Finish or No Finish

Sometimes the best finish is no finish: letting your deck weather naturally

If you’ve made the choice to go with a natural wood deck, good for you. Wood is an environmentally smart choice, long-lasting, and looks great. But now that you’ve chosen wood you may be wondering how to finish it, and possibly asking, “do I even need to finish it?” Well, the short answer is: no, not necessarily. Depending on the wood species you’re going with, and the look that you like, letting your deck weather naturally might be your best bet. Here are the pros and cons of whether to finish your deck with a stain or sealer, or let it go au naturel.

To begin, we should clarify that we’re only talking about natural wood decks; the composite decks we carry at The Decking Superstore like Trex, AZEK, TimberTech, and Fiberon aren’t manufactured to take a finish or be painted. Only wood gives you the option of going with or without a finish.

The wood used for decks is generally separated into hardwoods or softwoods. While you’d expect hardwoods to be harder or denser than softwoods, this isn’t always the case. Hardwoods come from flowering species like Ipe and Cumaru, and softwoods come from evergreens like Western Red Cedar or California Redwood. Because softwoods are often more porous than tighter grained hardwoods, they absorb a finish more readily, which is important to know if you are considering staining. Both hardwoods and softwoods, however, can be left unfinished to weather naturally.

All wood decking products at The Decking Superstore give you the option of finishing or not. So, why choose to let your deck weather naturally? Many customers appreciate the look of a naturally weather deck. Different species weather differently, but unfinished wood turns a silvery-grey patina over time that is both aesthetically pleasing and complements many home designs. If you live in a warm, dry climate, your deck will likely turn a lighter silver color than if you’re in a wetter area.

Another popular reason to let your deck weather is to minimize the amount of time and effort required to maintain the finish on a deck. While all decks, both wood and composite, will require some regular maintenance like cleaning and debris removal to keep them looking their best, leaving your deck unfinished is your lowest-maintenance option. Environmental concerns are also a valid reason for not using a stain or finish. A wood stain is a colorant that is suspended or dissolved into a vehicle such as water, alcohol, or a finishing agent like varnish or polyurethane. Not finishing obviously eliminates any environmental impact from these products.

Should you choose not to finish your deck, it’s important to ensure your deck is of a good design, has adequate ground clearance to allow for air circulation, and regular cleaning practices are maintained. As a side note, keep in mind that the weathered look is usually only “skin deep”, and if you change your mind, sanding can rejuvenate the wood.

For more information on “whether to weather” contact us at The Decking Superstore.