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Lawsons are the largest independent timber, building & fencing merchants in London and the South East of England. Established in 1921 Lawsons now have a number of branches offering the complete range of building materials.

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How to Care for External Timber – Wooden Decks, Cladding, Sheds, Furniture, and More

Wood is a fantastic material – it has great thermal qualities, it’s pleasing to the touch, it’s attractive, and it’s a renewable material so building out of wood has a very limited impact on the environment (and can, in some cases, improve it). However, unlike plastics and other manmade materials, it does need a little more maintenance and care to keep it looking its best. Wood can be susceptible to splitting, rotting, wood boring insects, and fungus, so it’s important to care for it properly to ensure that your timber products last for decades rather than just years.

Why Does Wood Need Maintenance?

As a natural product and an essential part of our ecosystem, wood can provide a habitat for insects and fauna, as well as degrading in some circumstances – of course if you’ve built out of wood, you want to avoid this and ensure that your timber is fulfilling the function you bought it for, not creating a home for insects or plants.

The first year is the toughest for new wood – even pressure treated and kiln dried wood needs to adjust to its environment and moisture content. If your wood has been kept in a much drier area than your home or outdoor area, it will have contracted – this wood will then slowly absorb moisture and expand. If it has been rained on, the wood will absorb water and expand with the rain and then contract as it dries, which can cause splitting and warping. One of the main challenges when maintaining timber is limiting the amount of water it absorbs and therefore limiting how much it expands and contracts, as well as avoiding rot, which happens when the wood is submerged in water for too long.

Avoiding Water Damage

Regardless of whether your wood has been pressure treated, it’s important to seal it off a little and help it weather gradually – this means controlling the amount of moisture the wood absorbs over time, rather than letting it absorb as much water as possible from its immediate environment. You should paint it completely with a deep penetrating treatment that closes off the wood’s pores and prevent it from becoming water logged. It’s a good idea to use a product with fungicide as well, to cover all bases.

Controlling the Appearance of Your Wood

Controlling the water content won’t have a dramatic impact on your wood’s appearance – it is just for maintaining quality. If you would like to stain your wood, many wood stains have built in preservatives so you can kill two birds with one stone. If you prefer to see your natural wood colours and even watch it weather and silver (if, for example, you have Cedar cladding), avoid staining your wood and just focus on sealing it regularly. You can use deep penetrating oils that go into the wood rather than staying on the surface if you like the natural look, or if you would like to change the colour you can choose from a range of stains and even paints to get the effect you’d like.

Removing Old Stains and Treatment

Depending on the age of the wood and type of treatment, you may be able to take off older treatments and add your own touch. Sanding down your wood and retreating it is often part of a good maintenance cycle if you have suffered some weather damage on the surface, but the structure is still intact and the wood is still safe. Alternatively, in some cases you are likely to seriously damage your tools by trying to remove treatments (particularly if they have tar content or are particularly sticky) – in those cases, it is just best to completely replace the timber.

Regularly Checking Your Wood

Checking for rot and problems with your external timber means that you can do repairs quickly rather than having to replace damaged items completely. You should do this with timber windows and doors, as well as cladding, sheds, fences, and any other external wood in your home. Keep an eye out for differences in surface texture, colour, and shape – splitting, swelling, and darker areas are key signs that something is wrong. Try pushing the end of a screw driver into any dark patches, if it sinks easily that area is already rotted and should be removed and filled to prevent the rot from spreading to the rest of the wood. Splits should be treated to avoid water absorption, and if you see a lot of small holes it’s likely you will need to use a fungicide or pesticide, depending on the problem.

Keeping Your Deck & Shed Looking Good

Prevention is just as important as cure. You can avoid a lot of wood problems entirely by taking a few further precautions:

  • Put planters and plants into waterproof trays and raise them off the surface of your deck or away from your shed walls
  • Move plant pots around to prevent rings from forming
  • Do not place BBQs directly on your deck to avoid burn marks or fat stains – a thin sheet of metal or even sheet of timber is sufficient
  • Clean rust from your nails as soon as you see it to avoid stains
  • Take care to seal all cut surfaces and drilled holes, since these have gone through the sealed surface of your wood and allow more water absorption

If you need advice on treatment types and keeping your timber looking its best, speak to our team. Lawsons is one of the largest timber merchants in London and the South East, and we pride ourselves on our wide range of timber and wood care products