Tricks for Treated Lumber
No Perfect Finish Solution
PT lumbers' transformation to a weathered gray color is almost as inevitable as the sun and rain, primarily because it is caused by the sun and rain. Because there's no perfect finishing solution, you must choose either a durable finish that hides the wood grain or a lightweight finish that requires frequent reapplication.
Any outdoor finish heavy on pigments, such as paint or solid-color stains, provides the best protection against damaging UV light. Without those sun-screening pigments, clear, film-forming finishes, such as varnish and polyurethane, quickly slough off as the wood's surface degrades, shown in photos. Skip these clear or low-pigment finishes unless you enjoy refinishing every 6-12 months after a thorough sanding.
For a good compromise between the two, choose a penetrating-oil finish with finely ground, UV-inhibiting pigments, such as Penofin 550 (Performance Coatings, 800/736-6346, penofin.com); Ready Seal (Ready Products, 888/782-4648, readyseal.com); or Total Wood Preservative (Gemini Coatings, 800/262-5710, geminicoatings.com). The near-microscopic trans-oxide pigments effectively block most UV rays. You'll have to re-coat about every two years, but because you don't have to remove the previous finish, application is easy compared to other options.
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