Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
Wood has always been mankind’s favorite building material, but it has always had one major problem. Because it is an organic material, wood will always rot, whether sooner or later. That’s a natural problem, but the modern world has provided an elegant and convenient solution.
I am talking, of course, about the various wood sealers on the market. Thompson’s WaterSeal Advanced Natural Wood Protector is my top pick which ensures that the project you’re working on maintains its integrity for a long time.
Below, I’ve listed the top 13 outdoor wood sealers to help you choose which one is right for your outdoor wooden project. So, let’s take a quick look at my top picks.
Best Outdoor Wood Sealers in April, 2021
|Wood sealer||Covers (quart)||Dry time (minutes)||Sheen|
|75 sq ft||120||satin|
|2||Rainguard Sealer||up to 50 sq ft||60||satin|
|3||Thompsons WaterSeal Wood Protector||100 sq ft||60||satin|
|4||Agra Life Lumber-Seal ||up to 150 sq ft||30||satin|
|5||DEFY Crystal Clear Sealer||50 - 75 sq ft||120 - 240||matte|
|6||Waterlox Original Sealer||125 sq ft||24 hours||satin|
|7||Anchorseal 2||up to 100 sq ft||60||matte|
|8||SEAL-ONCE Wood Sealer||62,5 - 87,5 sq ft||180 - 240||matte|
|9||Olympic Waterguard||62,5 - 87,5 sq ft||120||satin|
|10||Agra Life Clear Cedar||up to 200 sq ft||45||satin|
|11||DeckWise Ipe Seal||500 sq ft||60-120||satin|
|12||Acri-Soy Sealer||up to 150 sq ft||30-60||matte|
|13||SEAL-ONCE Wood Exotic||62,5 - 87,5 sq ft||180 - 240||satin|
Built For Speed
Like a sports car, this product is built for those who want to go fast. It dries in slightly less than an hour and takes only 24 hours to cure fully. This is a great feature because it adds a lot to the convenience factor. No one has time to waste on products that take forever to dry.
On top of all that, this sealer has a thick, goopy consistency that makes it easy to apply thickly. Once applied, you should not need to recoat. Unlike some of the products on my list, this one requires no mixing, which saves you even more time. Add an easy clean-up process to the equation, and you have a product that is almost certain to save you some time.
A Little Bit Expensive
This product is a little bit on the expensive side, but not that bad overall. A larger problem comes from several customer complaints that I found. A few people said that this sealer turned yellow. Still, there were only a few such complaints.
This is a sealer that focuses on one thing, and that one thing is rain resistance. It seems to do a good job in this department, causing water to bead on the surface of a deck after almost a year. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that it’s one of the cheapest items on the list.
Effective And Well-Secured
Not only does this stuff keep the rain out, but it also contains ingredients that resist mold and mildew. Those are two of the worst enemies of outdoor wood, so that’s always a handy thing. Even though this article is focused on wood, I am glad to see that this product works on other surfaces as well.
As the icing on the cake, I might mention that this product is eco-friendly and comes with a 10-year guarantee. Although there are a few conditions to this offer, it shows a high degree of confidence on the part of the manufacturer.
The only problem that we can see here is the fact that this product needs to be mixed with water in a certain ratio, which is why you can make two gallons from one quart.
As this is one of the cheapest sealers on my list, it gets a few points right off the bat. For those with large projects to do, this sealer offers a chance to save a few bucks. Most buyers seem to agree that it delivers everything they need in a good sealer.
Functionality without gimmicks
Several people commented on the thick consistency of this sealer. Although this makes it impossible to use in a sprayer, the thick consistency has a couple of advantages. First of all, you are unlikely to need more than one coat. Second of all, it’s very easy to apply the product to the wood. Watery products tend to run and leak a little bit.
Based on a quick look at this product’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), it may not be quite as safe and non-toxic as advertised. Some of these chemicals are a little concerning, even if this product is less harsh than most.
Some people have also complained of an oily, grimy scum being left behind after the product dries. Many of those same people said this scum was hard to remove without damaging the finish.
