Applying white wood coating on a timber surface

Wood coating works as a wood preserver to keep its beauty

Wood is a wonderful, versatile building material that has been used for thousands of years to construct everything from walls and floors of the family home to the furniture and cabinetry that fill it. In order to keep wood functioning at its best and most beautiful, it needs to be protected from abrasion, chemicals, moisture, UV radiation, weathering, and attack from microbes such as fungi and mould. This is especially true in Ireland, as damp and wet are the enemies of wood. This is why the Irish market needs wood coatings. With such a wide range of substrates (hardwood, softwood, MDF, aged wood, or green wood) and applications (exterior, interior, furniture, building, residential, industrial) it is no surprise that wood coatings is a billion euro industry with a glut of players and products.

In this article we provide an overview of wood coatings technologies and products, and the big brands and companies that make up the industry. As well as traditional coatings such as stains and varnishes we look at newer technologies such as powder coating, polyurethanes, and specialised wood coatings.

An overview of wood coating basic terminology

Varnishes, shellacs, stains, lacquers, polyurethanes, epoxies, and other wood finishes all have properties which work best when paired with the right application. Which wood coating you need depends on the type of wood and the end use of the substrate. A lot of these terms are used to refer generally to a finish, even though they denote specific finishes. Below is a brief description of different wood coating types and their properties.

  • Lacquer is a form of finish in which the resin is dissolved in a solvent (unlike shellac which uses alcohol). It is harder than shellac, and is used to give a clear or coloured shiny, glossy finish for furniture. The high VOC content in lacquer makes it a less  popular option than water-based varnishes.
  • Shellac is a softer form of finish which uses naturally-occurring resin (the shellac) dissolved in ethanol to provide a colour and high-gloss finish for wood products. Shellac is now mostly used for furniture and instruments as it is not as durable as varnish, and alcohol spills will cause the shellac to dissolve.
  • Varnish is a transparent protective finish that dries hard and usually glossy (though they can be matte or semi-gloss). The basic components of varnish are a drying oil, resins, and a solvent, and the resin can be acrylic, oil, polyurethane, epoxy, and others. A varnish is a hard-wearing finish which is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use as it is waterproof, durable, tough, and versatile – a necessity for your deck or furniture to survive the Irish rain.
  • Wood stain is a coating which consists of dyes or pigments dissolved in a vehicle with a small amount of binder. When applied it soaks into the wood substrate and, depending on whether it is transparent or opaque, accentuates the wood grain or flatten out the wood with a colour. Stains are used to give wood a particular colour, and not for protective properties. If protection is needed a clear varnish is often applied over the top.

Applying wood coatings – building up the protective system

Whether using paint, varnish, or stain it is important to use the correct application methods and processes. A primer cannot be used as a final topcoat, and though some topcoats can be applied as all-in-one systems, not all can.

Initial protection with industrial wood coating

A clear epoxy resin works as a protective wood coating.

Applying a primer as the first wood coating on a floor.

Impregnation is a wood preservation method where protective chemicals are ‘impregnated’ into timber through the application of pressure. It makes the timber more durable and protects it from pests such as mould, fungi and insects. The preservatives are copper-based (a natural biocide), sodium silicate, thinned epoxy resins (preservative and sealer in one), or oil-based (coal-tar creosote). There are also fire-retardant impregnation chemicals which reduce the surface spread of flame, heat, and smoke.

Impregnation is an industrial wood coating treatment used to protect telegraph poles, railway sleepers, outdoor structures such as decks and playground equipment, as a building material in domestic, commercial, and public buildings, and more.

The protective & decorative layers

When it comes to wood coatings, the intended end use of the wood is vital for choosing the coating system. Exterior wood needs all the protection it can get, and a primer not only protects the wood from the environment, but also prevents cedar bleed and tannin stain – where the tannins from the wood are drawn to the surface and stain the paintwork. Acrylic sealing primers are one such coating, that both seals and protects. A primer also works to connect the wood substrate with the coating, ensuring adequate adhesion.

Surface finishes are those that do not penetrate the wood. Decorative paints, varnishes, lacquers, and shellacs are surface finishes, and so they dry to form a protective film on top of the wood. A clear topcoat protects the layers beneath while enhancing the final finish and providing abrasion and stress resistance. When working with a stain (which is a penetrative coating), a varnish or other surface coating will enhance and protect the colour. They can be matte or gloss, with some even looking like liquid glass. Epoxy resin and polyurethane resin provide the glossiest, hardest finish.

The best wood coatings for softwood & hardwood

Any type of wood is suitable for a protective coat – whether it be timeber stina, wood oil, or polyurethane floor varnish. However, the best wood coating product may differ for different kinds of wood. 

