questions on the subject.

First, what is wood oil?

Oil is one of the most popular ways to finish wood. The protection delivered by oils isn’t quite as robust and effective as contemporary wood finishing products like varnishes. But on the plus side, oils tend to bring out the character of the wood better, they’re made of natural products, plus they’re very easy to apply and maintain.

Osmo Polyx Oil

Osmo Polyx Oil

Types of wood oil – And how to use them

Danish oil and teak oil dry faster than linseed oil, which is traditionally used on willow cricket bats. The finish they provide is also much more resilient.

If your wood already has linseed oil on it, it’s best to carry on using it. But if it’s a new project, something that hasn’t been oiled before, steer clear of linseed oil. While teak oil delivers a slight sheen, Danish oil leaves a more lustrous finish. As you can imagine, Ronseal teak oil is a firm favourite with our customers.

  • Apply Danish and teak oil with a soft brush or cloth, being careful not to use too much at a time or it won’t sink in. Sand the wood in between coats with a fine sandpaper. You will probably find 3 or 4 coats of oil is your optimum, delivering the best results

Standard linseed oil takes ages to dry, at two or least three days per coat, and you need multiple coats when applying it to new wood, normally three to five coats but in some cases, as many as fifteen to twenty coats can be applied. Boiled linseed oil, on the other hand, ‘only’ takes a day to dry.  But neither are suitable for outdoor wood.

Rustins Danish Oil

Rustins Danish Oil

  • Apply the oil with a cloth and rub it in well. Leave a day between coats and once you’re happy with the finish, buff it to a lovely sheen with a soft cloth

Mineral oil is actually a very effective laxative, which you should be able to buy at your local chemist. While it doesn’t give you the same sheen as the other oils we’ve talked about, it’s perfect for things like kitchen chopping boards where you  need a non-toxic finish.

Tung oil is thought by many to be the finest natural finish for wood, with its legendary performance and stunning end results. As the Tung Oil website says:

“In over 100 years of development of synthetic resins and varnishes no one has developed a coating that surpasses the overall performance of natural tung oil.

Tung Oil is a drying oil obtained by pressing the seed from the nut of the tung tree (Vernicia fordii). As a drying oil, tung oil dries upon exposure to air. The resulting coating is transparent, waterproof, and flexible, a property exploited in most of its applications, which include wood finishing and the composition of traditional oil paints caulks, mortar and india ink. Tung oil is used on wooden toys as it is naturally non-toxic when dry and is not affected by mould like linseed oil. Tung oil is able to move and flex as wooden surfaces expand and contract with age and changing temperature.

The Chinese have utilised the properties of tung oil for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, for caulking and painting of their boats, treating leather, and waterproofing paper and cloth.”

The tung tree originated in central and southern China, concentrated around the Yangtse River. and appear in the writings of Confucius from about 400 B.C.

You need to apply tung oil using a special method called wet-on-wet burnishing, more complex and involved than many other oil application methods. Most amateurs find this process difficult. While you apply tung oil just like linseed oil, you need to sand the surface after each application of oil and it usually takes at least 3-5 coats plus 2-3 days drying time in between each coat. If you’d like to attempt it, here’s an excellent video.

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What is the difference between a wood oil and a varnish?

Oil is a natural product. Oils cure slowly and penetrate into the surface of the wood. Multiple coatings can be applied until the wood is unable to absorb any more. Additional coats can be applied if desired to create a surface build or coating of oil. Varnish is a synthetic product made by cooking a natural oil like linseed oil, tung oil or even soya oil with a resin like polyurethane. It’s used to build up layers on the surface of the wood to create a plastic like coating that gives a hard wearing, protective finish or seal to floors and other wooden surfaces.

Can I varnish over wood oil?

In short, the answer is ‘No’. Because most modern varnishes are water based, they are generally not compatible with oiled surfaces. The easy way to think of this is having water and oil in a frying pan, try to mix them and they separate. If a water based varnish is applied on top of an oiled surface, it’s highly likely that it will not bond with the wood and will therefore peel off very quickly. Some types of varnish can be applied over an oiled surface but the process is difficult and needs specific primers and varnishes to achieve this.

The easiest approach to varnishing a previously oiled floor is to use a floor sander to remove the surface of the wood including the wood oil. Wood oils never penetrate more than a couple of microns into the surface of the timber so it won’t require too much sanding to get back to clean, bare wood.

What is the best oil for oak furniture?

  • Oiling oak worktops provides the best finish. It adds more depth and character than varnishes and lacquers, is easy to work with, and provides a water resistant finish.
  • For other interior oak, an oak furniture oil like Danish oil is a popular choice for preventing stains and cracking and providing a beautiful, lustrous finish.
  • Danish oil makes an excellent wood floor oil, but modern proprietary products are sometimes easier to work with. If you’d like advice from the experts, feel free to call us.
  • A common question is ‘What is the best outdoor furniture oil?’ Use a high quality teak oil or other specialist garden furniture oil to protect wooden garden furniture.

Can I use olive oil on wood furniture?

Yes, you can. Use a cloth to work the oil into the wood grain, rubbing back and forth. When the wood has absorbed the oil, leave it for ten minutes then wipe the excess off with a clean cloth. Untreated wood tends to take 2-3 coats, but if you’re unsure just stop when the wood stops absorbing the oil.

What is the difference between decking oil, decking preservative, decking paint and decking stain?

  • Decking oil penetrates into the surface of the wood, protecting it from cracking splitting and warping, it also helps to repel rain and moisture – Available in clear and coloured.
  • Decking stains are usually a coloured varnish like coating that sit on top of the wood to provide colour and protection.
  • Decking preservative is usually a spirit based preserver that penetrates into the wood to protect against mould, algae, dry rot and insect attack, depending on the product you’re using. Many spirit based wood preservatives are available in a range of colours that can be overcoated with a clear decking oil.
  • Decking paint sits on the surface of the wood and helps keep moisture out. Decking paints are very similar to decking stains in that the paint produces a surface coating that sits on top of the decking timber.

Is there a substitute for linseed oil on a cricket bat?

Yes, but most cricket experts believe you can’t beat raw linseed oil. For a new bat with no finish, apply at least two coats of raw linseed oil to the front, back, edges and toe, using a soft rag. The face and edges of the bat should be rubbed down with fine sandpaper every 3-4 weeks during the cricket season and a light coat of linseed oil re-applied. When it has sunk in, wipe off the excess then buff your bat to a sheen using a clean cloth.

How do I refinish olive wood bowls?

If you’re using the bowls to store or present food, never use a vegetable oil. All you’ll get is a horrible smelly, sticky finish. Use a colourless, odour-free, light mineral oil instead, a safe and popular by-product of petroleum.

Olive Wood Fruit Bowl

Olive Wood Fruit Bowl

Tips for using wood oils safely and effectively

  1. If you want to stain the wood before you oil it, use a water based stain. If you use an oil based stain it’ll block the pores in the wood and prevent the oil from doing its job properly.
  2. Never, ever leave an oily cloth rolled up. It can easily generate heat and catch fire. Dry it flat outdoors before storing it or chucking it in the bin.

Any questions about wood oils?

We’ll be more than happy to answer them. Just get in touch. There’s a Freephone number available as well as a regular number and a call-back form.

Wood Floor Maintenance Guide – Part 2

August 13th, 2014

In Part 1 of our Wood Floor Sanding and maintenance guide we talk about floor preperation and sanding techniques to achieve the perfect blank canvas for your floor finish, be it varnished or oiled. In part two, we’re looking at the maintenance side of things, the stuff you need to do once you’ve sanded, sealed and finished your beautiful wood floor.

