Best Outdoor Wood Sealer (2019): Reviews & Comparison

  • April 24, 2019
  • / By Dale Keese
Wood Patio

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 decks or furniture, the wood needs to be taken care of in order to last a long time.

Wood Patio

Similar to sealers for concrete and granite, there are sealers for wood. The best outdoor wood sealer will protect decks and furniture from rotting and fading. Paint is the best 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.

Top 6 Reviews of Outdoor Wood Sealers

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.

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane

OUR RATING

Features

  • It contains UV blockers that protect wood from natural fading and other harmful effects or direct exposure to sunlight.
  • A protective barrier is formed on wooden surfaces that guard against deterioration due to rain and moisture.
  • It contains special oils that ensure the protective barrier mimics the expansion and contraction of wood due to temperature change and the natural seasonal effect on wood.
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    It has a clear finish, which makes it perfect for light-colored wood.
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    It dries quickly post application.
  • It’s easy to clean with warm water.

Advantages

  • It’s really easy to apply and it doesn’t take too long either, because it dries quickly.
  • A number of similar products protect wood from sunlight and rain, but this offers the added element of protection from seasonal and temperature changes to wood.
  • It does a good job of preventing fading or graying of wood.

Drawbacks

  • Some users have complained about a slight yellowing of the wood post application.
  • Even though it’s supposed to be suitable for use indoors, it does produce some fumes so make sure the room is very well ventilated.
  • It’s slightly on the expensive side.

Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment

This is a non-toxic wood 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 wood 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.

Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment

OUR RATING

Features

  • It will protect wood from moss, mold, and fungus. It will also provide
  •       protection against wet and dry rot.
  • It only needs to be applied once on the wooden structure and doesn’t peel or flake.
  • It penetrates the fibers in the wood, which alters the molecular composition
  •      of the wooden structure.
  • It produces a silvery or brown aged finish with a low sheen on the wooden surface, which has the aesthetic effect of artificial aging.
  • This artificial aging characteristic also makes this ideal for application on repaired patches of a wooden structure, as it helps to match the appearance.
  • It doesn’t contain any environmentally harmful residues.
  • There are no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in it.
  • It doesn’t contain any fumes, which means it can be used indoors as well.
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    It dries quickly and can be washed with water.
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    It offers 150-200 square feet of coverage.

Advantages

  • The Tall Earth wood treatment and stain creates the effect of artificial aging on the wooden surface or weathers the wood, which looks beautiful.
  • It penetrates and alters the wood at a molecular level and protects it from all possible issues outdoor wooden structures face.
  • It provides lifetime protection with just one application.
  • If you are conscious of the environmental footprints left behind by your actions, then this is perfect for you.
  • It’s also ideal for wooden garden beds (raised or otherwise) because it doesn’t release any harmful residues in the soil or groundwater.
  • It’s safe to use around kids and pets and doesn’t release fumes, so it can be used indoors as well.

Drawbacks

  • It might darken the wood a little more than expected. So, if that’s something you want to avoid, then this isn’t the right product for you. In any case, you should test it in a small corner before applying.
  • It’s not ready to use. You will need to mix it before applying and then you will need a proper airtight container to store any leftover mixture.

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 on wooden surfaces.

Along with protecting wood, it doesn’t change its appearance and maintains the natural color of wood. 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.

Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector

OUR RATING

Features

  • It prevents the formation of mildew and protects from damage to wood due to exposure to UV rays from sunlight.
  • The natural color of wood is retained.
  • Only one coat needs to be applied.
  • Wood needs to be cleaned properly before applying the coat.
  • It can be applied on both damp and dry wood.
  • WaterSeal can be applied to newly pressure-treated wood.
  • It’s available in five different stain colors, including acorn brown, woodland cedar, harvest gold,
  •      maple brown, and Sequoia red.
  • It’s water based and can be cleaned with soap and water.
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    The 1-gallon container will provide coverage of up to 200 square feet.
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    It needs to be applied with a brush for even coating.

Advantages

  • The waterproofing ability of Thompson's WaterSeal is top notch.
  • It offers long-lasting protection against water and UV damage with just one coat.
  • The natural color of the deck or outdoor furniture will not get darkened after applying this, as is the case with some of the other exterior wood sealers.
  • It’s available in different stain colors, so you can highlight the aesthetics of exterior wood structures by selecting the right color.

Drawbacks

  • It forms a film or layer on top of the wooden surface, so there’s a chance of peeling or flaking after a point.
  • It’s quite an expensive sealer.

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 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 wood 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.

Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer

OUR RATING

Features

  • It’s made with natural oils that have been ultra-refined, while high molecular weight polymers are formed through chemical modification. This enables it to protect wood from extreme weather conditions.
  • Additives blended in the oil also allow it to protect wood from damage such as fading and graying caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight and its UV rays.
  • It contains advanced tung oil polymers that give wood a warm golden tinge that looks natural and lasts a long time.
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    It can be used on boats and any wooden elements in the pool area as well.
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    It’s easy to apply and dries quite fast.

