Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

July, 2004

Finishing Oak for Exterior Exposure

Q. Although I know that oak is not a good wood for exterior use and won't hold a varnish for more than a year, it is a very popular choice of furniture makers so I need to know what you recommend for such an application. In other words what type of varnish or urethane will hold up the longest on oak in the weather.

A. Oak wood, although very popular today for furniture and cabinets, back in the good old days, 1930 and 1940 oak wood was claimed for use in banks and post offices.

Today if I were to finish oak wood for exterior exposure, I would finish it with a good quality marine varnish. Thin the first coat with 25% to 30% solvent. By reducing the solids of the varnish it allows the reduced first coat to penetrate and impregnate the oak wood. The second coat of varnish to be applied should be full strength and it will provide the full protection of the wood against the elements.

A major concern is the exposure of the finished oak wood to full sun shine and ultra violet rays. If this is the case, then deterioration of the coating will be rapid, other wise you may expect several years of service.

Best regards
Tom Burke

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