Wooden floor maintenance – Preventative measures

Whether you’ve finished your floor with a lacquer or an oil, you’ll need to carry out regular preventative maintenance to keep it looking great and ensure it remains in the best possible condition.

Hickory Hardwood Floor

Hickory Hardwood Floor –

It’s surprising how dramatic an effect small dust and grit particles can have on the way your floor looks, and its overall long term condition. Even tiny particles can seriously shorten the useful life of the floor, simply by the wet and dry abrasion they cause when they’re brought indoors and tracked around the house by people’s feet. The particles act like miniature sandpaper, dulling and scratching the finish.

In wet weather foot traffic also brings water in, which seeps into the damaged grain to cause even more havoc. All of which means your first stop for wood floor maintenance is a simple one: to keep it clean, sweeping up dust and grit regularly to prevent the ‘sandpaper effect’ causing too much damage.

How can you stop dust and grit in their tracks and mitigate the risk? It’s common sense. Simply put down a good quality doormat or some other kind of mat at every door, so the particles stop there instead of being tracked indoors on people’s shoes. Keep the matting clean too, for a belt-and-braces approach that’ll give your wood floor an even longer and more attractive life.

How to maintain lacquered floors

What about maintenance for lacquered floors? Your first step is to clean the floor, removing all the abrasive dust and grit using a hoover, a soft bristle broom or dustpan & brush.

Next, use a wood floor cleaning product from our wood floor cleaner range, applied with a mop or foam pad as per the instructions. Manns Floor Surface Cleaner is a great product, easy to use, simply diluted with water.

Because lacquered floors eventually end up mucky, often stained by shoe marks, you’ll benefit from using Manns Floor Surface Cleaner to give the floor an initial clean then follow up with Bona Freshen Up, a floor revival system that helps to revive lacquered floors. Bona Freshen Up can be used every 6 months or so to help restore areas that are perhaps looking a little dull and to prolong the overall life of the floor varnish.

How to maintain oiled wood floors

Oiled floors give you a gorgeous, natural, open-grain appearance but the finish can suffer through high foot traffic, making it more sensitive to moisture and more prone to lasting damage. Luckily oiled floors are really easy to maintain.

Again, your first step is to clean off all the grit and dust to leave a spotless surface to work with. Then use a damp mop impregnated with Manns Floor surface Cleaner to clean the wood to perfection, followed by an application of Osmo Liquid Wax Cleaner which will help to revive and protect tired looking areas.

It also helps to give the floor a regular dry buffing, either by hand or with either a rotary buffer, with a white scotch bright pad attached, for a lovely, super-smooth finish.

Interior floor sanding troubleshooting

Scratch Marks 

You might not notice scratches until you apply your wood stain, oil or lacquer.  They’re most often caused by:

  • Switching from a coarse grit to a fine grit too soon, without working through the various grades in sequence, or missing some grades out. Patience is a virtue! You’ll ordinarily need to use a 36 – 40 grit to remove the old finish, dirt and marks, then 50 – 80 grit to take away the marks the coarse paper has made, then a final sand using 100 – 120 grit for a lovely, smooth look and feel.
  • Loose bits of grit caught between the sander and the floor, usually because you haven’t vacuumed thoroughly enough between each change of sandpaper.
  • Coarse grit stuck in cracks between the boards, which are flicked back onto the floor’s surface by the sanding machine’s vibrations. Again, a thorough vacuum should remove them.
Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

Chatter Marks

Chatter marks also only become visible when you apply a finish. They are most often caused by:

  • The seam on the abrasive belt of the sander overlapping so it abrades more on the overlap.
  • The sandpaper not being fitted properly to the machine’s drum, or not being fitted tightly enough so there’s movement.
  • The machine’s drum itself not being properly balanced so it shudders and vibrates, leaving an uneven finish.
  • The floor itself flexing as the sanding machine moves across it.

Darker and paler edges around the floor 

Sometimes you get a strange halo effect where the edges of the floor are either darker or lighter than the centre,  often only obvious when you add your finish. This tends to happen when:

  • There’s a difference between the grit coarseness used on the edges and corners and the grit you use in the centre and main areas of the floor. Because coarser grits create a rougher surface more of the finishing product penetrates, giving you a darker colour.
  • Lacquers and oils which don’t stick properly to the surface because it has been waxed, oiled or polished in the past. In this case you’ll have to ensure that you have fully sanded right back to the bare wood or your floor will never looks its best. You could also use Manns Wax and Polish remover to help remove any traces of old waxes or polishes if you didn’t want to over-sand some areas more than others. A test that can be done to see if all of the wax and polish has been removed is to dampen the wood with a damp (not wet) cloth or sponge. If the wood absorbs the moisture, the boards are wax and polish free, if the water beads on the surface or there are patches that don’t look uniformly damp with the rest of the wood, there may still be some wax, oil or polish in the wood that needs to be removed. Be sure to allow dampened wood to fully dry before attempting to sand again or apply a floor finish.

Most pre-finished floors can be finished with a lacquer, but now and again a floor simply won’t accept it, no matter how well you prepare. Rather than waste time and money why not do a test patch first on an off cut that you may have or try somewhere inconspicuous? When everything is 100% dry, see if you can rub the finish off with a gentle rub using the side of a coin. If so, you’ll need to think again.

The finish is poor and doesn’t perform very well

What if the finish just isn’t good enough? Or it looks fantastic but performs poorly, looking tatty again in no time? This is often because of:

  • The quality of the finish itself – always choose the best quality products you can afford.
  • The quality of its application – poor workmanship always delivers sub-standard results.
  • The quantity – Lacquers / Varnishes - If you don’t use enough of the product, less than recommended or fewer layers than recommended, it will be less durable. Most Lacquer or varnish systems usually require one coat of primer plus two coats of varnish or three straight coats of varnish if a primer isn’t used as a minimum requirement. A primer isn’t a necessity but can save some money if doing areas of 50 square meters or more. In the case of flooring oils which work by penetrating and hardening in the surface of the wood, if you apply more than the recommended amount (usually two coats), the finish will actually be softer and mark more easily as there will be a thicker coating on the surface of the wood, not what the product is designed to do.
  • The wrong product for the job – There are loads of wood floor finishing products to choose from, each with a specific use. Make sure you buy the right product for the job.
  • Sub-standard preparation – As with so many DIY projects, preparation is the most important element. Take the time and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning finish.
  • Storage – if you stash your floor finishing materials in the wrong conditions, or apply them in bad conditions, they may not perform as they’re supposed to. Temperature extremes of hot and cold can affect products so storing them in the shed is not the best option.
  • Poor maintenance – Floors, by their very nature, get a lot of wear. When you look after them properly and carry out regular maintenance, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful finish.
Hardwood Kitchen Flooring

Hardwood Kitchen Flooring –

Wooden floor perfection can be yours!

When you prepare your wooden floors to perfection, choose the right finishing product for the project and do everything by the book, you will create a lovely finish that directly reflects your care and dedication. Get it right and your floor will last for years and years, looking as good as new.

What if you want to retain that lovely patina?

A patina adds value to antiques… and it can also add value to your home. If you live in an old house with worn wood flooring, you might want to hang onto that lovely historical patina. Which means cleaning it and making the best of its looks without ruining the character.

Because grinding off the old finish might be a bit too aggressive, ‘passive’ restoration is the perfect solution. This is what one floor finishing expert says about retaining a floor’s historic patina:

“The first step is to clean the wood floor well to see what you really have. A damp (not wet) mopping with a dedicated wood floor cleaner such as Fiddes Floor Surface Cleaner mixed in with some warm water will clean-up most of the dirt and grime. After doing this you may discover the old finish is in great shape. If the finish is in poor condition, go to the next step. Rent a floor buffer with several 100 grit sanding screens. You will also need some non-flammable wood stripper, some rags and a wet/dry shop vacuum (you must use non-flammable stripper so the sparks in the buffer motor don’t blow you up!).

