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Tung oil is 'time-tested finish for teak'

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 16, 2011

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Tung oil is 'time-tested finish for teak'

Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

Q: I have a question about our outdoor teak furniture. We had it sealed with Penofin and it smelled bad for months. We were not able to sit on it because of the fumes. After a few months, the finish wore off and the wood turned black.

It wasn't until I contacted the company that I realized it has to be applied every few months. I had our deck furniture cleaned with boric acid and am now ready to apply a new product.

Do you have any suggestions on what I could use that would be longer lasting and without fumes?

A: We recommend the time-tested finish for teak: tung oil.

Penofin is a deck sealer made with Brazilian rosewood oil and marketed for use on exotic hardwoods, such as ipe. We thought your experience with Penofin might be an anomaly. So we did a Web search to see if we could find similar stories.

We found a fairly even split between those who liked the product and those who didn't. Its proponents liked the look when first applied, but its critics mentioned the smell and short life.

Tung oil is the favorite finish of boat builders to protect their teak decks. It penetrates wood fibers and results in a deep, lustrous finish that brings out the grain and character of the wood.

Tung oil is obtained by pressing the seed from the nut of the tung tree. It's classified as a drying oil and hardens upon exposure to air. We have found that it resists water better than any other pure oil finish and does not darken noticeably with age.

Tung oil has some odor, but we find it somewhat pleasant and slightly sweet. Best of all, the odor dissipates after several days.

Start the refinishing process by giving your furniture a light sanding with No. 220-grit sandpaper. This will get rid of any roughness caused by raised wood fibers.

Then apply three coats of tung oil, allowing each coat one day to dry before applying the next coat.

We like to brush the oil on with a foam brush and rub it into the wood with No. 0000 steel wool. The foam brush makes it easy to get the oil on the wood, and the steel wool facilitates penetration of the oil into the pores of the wood.

When the first coat is on, wipe any excess oil off with a clean rag. Repeat the process a couple of more times and you'll have a handsome set of teak furniture.

When recoating becomes necessary, a one-coat process is all that's required. Bottom line, there is some maintenance, but it's not onerous.

                                     
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