Water resistant woods: this is what you should know

homify Modern Bathroom
Loading admin actions …

In keeping with the rising popularity of the naturally noble wood as the chief composing material not only for floors but for entire homes, the professional experts have lately been innovating different styles & exploring varieties of wood that are water resistant, insect-proof, and with a high endurance. There are several water resistant woods but hardwood stands out being low maintenance as well. These woods usually do not need chemical treatments & stand up to weather, insects and time beautifully on their own. This article offers a glimpse into water resistant and weather resistant woods & their applications for furnishing & decoration of the home.

Types of water resistant woods.

As mentioned above, hardwoods are both low maintenance & highly resistant to moisture. So, it is the best option for outside projects like decks, balconies, outdoor showers & outdoor furniture. Hardwoods have a straight grain and are dense woods; this prevents moisture penetration. Cedar is an insect-resistant hardwood owing to its natural aromatic scent which makes it perfect for outdoor furniture. Cedar is also used for indoor furniture like dressers & chests. One can find Cedar application also for saunas, closets & house siding. Cedar wood projects normally last more than 20 years sans any rot, split or warp. 

Among other water resistant wood types are White oak and teak. These are also long lasting woods resistant to warping, decay, cracking, or twisting. These dense woods do not need a lot of maintenance and have a natural ability to repel rotting, moisture & insects. These rot resistant woods, therefore, are popular choices for outdoor wood furniture. 

Pressure treated boards like pine are also employed for furniture, decking and pool enclosures. This universal material is generally less costly and can be found aplenty at a local lumberyard.

In the bathroom, a dark wood floor adds sophistication. Water resistant wood based laminate flooring is something that is fast catching up with homeowners. 

Other water resistant wood types worthy of mention are Ipe, California redwood & bald cypress. Ipe is a widely used beautiful wood sourced from the tropical Trumpet Tree. Ipe is an extremely dense wood and over time it weathers beautifully to a light silver-gray; it has many variants certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Experts advise opting for lumber certified as sustainable by the FSC; such certified wood is clearly labeled with the FSC certification logo.

Hard woods are best suited to the terrace floors, but they require a wax/ oil seal to be protected from inclement weather conditions. Pine is also widely employed for terrace floors. Pressure or heat treated pine wood boasts of high quality standards especially in terms of high resistance. There is also Oak, a very solid kind of wood, that needs to be treated every 5 to 10 years in order to maintain the tint. Bangkirai is another kind of highly water resistant wood commonly used for terraces; it is durable but needs treating yearly.

Interiors also need water resistant wood floor.

Be it the integrated living room with the kitchen & a washbasin area or the bathroom, home interiors always benefit from water resistant wood floors. It doesn't matter if it is your favorite rich-toned parquet or simple laminate flooring, if you have small children and/ or pets, water-resistant floor is all the more necessary to maintain healthy interiors. Further, in bathrooms, the constant presence of moisture mandates that any organic flooring materials be chemically treated so as to render them resistant to water & hence, insusceptible to mold/ fungal infestations.

Engineered wood floor is a better option than laminate flooring because the former has a base of a sturdier, more water resistant plywood. But, there are also a number of laminate floors that come with a scratch-guard & water-repellent top and look very natural. 

The importance of water resistant wood finish.

To enhance the water resistant character of wood, it is important to coat them with proper finishes. Finishing products can be categorized, based on typical working qualities & the degree of protection offered. Waxes, varnishes, oils, lacquers, shellacs and water-based finishes are available, these offer different degrees of protection, ease of application, durability, ease of repair and of course, visual appeal.

Wooden furniture is also vulnerable to inevitable spills or contact with cold-drink condensation, hence the furniture finishes MUST offer considerable water resistance too. There are certain tacit rules to follow to ensure lasting wood finishes. 
Thin finishes are the best, especially keeping in mind the easy & hassle-free applicability. 

Oil-based varnish offers the best durability in terms of water-resistance. The reason is its constituent synthetic resins that are bonded to drying oils & mixed with a thinner. Varnishes using urethane for their resin (commonly labeled polyurethane) are faster to cure and dominate the scene. In such varnishes, as the thinner flashes off & the varnish cures, the molecules form long, hard chains that create a sort of armor shielding the wood surface against moisture. 

Thinning varnishes adds to the ease of its application. Thinned varnish spreads much faster, settles flat & defect-free before drying. The water resistance of the varnish is also retained, making it ideal for tabletops and kitchen & bathroom cabinets where maximum possibility exists for moisture contact. 

