Wood is a versatile material and is used to make a number of things. Since it’s a natural material, it finds a number of uses outside the confines of the home. While a tree doesn’t require a sealer to remain healthy, once it’s cut down and turned into planks for fences or furniture, the wood needs to be taken care of in order to last a long time.
Wood Sealers are chemicals that either coat or penetrate wood creating a protective barrier against water and other elements such as UV light, mold and mildew.
The best outdoor wood sealers will protect decks and furniture from rotting and fading. Paint is a great outdoor wood sealer, but it completely spoils the look. Hence, different types of wood sealers have been developed that provide varying degrees of protection while upholding the aesthetics.
Table of Contents
- Our Reviews of Outdoor Wood Sealers
- The Top 6 Best Outdoor Wood Sealers for 2021 are:
- What Type of Protection Does Outdoor Wood Need?
- Types of Wood Sealers and Stains
- Wood Age and Wood Sealants to Use
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Reviews of Outdoor Wood Sealers
The Top 6 Best Outdoor Wood Sealers for 2021 are:
- Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
- Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector
- Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer
- Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
- SaverSystems Wood Stain
- Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment
Find out which is best for you in our full in-depth reviews below ...
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
This is a water-based protective clear finish for exterior wood. It protects outdoor furniture, doors, windows, etc. exposed to sunlight, rain, and moisture as well as temperature changes. Wood deteriorates if it’s exposed to direct sunlight or rain for long periods. Your wooden furniture in the backyard or on the deck and door and windows exposed to sunlight need that extra bit of protection. The Helmsman Spar Urethane can also be used on wooden furniture inside the house.
Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment
This is a non-toxic wood sealant treatment and stain. It’s an environment-friendly product that has been tested to ensure it doesn’t harm kids and pets at home or negatively impact soil and groundwater. You don’t need to make any special preparations before applying this on bare or clean wood. In case the surface had been treated previously, you will have to sand it in order for the wood treatment to penetrate it. Mix the contents of the pack with 4.5 liters of water and apply it using a brush, sponge or sprayer. It only needs to be applied once.
Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector
Thompson's have been around for nearly a century and is a well-regarded company in the industry. As the name suggests, Thompson's WaterSeal is a waterproofing product, specifically formulated for wood. It also protects wooden surfaces against UV damage and prevents the formation of mold, mildew, and fungus.
Along with protecting wood, it doesn’t change its appearance and maintains the natural color. It’s ideal for use on wooden decks, outdoor furniture, fences and any other wooden object that’s exposed to sunlight and rain for long periods. Water will bead up on the surface after the application of WaterSeal and then naturally evaporate.
Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer
This is a premium-quality sealer for marine teak and other types of fine woods. It also acts as a wood sealant and preserver and provides an excellent natural finish. This natural-oil based sealer protects wood from exposure to salt water as well as harsh weather conditions, which makes it ideally suitable for use on outdoor furniture, decks, etc.
You need to first clean the wood thoroughly and it should be dry at the time of applying the oil. It can be applied with a brush, sponge or even a clean white cloth, but make sure you rub it in the direction of the grain. This will ensure the oil is absorbed by the wood. Let the oil rest for at least 5 minutes and then wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth.
Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
This is an oil-based stain that’s semi-transparent and does a great job of sealing and protecting outdoor wood. It preserves and enhances the natural look of wood. One of the best things about this sealer is that the natural texture of the surface stays visible and so does the grain of the wood.
A number of sealers form thick layers on top of the wooden surface and completely hide the wood underneath. You’ve selected a particular type of wood for its natural beauty and you don’t want it to be hidden in the process of sealing the wood.
SaverSystems Wood Stain
This is a water-based, semi-transparent wood stain that’s absorbed into the pores and forms a protective barrier. It not only protects from water or moisture but also prevents damage due to exposure to UV rays from sunlight. It also increases the lifespan of the wood.
This is specifically suited for softwood types such as cedar, pine, fir, redwood, etc. that have been pressure treated. This makes it excellent for sealing decks, gazebos, outdoor furniture and siding as well as fences.
What Type of Protection Does Outdoor Wood Need?