Any questions about maintaining your floor?

Our experts know everything there is to know about wood finishing products. And if they don’t know they’ll find out for you. Just ask – we’re available on the phone 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and we’re always happy to help.

The History of English Oak – A Very British Wood

August 13th, 2014

The ancient oak forests of old England hold a special place in our hearts. Some would even go as far as to say that  say that England was built on oak. The Christmas Yule Log was originally an oak log decorated with mistletoe and holly. Our ancestors carried acorns for good luck, and to ward off illness. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts and Druids all thought the tree was magical. Roman soldiers even wore oak leaf crowns when celebrating victory.

English Oak Tree

English Oak Tree from

Bearing in mind the star-studded place the not-so-humble English oak tree has played in the nation’s development and ultimate success, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at the history of the tree and explore what it has done for us over the countless centuries we’ve been exploiting it. From prestigious oak wood buildings to beautiful, ancient oak furniture, it’s an impressive story.

A short history of English oak

A member of the beech family, the English Oak tree’s formal name is Pedunculate oak, AKA Quercus. It’s our national tree thanks to its extraordinary height, venerable age and legendary strength, all of which have given it the reputation of being king of the forest. But oak trees have been here for much longer than humans, with remnants of the trees dating way back to the interglacial period about 300,000 years ago. It is still the commonest tree in our shrinking woodlands.

About the oak tree itself

Oak is most common in the South and East of England, with its wide, irregular, rounded crown and grey fissured bark. Because the branches often develop low down on the trunk, oak trees have been adored by tree-climbing children down the generations. And the shape of the leaves is so familiar it’s more or less imprinted on our national psyche.

When an oak grows on open land it spreads out. When it’s surrounded by forest it stays slim and slender, and grows taller. It has very deep roots so tolerates drought very well and dislikes shallow soil. Give it a moist, mineral rich soil with a pH value of 4.9 to 5.4 and it’ll be at its happiest, growing as tall as 45m. Oak trees don’t even mind being waterlogged, even for long periods, so they’re remarkably resilient, even to salty water

Find the tallest oak tree you can. It’s likely it’ll be less than 300 years old, since older oaks were traditionally pollarded to provide firewood and timber for building. The biggest ever recorded English oak tree, the Newlands oak, reached a breathtaking size, with a trunk measuring 45 feet around when it fell down. Today’s biggest oak tree lives in Sherwood Forest, with a girth of 33 feet, weighing 23 tons and an estimated 800 to 1000 years old. Wow.

English Oak Leaves

English Oak Leaves from

Oak wood is remarkably sturdy and lasts for ages. You can still pick up 14th century and earlier oak furniture… at a price! It’s perfect for making the frames of buildings. It’s used to make barrels for wine and spirits and to make charcoal. It is used to smoke cheeses and hams, with its distinctive flavour, and the bark is used in the leather tanning process. It is indeed a tree for all seasons and all reasons.

In the 1700s oak trees were in high demand by ship builders, and were grown especially for the purpose. In fact every ship commissioned by Drake and Nelson used up the wood from around 2,500 trees. Luckily they grow especially fast for the first 80-120 years of life, which means shipbuilders didn’t need to wait hundreds of years for it to be big enough.

The tree doesn’t produce acorns until it’s between 25-40 years old, and produces the most seeds in middle age when it’s between 80 and 120. It starts to decline into old age from 250-350  years, slowing down growth and eventually losing branches.

The First World War resulted in an acute shortage of the wood, and in 1919 the Forestry Commission was set up to protect existing woods and create new ones, returning our heritage to its former splendour. They have planted countless new forests since then, as well as helping landowners replenish their stock.

Today oak is still one of the most popular hardwoods in Britain, used on an everyday basis for interior joinery and furniture.

Carved English Oak Door

Carved English Oak Door

20 cool facts about oak wood

  1. In olden times oak leaves, bark and acorns were used to treat ailments like diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.
  2. The Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire has the biggest girth of any English oak. It’s hollow, there’s enough room for 20 people inside and it’s around 1000 years old.
  3. The River Severn’s ancient oak breakwaters, still used today, were originally set by the Romans.
  4. Woodpeckers bury acorns, storing them for winter. They’re also eaten by jays and squirrels, and are a rich food source for British wildlife.
  5. Oak’s Latin name, Quercus robur, means ‘strength’.
  6. King Charles the Second famously hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House.
  7. The oak’s open canopy means forest-floor flowers like bluebells can thrive beneath.
  8. An oak tree can shorten itself in response to the ageing process in an effort to live longer.
  9. Oaks support more wildlife forms than any other native tree, including more than 280 kinds of insect.
  10. The oak has been a national symbol of strength and survival for centuries.
  11. In prehistoric times humans used to make flour from acorns.
  12. Bats love to roost in old woodpecker holes in oak trees.
  13. Often the tallest things in a landscape, oaks are frequently hit by lightning.
  14. The oak was sacred to the Greek god Zeus, the Roman god Jupiter and the Celtic god Dagda.
  15. Loving couples were married under ancient oak trees during Oliver Cromwell’s time.
  16. There’s an oak on the 1987 pound coin.
  17. Britain’s oak trees are threatened by several pests and pathogens including the oak processionary moth, a foreign pest. The moth’s hairs are poisonous and if you breathe them in, you might suffer from itching and respiratory problems.
  18. Mistletoe lives on oak branches.
  19. Acute oak decline (AOD) and chronic oak decline (COD) are two more serious threats to Britain’s oak trees.
  20. For more information about our wonderful national tree, explore the excellent BBC Nature web pages.

The Fine Art of Sanding – Wood Floor Sanding Guide Part 1

August 4th, 2014

You’re the proud owner of a beautiful wooden floor, whether it’s a gorgeous old parquet masterpiece or something contemporary, perhaps in glorious solid oak.

The great thing about wood floors is you can sand them down when they get scuffed, stained and grubby, bringing the beauty of the grain and the depth of colour back to life so it looks brand new.

If that sounds appealing, it’s time to get sanding. Here’s our simple guide about how to sand a wooden floor, finish and maintain it. But first, a quick word about letting it lie. If you prefer, you can always leave your wood floor to slowly build up a gorgeous, battered patina. While sanding and re-finishing delivers a sleek, beautiful, new-looking appearance, there’s no reason why you can’t leave your floor to do its own thing and wear naturally. It’s a style thing.

Beautiful Wooden Floor

Beautifully finished wooden flooring from

Why sand and renovate your floor?

Newly laid floors are sanded to make them 100% level and old floors are sanded to get rid of old, tatty wood finishes and level out worn areas. If you want to apply a finish to your floor it will always have to be sanded and prepared first.

Wood floor sanding, finishing and maintenance

You’ve decided you want to renovate your old wooden floor. Or give your newly-laid floor a beautiful, durable finish. In our two-part guide we’ll reveal how to tackle the sanding, preparation and application of lacquers and oils, as well as aftercare and maintenance.

Step one - Sanding and preparation

Before you start sanding back to the bare timber, you need to remove or countersink any screw or nail heads that protrude. The sanding itself takes several stages, depending on the floor’s overall condition, and there are a few important things to take into consideration:

  1. Is the floor solid or engineered? If your floor has already been sanded in the past, can it take any more? You might need to remove a section of the door threshold or skirting board to find out.
  2. For drum or belt sanding, you need to decide which grit grade you need. This also depends on the condition of the floor as a whole. If it’s badly worn and uneven, you’ll probably have to start with a rough sandpaper followed by successively less rough papers. You can get sandpaper in grades 16, 24, 36, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100, 120 and 150, with 16 the most aggressive and 150 the finest.