This Sealer Can Swim
While all sealers will provide a waterproof surface, this product takes it to another level. It is rated for flood resistance, which means that it can be left underwater for long periods without ruination. I find this pretty impressive, and we wonder why this feature isn’t seen more often.
Apart from the relatively high cost of this sealer, I can see one consistent complaint. At least three reviewers have complained that this product does not cure properly and remains tacky and sticky. Most have not reported these problems, however, which leads us to believe that this finish will have trouble hardening under some conditions.
This product offers a few distinct advantages that are worth examining. First of all, the whole thing is water-based. That means you don’t have to worry about toxic fumes, toxic runoff, or any other environmental concerns. Water-based compositions like this one are also much easier to clean up when you are finished.
The Zinc Factor
The advertising for this product makes a big deal about the fact that it includes zinc. Zinc is a metal that is often used for coating steel, but it also has some useful chemical properties. It helps the deck to resist both UV damage and mold/mildew. The sun’s UV rays can have a harsh and degrading effect on your deck finish, and mold and mildew are also a major problem. By keeping out more of the sunlight, this product creates an environment where mold and mildew cannot grow.
Should Last A Long Time
Perhaps the biggest selling point of this item is its increased longevity. This product will normally last a year or two longer than most other products, and this is mainly due to its large amounts of protective ingredients. The manufacturers claim that they chose only the highest-quality resins for this product, and I think they are probably honest about that.
I can see a few problems with this product as well. For one thing, a lot of reviewers have claimed that this product doesn’t work. I found several negative reviews that mentioned this problem, saying that they could not tell any difference after using the product. Because most users did not report this problem, I have to conclude that this product requires multiple coats in order to be effective.
That’s a little bit of a problem because this is one of the more expensive products on the list. When you are forced to use multiple coats, the price per job becomes even more. Also, this sealer doesn’t leave the same kind of super-shiny finish that we see from some others, but some users may like that.
This is the only marine sealer on the list, which means that it will probably offer superior protection against water. If you don’t know what we mean, marine paints are suitable for watercraft. Thus, they are held to a much higher standard in the area of waterproofing. Some marine paints are meant to be used above the waterline only, but this one seems to be fine for general marine use.
Made From Tung Oil
This sealer is made from a natural substance called Tung oil. Tung oil was first used in ancient China and is obtained from the nut of the Tung tree. This substance falls under the category of a “drying oil,” meaning that it will dry to a hard finish (most oils do not do this). Tung oil provides a rich shine that is second to none in terms of beauty. Thus, for jobs in which appearance is paramount, this is a fine choice indeed.
Like many other marine paints, this one does not dry to a perfectly smooth finish. Its texture when dry is a little bit rough and lumpy. Because of this, it might not be the best choice for your deck. You will have to use a buffer (or some similar tool) if you want a smooth finish. Because of this extra work, you should not get this product unless you live in a particularly wet/humid area.
This one is also a little bit expensive. It comes in a quart can, but it’s actually more expensive than some of our gallon-size options! Because it is handmade with natural materials, we should probably expect a higher price. Still, not everyone can afford that kind of money for a sealer.
Anchorseal’s sealer has been used by professionals for decades. It is most widely known to protect wood against end grain checking. End grain checking is the term given to the splinters that you see at the end of wood planks that most often happens right after the wood is cut.
Keep in mind that as long as your piece of wood has some kind of end grain on it you can use this sealer. I’ve been using this sealer on all of my green wood blanks for about a year now and I definitely like it. Anchorseal does reduce cracking by quite a bit: the sealer really cuts down on checking, it actually decreases cracking by 90%. The quality is really good and it’s totally worth it.
Anchorseal is the top choice for most contractors when it comes to fixing end grain checking; after applying 2-3 coats, you will likely never have to worry about the splintering of that piece of wood again! It is most effective when applied right after the cut is made into the wood-hence the name “Green Wood Sealer.”
How Anchorseal works
To put it as simple as possible it is just a mixture of water and wax. As the sealer dries the water evaporates leaving a nice solid wax film over the end grain. It’s very simple to apply – just take the sealer and brush it to the end grain.
