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I have a Forest Red Gum slab table for use in a covered Al Fresco area. It has never been 'coated' before. I want to retain a very natural finish that shows off the grain while retaining the feel of wood. I live on a canal and the table can be exposed to morning sun. I would appreciate your advice on how to achieve the best finish for this.

Woodsolutions Answer +

Your choice of finish is between polyurethane and an exterior oil finish such as decking oil or garden furniture oil. Polyurethane will give you a surface that is impervious to food and liquid spills and can be wiped clean easily. It will also retain the natural colour of the wood. Oil finishes tend to darken the timber and are harder to keep clean. However, if the table is exposed to strong sun for a significant period polyurethane will break down in the long term by cracking and peeling. Oils don't form a skin on the surface of the wood since they soak in and are easy to re-coat when necessary. Your choice of finish depends on your assessment of the table's exposure to sun. Perhaps you could obtain a small quantity of an exterior oil finish and try it on the underside of the table if you feel that sun could be a problem.

Exterior finish for table

We are restoring a heritage terrace balcony which is over a veranda below. Existing decking is t&g boards (ie not open decking, t&g preventing water draining through to veranda below). Decking laid on fall with boards aligned on slope (ie board ends exposed at edge of balcony) to shed water off balcony edge. Classic detail typical of most Sydney Federation terrace balconies. Could you suggest appropriate external grade timber available as T&G and also sealants / oils appropriate for these circumstances.

Woodsolutions Answer +

Durable timbers that are available as t & g flooring include jarrah, spotted gum and tallowwood. Of these we recommend tallowwood for this demanding situation. No doubt the boards have been kiln-dried for indoor use, in which case they might swell slightly when exposed to rain. We suggest laying the boards loosely with a gap of say 1mm between each one, on the assumption that swelling is more likely than shrinkage. Applying decking oil will help to reduce absorption of water. We recommend face fixing the boards with hot dip galvanised or stainless steel nails. 

Verandah decking

I am an architect (not currently practicing) and a homeowner. I'm writing because my husband and I recently purchased a second-hand Jarrah Wood outdoor patio table. I don't know the age, but the finish was very worn. We would like to restore it and are looking for advice on best practices once we've finished power washing and sanding the surface. I received advice that we should consider using teak oil on the table (as Jarrah wood oil is not availble). I've seen other conflicting advice that suggests a sealer instead. Would you have any suggestions for us with respect to process and products (we are in the US).

Woodsolutions Answer +

Finishes fall into two main groups, 'film-forming' (paints and varnishes), and 'penetrating' (oils and exterior wood stains). After all your hard work restoring the table we assume you don't want to paint it! If your patio has a roof, and the table won't be exposed to the weather, particularly direct sun, a polyurethane varnish would be a good choice. It will provide a surface resistant to food spills that you can wipe clean. If the table will be out in all weathers you could consider covering it when not in use. Otherwise, if you intend to leave it outdoors unprotected, we suggest one of the 'penetrating' finishes such as decking oil. Jarrah is a dense timber, so oil won't penetrate much and you will need to keep it up to retain the jarrah colour. It would help if your decking oil (or similar product) is lightly pigmented. We are not familiar with the range of wood finishes available in the US but we believe there are decking oils available with a jarrah tint. Note that this is likely to darken the wood, compared with how it would look with a polyurethane varnish. You should always try to see a sample of the finish on a piece of wood in the paint store before you buy. 

Jarrah finish
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