Which wood care product for your
wood deck project?
What you see is not always
what you get
by Susan M. Brimo-Cox
of exterior wood deck care products on the market could easily make a contractor’s eyes glaze over. Which one to choose?
Fortunately, the number of varying products means there is an ideal product for virtually any wood deck care job in virtually any situation. Unfortunately, making the selection might not be simple. A contractor needs to assess the project, and then do some homework — with particular emphasis on reading product labels and data sheets.
The obvious first step is to consider the age and condition of the wood you will be working on. This will help you focus on appropriate products for the project.
“For newer wood, clear and toner products can prolong the wood life without hiding the natural grain. For older woods, semi-transparent and solid color stains offer maximum protection,” explains Diana Strongosky, product manager for The Sherwin-Williams Co., which makes Cuprinol products. “For example, if the wood is 10 years old with imperfections, it’s best to choose a solid color deck stain to provide a consistent look to the topcoat. If a customer’s wood is in good condition, they can choose a clear, toner or semi-transparent depending on the look they want in regards to color and amount of wood grain shown.”
Even cedar and redwood decks demand special consideration today. “Decades ago, harvested cedar and redwood contained their own natural preservatives (which are present in the heartwood, or inner core of the tree) against rot and decay, but today’s second growth harvest is not as well protected. More knots and less heartwood is evident in today’s decking lumber,” observes Leslie Juhn, marketing manager for Wolman Wood Care Products at Zinsser Co. Inc. Cedar and redwood benefit from a protective finish that includes a water repellent and preservative to help minimize moisture damage and fungi attack.
Beautiful, but not inexpensive, exotic hardwoods offer numerous advantages as decking material. However, as Joan Griswald, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Penofin-Performance Coatings, points out, “Exotic hardwood has a high oil content and very dense fiber content, which makes it really impossible for many finishes to penetrate.” For new exotic hardwood decks, she offers this recommendation: “Apply a couple of light coats the first year. The first coat may not be absorbed much, but the accumulation of coats will protect the wood. And natural weathering permits the wood to absorb more protection with each application.”
The life expectancy of products may be an important consideration. “Coatings for decks and other horizontal applications have shorter life expectancies than vertical applications simply because the variables that shorten the life of a coating system are more harsh on these structures,” reports Adam Churchill, manager of technical services and support for Cabot.
Direct exposure to the harmful UV rays of sunlight and moisture from rain, snow and ice work to break down coatings on horizontal surfaces. “Horizontal surfaces also are subject to ‘foot’ traffic,” adds Jim Renfroe at Wood Care Systems. Believe it or not, pets are hard on decks, he adds.
Is dry time important? Weather conditions and application technique play an important role here. Ever have a finish that seems to never dry? Beth Rechin, assistant product manager at The Flood Co., states a non-drying deck finish can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including weather conditions, such as high humidity or cool, damp weather. “Deck finishes that are slow to dry will collect dirt and contamination much more readily.”
Over application also is something to avoid, not just because it extends dry time, but because it can cause a variety of problems. “Over application in general may cause uniformity issues with the final appearance,” says Strongosky. Product adhesion is another issue, so, more is not necessarily better.
Not everything about wood deck care finishes is obvious in the name of the product. For example, “not all products that have oil or resins are necessarily solvent-based; they may be water-based,” observes Rod Marsh, senior technical representative at Napier Environmental Technologies Inc. In these products the carrier could be petroleum solvents or water and petroleum solvents in varying degrees. If your “intention is to use products without petroleum solvents, just having soap and water clean-up won’t guarantee that,” he explains. You have to read the label more closely. “The tip-off is if rags and brushes are combustible it’s more likely petroleum solvents are part of the formula.”
Solvents and Volatile Organic Compounds levels are important considerations in a growing number of areas of the country, such as California, which have more stringent limits than the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s national rule on VOCs. Jake Clark, president and owner Armstrong-Clark Co., reports even more stringent VOC limits will take effect in California January 1, 2003. While dropping solvents and increasing solids has worked in the past to meet VOC limitations, he says, new technologies will be needed in many cases to meet the new requirements — “otherwise, there won’t be enough solvent for penetration and [there will be] too many solids, which would sit on the surface.” Some product formulas are already compliant with the upcoming California regulations. But, as more locales institute increased VOC limits, it is more important than ever to check the grams per liter ratio on product labels to be sure they comply to regulations in your area.
Several new products have been introduced that address specific project situations and/or make life easier for contractors and their customers alike.
This year Cabot has added a Natural tone to its Australian Timber Oil line, which also is available in Amberwood, Honey Teak and Mahogany Flame. Australian Timber Oil is a unique blend of oils from a formula originally developed to protect Australian tallowwood, cambara and merbau from extreme exposures. It accentuates natural wood depth and patina while providing maximum penetration paired with water repellency.
Coronado Paint Co. added the Maxum line of deck finishes this year. Maxum Sheer Naturals and semi-transparent acrylic coatings are “wet-wood” friendly, which means, that the wood does not have to be completely dry prior to application. The acrylic systems are designed to dry quickly — tack free in one hour and ready for light traffic in six to eight hours. The Maxum oil systems are designed for light traffic in 12 to 24 hours, depending on the application method and amount.
One of The Flood Co.’s newest deck finishes for the professional is FloodPro Spa-N-Deck 100% Acrylic Wood Finish. It is based on acrylic technology and is unique in its application. Spa-N-Deck must be applied to wood with the surface thoroughly wet. Professionals don’t have to wait two or three days for the wood to dry before finishing the job.
Wolman’s DuraStain Semi-transparent Wood Stain is actually a new twist on an old favorite. It incorporates the same time-tested, oil/acrylic formula as Wolman Deck Stain while offering several unique advantages to users: Its alkyd/acrylic blend is actually a linseed oil rich formula enhanced with an acrylic to provide greater longevity, durability and scuff-resistance than standard oil-base stains. One-coat coverage provides a richly pigmented, more opaque finish for longer color retention and UV protection. And the ready-mixed colors can be tinted with up to four ounces of universal colorants to achieve a custom look or color match to existing siding or trim. Wolman DuraStain is available exclusively through ICI Dulux Paint Centers.