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Painting Tools

What stains and paints to use to help protect timber

What stains and paints to use to help protect timber

How to protect your timber with different stains and paints

The British elements are harsh at this time of year; it’s hard to know what to wear each day with the changeability of our rain, wind and the occasional spell of hail or snow! It’s not just yourself you need to protect from the elements either; if you’ve got a treasured [deck]  in your garden, a nice garden fence, shed full of tools or [timber cladding] on the side of your house, wood outside the home needs protection too.

There’s the obvious maintenance work to do, like making sure there’s no nails sticking out and keeping your wood clean of mud and debris, but it goes deeper than that. In Britain’s wet climate, water can soak into unprotected wood and cause wet rot. In the cold winter months, if water gets into the wood and freezes, it can splinter and split the wood too!

There’s a wide range of products to choose from to protect wood, but which is best for your needs? Let’s have a look through the main options on the market…

Wood stain

A wood stain is a dye that soaks into and penetrates the wood, giving it extra protection from weathering elements. Unlike paint, wood stains are designed to show off the grain of the wood rather than cover it up completely. There are seven main types, which are:

• Oil stains — The most commonly available stain, these are great for larger fences because it’s easy to spread oil stains evenly.

• Varnish — Varnish dries hard and eliminates the need for a finishing coat, and is perfect for small projects that are already stained, or on surfaces that are worn or scuffed.

• Water-based stain — These are the most natural and the easiest to clean up, but also can be difficult to apply. The water raises the grain of the wood, affecting the texture.

• Gel stain — This is the best stain for avoiding splotches, and has a thick consistency, like mayonnaise.

• Lacquer finish — A fast-drying stain, they’re a popular choice for professional woodworkers, but they dry so quickly that you’ll need to know what you’re doing to get it right!

• Water soluble dye stain — this variety of stain is sold as a powder you add to water. They come in a wide variety of colours, but isn’t the best choice for outdoor projects as it fades under UV light.

• Metalized dye stain — these are great for spraying on, and as they dry quickly a sprayed metalized stain is among the easiest to apply.


If you’re looking for a splash of colour in your garden, paints are the way to go, as you’ll be able to find a paint for whatever shade you’re looking for! They act differently to stains in that they sit on the wood’s surface and act as a barrier against water, damp and rot.

Other choices

If your wood’s exposed to particularly harsh weather, special wood preservers are especially resilient, while clear wood preservative offers a layer of protection while showing off your wood’s great natural colours.

Ruby UK has got plenty of products worth looking at to help preserve your precious wood, or replace any that might be too damaged to save.

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