For centuries, wood has formed an indispensable part of our lives. It’s been used heavily in construction, providing a material for everything from the roofs over our heads to the foundations beneath our feet, and all of the furniture in between.

The qualities of a good piece of timber are such that the material is highly sought-after even today, in an age where plastics are ubiquitous. That said, the material is not without its drawbacks, and it needs careful attention if it’s to be properly protected against the things which might do it harm. Let’s take a look at some of these stressors, and see how with the right treatment your timber flooring, furniture and fencing can be shielded against the elements.

What problems might wood suffer?

Since it’s made from fibres of wood, timber will naturally expand and contract in response to local changes in temperature and humidity. In situations where space is sensitive, such as in a doorway, this can be especially problematic, as the door might over time warp to a point that it collides with the surrounding frame. To get around this problem, a combination of many different planks of wood and other materials are used to create a ‘composite’ door, which looks just like solid wood but whose shape is kept more-or-less consistent.

A more visible problem for wooden doors is that posed by tiny wood-boring life forms. These include insects, termites, bacteria and fungus. Such creatures see wood as an indispensable resource – and one that’ll be exploited if insufficient security measures are not taken. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s necessary to treat the wood. Let’s see how.

Oil-based preservatives

Creosote is a great example of an oil-based preservative. It’s used to prevent wood mostly outdoors, in structures like fences and sheds. In some cases, like sleepers on railway tracks, wood is especially treated to ensure that the creosote penetrates as deeply as possible. The timber is vacuum-treated within a sealed chamber, which ensures that the air is sucked out of the wood. The oil can then occupy the gap that’s been left.

If you’re applying oil to an outdoor fence, then be sure that it’s been thoroughly cleaned and dried before you get to work. If any moisture remains inside the wood, then it’ll be trapped there by the oil – which is bad news for the longevity of your fence.

Depending on the sort of finish you’re looking for, you’ll want to select a wood stain. Some stains will help to accentuate the natural aesthetic qualities of the wood, and help it to look its best, while other will disguise those natural qualities in favour of a specific look. Again, be sure to apply your stain in such a way that it’s not trapping moisture inside the wood. Stains are created by dissolving a colorant in the solvent.

Water-based preservatives

Water-based preservatives are a great deal cheaper than their oil-based counterparts, and so they’re tempting. However, since they contain a high concentration of water, they’re especially prone to causing the wood to warp. Included in this category are quaternary compounds. Water-based preservatives tend to be applied at factory level.

Pesticides

It’s also worth mentioning chemicals used to treat wood whose explicit purpose is to kill tiny creatures that live there. Chemicals of this sort are quite uncommon in the modern world, as the poison would slowly leach out of the wood over time. It’s unclear how dangerous these effects were, but since the alternatives are just as effective at preventing rot, there’s no reason to make a return to these methods.

What else can I do to protect my timber?

If you’re worried about the prospect of rot, either to your patio floor, your shed or your fence, then the best thing you can do is to limit the amount of moisture that your wood is being exposed to. This is especially troublesome around the bottom of a fence that’s at the rear of a flowerbed, as this is where moisture can easily accumulate. Adequate drainage is key, here; if your timber is left in standing water, then it will rot no matter how thoroughly it’s been finished. Place some gravel around the bottom of the fence. That way, any water here will be able to easily drain away into the soil below.

Where to buy timber products?

If you’re concerned about the protection you’re offering your wood, then be sure to check out Richard Williams. They’re an extremely reputable timber supplier in North Wales, and carry a range of products which can be used to treat wood at home.