Teak is a tropical hardwood. You will find it growing in countries of the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia. Woodworkers prefer this wood because of its unique characteristics.
It is extremely strong and durable. Teak owes its durability to the presence of natural oils that it produces, which protect the wood from the elements, rot, fungi, and insect attack.
The honey-golden color of teak is second to none and you can enhance it by applying an appropriate finish. The choice of finishes that you can apply teak includes oil, stain, varnish, sealer, paint, and brightener.
In this post, we take a quick look at the different types of finish you can use on teak and then we discuss in detail the pros and cons of teak oil vs. teak sealer.
Types of Finish You Can Use on Teak
As mentioned above, you have a variety of choices when you have to apply a finish to teak. Each one has its pros and cons. Various factors will help you decide which finish using particular scenarios. Here is a brief description of teak finishes:
We use wood stain to impart a color to wood. Stain contains colorants dissolved or suspended in a vehicle or solvent, depending on whether the contents dissolve fully or remain suspended.
Varnish is a clear liquid that we use to apply a protective layer to wood. It serves to seal the wood, and may or may not contain a pigment. While applying varnish, the wood grain remains visible. You get different textures of varnish like glossy, semi-glossy, and satin.
You can apply wood oil to bare wood as well as to stained wood. Applying oil enhances the look of the wood while simultaneously offering some protection. Oil is not as long-lasting as other types of wood finish.
Wood sealer is a broad term to describe any product that you apply to seal the pores of the wood and protect it from damage. Sealers can be oil, paint, shellac, or stain.
Paint is a liquid containing pigment which when applied to wood, forms a solid coating of a particular color. While you could paint directly on wood, especially wood that is relatively clean and smooth, you’ll get better results if you apply a layer of primer to the wood before painting it.
We also call wood brightener “deck neutralizer.” It is an acid-based substance. It helps to neutralize the effect of caustic cleaners. Brightener lowers the pH level of wood and makes it more acidic.
It opens the pores, bringing out the features of the wood grain making the wood seem more attractive.
Teak Oil vs. Teak Sealer
You may have heard that all you have to do is oil teak furniture every year to keep it looking fresh. Only applying oil to teak wood will not prevent mildew from forming and it will not stop the wood from fading, either.
What you need to use is a sealer that covers up for the shortcomings of teak oil.
Teak oil is something that you will neither find in nature nor from teak trees. It consists of a mixture of linseed oil, tung oil, and a few thinners and solvents. The reason why we call it “teak oil” is because we use it on teak furniture.
When you apply teak oil to furniture it acquires a glow or shine on the surface. It looks good for a short while but will lose its luster after a few weeks. The reason is that the oil starts to evaporate and in fact, even causes some of the natural oil in the wood to evaporate.
This is why teak oil is only a temporary fix. You can get more permanent results from other types of wood finish like a wood sealer.
We provide a detailed procedure on how to apply teak oil in another of our interesting posts.
One of the primary benefits of teak sealer is that it provides a layer of ultraviolet (UV) protection to teak wood. It also prevents mildew from forming and because oxidization gets inhibited, the wood will not turn grey.
You do not need to apply teak sealer as frequently as you do for teak oil. Often times, it is sufficient to apply a teak sealer once a year. It is easy to apply and very durable, making it a popular choice for those who have teak furniture.
An oil-based teak sealer replenishes the natural oils present in the wood and protects it from dirt and moisture. You should use a teak sealer for outdoor furniture.
Remember to clean your teak furniture before applying a teak sealer. Let it dry naturally, and then apply a coat of sealer with a sponge or a hand-held pressure sprayer.
Apply a second thin coat and when it dries, normally after a few hours.
So, if you don’t want your furniture to weather naturally, opt for a teak sealer and protect it for as long as you can. Here are the basic steps to follow for applying teak sealer:
How to Apply Teak Sealer
The first stage is to leave your furniture outdoors exposed to direct sunlight for two weeks. This should open up the grain of the wood. The purpose of getting the grain to open up is to make the sealer adhere to the wood better on application.
After two weeks, you can apply a teak sealer to your teak wood furniture. You can spray it or apply it with a lint-free cloth. For best results, apply a second coat after the first coat has dried.
Once you apply the teak sealant to your teak wood, it will retain the color that it had before you applied the sealant. If your wood has a golden-brown color, it will continue to look like that after sealing.
If you want your teak to have a distressed, antiquated, and aesthetic look, you would need to leave your teak outside long enough to develop that look before you apply the teak sealer.
Where to Use Teak Sealer?
Most builders, architects, and woodworkers consider teak to be the best wood in the world for multiple purposes. Its high density, durability, and strength make it the preferred choice of wood for various applications.
Accordingly, you will find teak sealer in these common areas where teak is used:
For Protecting Teak Furniture
The primary purpose of teak sealer on furniture is to protect it from decay. Although teak is a durable wood, using it on teak furniture gives it an even longer lifespan and makes it look better as well. You will find teak sealer particularly useful on bathroom and outdoor furniture.
For Protecting Hardwood
Teak sealer is not only useful for protecting and enhancing the look of teak wood. You can use it on other types of wood like mahogany, maple, or even bamboo.
For Protecting Marine Wood
Shipbuilders have used teak for constructing boats and ships for centuries. Even today, teak wood plays an important role in marine applications. Although any type of sealer would suffice, you can get teak sealers especially meant for marine use.
As a woodworker, applying a suitable finish to your wood is as important as the item that you create. However, it is easy to get confused with the different types of finishes available, especially for teak. When you use a fine wood like teak, you want to make it look as good as possible and provide ample protection for its long life.
It is useful to know about teak oil and teak sealers, where and how to use them. If you know the difference between teak wood vs. teak sealer and use them appropriately, you can create some great-looking woodworking projects.