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The Perfect Outdoor Finish

The Kreg Jig® is a fantastic tool for building strong and beautiful outdoor projects. Building with Kreg Joinery™ dramatically simplifies your projects, but one thing that never changes… how hard it can be to protect your project from the great outdoors. Heat, cold, and rain — these are wood’s greatest enemies. That makes picking the right finish even more critical outside than it is inside.

Of course, finish manufacturers don’t make it any easier — spar varnish, exterior polyurethane, outdoor oil... it’s often difficult to know which finish to choose. Luckily, once you cut through the “name game,” you’ll find that there’s really only two considerations: the type of finish you want, and the color you want it to have.



The first type of finish, often called “film-forming,” actually sits on top of the wood, and if you’re after a rich, lustrous finish with a glossy look, this is the finish for you. These products are labeled as spar varnish, exterior polyurethane, or alkyd resin, among others.

Most people think film-forming finishes are only clear, but you can also get them with added color. They’re a popular choice for classic outdoor furniture like wood tables and chairs, since people are used to seeing a glossy, built-up finish on these.

While they look great, even a high-quality film-forming finish is prone to peeling over time. And when it’s time to refinish the wood, the finish can be difficult to remove.

Penetrating Oil

If you want an option that’s easier to refinish, then a penetrating oil finish might be the right type for you. This type of finish is also sold as deck stain or outdoor oil.

Penetrating oils get applied like standard wood stain but contain mildewcides, UV blockers, and other ingredients for outdoor use. Though they come in a variety of colors, the trade-off is that they don’t have the rich luster of a film-forming finish.

Film-Forming Penetrating Oil


The other consideration when choosing an outdoor finish is color. And if you’re worried that “cedar” and “redwood” are your only choices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Beyond the color itself, there are also three distinct color types:

Clear Finish — The first choice, of course, is no color at all in the form of a clear finish. As you might expect, clear finish retains the truest wood color. But it also offers the least protection, so it should not be used on a refinished piece.

Semi-Transparent — Semi-transparent stains give the wood a tint but still allow the grain to show through. They have UV blockers that protect wood better than a clear finish, and they tend to last longer.

Solid Color — The last choice, solid-color stain, hides the wood grain completely. It looks like paint, but it’s thinner, which makes it easier to apply. Not surprisingly, solid-color stain also protects wood the best.

Sample Packets — With all these color options, it can be difficult to make a decision. Luckily, a number of companies now offer small sample packets of stain, so you can try them out before you commit to a whole gallon (or more) of the stuff.

Clear, semi-transparent stainsColor SwatchesStain Samples


© 2011 August Home Publishing............................................................................ From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine

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