Most sanding jobs start with around 36 or 40 grit sandpaper, working up to around 120 grit for the final sand. If you or your contractor aren’t using a dust free sanding machine, remember to remove all the dust with a vacuum cleaner between every sandpaper grade change. If possible, save some of the fine sanding dust for later, you’ll need the finest stuff later on, if your floor needs filling.

Start in the middle of the room and work your way to the edges. Guide the sanding machine carefully around the floor at a middle-range speed, keeping the speed constant and remembering not to leave the machine on one part of the floor for too long, which can lead to difficult-to-even-out gouges.

What about the grain? It’s always best to sand with the grain rather than against it, which can leave you with a slightly furry finish because you’re disturbing the grain instead of going with the flow. If it isn’t possible to follow the grain because of the way the pattern is laid, there’s a way to overcome it:

  • For complex herringbone pattern floors, sand in the same direction as the light source.
  • For Parquet flooring, sand at a 45 degree angle to the pattern.

Once the central area of the floor has been sanded, it’s time to tackle the edges. This is where edge sanding comes in, removing old finish from the room’s perimeter where the belt or drum sanding machine won’t reach. Kick off with a 36 or 40 grit paper then work your way up to the finest.

It’s best to work in gentle, slow circular movements, working your way steadily through the grits from heavy to light. If you miss out grit levels you could end up with a strange-looking halo effect, which shows up even more when you apply the wood finish.

Merv, our resident sanding expert says “When sanding herringbone or Parquet flooring, it’s always important to sand in the direction of one set of the blocks, usually 45 degrees to the room. Be sure to apply the lacquer in the same direction, this will help prevent demarcation lines (sanding marks) in the final finish.”

Sanding Direction Herringbone

Sanding Direction

Step 2  – Mixing and filling

You should have plenty of fine sanding dust left over from your efforts, created by the 80-100 grit sandpaper. It’s exactly the right colour to match the floor so mix it with a clear wood filler gel such as Bona mix and fill or Fiddes Wood Filler Gel and use it to fill any small holes or gaps between the planks or parquet tiles, anything up to 6mm. If you have bigger gaps, fill them with a one or two pack wood filler instead.

Step 3 – Buffing to a high sheen

You need to carry out a series of final sands to smooth your repairs and make the surface finish-friendly. Use a circular motion and bring 100 grit into play, followed by finer 120 or 150 grit grades. Remove all the dust in between every stage, otherwise residue from the rougher papers can catch under the sander and leave nasty scratches.

Parquet floor sanding

Parquet floor sanding from

Step 4 – Applying wood finishes to floors


  • Products like Manns standard light-fast stains are great for delivering beautiful wood grain definition and an excellent overall colour. Because they’re spirit based and dry pretty fast, it’s best to only apply them to a small area at a time to avoid patches. Take it easy and you should be fine.
  • Apply your stain with a brush, rag or special mohair pad. Get rid of any excess with a clean, dry cloth to help the final lacquer finish stick properly.
  • Never use an exterior wood stain designed for decking, fencing or garden furniture, since they contain water repellents which also repel water based floor lacquers.


  • Always choose a water based floor finish that includes a primer/sealer, designed to enhance the wood’s natural colour and reduce the risk of ‘side bonding’, where the planks or parquet tiles get stuck together. If the wood shrinks - which it often does because of atmospheric conditions, central heating and seasonal temperature changes - the lacquer film gluing the wood together cracks, which looks awful.
  • Apply your sealer with a t-bar applicator or a short pile mohair roller. Apply the sealer thinly and evenly and don’t put pressure on the roller. Be gentle, applying no pressure, and let the roller do the job it’s designed for.
  • When the sealer is completely dry, which usually takes anywhere between two and four hours, you can apply your first layer of water-based topcoat. You don’t need to do any more sanding.


Did you know that varnish and lacquer are the same thing? The trade tend to refer to varnishes as laquers while the public more commonly refer to these products as varnishes.

  • Again, use a t-bar applicator or a short haired microfibre roller to spread the product evenly over the floor. Remember not to use any downward pressure, instead letting the roller do its job. If you press down you can form annoying pools of superfluous lacquer.
  • Leave 2-3 hours to dry completely, after which you should sand the lacquer with a rotary sanding machine (often called a de-nib) and a 150/180 mesh screen.
  • Clean off all the dust and debris and you’re ready to apply the top coat.

Top coat

  • Do you use a single pack varnish such as Manns Floor Varnish or a 2 pack lacquer system such as Manns 2 pack Lacquer? And do you choose a matt, semi-mat, satin or gloss finish? As a rule your lounge, bedroom and so on are best given a coat of something like Manns water based Floor Varnish or Bona Mega while hallways, bathrooms, kitchens and other heavier wear areas will benefit from Manns 2 Pack water based varnish or Bona Traffic HD. That said an additional coat of 1 pack lacquer is also a common way to finish high wear, residential areas.

A typical domestic application in 7 steps

  1. Apply one coat of sealer or primer onto the pre-sanded surface
  2.  Let it dry for 2-3 hours
  3. Apply one coat of floor varnish by microfibre roller or floor finish applicator
  4. Let it dry for 4-6 hours
  5. Rotary sand the surface with 150/180  grit paper and remove the dust (de-nib)
  6. Add a second coat of water based floor lacquer, again using a roller
  7. If you want a deeper, fuller finish, you can apply a third top coat of varnish.

Oiled floors

Instead of sitting on the surface of the wood, oils sink in for a warmer, more natural look. Here’s how to achieve it.

  • Sand through the grit levels until you reach 120, which leaves the wood’s pores open enough to accept an oil finish
  • Apply a thin coat of oil using a mohair roller, floor applicator pad, lint free cloth or special solvent-safe squeegee
  • Leave it to dry for 4 to 8 hours depending on the product being used
  • Lightly sand or de-nibb the floor with a scotch pad or fine grit paper
  • Vacuum to remove all traces of sanding dust created when de-nibbing
  • Apply a second thin coat of oil
  • Wait 12 hours for everything to dry and settle
  • If required, buff your floor to improve the sheen
Sanding the edges

Sanding the edges from


Part 2 – Coming next week

Next week, in part two of our Wood Floor Sanding and maintenance guide, we’ll look at the ins and outs of wooden floor maintenance. In the meantime if you’d like to discuss how to bring your wood floor back to life with an expert, feel free to call our experienced staff. They’re always happy to show off their skills, advise our customers about the best products and pin down the best method for your particular project.

How to Use Interior and Exterior Wood Filler

July 22nd, 2014

You could throw away your old wooden furniture and fixings. Or you could mend it. These days, as the reclaiming, recycling and repurposing revolution rumbles on and our throw-away culture dies a long-deserved death, more and more people are prepared to make do and mend than throw something perfectly good away just because it’s damaged, old or less than perfect. As a result we’re seeing a significant increase in wood filler sales. But why, when and how do you use them? Here’s our dummies guide.

Applying Wood Filler


Using Wood Fillers – What You Should Know

First, what exactly is wood filler, AKA ‘wood putty’, ‘grain filler’ or ‘plastic wood’? According to Wikipedia, it’s:

“a substance used to fill imperfections, such as nail holes, in wood prior to finishing. It is often composed of wood dust combined with a binder that dries and a diluent (thinner), and, sometimes, pigment.”

fillers can also be made of synthetic materials that will often accept wood finishing products. Sometimes, these are available in pre-tinted colours which cannot be coloured further, other than by painting over them.