Wood is used in a number of places outside the inner sanctum of the home. Decks come to mind right away, along with wooden outdoor furniture. You might also have a gazebo, wooden sidings, wooden fence, etc. So, what kind of protection do these require?
Rain and sunlight are the two main natural elements that wood needs protection from. Continued exposure to rain and moisture can lead to rotting of the wood, besides formation of mold, mildew, and fungus, which are both bad for the wood and bad for your health. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet (UV) rays in the sunlight to be precise, leads to fading and graying of the wood. It spoils the look of the wood.
Types of Wood Sealers and Stains
There are broadly three types of wood sealers and stains. The primary distinguisher between the three is the type of finish each provides. There’s a solid or opaque finish, semi-transparent finish, and clear finish. Wood stains that provide opaque finishes typically last longer, but these also tend to be a bit slippery. Semi-transparent a clear finishes preserve the natural look of the wood.
One thing that you need to keep in mind is, if you’re buying a stain that’s going to be applied on an already stained wooden surface, the existing stain will dictate your choice to a certain extent. For example, if the existing stain is solid, then you can’t apply a semi-transparent or clear finish on top of that. The solid stain has already blocked or filled the pores in the wood and will prevent the new stain from soaking in. On the other hand, you can use a solid stain over any type of existing coat. However, they don't necessarily make solid stains the best outdoor wood sealers.
Solid or Opaque Exterior Wood Sealers
A good quality solid or opaque wood sealer will last about 3 to 5 years on decks and possibly a little longer on outdoor furniture. The natural look of the wood is completely hidden and the protective layer on top can be very sleek or slippery. Think of solid or opaque stains as paint. It covers the natural grain of the wood, which diminishes the natural aesthetics of the wood. The other issue is that just like paint, after a point, solid stains can start flaking and peeling off. This particularly happens when multiple layers of the stain have been applied over a period of time.
Wood doesn’t come cheap. We select wood both for its quality and look. Then why cover it up completely. So, while opaque finishes might be the best outdoor wood sealer for gazebos, sidings, and fences, they aren’t ideal for decks and outdoor furniture. In terms of the type of wood, you can opt to seal decks made of pressure-treated pine wood with a solid stain, but high-quality hardwood furniture doesn’t deserve to be spoiled in this manner.
Semi-Transparent Outdoor Wood Sealer
Unlike solid stains, semi-transparent ones allow the wood to hold onto its natural look to a certain extent. While the grain of the wood is colored it’s not completely hidden under the stain. However, this comes at a price. These sealers do not last as long as solid stains. So, after 2-3 years you will have to reapply the stain, which means more work on your part.
Clear Wood Sealants
Clear finish sealers are the champion the wood. They're the best outdoor wood sealers in terms of allowing the natural appearance of the wood to shine through while providing a certain degree of protection from the natural elements. There’s no doubt that in terms of the level of protection, a clear finish is at the bottom of the list.
Plus, you will have to reapply the stain every year to ensure that the wooden structures remain protected. However, you need to be aware that there are three types of clear finishes that provide increasing levels of protection against damage due to rain, moisture, and sunlight.
Wood Age and Wood Sealants to Use
You need to ensure that the wood is completely dry before you apply wood sealers. Generally, pressure-treated wood needs more time to dry, because these have preservatives in them. If the wood isn’t dried properly, the moisture might get trapped inside and rot the wood.
You will have to sand and pressure wash weathered wood before applying wood sealers. In some cases, you might have to both sand and pressure wash it. However, you need to be careful not to create splinters. This particularly happens when the pressure is too high. In case of decks, if any of the planks are especially weathered, replace them and then seal it all together.
Wood with Existing Stain or Sealer
Remove the sealers by sanding before applying the new stain. Or else the old sealant might show through the new coating and appear blotchy. Film forming sealers need to be thoroughly sanded and removed in order for a penetrating stain to have the desired effect.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are wood sealers used for?
Wood sealer is designed to prevent damage to wood products. All species of wood are permeable and highly susceptible to water damage, rot, and staining. Additionally, it can be damaged by UV rays, wind, and other natural elements.