Soft wood: Spruce, Larch, Pine, Douglas, Cedar and most types of regular timber
Soft wood types can have trouble absorbing wood coating evenly, which can create a splotchy look. A pre-stain conditioner or primer applied to the wood prior to coating can smooth out the finish on these soft woods. After applying the stain of your choice to your project, you need a durable top coat that will keep your wood finish looking great for years to come.

Recommended products: Primer + Stain + Polyurethane Wood coating or oil or wax based products

Hard wood: Maple, Bamboo, walnut, red birch, cherry, teak, pine
Most unfinished hardwood floors require one coat of sealer and at least two coats of protective finishing. Staining is not a good idea for most exotics, because of their cell structures and hardness. Furthermore we recommend a water based coating for most types of hard wood, unless you have chosen a dark coloured wood. Then an oil based wood coating will enhance the beautiful dark colour.

Recommended products: Sealer + Water or Oil based Polyurethane Wood coating + top coating

Note: A low sheen offers a natural look that shows less wear. High gloss will show wear easily.

Take wood coating to the next level with added benefits

Wood coatings are not just about protecting the substrate while letting the beauty of the wood shine through. With technologies improving all the time, it is possible to powder coat wood substrates now, as well as protecting them from fire or making a deck anti slip. Below is more information on these specialty wood coatings.

  • Wood powder coating – Powder coating is the process of using electrostatic charge to cause a dry powder to adhere to a substrate and then baking and curing the powder in an oven. The resulting coating is immensely durable and attractive, as well as being environmentally friendly due to the lack of solvent. Powder coating wood is now gaining widespread popularity, particularly for coating furniture.
  • Fireproof systems for wood – Fire is one of the greatest dangers for wood. There are two coatings that act as passive fire protection measures for wooden substrates: intumescent and fire retardant coatings. Intumescent coatings swell up in the presence of extreme heat, forming a protective layer of char between the wood and the fire. Fire retardant paints work by releasing flame-damping gases to prevent ignition.
  • Making wood slip resistant – Wood surfaces can be very slippery when wet, whether decking, stairs, ramps, or walkways. Anti skid paint works through the inclusion of a non-slip aggregate or by creating a rough surface that provides more grip in wet or dry conditions.

Local contractors and available products for wood coating Ireland

The wood coating market is filled with recognisable and trusted brands and products. Globally, the big players are Sherwin-Williams, Axalta, Rust-Oleum, AkzoNobel, and PPG through brands such as Flood, Sikkens, and Sher-Wood. These product are also trusted by professional Irish contractors and other specialists such as the ones below:

Wood coatings Ireland Unit C2, M4 Business Park, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Ireland.Exterior Joinery, Interior Joinery, Wood Cladding
Naa Crosslands Business Park, Lr Ballymount Rd, Dublin 12, IrelandDistributor of DIY wood coatings
Quality Wood Finishing & Paint Services Unit 21c, Greenhills Industrial Estate, Dublin 12, IrelandWood Cladding, Kitchens and floor finishing
Lacquerite Ltd. Unit 12G, Axis Business Park Tullamore Co Offaly R35 NN62, IrelandSuppliers of Water Based wood coating , floor finishers and more

Wood coatings products & prices in Ireland

If you are looking for products for wood coatings, Ireland has many companies that provide products for the Irish market. Below is a short list of available wood coatings, including timber stain, wood oil, and more

Rustins Wood Primer€40.00 | 5L | 5 m²/L Interior and exterior wood
Cuprinol Wood Preserver Clear€17.00 | 1L | 8-14 m²/LExterior wood
Osmo UV Protection Oil Natural Extra€56.00 | 2,5 L | 18 m²/LExterior wood
Sadolin Classic Wood Protection€17.95 | 1L | 8-14 m²/LExterior wood
Rustin’s Yacht Varnish€17.00 | 500ML | 13 m²/LExterior wood
Sherwin Williams Pre-Catalysed 10% Lacquer€58.00| 5L | 7 m²/L Interior and exterior wood
Johnstone’s Polyurethane Clear Varnish€14.00 | 750ML | 12 m²/LInterior timber
Crown Pure Brilliant White Quick Drying Wood Paint€20.50 | 2,5L | 16 m²/LInterior wood
Rustin’s Wood Dye€10.00 | 250ML | 24 m²/LInterior and exterior bare wood
Liberon Beeswax Paste€13.00 | 500ML | 10-12 m²/LInterior absorbent woods like: pine, oak
Liberon Black Bison Liquid Wax €9.50 | 500ML | 10-12 m²/LInterior wood
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