You can completely hide holes and other damage using filling products, which is great news if a beloved piece of furniture, expensive wooden floor or exterior wood needs some TLC to bring it back to vibrant life.

About special oak wood filler, pine wood filler and more

You can buy pre-coloured products especially for certain woods. Take Osmo Wood Filler, which comes in a wide variety of attractive colours designed to match woods like antique oak, beech, cherry, ebony, pine, spruce and even exotica like jatoba wood.

Osmo Wood Filler

Four key ways to use wood filling products

The best quality products are incredibly versatile. You can use them in four key ways.

  1. To fill holes and cracks - You need a thick filler to fill cracks and holes in wood. But you have to prepare the inside of the hole or crack first so the filler sticks properly. Sand the inside of the hole of gap if you can and remove every speck of dust – vacuuming is ideal. Then use a putty knife to force the product into the hole. Smooth the top surface and once it’s dry sand it until you get an even finish, flush with the surface of the wood. You can use this method for wood flooring, furniture or anything else prone to cracking. Remember you can paint or stain the finished surface afterwards to make your repair invisible – just wait until it’s 100% dry first.
  2. To fix damaged furniture - Furniture demands some careful thought before you start. First are you mending the surface – a cosmetic repair – or a load-bearing part? The best product for surface repairs is a combination of thick and thin filler, with larger spots of damage needing thicker filler and smaller areas a thinner product. To mend essential load bearing elements a special wood hardener rather than an ordinary filler is probably your best option.
  3. Morrells-two-part-filler-black

  4. To fill gaps between boards - You can even fill large gaps between your floorboards and skirting boards. There’s a specialist product for it called Bona Gap Master, available in a choice of popular colours including white and black as well as a load of natural-looking wood tones.
  5. bona_gap_master_chart

  6. Fillers that look like wood – When filling wood you need to ensure that the filler is 100% dry before staining or varnishing it. Filler gels are popular as they tend to keep repairs looking more like wood rather than a piece of white or coloured plastic. Filler gels work by mixing sanding dust, preferably from the wood being sanded and repaired, with a clear gel that binds the dust together. This forms a wood filler, that is partially made from real wood that can be stained, varnished or oiled. The thickness and consistency of the gel can be altered by adding more or less sanding dust but the normal mixture is usually 50% gel to 50% sanding dust. Two popular filler gels that receive good customer feedback are Bona Mix and Fill and Fiddes Wood Filler Gel.
  7. bona-mix-and-fill-5ltr


About Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler

Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler is a unique two part product that delivers incredibly tough, strong and durable repairs to more or less any kind of interior or exterior wood.

Unlike some it can fill holes to any depth as long as you take it easy, filling half a centimetre at a time and waiting for each layer to dry before adding the next one.

It dries rock hard in just half an hour. You can screw screws into it, sand it, plane it, file it, bang nails into it and drill holes in it. You can paint, stain or varnish it. It kills wet rot and prevents it coming back. And when you use it with Ronseal’s special Wet Rot Wood Hardener, you can even mend rotten wood with it. Awesome! As you can imagine it’s an enormously popular choice with builders, carpenters, DIY-ers and craftspeople.

Practice makes perfect

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do a few test runs on old bits of wood before tackling the real thing. The human brain is an amazing machine and it’ll soon build new neural pathways that make you more confident and competent. That way you stand the best chance of doing a great job.

Can I remove the filler once it’s dry?

Fillers are often harder than the wood itself. But you can remove them, and there’s some top guidance on the UK eHow site about how to do it.

Want to watch a video about how to use wood filler?

Youtube has the perfect video about how to use fillers.
YouTube Preview Image

 Any questions?

If you’re not sure about which product to buy, our experts are always glad to help. You can chat to them via our Freephone helpline number during working hours: 0800 7818 123.

51 Weird and Wonderful Facts About Wood

July 14th, 2014

Wood must be one of humanity’s oldest natural resources. It has helped keep us safe, comfortable and warm for millions of years. But trees graced our beautiful blue planet long before our ancestors were a twinkle in the universe’s eye. Imagine a world with absolutely no human-generated noise, mess or disruption, just endless seas of gently-waving trees and plants as far as the eye can see. It would be a splendid and moving sight.

Aerial Forest Flyover

Aerial Forest Flyover from

We’ve used wood for so long that most of us don’t really ‘see’ it any more. It’s part of the cultural scenery. But in the same way the starry night sky blows your mind with its eternal vastness, looking at a tree with fresh eyes brings its miraculous nature back into focus: enormous, powerful plants whose origins lie way back in the depths of geological time, some of which live literally thousands of years. If trees could tell a story, what would they say?

In May 2014 the Weird and Wonderful wood festival took place in Haughley Park in Suffolk, a celebration of wood in all its glory. More than a hundred artists, craftspeople and musicians gathered to reveal their skills and passions to a keen-to-learn and fascinated public, a sign that our relationship with the planet’s biggest plants still means a great deal to us.

We thought it’d be interesting to hook out a bunch of fascinating, weird and wonderful facts about wood and the trees it comes from. Enjoy!

