Oil Based vs Water Based
Oil Based Stains & Sealers vs
Water Based Stains & Sealers
Selecting a stain or sealer for your wood deck, siding or
furniture can be a daunting task. You
read about water (or soy) based stains that are all natural and environmentally
friendly and then you read about oil stains and it can all be very confusing. The fact of the matter is that there is no
real correct answer. What we want to do
is to educate you on the pros and cons of each and allow you to make your own
Qualities of Water Based Stains &
Water base stains and sealers do not trap moisture in the wood allowing the
wood to breath after application allowing the wood’s own inherent properties
protect itself. This is especially beneficial
on softer woods like cypress, cedar and redwood.
Process – The application
of water based products can be much easier to deal with. There are little or no harmful fumes emitted
which allows for you to use in an enclose area and not have to have all the
windows open. Dry time is faster and
clean-up is a synch with just soap and water.
You have to be careful because using too much of a water based stain can
raise the grain of some woods. It’s less
of an issue with decking, siding and outdoor furniture where you aren’t trying
to have that perfect glossy finish. If
you are finishing a raw piece of wood, you can select whichever type you
want. And water based products can be
applied over oil based products if that was what was originally used.
Mildew Resistant – Completely mildew resistant
because of the breathability quality we discussed earlier. However, some manufacturers will include
additives that can increase the possibility of mildew. If this is the case, the instructions will
say that the product is not breathable.
Friendly – Soy Based
Stains are often considered eco-friendly.
Where water based stains don’t normally carry the same stamp, they are
certainly more environmentally friendly.
They have less harmful chemicals and are not flammable.
Durability – Over the years they have made
these products more durable but oil stains are still considered to be more
durable. What this means is that you may
want to reapply more often as the finish will wear off faster. So the advantage of an easy application can
be offset a bit by the need for reapplying more often.
Qualities of Water Based Stains &
Breathability – Oil
Stains and Sealers penetrates your wood deeper than water which provides for a
more durable coating but if moisture is present, it can trap that
moisture. With woods that have a tight
grain like teak and shorea, this is not as much of an issue as the water doesn’t
penetrate those woods easily.
Process – Application
of oil based products can take longer in time but can be easier to get an even
color. These need to be applied in an
open or well-ventilated area because of the high VOC (Volatile Organic
Compound) levels. Oil rags are known to
combust under hot temps. Care must be
taken when disposing of these rags. Always
allow them to dry completely and do not store in an empty can or even tightly
sealed trash can.
Mildew Resistant –
Most of the newer formulated oil
based products are mildew resistant but they must say so on their label.
Friendly – Because
of the high VOCs these products contain, they are considered to be less
environmentally friendly. But once the
stains have dried there is little or no difference.
Durability – Oil stains and sealers are
considered to be a longer lasting finish as they penetrate deeper into the
grain of your wood. Thus, allowing you
more time between applications. Exactly
how long they last is tough to say as it all depends on the weather the piece
is being subjected to and for how long during the year.
Hopefully, you can now go and make a good decision on what stain you’d like to use. As we stated in the beginning there is no right answer, it all comes down to preference.
In many cases, we tend to prefer water based products on furniture and products made of softer woods like cedar, cypress, pine and redwood and then oil based products on woods like teak and shorea. Basically, when your
furniture looks like it needs re-staining, you should apply another coat.
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