Oil Deck Sealers

Oil Deck Sealer being applied to IPE decking
Oil Deck Sealers

Depending on the type of lumber you have, and how you want your deck (or fence) to look; oil sealers can be an option for you.

Oil sealers are available in either transparent or solid.

The more "pigements" that are added to the sealer (to color it), will transform the sealer into a "stain" if it has too much pigment in it, with "solid stain" being the thickest type of sealer for lumber - due to all the pigments added.

"Transparent" allows you to see your lumber grain through the finish, while a "solid" prevents you from ever seeing the lumber grain ever again - kind of like paint.

Oil Sealers penetrate deep into the pores of the lumber, creating a barrier that water can not get past (unlike Latex or Emulsified latex / oil).

Oil sealers rejuvenate the lumber of natural missing oils, but is complicated to apply; messy and flamable while wet. You also may have to do regular yearly applications of oil sealer since it gets rinsed away by rain over time. The image above is an oil transparent sealer being applied with a color that was chosen by the homeowner - we maintenance this deck every spring.

About Oil Deck Sealers

The earliest written eveidence of any kind of "sealer" being used as a wood preservative; goes back 3,000 years ago; "shellac" being one of the very first.

"Shellac" is a residue that is left over from the female "lac bug", and is deposited on (then harvested by humans) from the trees in India and Thailand, and was used on early furniture and musical instruments ...among other things.

"Shellac" didn't become popular in the United States until the 19th century. 

"Shellac" is well known as an excellent primer and sealer, used prior to applying paints, and one of the best solutions for "problem stains" (like brown water marks on your ceiling) ...and you might be suprised to find "shellac" used on (or in) today's citrus fruits, apples, candies, and cosmetics. ...among other things.

In 1877, Samuel Cabot, a young American chemist, created a coal tar industry, then went into a wood preservative business using the creasote distillates from his failed tar dye factory.

Cabot pioneered a technique that combined pigments with creasote oil that provided increased protective qualities for sealing lumber.

For many years, "Cabot Wood Preservatives" and stains were a well known brand, and are still manufactured this day, although the recipes for his sealer has changed due to VOC laws, and are no longer available.

Samuel Cabot - The beginning of marketed Deck Sealer

In the 1920's and 30's of the United States, "Lacquer" was introduced to the market as a lumber sealer, and although not many people had a deck to seal in those days (most front porches were painted white to match the house), "lacquer" was now another way to seal lumber.

...and then came "varnish"
...and then came "polyurethanes".
...and people started sealing their front porches instead of painting them.
...and then "petroleum distillates" entered the scene.
...and decks were being built as a "standard" on most homes.
...and everyone was using "polyurethanes", "varnishes", and "petroleum distillates" to seal their decks.
...and everyone cleaned their brushes using "paint thinnner", gasoline or "lacquer thinner".
...and these toxic chemicals ended up in the streams, rivers, the ocean...and our drinking water.
...and then the EPA stepped in and made new rules.

...and now we have the deck sealers of today; environmentally friendly and safer. 

Today's oil deck sealers are made almost like they were long ago.

There are still "solvents", "binders", and "pigments".

The "solvents" of today are made of natural and synthetic oils found in rosewood, paraffin, linseed, tung, and teak.

In Virginia, oil sealers today are as good as technology and the EPA will allow - but they are nothing like the sealers of yester-year.

Samuel Cabot
Shellac bug
Flax plant - source of "Linseed"

"Linseed Oil" came next; it was the choice of lumber sealers used by the very first Americans who colonized the new world - although they didn't have decks.

Obtained from dried "flax seeds". The flax plant would flower, then seed, and they harvested the seeds, ground them and pressed out the oils.

 They also made paint using "linseed oil" - as well as using it to seal their hand crafted lumber furniture and such.