Firewood Stack in Bavaria

Bavarian Firewood Stack from

51 facts about trees - Weird and wonderful wood

  1. Wood is made up of a combination of living, dying, and dead cells.
  2. The world’s shortest tree is the dwarf willow, which lives in northerly and Arctic Tundra regions and rarely grows more than a couple of inches high.
  3. The tallest trees can grow as high as 100m, more than 320 feet. They include the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Sitka Spruce and Australian Mountain Ash.
  4. The world’s tallest living standing hardwood tree is a mountain ash called Centurion in Tasmania. It’s about 329 feet 8 3/4 inches high.
  5. Trees never die of old age. Insects, diseases and people are usually the killers. 
  6. The mighty Giant Sequoia is thought by many to be the biggest living organism in the world, although a 2,400 acre fungus mycelium in eastern Oregon - almost ten square kilometres of it – is a strong if less-visible contender.
  7. The world is home to more than 23,000 different kinds of trees.
  8. The terms softwood and hardwood describe the leaves, seeds and structure of the trees rather than the type of wood they produce.
  9. Redwood bark can be as much as two feet thick.
  10. City trees tend to live for an average of 13 years less than country trees.
  11. The Amazon Basin is the biggest area of tropical forest on earth, a whopping eight and a half million acres. 
  12. The plane tree, common in London’s streets, is excellent at absorbing pollution and sheds its bark regularly so it can absorb more.
  13. Just one tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and can sequester a ton of CO2 safely by the time it’s 40 years old, which is why they’re so important in the battle against climate change.
  14. Balsa is actually a hardwood!
  15. Every US state has its own official tree.
  16. Softwoods are not always softer than hardwoods.
  17. White oak is the easiest wood to bend using steam.
  18. Buddha experienced enlightenment under the wisdom tree. And ancient British graveyards often contain a yew tree, planted by pagan worshippers before the Christians took over and built churches on the same plots.
  19. The Osage Orange tree’s wood generates the most heat when burned.
  20. The tree with the widest diameter trunk is the African Baobab, just under 50 feet across with a 155 foot circumference.
  21. Kingley Vale in West Sussex contains a host of ancient yew trees, some of which are more than 2000 years old.
  22. The tree called “General Sherman” is not only the biggest giant sequoia, but it is also the biggest tree in the world. He is 83.8 m (274.9 feet) tall, his girth at breast height is 24,10 m (79 feet) (near the ground it is 31,3 m or 102,6 feet).
  23. Oak woodland was the most common vegetation in Britain before humans got their hands on it.
  24. British oak trees can live for 500 years. We’d have a lot more of them if Henry VIII hadn’t cut almost all of down to build warships.
  25. The world’s heaviest wood is Australian Bauhinia Red.
  26. The bark of the Cork oak is used for bottle corks and cork flooring.
  27.  Some bristlecone pines are thought to be more than 5000 years old. But the famous lime tree at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is probably nearer 6000 years old, and The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire could be as old as 9000.
  28. Softwoods come from gymnosperm trees (evergreens), while hardwoods come from angiosperm trees (deciduous types).
  29. Softwoods don’t have vessels like harder woods. Their cells are open, and are used to feed water and bring nutrients to the tree.
  30. Because softwoods take wood finishes so well, they were responsible for the pine furniture boom of the early 80′s to late 90′s.
  31. Trees trap 50% of all the sun’s energy caught by living organisms.
  32. All wood is biodegradable.
  33. Wet wood, unlike dry wood, can conduct electricity.
  34. The world’s blackest wood is ebony, the world’s whitest wood is holly.
  35. Lignin is what makes a wood hard. Softwoods have less of it, hardwoods contain more.
  36. The heaviest American wood is Lignum Vitae Holywood, particularly rich in Lignin.
  37. Softwoods are usually a lighter colour than hardwoods.
  38. Pine is denser than some hardwoods so is an affordable alternative.
  39. Softwoods account for about 80% of the world’s timber production.
  40. Well-maintained trees can increase a property’s value… some say by as much as 27%, others hang their hat on 14%.
  41. Place trees in the right way near a property and they can cut air conditioning by 30%
  42. Hardwood is denser than softwood and burns for longer, with more heat, as long as it’s properly seasoned.
  43. Softwood is not as dense and doesn’t burn for quite as long, but it can still give off as much as 75% of the heat than hardwood.
  44. As long as forests are properly managed, wood fuel is renewable. Modern appliances can achieve a 90% burning efficiency, and the net carbon emissions from wood tend to be less than for fossil fuels.
  45. Trees get 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from soil.
  46. Trees grow from the top, not the bottom. Watch for 100 years and you’ll notice the branches only move a few inches up the trunk as the tree grows.
  47. Insects hate the taste of tannin, the tea-coloured chemical trees contain in varying amounts.
  48. Some trees talk to one another. When willows are threatened by insect pests, they emit a chemical warning to nearby trees, who secrete more tannin to put the invaders off.
  49. Trees mean rain. Every day, just one acre of maple trees emits as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the air.
  50. In the USA the shade and wind-proofing that trees deliver reduce annual heating and cooling costs by $2.1 billion.
  51. Some ironwoods are so dense, with a specific gravity of more than 1, that they sink in water.

Stack of Firewood

Do you have any fascinating wood facts?

Whether it’s hardwood and softwood facts or a remarkable piece of information about a particularly amazing tree, we’d love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment.

Confused? Everything You Need to Know About Softwoods and Hardwoods

July 8th, 2014

Most decent pieces of furniture are made of solid wood. The type of wood used is what gives the piece its personality and beauty as well as solidity and strength. If you’re into woodwork, or you fancy giving it a go, you’ll find this post interesting… we thought it’d be handy to take a look at a bunch of commonly-used softwoods and hardwoods, delve into their unique properties and research where to find them.

Softwoods and hardwoods – What’s the difference?

First, before we go into detail about specific tree types, why are they classified as either ‘soft’ wood or ‘hard’ wood? What’s the difference?


Softwood – Renewable Resource

It isn’t about strength. Soft and hard woods are both very strong, soft woods aren’t the least bit weak. Soft woods come from coniferous trees, ie. trees with cones, including cedar, fir and pine. They often have a red or yellow tinge and because they naturally grow straight and fast instead of curvy and slow, they’re usually cheaper than hard woods and are generally more sustainable. Which means you’re not contributing to deforestation by using them or buying furniture and flooring made from them.

Hard woods are loved by woodworkers because of their gorgeous colours, beautiful grain patterns and exciting textures. The only down side is the cost. Because hard wood trees grow so slowly, some exotic species are far too costly to use anywhere except in fine detailed work, veneers, inlays and fancy decorative finishes.  If you want to work with a hard wood, make sure it comes from a sustainable source. Alternatively you can always find a piece of old, non-antique hard wood furniture to take apart and repurpose.

Common soft woods

  • Cedar tends to be reddish in colour and it’s a relatively soft wood. It smells lovely, like freshly cut pine, has a nice, straight grain and is usually used outdoors. Cedar shingles are used to roof buildings in the USA more often than here – think of a mountain log cabin with cedar shingles and you get the picture - and it’s also useful for furniture, decking and other exterior woodwork projects. Cedar is great at resisting rot and is used widely in damp environments as a result. As well as being very beautiful, it isn’t expensive.
  • Fir also has a straight grain like cedar, and is also reddish in colour. It’s a relatively cheap wood often used for building and isn’t great for furniture because its grain is a bit boring and dull, and it doesn’t take wood stain very well. It does, however, take paint perfectly. For a soft wood it’s relatively strong and hard.
  • Pine is the name used for all manner of trees, many of which are commonest in the USA. There’s the wonderfully named Ponderosa pine, for example, plus yellow pine and sugar pine, in the UK usually just labelled ‘pine’. It’s ridiculously easy to work with, very soft, really good for carving and perfect for furniture. And it takes wood stain well, provided you seal it first.
  • Redwood is resistant to damp and is often used outdoors. It’s fairly soft with a clear, straight grain so not the most interesting wood to look at. As you’d imagine, it has a red tint to it. It’s cheaper in the USA, where California Redwood comes from, more expensive in Britain.
Giant Redwoods

Giant Redwood Forest

Common hard woods

  • Ash might not be a common hard wood for much longer, bearing in mind the ravages of Ash Dieback Disease. But for the moment it’s still available, a stunning white to pale brown wood with a pretty, straight grain. It’s relatively soft and easy to work with, taking stain reasonably well. If you can’t find white oak, ash is a great substitute.
  • Birch has two faces, either yellow or white. The yellow variety is a lovely pale yellow/white with a heart – the centre of the tree – reddish brown. White birch is paler still. They’re both quite hard and as a rule are often cheaper than many hard woods. Ash is great for furniture, stable and easy to work, but staining can be tricky because it can easily go blotchy. On the other hand it takes paint really well.
  • Cherry is easy to work with, perfect for furniture and accepts wood stains well. It looks great finished with a wood oil. The heart is reddish and the outer part, known as the sap wood, is very pale, almost white. It’s less hard than birch and is readily available from sustainable sources. It tends to be more expensive than many other hardwoods, simply because it’s in greater demand.
  • Mahogany is probably the most famous furniture wood. Brown to deep red in colour with a straight grain, it’s less hard than birch. It accepts wood stain beautifully and appreciates a wood oil finish.  You may need several coats of oil but the end result is awesome, well worth the effort. One thing to remember – the wood is rarely available from sustainable sources, so buying new mahogany is down to your conscience. Luckily you can sometimes buy used mahogany from wood reclamation yards.
  • Maple can be either a hard wood or soft wood, and the hard version is so hard it’s tricky to work with. The softer type of maple is fairly easy to work by comparison and because both have such a lovely fine, straight grain pattern they’re both very stable, more so than many other woods. It’s relatively cheap, too.
  • Oak comes in red and white and is probably one of the world’s most popular woods for furniture and hardwood flooring. It’s strong, hard and easy to work. The white variety is the woodworkers’ favourite because the ray-like patterns in the grain are so attractive. It’s moisture resistant so is often used for garden furniture. And white oak costs less than many hard woods.
  • Poplar is another relatively low-cost hardwood, quite soft and easy to work. It’s usually very pale, more or less white, with greenish or brown streaks at the heart. The resulting strange and not entirely attractive pattern makes it less popular for furniture than oak so it isn’t used to make fine furniture very often. But it’s great for the inside of drawers, stable and cheap. It takes paint really well, much better than it accepts a wood stain. People often use it to make bowls, toys and small craft items.
  • Teak is getting rarer but is still popular for good quality outdoor furniture, extremely weather-resistant and very beautiful as well as costly. It’s golden brown with an exotic, oily texture and it’s a medium-hard wood.
  • Walnut is extremely hard, a rich, deep brown colour and easy to work. Sadly it’s expensive and relatively rare. These days craftsmen use it for fancy stuff like inlays.
Hardwood Flooring

Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

Where can I buy exotic hardwoods?

