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Which is the best coating for my deck?

  • Water based coatings are easier to apply in cooler temps. (e.g. Intergrain Ultradeck/Natural Stain). Dry faster for quicker re-coats
  • Oil based are easier to apply in warmer to hot temps. (e.g. Cutek and Sikkens) Dry slower, normally re-coat after 24-48 hours.
  • Darker tinted coatings last longer but can be more challenging to get an even finish.
  • Lightly tinted coatings show the grain more, are easier to apply evenly, but are less durable.

There are many different coatings on the current market and there seems to be new products appearing nearly every month, making great new claims.  One thing for sure is, that there is no perfect finish for exterior wood. Australia has some of the harshest weather conditions for timber to endure. High UV, hot temperatures, high rain fall, sea salt etc. all contribute to significant weathering and every product has its “pro’s and con’s”. Most products are designed to either penetrate/preserve the timber or create a protective film over the wood. Below is just our observations of some of the coatings on the market.

Always recommend making a test patch so you can see the expected results.

Some general rules to consider

Totally penetrating coatings/wood preserver

Cutek CD 50 and Extreme
A clear finish or "grey mist" tint can be used to create a natural weather grey appearance
Easy to apply, minimal skill required
Can be applied on hot sunny days
Excellent water repelency
Stabilizes timber from cupping/splitting
Protects the timber from within
Will never peel or crack as no film
Less likely to attract mould
1-5 days is required before applying 2nd coat
It does not give a deep lustre look to the timber
Raised grain can appear after rain on some timbers
Very matt/natural looking finish
The finish is an aquired taste, some people will not expect such a flat look
A re-coat is required every 9-12 months (6-12 months depending on exposure to weathering)

Film forming coatings

Generally they last longer before re-coats are required against traditional penetrating oils, but they must be recoated before they completely break down. Most require 12 month re-coats but sometimes less often and sometimes more often depending on the exposure to weather.
Intergrain Natural Stain
One of the more durable acylic coatings
Provides an attractive semi transparent finish
Dries fast to apply 2nd coat
Available at every Bunnings store
Easy to use in cooler weather
Water wash up
Like all acylic coatings, can peel and crack if timber is too hot to coat
Good allround timber finish
Intergrain Ultradeck
Looks great when first applied
Expect to re-coat after 6-8 months in exposed areas.
Due to a high level of tint in the coating the grain of the timber can easily be hidden after 3-4 coats
Very popular finish, sold at most hardware stores
Intergrain DWD
Can be extremely durable
Dimension 4 primer required
Can be very difficult to maintain
Once it breaks down it de-laminates, bubbles and becomes flaky
A complete sand back is often required when this happens.
One of the most difficult coatings to remove
It can trap moisture into timber, when it breaks down
Generally gives a very orangey appearance
Cabot’s Aquadeck
Budget priced water based decking oil
Expect to re-coat every 4-5 months in exposed areas
Shiny finish
Cabot’s Deck and Exterior Stain (waterbased)
Durable timber stain
Hides marks
More than 2 coats can look like paint.
Cabots Timbercolour
Can be extremely durable
Hides many marks
As it’s a paint it will hide the grain and can hold moisture in timber to cause rot.
Great if your deck is looking very tired and you do not mind not seeing the grain.
Spa n deck (Floods)
Well proven acrylic coating
Very durable when 3-4 coats applied
Water repelency teads to breakdown after 6 months.
After 4 coats looks almost like a paint (tint hides grain)
Can become sticky if re-coated too soon between coats
Light finishes tent to look “orangy” in colour
Aqualis/H2Oil decking oil
The most transparent (highlights the grain of the timber) of all the water based decking oils we have used
Fast re-coating (often within an hour or two)
Although not fully cured, generally the finish will easily recover if rain arrives within 2 hours of completing a job
One of the more durable water based coatings
It feels like a high quality finish with low VOC
Generally it does not flake but gradually wears away
Due to its high transparency it creates a very clean appearance. This means future marks become more obvious than some of the darker tinted coatings which tend to hide marks. Recommend washing your deck if this is a concern
The product is generally designed for professional applicators and is not freely available at Bunnings or other well known hardware stores. Call to find your nearest stockist
One of the best water based finishes we have used....but no coating is perfect

Decking Oils

Intergrain Nature’s Timber Oil
Looks fantastic initially
Expect to start darkening after 3 months
Clean/Re-coat every 4 months in exposed conditions
Cabot’s Natural Decking Oil
Budget focused
Can be difficult to clean back to bare timber to re-coat.
Feast and Watson (wide varety of coatings both and oil and water based coatings)

Solvent based film forming decking oils


Great to coat during hot weather in direct sun
Well know established brand
Wait minimum of 24 hours between coats (3 coats required)
Problematic if becomes wet after coating
Can crack when breaking down.
Hard to remove by sanding

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