Treating Timber: A guide to proper preparation

Published Friday 04th July 2014

Choosing the right woodcare products can be something of a minefield for trade professionals. With so many choices on offer and loads of project-specific decisions to be made - it's easy to be overwhelmed.

In this guide, we'll take a look at the right way to care for your timber during the preparation stage, as well as examining how to treat it effectively before coating.

An Introduction

It's criminally easy to overlook the importance of adequately preparing timber prior to applying a finishing product. However, getting this stage right can be an easy win when it comes to increasing customer satisfaction and driving repeat business.

While some species are more naturally durable than others (particularly hardwoods like oak and teak), it pays to treat any timber that's going to be exposed to the elements for prolonged periods. Similarly, different species can have characteristics that may affect the application of certain products, so it's well worth doing your research before getting your project underway.

Failing to treat your timber can lead to a range of problems in the long term and negatively affect the appearance of wood. So without further ado, here's some of our top tips on getting the groundwork right the first time.

Adhesive: If you want to ensure your coating will stay in place for the duration, it's absolutely vital to prepare the wood for coating with a thorough clean. By scrubbing the surface down, you'll reduce dirt, grime and the build-up of other particles that can weaken the adhesive properties of the wood.

These can accumulate really quickly, so it's vital to tackle this issue at the outset. In the majority of cases, a mild detergent will be enough to get the job done, but if you're dealing with a species that's particularly resinous (certain types of pine for example), a solvent might be appropriate.

If you're unsure on which to use (or even if solvents are appropriate at all), it's best to take advice on this. Some solutions can spread contaminants out, rather than clearing them off, and others can cause issues with adhesion, so it pays to err on the side of caution.

Microorganisms: Freshly-cut timber makes an ideal breeding ground for a range of microorganisms. These tiny life forms, which include the likes of fungi and algae, can play havoc on coatings - leading to peeling and flaking over the long term. To prevent an infestation, you'll want to employ a fungicidal cleaner in advance of applying a coat.

Imperfections: You shouldn't rely on the top coat to cover and fill in indentations and imperfections in your wood. This isn't guaranteed to work and can lead to issues with the coat over time. Instead, look to apply an all-purpose or specialist wood filler prior to application.

Base: Applying a base coat is a fundamental stage of priming your wood and can work wonders at preserving the coating in the long term. Proper application of the base will enhance the adhesiveness of the service - creating a binding layer that will also provide a defence against rot and fungal growths.


While treating your timber might not be the most glamorous of jobs, it can have a dramatic effect on how the wood fares over time. Doing your due diligence at the outset will pay dividends in both results and good will from your customers.

Do you have any tips on treating timber, or real-life tales of any of the issues we've discussed in practice? If so, be sure to give us a shout on social media - we always love to hear what you have to say.

And if you're looking for advice on timber treatments, or want to know about the best wood for a specific project - don't hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts today.

Image used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons