How To Seal Wood

Woody Jackson | Last modified on October 7th, 2021

Wood is one of the world’s most ubiquitous building materials and has been used for a variety of purposes over the centuries. Not only can it be used as a strong, durable base for other materials to be built on top of, but it can also be turned into furnishings such as cabinets and furniture.

To protect wooden surfaces it’s great to seal them. There are many ways to seal the wood, but the best two methods are staining and polyurethane. These options produce the best results when you want your wood to look great and water-resistant.

How To Seal Wood

There are many ways to seal wood depending on what you’re trying to achieve. We’ve got the four best methods for this article here, but there are plenty of other tricks as well. So, make sure you do some research into other sealing methods to try out!

Why Does It Need To Seal Wood?

While wood can be a sturdy, long-lasting material, it does have its weaknesses. As with any other material, water and moisture will wear down any surface over time and with exposure in their most basic form. 

This is why sealing wood is so important to prolong its life and increase its efficiency for whatever purpose the wood is being employed for. 

Whether you’re sealing cedar or oak, smooth or rough textures, applying a protective sealant over the top of your wood will help to:

Preserve The Overall Quality Of Your Wood

When water comes into contact with untreated surfaces it begins to degrade them. Over time this can cause cracks to form and even mold infestations if the moisture remains on the surface too long. This makes it incredibly important to protect your wood from water. 

And the best way to do this is to seal it so that it repels moisture, allowing you to keep your wood furniture at its prime appearance and without the need for constant maintenance.

Make It Last Longer

The best way of ensuring that water doesn’t harm your wood is by resolutely sealing it. Not only will a sealant shield your wood from moisture, but will also provide greater protection and longevity than simple varnish or paint.

Prevent Bugs

Do you want pesky termites crawling around inside your furniture? Of course not! But that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t apply a good sealant over the top of your wood surfaces. Termites, ants, beetles, and other insects have a tough time making their way through typical sealants, helping to keep them out while also providing superior protection for your wood surfaces from water damage.

How To Seal Wood: 4 Best Methods

In this section, we’ll be covering each of the four ways in which you can seal the wood and increase its longevity. This list is not all-inclusive but is a good starting point for those looking to learn about the different options available to them.

Smoothing And Staining The Surface

First things first, if you want your sealant to last as long as possible, you should apply it over a smooth surface at the beginning, not over a rough surface that has suffered any damage or abuse before application. In fact, even if you plan on only applying paint later, you should still smooth out your wood surface beforehand.

How To Seal Wood: Smoothing The Surface

Keep in mind that this step should be performed before staining the wood and that if you’re planning on sealing it over paint, you will need first to sand the surface. If you try to apply a sealant over a painted surface, it will result in an uneven finish and peel-off.

How To Seal Wood: Staining The Surface

Sealing With Polyurethane

Polyurethane is one of the most popular types of sealant for wood surfaces because it provides superior durability and allows for a very smooth application process. It’s a water-based alternative to the typical oils or waxes that are typically used in sealant applications. Hence, it provides a very thin layer of protection that can be applied over the top of almost any type of wood.

How To Seal Wood: Sealing With Polyurethane

Polyurethane is often seen as the go-to sealant for the wood industry because it’s arguably the most reliable and durable option there is. Polyurethane has been around as long as wood and is one of those products that seems to have always been a staple in protecting and enhancing it. Unique to polyurethane is that it can be applied over paint, varnish, and wax without any issues.

This means that if you’re planning on applying paint or varnish to your wood surfaces, you can skip this step – instead, save yourself the time, effort, and risk of ruining your wood with an incorrect sealant application by simply using a can of polyurethane overtop.

Using Shellac To Seal Wood

Shellac is typically composed of tree resins such as lac and is particularly suitable for wood surfaces due to its ability to create a protective barrier while also adding a warm quality to its appearance. While these properties aren’t exactly advantageous when looking for overall durability, shellac can provide an exceptionally smooth finish when combined with certain types of wood, giving it a distinct appeal over other sealants.

How To Seal Wood: Using Shellac To Seal Wood

Shellac can be used in conjunction with other sealants such as oil or varnish and is often seen as a popular alternative. So if you want a very smooth, warm finish to your wood surfaces, then shellac may be a good option for you to consider.

Shellac is also very easy to apply and dries quickly. It has been around in one form or another for centuries and is still highly relevant today, though it has been largely replaced by polyurethane. One of the major downsides of using shellac as a sealant over wood is that it tends to yellow over time, becoming less effective than other alternatives on this list.

Putting Lacquer On Wood

Lacquer is another type of sealant that is very popular among woodworkers. Though it isn’t as versatile as polyurethane, it can still be used effectively over almost any wood surface. Unlike polyurethane, lacquer doesn’t have the same long-lasting finish that polyurethane provides. Hence, it is better suited for those looking to add a smooth, high-gloss shine to their wood surfaces rather than someone looking for overall protection and durability.

How To Seal Wood: Putting Lacquer On Wood

Lacquer can be applied with many different techniques and has even been used since ancient times, especially to seal ancient scrolls and books. Because of its long history and versatility, it has maintained a place in the woodworking industry ever since. 

There are a few different types of lacquer that you can use, though it’s best to do your research before picking one as some of them aren’t very effective over wood surfaces.

This liquid can leave an oily residue that can stain your wood and any other surfaces it’s used on, but it’s an excellent way to add color and shine to wood when used correctly. For this reason, most projects that use lacquer sealant are painted a bright color rather than left with the natural appearance of the wood itself.

FAQ

How Do You Seal Wood Naturally?

All you need is a sealant that can be applied to the items you want to have sealed. Sealants for protecting natural materials will vary in ingredients, but they are generally made of polymers or oils. These substances leave a protective film that can protect from water and air damage.

Does Wood Need To Be Sealed?

Yes, wood needs to be sealed! A sealant protects and preserves your furniture, helping it last longer and stay more beautiful. The process is called ‘sealing’ because it creates a barrier between the outside world and your furniture – an extra layer, in other words. Sealing also helps maintain that natural beauty by locking in moisture so there are no unsightly cracks or splits in the wood.

What Is The Best Sealant For Wood?

The best sealant for wood is a variety of different sealants from brands like Ronseal and Armor All. They’re all about the same price, so don’t worry about that too much. While you should always try to find the best sealant for your specific needs, these brands are good enough for nearly any situation. You can also use some products such as stain or varnish to do double duty as a sealant.

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