A timber deck is a significant financial investment. When you spend $60+ per square metre on timber decking, it pays to maintain its condition. You have to consider a number of options: oiling, painting, or staining, but there are a number of reasons why oiling is the best way to go. This article will supplement your maintenance research by determining which type of timber decking oil best suits your needs.
What is so great about oil?
There are many products out there, but many of them do not live up to their claim of looking after your deck – mainly because they do not protect the wood against the elements.
What differentiates oil from paint is it does not just sit on the wood’s surface, where it can bubble or blister, it penetrates deep into the pores and between the joints and connectors of the timber, preventing moisture damage. Some oil-based wood preservatives also contain blockers that reduce the harmful effects of UV rays.
Oils on the market
The two main types of decking oil on the market are water based and non-water based.
Water based oils generally have a less dramatic impact on the natural colour of the wood. These oils block the pores and cover the surface with an acrylic film. In order for the oil to be effective, the deck needs to be cleaned of dust and other debris beforehand, or else there is a risk that the oil will not adhere to the surface and will peel off. One of the more popular water based products in the WA market is Intergrain UltraDeck, which we regularly recommend to customers.
Non water based
Non-water based oils penetrate into the wood fibre and protect the material from water damage and other elements. Non-water based oils provide similar protection to water based oils and but require a longer drying time between coats. However, these oils generally turn the timber a darker shade of colour, similar to wet wood. Two examples we recommend are CUTEK® CD-50 and Intergrain Natures Timber Oil.
The best-suited oil for your deck will depend on your deck’s usage, the amount of exposure to the elements, the type of oil previously applied and what species of wood it is made from. For example, if you have a deck made from Merbau, which is a dark, hardwood timber, depending on the look you want to achieve it may be best to use a lightly tinted oil to limit a further darkening in the colour of the wood.
When timber is sold, it often comes with manufacturer recommendations about which maintenance products (like oils) best suit the wood. Check with your timber merchant to find out what products are recommended.
Oiling is not a permanent deck maintenance solution. To keep your deck protected, oil will need to be reapplied periodically. Depending on the product you use, you should consider doing this once every 6-18 months.
Before oiling, it is essential to have a clean deck. Remove all furniture, plants and decorations from the decking surface. If it is not possible to remove everything from the deck, place the items neatly in one corner. After sweeping all debris from the surface, give it a thorough clean with a product safe for use on that species of deck.
Oiling the deck
Things you will need:
- Decking oil
- Decking brush/applicator
- Paint tray or bucket
- Cleaning rag and turpentine or clean water (to clean up any mess or spills)
Before you begin, you will want to ensure that the pigments have been properly mixed in, so give the oil a good stir.
The best way to apply the oil is with long, continuous strokes with enough oil on the brush to soak into the wood. Try to run the brush/applicator along a single board without touching any of the others. When you have finished one row, move across the deck and start on the next, this is more important with non-water based oils to ensure a non-patchy finish
If this is the first time you have oiled/used a particular product it is best to patch test a small area to see how much oil needs to be applied for it to soak into the wood.
Follow the instructions on the tin. It will tell you how long it takes the oil to dry and when you should apply the second coat. You will not need to apply as much oil on the second coat, as the wood has already absorbed some of the oil. If oil pools and becomes sticky on the surface, remove the excess oil with a rag and turpentine.
Best of luck with oiling your deck. If you are unsure at any point in the process, do not hesitate to get some advice from your timber decking merchant.