What to Consider When Sealing Timber Finishes in Your Home

Timber finishes add a stunning, natural look to your home’s interior. Whether you have hardwood flooring, wooden furniture, or cabinetry, the finishes you use on your timber can make a serious difference in the appearance and function of your home.

One crucial factor that homeowners can overlook is the importance of sealing these timber finishes. Sealing timber finishes protects them from moisture, humidity, stains, and scratches, enhancing the timber’s durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal.

Wondering what to consider when sealing timber finishes in your home? From the benefits of using a timber sealer to the types of finishes available and the steps to sealing and maintaining them, we’ll cover it all in this article.

sealed timber floor

Benefits of Sealing Timber Finishes

Before we dive into the specifics of sealing these surfaces, it’s essential to understand why sealing is necessary.

Unsealed timber finishes are vulnerable to moisture and humidity, which can cause warping, swelling, and decay over time. It can also be easily stained or scratched, which detracts from its natural beauty and shortens its lifespan. 

Sealing timber finishes provides a protective layer that repels moisture and stains while improving the durability and longevity of the material. Here are some of the key benefits of sealing timber finishes.

Protection from moisture and humidity

Moisture and humidity can penetrate unsealed timber finishes, causing warping, swelling, and decay in the material. Sealing timber finishes prevents moisture from seeping in, protecting the timber from water damage and prolonging its lifespan.

Enhanced durability and longevity

Sealed timber finishes are more robust and longer lasting than unsealed. They are less likely to scratch, dent, or chip, and they can withstand heavy foot traffic along with daily wear and tear.

Resistance to stains and scratches

Sealed timber finishes are less susceptible to stains and scratches than unsealed timber. It makes the material easier to clean and maintain and helps to ensure it retains its natural beauty and appearance over time.

Improved appearance and aesthetic appeal

Sealed timber finishes have a more polished, refined, and elegant look than unsealed timber. Just like your finishes enhance the natural colour and grain of the wood, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in your home, sealing enhances the finish.

sealed timber flooring

Types of Timber Finishes

Now that we’ve established the benefits of sealing timber finishes, let’s explore the different types of finishes available. 

There are three main categories of timber finishes: oil-based finishes, water-based finishes, and varnish and polyurethane finishes. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Oil-based finishes

Oil-based finishes are derived from natural oils such as tung oil, linseed oil, and walnut oil. These oils penetrate deep into the wood to enhance its natural colour and grain while providing a durable and long-lasting finish. 

Oil-based finishes are easy to apply and dry slowly, allowing you to work with them for longer periods. However, they have a strong odour, and they can be flammable and hazardous to use. They also require multiple coats, and with their long drying times, this can become time-consuming.

Water-based finishes

Water-based finishes are made from acrylic or polyurethane resins dissolved in water. They are non-toxic, odourless, and easy to clean up, making them a safer and more eco-friendly option. They also dry faster than oil-based finishes, which allows for quicker application and turnaround times. 

However, these don’t penetrate the wood as deeply as oil-based finishes, and they may require more coats to achieve the desired finish. They can also raise the grain of the wood, which requires more sanding and preparation.

Varnish and polyurethane finishes

Varnish and polyurethane finishes are synthetic coatings that provide a hard, durable, and protective layer

sealed timber bench

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Timber Finish

Choosing the right timber finish is crucial to achieving the desired look and function of your floors or cabinetry. Here are some of the factors you may want to consider when selecting a timber finish.

The type of timber

Different types of timber have varying degrees of porosity, density, and colour, which can affect the performance and appearance of the finish. For instance, hardwoods such as oak, mahogany, and walnut may require a different type of finish than softwoods such as pine, spruce, or cedar.

The location and purpose of the finish

The location and purpose of the finish can also influence the type of finish you choose. For example, a high-traffic area such as a hallway or kitchen may require a more durable and resistant finish than a low-traffic area such as a bedroom or study.

The level of foot traffic

The level of foot traffic can also determine the durability and longevity of the finish. A high-traffic area may require a finish that can withstand heavy foot traffic, while a low-traffic area may require a more delicate and subtle finish.

The desired appearance and finish

The desired appearance and finish of the timber can also guide the finish you select. Do you want a glossy, shiny finish or a matte, natural finish? Do you want to enhance the natural colour and grain of the wood, or do you want to achieve a specific colour or tone?

The environmental impact of the finish

Another consideration for many homeowners is the environmental impact of the finish. Some finishes may contain harmful chemicals or emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be hazardous to your health and the environment. Choosing an eco-friendly and sustainable finish can help reduce your carbon footprint and promote a healthier home environment.

seal timber

Steps to sealing your timber flooring and finishes

Once you have selected the perfect timber finish for your needs, it’s time to seal the timber finishes. Here are the steps involved in sealing timber finishes.

Prepare the surface

The first step is to prepare the surface of the timber finishes by sanding and cleaning it thoroughly. Remove any dirt, dust, or debris and sand the surface lightly to ensure a smooth and even finish.

Apply the finish

Apply the finish using a brush, roller, or spray gun, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to apply the finish evenly and avoid overloading or underloading the brush or roller.

Dry and cure

Allow the finish to dry and cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This may take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of finish and the humidity and temperature inside the room.

Sand and buff the surface

Once the finish is dry, sand and buff the surface lightly to remove any imperfections or unevenness. Use a fine-grit sandpaper and buffing pad to achieve a smooth and polished finish on your timber.

Repeat applications as necessary

Depending on the type of finish and the desired level of protection, you may need to apply additional coats of the finish. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow sufficient drying and curing time between each coat.

How to maintain and care for your timber finishes

Maintaining and caring for your sealed timber finishes is an essential step to prolong their lifespan and maintain their appearance and functionality. Here are some tips for maintaining and caring for your sealed timber finishes.

Clean and dust regularly

Clean your timber finishes regularly with a soft cloth or mop and a mild detergent or cleaning solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives that can damage the finish.

Avoiding harsh chemicals and abrasives

As mentioned above, harsh chemicals and abrasives can damage the finish and reduce its effectiveness. Avoid using bleach, ammonia, or other abrasive cleaning products on your timber finishes.

Inspect & maintain routinely 

Regularly inspect your timber finishes for any signs of wear, tear, or damage. If any issues do pop up, address them immediately to prevent them from worsening or requiring costly repairs and replacements.

Refinish as necessary

Over time, the finish on your timber may wear off or become damaged, leading to the need for a refinish. Depending on the type of finish and the level of wear, you may be able to simply reapply a new coat of finish or sand and refinish the timber entirely.

Looking for a top-end timber sealer? 

We offer a variety of timber seal products. Take a look at our favourite timber seal products.

Timber seal products

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