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    Author(s): Tom Daniels; Marc Hirsch; Ken McClelland; Alan Ross; Sam Williams
    Date: 2000
    Source: American painting contractor. (Apr. 2000): Pages 47-49
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (187 KB)


    In recent years, a number of clear wood finishes have been developed that protect wood while accentuating its natural beauty. The focus of this publication is on those finishes having little visible pigment. In some cases, the pigments are included but are finely ground to create a coating that is transparent to visible light. Most natural clear wood finishes are designed to protect and beautify wood. Although this may sound simple, manufacturer’s claims that products protect, preserve, seal, last longer, work better, and spread farther than competitors’ products can be confusing. In fact, many of the terms used to describe exterior wood finishes are used inter-changeably and often incorrectly, thus adding to the confusion. So let’s set the record straight. When choosing a wood finish, there are two elements to consider: aesthetics and protection. These two qualities can sometimes be at odds. Aesthetically, there is a growing trend among homeowners to maintain the clear natural look of wood. However, the best protection from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is obtained from pigmented products, which tend to cover the wood’s natural grain and texture, thus the problem of balancing aesthetics and protection. Stain and paint manufacturers have produced a number of clear products to meet these needs. Clear natural finishes generally fit into four categories: Water-proofing, UV-Resistant Clears (blocking or absorbing), Water Repellent Sealers, Wood Preservatives (and combinations of the four). Within each category you’ll find high solids, water-based, oil emulsion, and traditional solvent-based formulations. Some clear finishes are film-forming and therefore do not penetrate the wood’s surface very well. Clear finishes also degrade from UV light and moisture. With penetrating finishes, wood can be refinished without extensive surface preparation. Film-forming finishes, on the other hand, often require extensive surface preparation, even to the extent of complete removal of the old finish prior to refinishing.

    Publication Notes

    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Daniels, Tom; Hirsch, Marc; McClelland, Ken; Ross, Alan; Williams, Sam. 2000. Best of both worlds : clear exterior finishes : in search of finishes that protect wood without hiding its natural beauty. American painting contractor. (Apr. 2000): Pages 47-49


    Exterior finishes, clear finishes, surface finishes, penetration

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