Wood Coatings

Written by Tadashi Moody
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Though it is often taken for granted, wood is one of the most versatile, strong, and durable structural materials used today. Take a moment to consider how many products and structures are made in part or in total from wood. Whether it is in buildings or boats, furniture or decorative art, wood has been and continues to be one of the most useful substances known to man.

But because wood is an organic compound composed primarily of cellulose, it is extremely vulnerable to deterioration from the elements. Moisture is the primary enemy of wood, as penetration can cause expansion and contraction of the cells and weaken their bonds over time. Many wood coatings have been derived to retard or prevent this deterioration. Wood coatings are also used to enhance the natural beauty of the wood.

Wood coatings can be classified as paints, varnishes, polyurethanes, or stains. Paints, varnishes, and stains are all designed to protect the integrity of the wood, sealing out moisture and protecting it from mechanical impact. Varnishes and polyurethanes are clear, and have the added benefit of also allowing the wood to maintain its natural look. Stains have some protective qualities, but are primarily used to enhance or change the color or appearance of the wood. They can be used in conjunction with varnishes or polyurethane coatings.

Choosing the Proper Wood Coating

When choosing a wood coating, be sure to consider your primary purpose. Will the wood be situated indoors or out? Is your objective to enhance the natural beauty of the wood, to protect the wood from the elements, or both? Will your choice of wood coating change the appearance of the wood, and is this acceptable? Answering these questions will help you pick a wood coating that suits your needs.

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