The Ultimate Guide To Protective Wood Treatments

Protective Wood Treatment


When it comes to protecting outdoor wood, whether it be a shed, decking, fencing, cladding or garden furniture, it can be difficult to know exactly what treatment is best for you. After all, the finish do you want, the condition of the wood and the level of protection it offer against weathering are all important things to consider. That is why our experts have put together this handy guide to protective wood treatments so you can find out everything you need to know before you protect your outdoor wooden surfaces.


Why Is It Important To Apply A Protective Wood Treatment?


Like any exterior surface, protecting outdoor wood is crucial for a number of reasons. Wood is a natural organic material, meaning it is highly  porous. The more porous a material, the more moisture it will absorb. The level of porosity of the wood will depend from species to species, with hardwoods like Teak, Iroko and Oak being less porous than softwoods. Having said this, in reality, wood of all types will uptake enough moisture over time to cause it to deteriorate.


There are a huge numbers of negative side effects that moisture can have on wood, with the main problems being rotting, organic growth and discolouration.




We are all familiar with rotting, which is caused when wood is exposed to high-levels of moisture over an extended period of time. While all natural mineral surfaces when exposed to high levels of moisture will decay in some way, wood is particularly prone to damage over time. Wet rot is caused by a fungus that thrives in very damp wood, feeding off the timber until it begins to weaken and breakdown. Bare, untreated outdoor wood in this country will be left exposed to high levels of moisture which continues to saturate the material until eventually, substantial repair work is required or in some cases the wood will have to be replaced. Read more in our guide on how to prevent wood from rotting.


Organic growth


Organic growth such as moss, algae and lichens thrive on natural mineral surfaces such as wood due to their ability to create the ideal environment for the fungus to grow. The high levels of moisture allow the organic growth to bloom, eventually leaving large green marks on the timber. When the organic growth takes hold, it can engulf the wood and cause the full surfaces to be a real-eye sore.


Organic growth on wood




Wood can discolour in a wide variety of ways, from green growth to simply darkening in colour when it comes wet. One of the lesser known causes of discolouration is UV rays, which over a period of time can not only weaken the wood, but also cause it to lose it's colour. This process can bleach the wood, which is known as 'silvering' causing the beautiful natural pigment of the natural wood to be lost. 


How Can You Protect Wood?


If you leave outdoor wooden surface natural and untreated, you run the risk yourself at risk of the timber not only looking less than pristine in a matter of years, but also in need of structural repair in order to rectify damage caused by weathering. For this reason, adding a protective wood treatment is highly recommended as this is going to help provide the wood with the necessary protection it needs.


Due to the nature of wood, there are a wide range of options when it comes to treating it. The natural beauty of wood, the huge variety of species and the versatility of wood as a building material are all factors that impact the treatments that are available. While many surfaces such as metal are generally only protected using a paint, wood treatments come in the form of paints, woodstains, wood oils, wood waterproofers, waxs and more.


  • Wood paint - a wood paint is an opaque coloured paint that completely covers the grain of the wood with a uniform finish.
  • Wood stain - a woodstain is a coloured, semi-transparent finish that adds added pigment to the wood while maintaining the visibility of the grain.
  • Wood oil - a wood oil enhances the natural look of the wood and are often made of natural ingredients.
  • Wood waterproofer - a wood waterproofer is a clear, invisible water repellent treatment that protects bare, natural wood from weathering by preventing water absorption.
  • Wood wax - a wood wax is a natural beeswax that nourishes wood in the same way a moisturiser would, although generally for interior use.


The best way to protect outdoor wood depends on the level of protection and the look you want to achieve. If you want to change the colour of the wood, a wood paint or wood stain is best suited for you as these are available in a range of colours, from natural earthy tones to pastels. These have the primary function of enhancing the appearance of the wood rather than protecting it, although applying any treatment to the wood will help to provide it with some level of protection from weathering. Furthermore, if the wood has already been painted or stained, you must a suitable product as other wood treatments such as wood oils and wood waterproofers cannot be applied onto pre-painted or stained surfaces.


If you are looking for a protective wood treatment to apply to bare, untreated wood that isn't going to change the appearance of the wood, there are two options; a wood oil and a wood waterproofer. The difference between these two treatments is that a wood oil replenishes natural oils when it penetrates into the wood, while a wood waterproofer chemically bonds with the pores of the wood to provide the material with water repellent properties. Wood oils in terms of waterproofing can vary from oil to oil.


Another key difference is that wood oils are solvent-based while wood waterproofers are often water-based. This can mean that wood oils have a longer drying time and contain higher levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's). Furthermore, wood oils are applied in layers and require up to three coats, while wood waterproofers only require one-coat to protect the wood.


Lastly, there can be a difference in the durability of wood oils and wood waterproofers, as wood oils can be weathered over time. In contrast, as wood waterpoofers chemically bond to the wood, there is no film or coating to weather off. This gives wood waterproofers superb durability and allows them to provide the wood with waterproof properties rather than create a waterproof barrier on the surface of the timber.


Protected wood


In order offer ultimate protection to exterior wood, super hydrophobic technology was developed which completely repels water from treated wood. This is caused when water molecules are more attracted to each other than the wood, causing it to simply form beads on the surface and roll away.


