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Using Finish to Improve the Long Term Health of Wood


Exterior StainWhen wood is exposed to the elements of nature, its structural and aesthetic integrity can be compromised. Factors such as water and sunlight weaken the lignin content that helps hold wood fibers together. When this lignin is broken down, the wood turns gray in color and begins to rapidly decay. If water enters the wood at this stage it can lead to severe rotting and weakening of the wood. To prevent this from occurring, wood finish must be applied.

What is Finish?

Finish is a coating applied to wood that helps keep it sealed and protected from destructive forces. There are a variety of wood finishes available that offer an array of aesthetic and protective values for wood. In most cases finish will either be in the form of a paint or a stain.

  • Paint is effective in protecting wood due to the fact that is creates a seal with an opaque film. This multi-colored option will cover the grain of the wood, while sometimes leaving behind its texture. Paints provide a solid color on the wood and can last up to 5-7 years, although maintenance may need to be kept to avoid any chipping off of the paint
  • Stain finishes are relatively easy to apply, resistant to peeling, and have the ability to bring out the grain and texture of the wood. Stains come in a variety of styles and are the perfect way to add some character to the natural look of the wood. Most stains need to be re-finished on a yearly basis.

When to Apply Finish

From the moment any piece of wood is installed within or outside of your home it is susceptible to damage. Wood that receives the most outdoor exposure or foot traffic is typically most as at risk to becoming rotted. As a means to protect this wood, a finish should be applied to it as soon as possible. If the wood has already been finished, be sure to inspect it year-round for any obstructions. In most cases the more opaque a finish is the longer it will last. While some finishes can last for years many, need to be re-applied annually.

How to Apply Finish

Prior to staining or painting, it is important to thoroughly wash the wood down and clean it off. Once it is dried, it should be thoroughly sanded. This further cleans the wood and helps open the pores so that the finish and its pigments are more easily absorbed. At this point, the finish should be stirred and can be applied to the wood, via a paintbrush. If you are applying a stain, it is important to run a rag over finish to wipe off any excess stain. You want the finish to be absorbed by the wood rather than simply drying on it. By applying this finish, you are ensuring that your wood will stay protected and preserved while being exposed to any outdoor elements.

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