This product is almost wax-like when dried, so it is not made for sealing all kinds of projects. For example, you’d apply it to the end of the wood on your newly constructed deck, but you wouldn’t use it to stain the entire thing.
So Anchorseal is a great solution to protect your wood against end grain checking. I’ve never had any problems with it.
Meant For Long-Term Use
This product earns its asking price by providing a longer lifespan than most other sealers. While most sealers will need to be re-applied every 1-3 years, this one is supposed to last 6-10 years. That’s quite impressive, but we aren’t sure if this product has been around long enough to prove such a claim. The manufacturer promises ten years for vertical surfaces and six years for horizontal ones.
This product will be too expensive for some people, but that’s the price of high quality. Still, I can find a few failings with this stuff. According to both the company and many customers, this sealer will allow the wood to turn gray over time. While this is natural, it can result in an ugly deck. Thus, you need to add some kind of tint to this sealant unless you like the look of greyed wood.
Some people have also reported storage problems, saying that the product would separate into two layers after sitting in the can for a while. However, I’m suspicious of these claims, because such a problem could easily be solved by shaking the can.
This is one of the cheapest items on my list, so it’s automatically a great option for those on a budget (as long as it works). It claims to have all the same protections that we have seen on more expensive brands, like UV protection, mildew resistance, and all the other standard perks. I do like the fact that this product is specifically designed for decks (among other jobs).
A Mix Of Traits
This product is mostly a water-based sealant, but it does contain a little bit of linseed oil. Because of this, it has a high shine to its finish. It’s much less harsh than an oil-based sealer, but it can achieve a level of sheen that is comparable to an oil-based version.
When we take a look at various reviews, we can see one complaint that repeats itself: This product has apparently been changed from its original form. Those who have made this complaint say that the product is much more watered-down than it had previously been. As a result, they say, the effectiveness of the product has suffered. It could be that they went too far in their desire to be eco-friendly.
Because this is a bargain product, you should expect that it won’t be quite as nice as the more expensive kinds. It won’t have those special features and perks, but it will provide basic functionality. At the same time, you will probably have to use a lot of coats because this one is a little too thin.
If you want a flat and nonreflective surface, this is the sealer to check. Some people just don’t want a shiny surface for whatever reason, and this product gives it to them with no fuss. In spite of its relatively high cost, this is a product that boasts a few advantages
This is a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) formula, which means it has very low toxicity. You certainly wouldn’t want to drink this stuff, but you shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick from its use. Overall, this is one of the least toxic choices we have.
I also like the fact that this sealer allows the wood to “sweat” a little bit. This keeps moisture from being trapped inside, where it will surely cause rotting. I was also surprised to learn that this stuff works in a sprayer. Most products of this type are too thick for a sprayer, so this is a significant advantage.
I ain’t that concerned about the price, but I am concerned with something I saw in the advertising for this product. We are told that the wood will gradually turn grey if this product is used as a stand-alone coating. This can be dealt with by adding a dye to the sealer, but it’s pretty bad that this product requires that as an extra step.
11. Deckwise Ipe Seal Hardwood End Grain Sealer – Nice Waterproof Product to Protect Exotic Hardwoods
This is a very specialized type of sealer, making it different from our other choices. This one is specifically designed to prevent cracking at the ends. When a piece of wood begins to split, it always starts at the end, so this product can be used to stop a problem in its infancy.
Does Its Job Very Well
Whether used as an end sealer or a general-purpose sealer, this product seems to do its job very effectively. One of the most impressive things about this product is the fact that it gets about 500 square feet of coverage from a quart-sized can. This makes the product an even better bargain.
This one takes a full 48 hours to dry, so it’s not the one to choose when you’re in a hurry. Being wax-based, it has some slightly different properties, which could make it problematic for beginners. However, I can’t help but notice that this product offers no guarantee of effectiveness.
This one is very different from the other sealers on my list, as it is made from soybean oil. This natural formulation makes the product a lot less toxic and a lot less stinky. You probably won’t even have to worry about a dust mask when using this stuff. For such a specialized product, its price is actually quite low.