When wood is used outdoors, such as in decking, patios, or railings, sealer should be applied to preserve the material, improve its durability, maintain its appearance, and prolong its life expectancy.
What is the best exterior wood sealer?
The best wood sealer for outdoor wood products is exterior penetrating stain. These sealers deeply penetrate the wood and adhere to the porous spaces, thus preventing water from penetrating through the material and avoiding decay. They also contain mildewcide, which helps to prevent mold and mildew growth.
Some exterior penetrating wood sealers also contain UV light absorbers, which protect the wood from the damaging rays of the sun. They are available in both water and oil-based formulas, and there is a wide selection of colors to choose from.
How do you seal outdoor wood furniture?
To seal outdoor wood furniture, you need to select a high-quality exterior penetrating stain in your preferred color and a primer. Sand the entire surface that will be sealed. Doing so will help the primer adhere to the material. Work in a dry, well-ventilated space (indoors, if there are high humidity levels or rain is in the forecast).
Apply an even coat of primer to the wood; let dry. Once dried, apply an even coat of stain to the surface of the wood, ensuring that all surfaces are completely covered, including the joints and undersides of the legs and arms. Allow the stain to dry completely before placing outside and using.
How do you seal untreated wood outside?
Check the untreated wood for mold, and mildew. If any mold or mildew appears, remove it with a solution of diluted bleach. Allow the wood to thoroughly dry. Sand all surfaces that will be sealed. Vacuum any dust off of the surface of the material.
Apply wood sealer to the surface of the wood using even brush strokes that follow the grain of the material. Cover all surfaces of the wood. Allow the sealer to dry completely. Apply a second coat to ensure complete coverage.
How long does it take wood sealers to dry?
The amount of time it takes a wood sealer to dry depends on a variety of factors: the type of wood and stain being used, and the environmental conditions, for example. The lower the humidity, the less time it will take the wood to dry; the more moisture content in the air, the longer it will take the sealer to dry.
Thinner, non-penetrative sealers it can take several days or up to a week or more to dry, depending on the environmental conditions. For thick, penetrative stains, the surface can be dry within a few hours; however, complete drying takes a day or two, depending on the temperature and humidity. Latex wood sealers tend to take the longest amount of time to dry - generally, two to three weeks.
How long do wood sealers last?
The length of time a wood sealer will last is dependent on several conditions: the type of sealer that is used, the climate, the weather, the location of the wood, and the manner in which the wood is being used. For example, a thin, non-penetrative stain on wood that receives a lot of sun exposure and experiences a great deal of use won’t last as long as a penetrative stain that is used on wood in a relatively shaded area and does not receive a lot of use.
Generally speaking, however, wood sealer lasts an average of four to five years.
The Tall Earth treatment is the ideal choice of wood sealers if you're particularly mindful of environmental impact. It does a good job of protecting wood from mold, mildew, rot, and fungus by penetrating into the wood. This characteristic also ensures that it doesn't peel or flake as some sealers do that only to form a protective layer on the surface. The other useful feature is that it lends an aged or weathered look to the wood, which is distinctive and adds personality. However, it's not ready to use and needs to be mixed in water first.
The Minwax Helmsman and SaverSystems Wood stain are both water-based and can be used on decks and outdoor furniture. If you're looking to seal weathered soft wood such as those used in decks, then the SaverSystems wood stain is a better option and it's a value-for-money option as well. The Minwax Helmsman has drawbacks in terms of effectiveness, but it costs significantly more.
Thompsons WaterSeal, as the name indicates, is a great easy to use waterproofer. It's in the same price range as the SaverSystems wood stain, but it provides double the coverage per gallon, 200 square feet per gallon as compared to the 100 square feet per gallon coverage provided by SaverSystems.
If you're looking for long lasting wood sealers, then oil-based option is better. Both Star Brite teak oil sealer and Ready Seal wood stain and sealer are good. If you live close to the sea, then look no further and pick up the Star Brite teak oil sealer, even though it's a bit more expensive. Overall, the Ready Seal wood stain and sealer is one of the best oil-based wood sealers. Plus, it's available in 9 different colors, so you can find one to match the different types of exterior wood you have.