Rainforest deforestation in particular and deforestation in general is a no-no these days, and sustainable woods are used more often as a result. Luckily there are plenty of wood reclamation and architectural reclamation yards springing up all over Britain as the trend for repurposing and recycling heats up. It’s amazing what you can find, everything from wonderful old oak railway sleepers to the pillars from old beach groynes and chunks of exotic woods like Sapele, the most stunning conker red colour and a joy to carve by hand.

If you need new hardwood, you could try British Hardwoods, a leading UK supplier of everything from timber to specialist planed hardwoods. You can even buy online. Softwoods are much more easily available - try your local timber merchant.

Amazing wood bargains for craft, furniture and woodwork projects

Sapele Wood Carving

Sapele Wood Carving

I found a lovely piece of Sapele which I used for my first ever wood carving, inspired by seabirds, pictured above. The wood only cost a fiver! At the same Brighton wood recycling yard we found a huge, silvery, worn mahogany block, about eight feet by two by two. They cut it into four chunks for us, which have been out in the garden for five years or more, still good as new and perfect for outdoor seating. The cost? £70. It just goes to show, if you’re dying to have a go at wood carving or woodwork, it needn’t cost a fortune.

We have a huge range of wood oils and stains to help you transform your next woodwork project to a high sheen and bring it into a state of sheer perfection.  If you have any questions about which wood finish is best for the type of wood you have, just give our experts a call on 0800 7818 123 or 01303 487978.

Decorating with Colour – What You Need to Know

July 2nd, 2014

We’ve already looked at using innovative, exciting products like wood stain colours and decking stain colours to give wooden surfaces a boost, creating effects that are much more visually interesting than ordinary decorative finishes. But what about taking things a step further and bringing even more colour into your home?

Beautiful Yellow Colour Scheme

Using colour with confidence

First, why focus on colour? Because minimalism is dead, eclectic clutter is the bees knees and colour is back on the interior design menu.  It’s powerful stuff. Colour affects your mood, influences your feelings and makes everyday life more – or less – visually stimulating. So how do you harness the joy of colour to bring your home to vibrant, beautiful life? There’s more to life than coloured wood stain… here’s some information about decorating with colour, colour psychology and colour therapy.

Plenty of us are fussy about colour. We’re worried we won’t make the right decisions, ending up with a colour scheme that’s more of a dog’s dinner than a decorative delight. But there are plenty of tricks you can use to help you choose wisely.

  • Clash or tone? Clashing colours are fine, toning colours are equally acceptable. They can both look beautiful.
  • Right or wrong? Colour is about personal preferences. There’s no such thing as bad taste, just taste.
  • Ready-made reference. You could base your home colour scheme on a piece of clothing you particularly like. Take inspiration from a photo of a garden or landscape, a piece of wrapping paper or a length of fabric. Places like B&Q and Dulux Decorator Centres often offer paint mixing services and can match any colour you like, whether it’s from a scrap of wallpaper, fabric or even a leaf or flower.
  • Pick your favourite three colours… and use the same tone of each one, for example a deep pink, deep turquoise and deep green or pale coffee, pale violet and pale yellow. How do you know if a colour is the same ‘tone’ as another? Hold the paint swatches up in front of your face, then squint. Similar tones will blend together and look the same. Different tones still stand out against one another.
  • Choose just two contrasting colours… and stick to them. A two colour limit means you’re less likely to go off-piste and end up in creative trouble. For example pick a bright Mexican orange and a vivid sky blue, a vibrant magenta and deep turquoise, a ‘heritage’ duck egg green and a dusky rose pink. Or deep, rich olive green and spring-like apple green.
  • Paint three walls cream or white and paint just one wall a bright colour, creating  a feature wall. Doing it this way can be much less scary than trying to deal with four coloured walls or a choice of more than one colour.
  • Search Pinterest for images of vivid interiors and take your inspiration from there.
  • Have you ever entered a room that took your breath away with its beauty, whether it was somewhere exotic like Brighton Pavilion or the Taj Mahal, a posh hotel room, a historic building or your friend’s lounge? If so, just copy the colour scheme.
  • Ask a tasteful or artistic friend. If you’re rubbish at the whole décor thing and find picking colours too much of a challenge for comfort, perhaps you can get a colour-confident friend to help you pick the best shades.
  • Learn how colours work using a colour wheel. Here’s a link to an excellent resource about colour wheels, the theory behind them and how to use them. More about colour wheels later…
  • Look at your wardrobe and copy the colours you wear most often, since they obviously make you feel good.
  • Buy sample pots to test before you go the whole hog. Most good paint suppliers offer small, cheap test pots so you can see what the colour actually looks like on a wall, or piece of furniture, or woodwork.
  • Pick just one colour and use a variety of different shades and tones of the same colour: a pale, a mid and a dark blue, for example. Most paint swatches come in strip of five or more shades of the same colour, which makes life really easy.
  • Watch TVGeorge Clarke’s amazing spaces, for example, is packed with inspirational interiors created on a shoestring

The best thing about house paints is that they’re relatively cheap. If you get the colour wrong, you can easily paint over it.

Peacock Colour Scheme

About the colour spectrum – The science bit

Colours reflect the way our brains interpret wavelengths in the visible spectrum, which lies between 400 and 700 nanometres. We see different wavelengths as different colours, usually split into seven different bands just like a rainbow:

  1. red
  2. orange
  3. yellow
  4. green
  5. blue
  6. indigo
  7. violet

A colour wheel represents the visible spectrum in circular form where 1 and 7, violet and red, are joined. It’s a brilliant way to get to grips with the way colour works, revealing how they relate to each other and how to create new shades by mixing two or more together.

Colour Wheel

About colour psychology – Handy guides to help you choose

Different colours make us feel different. Wikipedia has a great page about the psychology of colour. Reds, for example, tend to make us feel excited and stimulated, blues tend to make us feel more relaxed. Oranges are supposed to be optimistic, yellow intellectual, purple imaginative. You might not want to paint your bedroom scarlet and magenta… on the other hand, it might suit you down to the ground.

Here’s some excellent guidance about how different colours can affect your mood. Just remember that while colour psychology provides clues, it doesn’t deliver hard and fast rules. Any colour combination that makes you feel good will work.

About colour therapy – Feeling good about the shades you choose

As the Bcenter site says:

“Color therapy (also known as chromotherapy) is a therapeutic science that has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used specially built solarium rooms with different colored glasses. The sun would shine through the colored glass onto the patient to achieve specific therapeutic benefits. Others used different colored silk clothes to filter varying shades of light onto their bodies.”

“These days, many natural therapists are using chromotherapy on their patients in interesting ways. They report success in recovery of stroke victims, and in others who have chronic depression. In the United States, chromotherapy is being recognized as a complimentary system to other therapies and treatments.”