Safe And Versatile
This product has two main selling points. For one, it’s a lot better for the environment than most other options. For another, it is said to last a lot longer. In fact, the advertising says that the finish will probably outlive you! I am skeptical of this claim, as only time will tell if it is true.
Long Dry Time
The biggest problem here is the factor of time-efficiency. This product takes days to fully dry, and some say that it can take weeks. Some of this will probably depend on your method of application, but that’s still a long delay. On top of that, this sealer has a thin consistency, so you’ll probably need multiple coats.
Non-Toxic, Long-Lasting, And Crystal Clear
First of all, you won’t really have to worry about choking your guts out from the fumes, as this product is pretty mild. You wouldn’t want to go sticking your nose in the can, but its odors aren’t that bad at all.
This product is specifically formulated for use on hardwoods, especially tropical hardwoods like teak and mahogany. These woods are so expensive that you would be crazy to leave them uncoated. If your target object is made of oak or walnut, you should see excellent results as well.
There is no self-leveling feature with this product, and I can tell the difference. It’s not a huge difference, but it is a little harder to avoid putting brush strokes in the final finish. Obviously, these strokes will have to be buffed out (which is a pain), so be a little more careful when you use this sealer.
I should also mention that this product isn’t the best choice for softwoods. It is made for harder woods and may raise the grain of softer woods. By the time it dries, the wood has had time to absorb a lot of water, locking it inside forever as the sealant dries.
The sealers listed above should give you a much better idea of what is available. Now it is time to cover some general information about wood sealers so that you can get a better idea of what you need.
How Does Wood Sealer Work?
Like most other sealer products, wood sealers work through penetration. When you apply the product to your surface, it soaks into the wood while still a liquid. Thus, when it hardens, it hardens, fills and reinforces the surface of the wood. Depending on the porosity of your wood and the consistency of your sealer, the penetration should be pretty good.
Although there are products that combine stains and sealers, it’s important to realize that they are two different things. Stains are meant to color the wood while sealers are meant to provide moisture protection. Sealers are also distinct from varnishes, which only provide a water-resistant coating.
Types Of Wood Sealer
Like most products of this type, wood sealers are available in water-based or oil-based options. Water-based products seem to be the most popular, and there are several reasons for this fact. First of all, water-based products tend to have less odor and less toxicity. We have already seen some alternative-formulation products, and we can see that most of them are water-based.
A water-based finish will be a little bit harder, but it can sometimes give a cloudy finish that changes the color of the wood and obscures its natural grain. Still, this usually won’t happen unless you are using an expired can of the stuff. Some say the best thing about water-based finishes is their quick drying time.
Oil-based sealer products are the option for people who are a little more concerned with appearances. Oil-based finishes bring out the grain of the wood by darkening it and providing a high level of shine. When you see wood that is so shiny that it reflects the sunlight, you are probably looking at an oil-based finish.
Buying A Sealer For Outdoor Use
As you might guess from the title, this article is focused on sealers that are intended for outdoor use. Obviously, these have to be a little bit tougher than the others. They will have to tolerate all sorts of weather, and that warrants a change in the way you choose your sealer product.
Always make sure you get an outdoor sealer that offers strong UV protection. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are one of the main factors that cause your paint job to crack, peel, and flake away. Some people say that the UV radiation breaks down the finish at the molecular level, but this is false. UV radiation degrades paint and finishes by drying out the resin component.
You should also look for something that is a little more eco-friendly. You will probably be using this product outdoors, and it is almost inevitable that you will spill a drop or two. If nothing else, there will be some dripping from the end of the brush. So, unless you like having bare spots in your yard where no plants can grow, I would recommend that you either use a non-toxic sealer or seal the item indoors.
Applying Wood Sealer
As a first step, you should check the weather forecast for your area. Most sealers require somewhere between 1-3 days of curing time before their work is done. During this time, the sealer has not yet formed a hardened layer, so it is vulnerable to moisture. So, unless you want a bunch of ugly water beads trapped in the sealer, make sure you will have 2-3 days of dry weather.