Advantages

  • This is specifically designed for teak wood and other fine woods and tackles all issues that teak wood structures outdoor need to contend with.
  • It enhances the natural look of teak and also adds a warm golden glow to it.
  • It helps teak withstand exposure to saltwater.
  • It also protects wood from UV damage.

Drawbacks

  • The wood needs to be cleaned, scrubbed, rinsed and dried first, which all adds up to a significant amount of prep time before the sealer can actually be applied.
  • It’s a premium product and the price is premium too.

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 wood 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.

Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

OUR RATING

Features

  • It’s an oil-based, semi-transparent sealer that waterproofs exterior wood.
  • It penetrates the wood in order to preserve it, and at the same time, prevents the formation of mold and mildew.
  • It also protects the wood from damaging UV rays.
  • The natural texture of the wood and wood grain remain visible.
  • It promises a "Goof Proof" application, which essentially means that there are no visible laps, runs or streaks on the wood after the sealer is applied.
  • There are no signs of back brushing either.
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    It can be applied at any temperature.
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    Note that in California, Connecticut, and Vermont a PaintCare recycling fee will be included with the price of the sealer.

Advantages

  • It’s available in 9 different colors, including burnt hickory, dark walnut, golden pine, light oak, mahogany, natural cedar, pecan, redwood, and mission brown. This allows you to treat and seal all types of wood.
  • It does an excellent job of waterproofing wood and preventing mold and mildew.
  • The fact that it prevents runs and streaks, as well as back brushing, helps enhance the look of the wood.

Drawbacks

  • It has low coverage as compared some of the other sealers, which means you might end up spending more.
  • If you’re in California, Connecticut or Vermont then you will have to pay a higher price.

SaverSystems Wood Stain

This is a water-based, semi-transparent wood stain that’s absorbed into the pores of the wood and forms a protective barrier. It not only protects the wood 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.

SaverSystems Wood Stain

OUR RATING

Features

  • It performs the dual functions of a stain and sealer.
  • It provides a flat, natural-looking finish after it dries.
  • It waterproofs wood and protects it from UV damage.
  • FIt’s water based and contains a very low count of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Less than 50 gm per liter.
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    It provides 100 square feet of coverage with 1 gallon of wood stain.
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    It can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • It’s available in 4 different finishes, including natural, light walnut, dark walnut, and cedar.

Advantages

  • It provides a natural finish.
  • You can select from four different colored finishes to match the wood you’re sealing.
  • Its waterproofing quality is good.
  • It releases very low odor, which makes it safe to use around the house and there won’t be an irritating smell lingering around for days either.

Drawbacks

  • It’s good for all types of weathered soft wood, but not for other types of wood.
  • It offers very low coverage at 100 square feet per gallon.

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?

Wood Wall

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 Stains

There are broadly three types of wood 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.

Treating 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, that doesn’t necessarily make solid stains the best outdoor wood sealer.

Solid or Opaque

A good quality solid or opaque wood stain 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 Floor

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

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 stains 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

Clear finish stains champion the wood. It’s the best outdoor wood sealer 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 Porch
  • Exterior Oil: This is easiest to apply and provides the least amount of protection. It lasts for about a year, following which you need to reapply it. Most people refer to this type as a clear finish and do not mention or are not aware of the other types.
  • Urethane: This is a varnish and provides a superior level of protection against moisture and damage caused due to UV rays. However, applying it is a more protracted process. The standard practice is to apply 8 thin coats of this stain for best results. After each coat, let it dry up and harden, then sand it before applying the next coat. The film formed at the end is more flexible than regular varnish, which means it doesn’t easily crack due to seasonal expansion and contraction of wood or temperature changes. It will last at least 2-3 years after which you will have to apply a new coat.
  • Epoxy: Epoxy clear finish sealers with an added topcoat of exterior varnish is the most durable type of clear finish. It will last many years, but it’s not suitable for a do-it-yourself project. It will take time and a lot of effort. If you can hire a professional to do it for you, then go for this type of clear finish. It will cost more, but you will end up saving money in the long run. Plus, you will not have to worry about reapplying it every couple of years or so.

Type of Wood

New Wood

You need to ensure that the wood is completely dry before you apply the stain. 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.

Wood Stairs

Weathered Wood

You will have to sand and pressure wash weathered wood before applying the stain. 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 stain it all together.

Wood with Existing Stain

Remove the stain by sanding before applying the new stain. Or else the old stain might show through the new coating and appear blotchy. Film forming stains need to be thoroughly sanded and removed in order for a penetrating stain to have the desired effect.

Verdict

The Tall Earth wood treatment is your ideal choice 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.

Log Cabin

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, waterproofs wood as well. 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 a fine wood sealer, then an 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.

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