Colour therapists believe colour should be a part of our everyday life. It’s all around us, and heightening our awareness of its energy can transform our lives. You can research the subject and follow its recommendations to a tee, or use it as a guide to help you pick the right kind of colours to deliver the kind of effect you’re looking for. On the other hand you can ignore colour therapy, which is after all just one way of looking at the wonder of colour and translating it so it enhances your home, and follow your heart.

What about dark and light?

You might love to see the light flooding into a room and adore nothing more than fresh, pale, bright colours. That’s fine. You might prefer dark colours, which are also perfectly OK. Nobody says you have to have light rooms. If you only sleep in your bedroom, is there really any need to paint it light and bright? Would you feel more relaxed if it was painted deep, cosy, warm colours instead? Where colour is concerned, the rules are made to be broken. It’s personal.

Channel 4 has some great advice and guidance about choosing colour schemes for your home décor, including how to co-ordinate colours successfully, how to create a mood board, how light affects a colour scheme and how to link rooms together using colour.

What can you paint?

Colour is about much more than just the walls of a space. You can use water-based eggshell paints to paint anything from mirror frames to brown furniture, decorative ceramics and terracotta plant pots, radiators and the places you’d ordinarily use gloss paint for, for example skirting boards and door frames. You can paint all your furniture the same shade or tone as the walls if you like, or use one or more toning or contrasting colours.

A splash of decorative colour

More help and advice about choosing the right colours for your home decor

Here are some more cool resources and inspiration to help you choose the right colours for your home, ‘right’ being the colours you love best and that make you feel happiest.

Wood preservative colours and more…

Once you’ve picked the perfect colour scheme for your room,  or for your entire home, you can think about the wood. Do you want to use coloured wood dye to enhance the beauty of your skirting boards and door frames, even the doors themselves? Or paint them the same colour as the walls for a spectacularly smart, contemporary look that makes spaces look bigger? Perhaps you have your eye on our collection of beautiful wood stain colours from Ronseal, Osmo, Fiddes and Manns – in all their wonderful variety?

If you have any questions about our wood finishes, our experts are always delighted to help. While they can’t actually choose the colours for you, they’re hot on the technical and scientific side of things. And they’re available on a Freephone number.  If you want help, just call.

Exterior doors – What Does Your Front Door Say About You?

June 23rd, 2014

Wooden exterior doors need some form of outdoor wood protection to prevent them getting hopelessly tatty, which can happen reasonably quickly if left unchecked, especially when they’re exposed to winter weather or full-on summer sun. A lack of exterior wood treatment on wooden doors can eventually lead to warping and bowing, which could affect the fit of the door resulting in drafts and potentially compromise security. Once the wood preservative side of things has been sorted, how do you choose the right colour and paint finish?

Oak Front Door

Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t treat and protect external hardwood doors then simply varnish or oil them. Plain, natural wood is beautiful stuff. But most of us paint our wood front door with either exterior gloss, silk or matt paint. Here are some tips about making the best possible job of it, and insights into why it’s so important.

Exterior doors décor – Making a great first impression

No plans to sell your home?

If you’re loving living in your home and have no plans to sell, the wonderful world of paint is your oyster. The impression you make is entirely down to your personal taste.

There’s a massive range of water-based and oil-based exterior eggshell paints available, a seriously trendy option particularly popular with people who like heritage colours. You can buy regular gloss paint, probably Britain’s best-loved choice for wood front doors, in literally hundreds of shades from subtle, historic and traditional to vibrant, vivid and rebellious. And you can buy exterior matt and silk alternatives, again in a truly vast choice of colours. You can even specify your own unique colour, for example taking a scrap of fabric to the shop for staff to copy.

Lime Front Door

How on earth do you make up your mind about colour? You could simply choose your favourite colour, whether it’s high-gloss lime green or a lovely deep shade of aubergine, cheery pillarbox red or clean, crisp white. You can pick a shade that reflects your interior décor, or the flowers along your garden path. Or you could even use Feng Shui principles to pin down the right one. It’s as good a method as any if you’re lost in space, bewildered by the endless variety of shades available. If that sounds like a good idea, here’s a link to a site about using Feng Shui to get it right.

As a general rule pale colours need a little more maintenance than darker shades, touching the finish up with a small brush whenever you get a dink or minor flaking and making sure damage doesn’t spread unchecked.

What if you want to sell your home?

If you want to sell your home, your personal colour sense might have to take the back seat. The thing is, your exterior door or the door of your flat is the first thing people see when they approach your property. It’s where the eye focuses, and first impressions are really important.

As long as your door is smartly finished, sporting a clean, fresh-looking paint job, the colour is often academic. On the other hand, plenty of people prefer neutral colours and a strong, unusual or downright eccentric choice might put them off at the starting line. It’s horses for courses. If you’re concerned, you can’t go far wrong with a spotless glossy black or white door. Dark blue, racing green and deep red are also popular and perfectly acceptable. While bright purple or day-glo orange might not quite be the thing if you’re keen to sell fast!

Gorgeous wood exterior doors – First impressions really do count

As an article in The Telegraph says:

“It takes just eight seconds to decide whether or not you will buy a house, according to the latest research. And at least four of them will be spent waiting at the front door. Lord Lloyd-Webber has a mahogany one, Richard Rogers has a white one, and Kate Middleton has just installed a pair of them, in black. “People look at a front door before they look at anything else,” says designer Cecilia Neal, of Meltons. “Your front door reflects what you think about the house. A door can sell a property.”

Eight seconds? That’s actually quite scary. And there’s more. Apparently some experts feel it’s important for exterior wood doors to be ‘appropriate to a house’. Others feel you can’t beat simple good taste, waxing lyrical about the significant charms of the typical Georgian front door with its perfect proportions and, if you’re fortunate, glazed fanlight.

Ancient Door

Can you fit a repro or original Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian-style exterior front door? Yes, you can. And it often works beautifully, especially on an exclusive new build or graceful old building. On the other hand a classic Georgian masterpiece crowbarred onto a 1970s pebbledash semi might look a bit strange. Many experts say the design should be in sympathy with the building. So while a big, stained glass-rich Edwardian masterpiece may not suit your modern bungalow, a contemporary planked door might give it exactly the visual boost it needs and make your home look really special.

One thing is certain: a cheap and nasty, tatty-looking door won’t do an otherwise smart building any favours, and a seriously good-looking one can raise the bar even when the property itself is nothing special. A beautiful, well-maintained and well-presented hardwood external door gives a powerful signal that you love and care for the property, and hints at the quality of the interior. With only a few seconds to make the right impression, it’s a relatively easy win.

What can I do with a UPVC exterior door?

Over time even UPVC can start to look worn and tatty. Many people choose the material because you don’t need to paint it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t. UPVC can be painted with oil or water-based eggshell paint in any colour you like. Alternatively, get busy with the UPVC cleaning fluid, available from all good DIY shops.

The door as an investment

Estate agencies take the front door thing even further, with some insisting that it’s actually an essential investment. If all you do is fit new exterior doors before you sell, the results will be worthwhile.

Shabby Chic Front Door

It can even be a love thing. Some people move mountains to take their beloved door with them when they move, fitting it in their new home despite considerable cost and inconvenience.

Need inspiration? Here are lots of images of beautiful front doors

What’s your best front door style, design and colour? No idea? Short on inspiration? Here’s a site packed with glorious, eccentric, contemporary and classic wooden door décor ideas to whet your appetite. And if you need to create the perfect surface over which to paint, here’s a link to our exterior doors project page, full of excellent products.