The Sustainable Modern Home

Sealing a Deck with Natural Oil

Decks made of natural wood get all their beauty from the grain of the wood and the depth of the color. Wood will fade over time due to sun and wind. Using sealers will help preserve wood over time. In the past, chemical sealers have been used heavily but with the move toward greener products, natural oils provide a better option and also serve as a barrier against moisture. Regular maintenance is necessary to keep the wood preserved as long as possible and doing so will ensure a deck that will remain structurally intact and beautiful for years to come.

wood grain

Oils are natural sealers and have a shorter lifespan compared to chemical sealers. Reapplication of the oils necessitates a clean deck. It is a good idea to regularly clean the deck to keep it free of stains and to remove all debris buildup. During dry weather a general sweeping will do the trick. Occasionally wet sweeping with water will keep the surface free of debris. Stains should be soaked up with a damp rag as soon as they happen. Forty-eight hours before reapplying the oil, clean the deck with a wet brush ensuring the surface is completely free of dirt and debris.

 stained deck

A normal stained deck requires sanding off the sealant and any faded stain in between coats. Oil-sealed decks do not require the same care. These decks can be sanded in sections as necessary. A stain that was not soaked up quickly enough would be a good example. To sand down these areas, use a 120 or higher grit paper. For the smoothest surface, be sure to sand with the grain. Doing so will avoid “raising the grain” in which the small wood fibers come above the surface and create roughness. Sanding by hand will deliver better results since you have more control and don’t end up going further into the surface of the wood.

For oil application it is best to soak a paint roller, paint brush or wool in the oil. Once the wood has been cleaned and allowed to dry, the oil should be applied in even coats, working row by row and board to board. Always work with the grain of the wood when applying oil, regardless of the application method. Apply a minimum of two to three coats for best results. Allow at least 24 hours of drying time between coats, giving the oil plenty of time to soak into the wood.

oil bottles

The vast variety of natural oils for use on hardwood decks include oils such as olive oil, walnut oil, linseed oil, teak oil, and many more. The darkness of the oil you select will determine how much the oil will darken the color of your hardwood decking. Similar to paint applications, testing the color on an unseen area or some scrap wood is a good idea. Let it dry for at least 24 hours to ensure the color is what you prefer for your finished deck. Decks that receive a lot of sun will need to be re-oiled more frequently than well-shaded decks. The general rule of thumb is to reapply the oil four times a year for direct sunlight decks and just twice a year for decks that are mainly shaded.

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