This super hydrophobic technology is also highly breathable, which is crucial for any building material but especially wood. Breathability refers to how easily water vapour can freely pass through a substrate. If a protective treatment is not breathable, any moisture that enters the material becomes trapped, causing the treatment to peel and for the material swell and become damaged. Many wood sealers, paints & oils do not provide high breathability, which often causes them to fail after a number of years.


Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer contains the latest super hydrophobic to offer a completely water repellent & highly breathable wood waterproofer that protects any bare, natural outdoor wood. The treatment offers invisible protection by chemically bonding to timber surfaces, allowing it to maintain the natural look of the wood without darkening or yellowing over time.


The main advantage of preventing water absorption is that you protect the wood from any damage or discolouration that can be caused by fungus. As the wood stays dry, rotting & organic growth is prevented as the fungus no longer has the conditions required for it to thrive. This not only extends the lifespan of the wood but also means that moss, lichens and algae are significantly reduced


The water-based formulation also offers UV resistance that protects the timber from silvering and colour loss, helping to keep natural wood looking like new long-term without regular maintenance. 


An independent UKAS accredited laboratory tested Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer in a 25 year accelerated weathering test in order to establish how the protective treatment would perform in harsh weather conditions. After the 25 year weathering, the wood was found to be in the same condition as it was before the weathering, demonstrating a minimum performance of 25 years in any weather conditions without peeling, flaking or causing the woo to absorb moisture. 


How To Apply A Protective Wood Treatment


What You Will Need:


  • Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer
  • Paint brush, roller or pump-sprayer
  • Dust sheet
  • 180 grit sandpaper (may be required)
  • Masking tape
  • Exterior wood filler & filling knife (may be required) 


1. Preparation


The first step when it comes to applying any treatment to wood is to prepare the surface ready to paint. Outdoor wood is rarely ready to treat, so this is a crucial step in order to ensure the best possible results.


If you are treating any wood over the age of 6-12 months, any dirt, debris or organic growth must be removed to ensure the wood is in perfect condition. On wood that suffers from large scale dirt, using a power-washer can help to remove surface level dirt and can also dislodge any rotting or defect wood. Where the weathering is not prominent, hot soapy water and a soft brush is enough to remove dirt from the surface of the wood. Sanding the wood down using a 180-grit sandpaper can also help to remove deep ingrained dirt that cleaning alone won't remove.


Applying a fungicidal cleaner to the wood is the next step. While a water repellent treatment removes the moisture required for organic growth to thrive, it can still continue to develop if not removed. Apply Emperor Exterior Cleaner to the wood using a brush, roller or pump-sprayer and leave it to dry for 2 hours. After this period, any organic growth such as lichens or moss will be killed. It will also help to lift deep ingrained dirt from the surface that was not removed during the cleaning process.


If the wood has any repairs that need to be made, an exterior wood filler will help you to restore the wood. As the waterproofer is invisible, you want to ensure that you use a filler that matches the rest of the wood. If you do not match the shade correctly, this will be visible in the final results.


Finally protect any surrounding surfaces using masking tape, window film and a dust sheet.


2. Applying the treatment


Before you apply the protective treatment, you must ensure that the wood is completely dry. The treatment can be applied using a hand-pump sprayer, brush or roller so it is completely up to you how you apply it.


Apply the treatment to the bare wood at a coverage of 5m2 per litre. This is a one-coat application treatment, so once you have applied the treatment you can simply leave this to dry for 1 hour at 20°C. At lower temperatures it can take slightly longer for the product to dry. The full beading effect of the wood treatment will be visible once it has cured, which may take a number of days, so be patient. In this time, the wood will still be fully waterproof and protected. Furthermore, it will be touch dry within 1 hour so if there is any sudden rainfall, this will not cause a problem.


Wood Before & After Treatment


Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Will it change the appearance of wood in any way?


Emperor Wood Waterproofer absorbs deep into wood instead of creating a film like other wood products so it offers completely invisible protection. This includes no colour change or difference in sheen on the surface, which can be the case with oils and others treatments


Q. Can I apply the protective wood treatment to treated wood?


Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer must be able to absorb into wood in order to chemically bond to it. This means that a previous treatment such as paint or oil can prevent this, meaning it is not suitable for use in this case. The treatment is designed to protect bare wood long-term without the need to re-apply treatments.


Q. What guarantee of performance is there?


Emperor Wood Waterproofer has been independently tested by a UKAS accredited laboratory in a 25 year weathering test. After 25 years equivalent weathering, there was no signs of change in appearance or performance of the wood, which means it was fully protected for a 25 year period. Due to this, we offer a 10 year manufacturer guarantee which ensures the performance of the product in any conditions, giving you peace of mind.


Q. What is the difference between water-based and oil-based?


Terms you will see very often when researching wood products is water-based and oil-based (solvent-based). This refers to the composition of the product, with water-based products using a water-borne solvent while oil-based products have a significantly higher level of organic solvents. The main differences when it comes to water-based and oil-based is the drying time, with water-based products drying much quicker, often being touch dry within an hour while oil-based wood products can take between two and six hours. Aside from that, oil-based paints can come with an odour and are more harmful to the environment, which is why many manufacturer's are developing water-based alternatives.


We hope we have answered any questions you may have had regarding protective wood treatments. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts who are on hand to assist you. Contact them today by emailing or calling them on 0333 006 8880. Alternatively, shop Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer and get FREE next working day delivery on all orders over £50.