Decking oils nourish, protect, and preserve wooden decking from weathering, foot traffic, stains, dirt, and more. With so many types of softwood and hardwood decking available, it is worth taking the time to get the right oil for your garden deck.
Types of decking oil
Choosing the right decking finish, and the one that best meets your needs, can depend on the type of decking you have. Factors such as the type of wood, its age, condition, and the desired finish can all have an influence on which type of decking treatment to use.
In addition to protecting your deck from weathering and foot traffic, decking oils come in an array of clear, natural, tinted, and coloured options (oil-based decking stains). Additional properties can include UV filters to protect the wood from sun damage, anti-slip properties, that are ideal for decking steps, and inhibitors to help prevent the growth of mould and algae which can make decking boards slippery.
Why use oil?
Softwood decking boards made from pine, larch, fir, and spruce come from faster growing, evergreen, or coniferous trees. Although these timbers are extremely durable, decking made from them still require treating to provide protection against weathering, and water ingress. Hardwood decking is naturally more resistant to weathering, mould, algae and wood rot, but should still be oiled to waterproof and protect it from long-term weather damage and other biological threats.
Oil-based decking treatments work by penetrating into the decking timbers. There, they dry and harden within the grain of the timber to form a tough, durable, water, and weatherproof barrier that beads rain and allows water to run-off. This helps to prevent water ingress that can make decked areas prone to mould and algae, which in turn can become slippery.
Key benefits of using an oil-based decking treatment
- Reduced cracking, splitting and warping of the decking boards by keeping them nourished and supple
- Reduced ingrained dirt and grime from foot traffic embedded in grain of the deck
- Better protection from the bleaching effects of the suns UV rays with fade resistant pigments and UV filters
- Added slip resistance with anti-slip decking oils to help keep decking safer, even when damp or wet
- The ability to change or restore new or old decking boards by staining with a coloured decking oil or oil-based decking stain
Clear decking oil
Clear decking treatments are designed to nourish and protect garden decking whilst retaining the natural character of the timber. Clear products tend to slightly darken decks, giving an almost damp like appearance, whilst enhancing the natural grain and character of the timber. To get an indication of how decking will look when oiled, simply wipe over a section of untreated decking with a slightly damp sponge.
Top 5 clear (Natural) decking oil treatments
- Ronseal Decking Oil Natural (Clear): An all-in-one, solvent-based oil for all bare wood, preserved or pressure treated softwood and hardwood decking. Contains UV filters to protect against sun damage and helps to prevent mould, mildew and fungi growth
- Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Oil Natural (Clear): A water-based deck oil for all bare wood decking. Offers up to twice the resistance of standard oils with excellent water repellency and rainproof in just 90 minutes. Contains UV filters to protect decking from sun damage and colour fade
- Barrettine Nourish and Protect Clear Decking Oil: An advanced-formulation solvent-based oil that nourishes and protects decking and other garden wood. Contains a biocide preserver to protect against mould and added UV fade resistant pigments to protect decking from the sun’s damaging UV rays
- Cuprinol UV Guard Decking Oil: A water-based deck oil with a lightly tinted formula that revitalises the colour of weathered decking boards
- Osmo Decking Oil: A highly refined oil that is especially suited to dense, exotic, hardwood decking such as Ipe, Yellow Balau, Massaranduba Cumaru, Iroko, Merbau, Teak, and other tight grain wood species. Because of its very thin consistency, it is more able to penetrate into the tight, dense grain of exotic hardwoods used to make high end decking boards
Although many clear deck oils contain UV filters to help protect the deck from the greying effects of UV exposure, not all do. UV filters work much like suntan creams by filtering out and protecting wood from harmful UV rays. Although they help to filter UV rays, they do not stop them. This means that decked areas will naturally grey over time, albeit at a much slower rate than decking treated with a non-UV resistant decking treatment.
Pigmented or Coloured Decking Oils
Using a coloured oil or oil-based decking stain is a great way of changing or restoring the appearance and character of decking. Available in a range of colours, oil-based decking stains are a great way to restore the appearance of old, tired, and grey looking decking. Coloured decking treatments offer better UV resistance against sun damage because of the colour pigments suspended in the oil. As a rule, the darker the colour, the more UV resistance the oil provides. As an example, an Oak or Cedar coloured oil will provide better UV protection than a clear or natural oil.
