Q: How should I seal and protect a cedar planter I just built? I’d like the wood to stay light and bright outdoors.
A: Your project looks great in the photo you sent and your hope is a common one because fresh cedar looks so good. The challenge keeping any outdoor wood looking bright and new is that all finishes deteriorate in time, and stripping certain (but not all) finishes back to bare wood can be a big pain.
The best option I know of for keeping bright wood looking bright outdoors is exterior finishing oil. I know from experience that Minwax Teak Oil works well outside, and like all exterior oils it forms no surface film.
That’s a good thing because it means you won’t ever need to invest lots of time and trouble stripping off an old film-forming finish such as failing varnish or urethane. By comparison, an annual re-coat of oil after brushing off the dirt and cob webs is all that’s required.
On the downside, oils don’t provide as much protection as an outdoor varnish, and even with regular re-application of oil, your planter will get progressively darker over the years.
Is it possible to store your cedar planter indoors during the off season? This will help any finish last longer, though especially so with oil.
Even keeping the planter in a shaded location during the growing season will help it stay looking good longer. Sunlight is the most damaging part of outdoor exposure when it comes to wood finishes.
Another option is treating your planter with something called Ecowood Treatment. It makes the wood age and weather evenly. This is a less formal look than the Teak Oil, and essentially you’ll have something that looks like refined barn board after a few years. Your wood will last just as long as if it had a protective finish, but it will be less formal looking while requiring virtually no maintenance.
All-Foam Basement Subfloor Panels
Q: Where can I find the Insul-Armor subfloor panels you mentioned in a video and on your website? I’m finishing my basement and want to do the floor as well as possible.
A: Insul-Armor is the best basement subfloor panel I’ve seen so far and I make it my business to keep on top of these things. Products for basement finishing in general are constantly improving, and the light weight, high insulation value and easy cutting options of Insul-Armor are impressive. Conventional wood-and-plastic subfloor panels work well, but Insul-Armor’s light weight is not to be dismissed. Instead of having to haul potentially thousands of pounds of conventional panels downstairs, you’re looking at less than 1/10th the weight for Insul-Armor. The all-foam construction means there’s no organic material to feed mold in the event of some kind of moisture event, and these foam panels are twice as large as the regular type. The only drawback with Insul-Armor is the fact that it can’t be used on its own under carpet. The product is for use under hard flooring such as laminate or luxury vinyl plank or tile. If you do want to use Insul-Armor under carpet you’ll need to put down some kind of plywood subfloor on top to prevent the foam from squishing under foot with carpet. If you have your heart set on carpet, you’d be better off using one of the more traditional wood-and-plastic subfloor panels because it needs no additional strength. Insul-Armor is relatively new, so while it is available in Canada you can only get it in one place at the moment. Search Insul-Armor on HomeDepot.ca and you’ll find these panels for ordering online.
Steve Maxwell is always looking for better ways to do things. Visit him at BaileyLineRoad.com to build your skills, self-reliance and hands-on life.
This column goes with the following images:
cedar_planter.jpg: This planter was designed and created by one of Steve Maxwell’s readers. Annual reapplication of oil is the best way to keep the wood looking light and bright.
Photo credit: Giovanna Moore
teak_oil_can.jpg: This oil is one option that works for finishing outdoor wood without taking on regular stripping and sanding work for re-finishing. Apply at least two coats initially. then another coat each year.
Photo credit: Steve Maxwell
insul_armor_groud.jpg: These new Insul-Armor all-foam basement subfloor panels are light in weight, strong, exceptionally comfortable underfoot and easy to cut.
Photo credit: Steve Maxwell