When to varnish wood and when to oil

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Renovation Warehouse Banner ImageOil, lacquer, wax, varnish, paint, stain, polyurethane… there are a lot of ways to bring out the beauty of wood. Some of these look crisper, sharper and more reflective than others; other sealants on wood require a double-take to enjoy the beauty they bring out of the wood.

The biggest factor, though, is the absorbency of the wood, so let’s look at some of the variant factors.

 

Medium density fibreboard (MDF)

Made to be light but pressed with glue to be strong, MDF may have a rough surface. Sand it back pretty well before applying your sealant because once you begin putting sealant on MDF, there is no going back as it can be very absorbent material.

One of the first factors will be looking at what effect you want the MDF to have. MDF is typically quite blonde and not very dark. Apply a dark lacquer stain if you would like a dark effect; however if you want something reasonably golden, linseed wood oil could be the way to go as it doesn’t darken too much if you apply just one coat. One disadvantage: oil tends to need redoing every year or even every six months. Both types of sealant will reduce the likelihood of the wood getting scratched.

 

Native NZ timber floors can be revealed with a drum sander

A drum sander is the device typically used to rip the surface off floorboards for coating and once the sanding is done, it will leave the wood fibres exposed and hungry for a sealant. If there are any pits, cracks or fissures, woodfiller can be pasted into those holes, or a mixture of epoxy mixed with the timber sandings works as a filler too.

 

A nicely stained floor will appear to glow.

You don’t want to alter the appearance of your wood too much. A very dark stain will lose the beauty of the swirls, grains, knots and patterns in the wood. The answer is to use a light polyurethane on the floor, unless you’re happy to re-oil the floor occasionally (an oil may be worn out by sunlight and feet).

Once the sanding is done and you have ventilated the room and put a respirator mask on, polyurethane is easy to spread with a lamb’s wool mop. The right sealant will strengthen the wood and form a resinous seal in any tiny imperfections.

 

Pros and cons of various wood-sealing options

 

Natural oil options will give off far fewer fumes and are less “permanent” than sealants – that is, the wood is able to breathe. The main questions to ask are whether the wood is going to be protected in the shade or whether it will be battered by sun and rain.  Natural waxes and natural oils have the advantage of being solvent-free; oils can be quite deeply applied if priming oil is used before top surface oil. Then other pros and cons include that bench top / surface oil has some stain resistant qualities.

The biggest question is whether the wood is going to get walked on, touched or endure bumps a lot, because this raises the question of how long you would like the wood to be sealed for.

 

Whatever the wood product you’re picking up from Renovation Warehouse, be sure to ask what you need to know about treatment.

For example, Renovation Warehouse always stocks some good native timber slabs which may be suit a nice wood oil allowing the pores of the wood to breathe. Then again, some of our plywood panels have nice textures to them and oiling a panel might be too much to ask – polyurethane lacquer and varnish could be the way to go. Floorboards sometimes come in, too.

The best way to begin answering these questions is to come on in and see us at 28 Kioreroa Road, Whangarei, and see what we have in stock this week. Grab a bargain and then our knowledgeable staff can advise on how to protect the wood.

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