Available in both clear and coloured formulations, the following oil treatments are suitable for both softwood and hardwood decking.
Top 5 Oil-based decking stains
These are the pigmented or coloured oil-based decking treatments that both colour and protect wooden decks. They work the same as clear oils by being absorbed by the decking timbers and protecting them from within, rather than forming a coating or layer.
- Ronseal Decking Oil: A long established and proven decking treatment that offers excellent value for money and available in a range of attractive tinted colour shades
- Manns Premier UV Decking Oil: A multi-purpose exterior decking treatment. Unique UV formula resists the greying effects of the sun. Available in a range of popular colour tinted finishes
- Osmo Oil for Decking: A German manufactured, premium grade deck oil suitable for all softwood and hardwood decking. Available in clear a range of attractive colour tones that stain and protect decking
- Barrettine Decking Oil: An advanced formula that nourishes, protects, and stains wooden decking. Comes in several colours to enhance and protect wooden decking
- Liberon Decking Oil: Protects, nourishes, and enhances the natural beauty of most timber decking. Perfect for reviving and restoring colour to old and new decking. Containing UV filters to helps reduce discoloration and fading from the sun, whilst maintaining the finish.
Anti slip decking oil
Ideal for decking steps, slip-resistant or anti-slip decking treatments contain small particles within the oil that bond with the decking surface to create a microscopic textured layer. These oils are perfect for raised decks with steps and especially ideal for commercial premises such as pubs, restaurants, garden centres and clubs where safety is a top priority.
Anti-slip oils work because they contain fine particles within the oil that when dry, form a slightly textured surface. Although too small to see, the dried oil provides improved friction and grip between feet, shoes, and surface of the deck.
Recommended anti-slip decking treatments
Although Anti-slip treatments tend to only be available in ‘clear’ formulations, they can be applied over a coloured deck oil once it has dried to provide a coloured finish with slip resistance properties.
- Barrettine Anti-Slip Decking Oil: A premium quality anti-slip deck oil for use on all types of wooden decking and garden steps
- Osmo Anti-Slip Decking Oil: A high quality, anti-slip decking treatment for all garden decking. Perfect for decking steps and decking situated in commercial areas such as pubs and restaurants
- Rustins Quick Dry Textured Decking Oil: A water-based, anti-slip decking treatment for use on composite, softwood, and hardwood decking. Contains UV (Ultra-Violet) light inhibitors to protect decking from sun damage
What is the best decking oil?
Deciding on which is the best oil to use on decking largely depends on the individual project, and the desired look and performance. Some factors are straight forward such as whether to buy a clear oil to enhance the natural colour of the deck or a colour tinted oil, to stain the deck to achieve a specific look. Other factors to take into consideration are UV resistance, protection against mould and algae and anti-slip properties.
When choosing a decking treatment, review each product to make sure that it meets your project requirements in terms of colour, price, coverage, and application. Read independent customer reviews to get an indication of durability, value for money and any other points that will help you to make an informed decision before buying.
Whilst softwood decking can be oiled from new, new hardwood decking often needs to be allowed to weather for a time before applying a decking treatment. Dense exotic hardwoods are naturally oily and have a tight grain. If an oil is applied too soon, it may not penetrate the decking timbers. Allowing hardwood decking to weather for a time allows some of the natural wood oils to dissipate and for the grain to open.
Always read the instructions from the decking supplier as the ‘weathering’ period can vary depending on the type of decking and the species of wood used to make the boards. Once the grain opens, the boards will more readily accept the oil. Some types of exotic hardwood timber such as Ipe, Yellow Balau, Massaranduba Cumaru, Iroko, Merbau, and Teak may require a highly refined or extra thin oil such as Osmo Decking Oil for the best results.
Decking Oil Reviews
Before buying any decking treatment, we always recommend that you read any deck oil reviews. Customer reviews often provide valuable information about colour, how well the product performs and a ‘value for money’ opinion. Buying cheap decking treatments can be a false economy as well-established brands are more likely to perform better, and last longer.