The second step is to prepare the working surface. This will include a thorough cleaning with soap and water, and you might also have to remove the remnants of the old finish. If there are any other problems you want to deal with, this is the time to do so. Remember: If you put down sealer without fixing the underlying problems, those problems will be sealed in place forever.
Once your surface is clean and bare, you should lay down some plastic to protect the surrounding area from the overspray. No matter how careful you are, there will be some overspray, so make sure you cover any nearby plants that you like.
Finally, you paint the sealer onto the surface with a soft brush. Sprayers are not recommended because sealers are usually too thick for them, and rollers tend to leave too many streaks and marks. You have to be more careful about leaving streaks and marks because wood sealers will usually dry pretty fast. While this is very convenient, it also means that you don’t have a lot of working time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a wood sealer?
Wood sealer is a plastic-based product that is used to coat wooden surfaces. This protects them from moisture and creates a smooth, transparent surface. Sealers work by penetrating the pores of the wood. When the sealant hardens, it hardens the entire surface of the wood at the same time.
How to apply wood sealer?
The usual way to apply a wood sealer is to use a brush. You should use a soft brush and spread it onto the surface, just as you would do with paint. It is recommended to use fast, brisk strokes because this stuff usually dries pretty quickly. Before you get started, it is important that you give your deck a good washing. Any dirt or debris that might be present will prevent the sealer from adhering to that spot. Thus, there will be a weak point in your deck’s protective armor. It’s also important to protect adjacent areas from any potential overspray.
In many cases, you will need to do some basic restoration before you can apply your wood sealer. If the deck is damaged in any way, a sealer will only trap the problem inside. First, go over the surface of the deck and drive any raised nails that you might see. As wood swells and contracts, it pushes the nails upward. That creates snags and will ruin the nice flat surface that you need. Use a hammer and punch so that you don’t have to strike the surface of the wood.
It will also be necessary to remove any remnants of the previous finish. These little bits of peeling paint will keep your sealer from doing its job, so all of it has to go. This can most easily be done using a pressure washer. If that doesn’t take care of the problem, your next step should be to apply a deck cleaning solution. If this is done, be sure to wet the grass and plants around your deck thoroughly. That way, any runoff will be diluted and made weaker. If you don’t do this, it’s very easy to kill your grass.
What is the difference between wood stain and wood sealer?
In some cases, you can find products that function as both stains and sealers. However, most people choose to use them separately. Staining and sealing are two completely different jobs that are done for completely different purposes. Stains are used to change the appearance of the deck by changing the color (or at least the shade). Sealers are generally transparent, so they don’t change the color of the wood. They do provide a nice shine, but sealers are meant to be functional rather than decorative.
What is the best sealer for a wood deck?
There are many potential answers to this question, as every situation is different. That is why I recommended many products instead of one. You will have to choose the best product based on your needs. I would advise you to think about the scope of the job, the price of the materials, the type of wood involved. You should also think about the average rainfall in your area, and the average humidity level as well.
How often should I seal my deck?
Nothing lasts forever, and a wood sealer is no exception. It is generally recommended that you re-seal your deck every 1-3 years. Of course, that’s a big range, so you should think about your conditions and materials when choosing a re-sealing schedule. Obviously, areas with more rainwater and harsher weather conditions will cause sealers to deteriorate more quickly.
What is the best way to seal a wood deck?
I provided a good answer to this question earlier, but this is a good opportunity to mention another method that some people recommend. Rather than applying the sealer with a brush, some people choose to use a garden sprayer as a way to deliver the sealant to its target.
You don’t want to try a paint gun because a sealant will clog the tip very quickly. A garden sprayer may also get clogged from time to time, but they are a little easier to clean. If you go with this option, I would recommend that you use a brush for the railings. The garden sprayer should work fine for the deck surface, but using it on the railings will just cause too much overspray.
Wood sealer may be a fairly simple product, but its purchase should be considered carefully. You might think that no manufacturer could mess up something so simple, but it does unfortunately happen. That’s why you should stick with products that have a good reputation (asking your friends is never a bad place to start, we’re also recommending checking our questions page for further consultation). I hope that we have given you a good start on this process and that you will come back again for more of my advice (you can always ask us a question directly, or comment below).