Quite popular as water resistant wood finishes, Danish oils consist of an oil/varnish blend with thinner added to ease the application. For significant cost savings, you can have a DIY project of making your own Danish oil wood finish by mixing varnish, mineral spirits & boiled linseed oil in equal parts. Although this finish compromises some of varnish's water-resistance but the resultant gives a speedier finish & warmer wood tones owing to the oil's penetration. Wood elements vulnerable only to incidental water contact are ideal surfaces for application of Danish oils. 

Exterior wood finishes get damaged in time due to UV light and weather exposure. UV light wears down the finish AND the wood beneath, while changes in humidity & temperature make the wood shrink & swell that flakes off the already weakened finish. Most often, in such scenarios, you need to annually sand away the damaged finish & reapply it. Exterior paint comes to the rescue here. All paint bases contain pigments offering a good deal of protection against damaging UV,  but the base reserved for the darkest shades (designated base 4, 5, or E or typically labeled deep base) has the least pigment quantity. So, it dries almost clear much like a varnish. However, as opposed to many film-forming clear finishes marketed for outdoor purposes, most of the exterior paints also bear UV inhibitors to strengthen their resistance against damaging rays of the sun. And they normally contain fungicides & mildewcides too. 

Water resistant wood stain—a necessity.

When looking for the most befitting stain for your outdoor (or indoor) wood project, several factors need to be considered. There are two main stain types according to their bases- oil-based stain & water-based stain; and in specific conditions, one is practically better than the other. Depending on the type of wood, any previous wood treatment & weather exposure, both these types of stains offer different levels of coverage & protection. Here are some properties of both the the stain types to guide your decision:

- The water-based stain is breathable, does not emit harmful fumes or odors, is not flammable, dries quickly, retains its color for a longer period of time, offers a richer hue of color, is extremely resistant to mildew and mold, and is easier to clean requiring only soap and water; while

- the oil-based stain needs more time to dry that allows for a more even finish, penetrates wood deeper, requires less for long-term maintenance, is extremely durable and offers a thicker seal for wood. 

The type of wood also plays a key role in deciding the right stain. For example, when coating a wood with natural resistance to rotting, it is better to use a water-based stain. Examples of this kind of wood are cypress, cedar & redwood. 

Similarly, previous wood treatment is a crucial factor to arrive upon the correct stain. If the wood to be stained bears a previous coating of stain/ paint, care should be taken to ensure a new, even protective layer. It may be difficult to ascertain the previous layer,  but knowing it will undoubtedly help in choosing the apt stain. If the previous layer is oil-based, opting for a water-based stain now is advisable as the latter will adhere better as compared to an oil-based one.   

The kind of weather the wood will be exposed to is also significant in determining the best stain-base. If the wood element is going to have a direct exposure to rain, wind & sunlight, an oil-based stain is the best option. This is because it is more durable than a water-based stain, and will impart a much better protective cover against these weather conditions.

Interior spaces like bathrooms & kitchens are also in constant contact with varying levels of high moisture, especially bathrooms. And so, staining the floors & other wooden surfaces becomes important in these spaces too. In this image, the stained pine floor looks natural even in the monochrome design.

How to waterproof wood

Waterproofing wood helps to maintain the look and durability of the material. Among the various ways to waterproof wood is to hand rub it with linseed and Tung oil, apply an artificial sealant or to use a stain and sealant combination. Artificial sealants are the most popular option because they can be painted on the surface easily. However, they need to be reapplied regularly to protect the wood.

Water resistant woods for the shower.

The moisture content dictates that the any wood used in the shower area be properly sealed & coated to prolong its healthy life. In this Scandinavian styled modern bathroom, the light-hued treated wood adds a glam quotient with its natural simplicity. 

Wooden elements and floors are sassy but if cost is what stands between you & your dream wooden floor, take a look at these amazing flooring materials that imitate real wood in looks. Plus there is homify free consultation to get you started!

The difference between water resistant and waterproof wood

While both water resistant and waterproof indicate the ability of wood to repel water, they vary in terms of how well they can do so. Waterproof indicates permanence, meaning that the wood won’t allow water to penetrate the surface. Water resistance, on the other hand, refers to the wood repelling water for a while. However, if the water is allowed to sit on the surface for long, it will penetrate through the wood, causing it to warp or rot.

Do you find this article useful in selecting water resistant woods for your outdoor revamp?

Need help with your home project?
Get in touch!

Highlights from our magazine