How and when to apply decking treatments
Applying an oil to new, bare wood decking is quick and easy. Simply follow a few simple rules and your new garden decking will look amazing in no time.
- Sweep with a stiff broom to remove any lose leaves and other surface debris
- Ensure that the decking is clean and dry.
- Treat any mould or algae (green or black patches) with a suitable decking cleaner. A second application may be required if the decking is heavily soiled
- Apply the oil thinly and evenly working it in to the grain of the timber – avoid pools of oil on the deck and wipe of any excess
- Wait the specified drying time on the tin before applying a second coat
Most oil-based decking treatments require just two thin coats. Although there may be a temptation to apply three, four or more coats, this can cause several issues such as.
- Extended drying times of days instead of hours
- A sticky or tacky finish that will not fully dry
- A surface skin or film that is easily marked or peeled off
- Increased risk of dirt or debris stuck in the finish
If wooden decking has not been treated for several years and is exceptionally dry, it may absorb 3 coats of oil. After applying the recommended amount stipulated on the tin, wait a couple of days, and try a thin third coat on a small test patch. If the third coat is absorbed by the deck and dries normally, it is probably OK to apply a thin third coat. If the oil on the test area beads or sits on the surface, does not dry or remains sticky after 24 hours, it is an indication that the timber has taken as much oil as it can and is not ready for more.
When to apply a decking treatment
Ideally, oil treatments should only be applied when air temperatures are 10 degrees centigrade or above. It is also best to wait until it is forecast to stay mild and dry for at least several days. Although most deck oils are touch dry in just a couple of hours, most need several hours before they provide full protection against rain, foot traffic, dirt, and liquid spillages. Spring, Summer, and early Autumn are the ideal times to treat decking.
Autumn Decking Maintenance
In addition to applying a fresh coat of oil in spring, it is also recommended to apply a maintenance coat or 2 before winter sets in. Oiling a decking in Autumn will help to protect decking through the cold, wet, winter months when snow, ice, and freezing rain can damage wood.
When is a deck oil not suitable?
Wood oils work by penetrating into the decking board timbers where it dries. This cannot happen if the decking has been treated with a decking paint or varnish like decking stain. These types of decking treatments seal the surface of the timber with a film-like coating therefore preventing the oil from penetrating into the timber.
Steps to take before applying a decking oil
Before applying an oil-based decking treatment, it is important to ensure that the deck is ready. Any dirt and biological growth such as mould or algae needs to be cleaned off and treated with a dedicated decking cleaner first. These products are designed to clean and prep wooden decks prior to oiling, and are also used for the general cleaning of oiled deck finishes. Household detergents and cleaners, including washing-up liquids, should never be used on wooden decking. These domestic cleaning products are designed to break down and remove oils, stains, and grease from surfaces. Household cleaners will degrade and eventually strip the oil from decking boards, leaving them unprotected and exposed to water and dirt ingress.
For decking where the oil-based finish has degraded to such an extent where it no longer repels or beads water, it is recommended that decked areas are thoroughly cleaned with a decking cleaners and restorer before re-treated with a suitable oil.
Decking prep prior to oiling
After being thoroughly cleaned with a dedicated decking cleaner or restorer, new or untreated softwood decking should be treated with a suitable wood preserver for decking. Where possible, treat all sides including the edges and any cut-ends with 2 coats of preservative. If using a water-based deck oil, ensure that any wood preserver used does not contain any wax or silicon that may repel the top-coat.
Alternative decking treatments
Decking stains are a bit of an oddity as many coloured oils for decking are labelled as decking stains. There are however a different group of decking stain products that form a seal over the deck to form a hard, durable, varnish like layer that seals and protects decking from foot traffic and weathering. Available in a wide range of attractive semi translucent and opaque colours, you can find out more about decking stains and colours here.
Decking Paints are a great option for colouring decking. Decking paints produce a tough, durable, opague finish for a more modern appearance. Especially usefull for old and worn decking, they offer a quick and easy alternative to a more traditional looking wooden decking. Decking paints are available in a wide range of attractive colour tones and shades. Find out more about decking paints & colours here.