OUTDOOR WOOD FINISHING: My Favourite One-Time Treatment Now With Colour

The big problem with outdoor wood is that it’s more of a pain to keep finished than most people realize. This is especially true if you’re the kind of person who wants to minimize home maintenance but have never lived with outdoor wood before.  Reducing the time and effort required to keep outdoor wood looking good is what caught my eye more than ten years ago about a product called Eco Wood Treatment (www.ecowoodtreatment.com; 888-738-5516). It claimed to be a one-time treatment that never peels, and that sounded pretty good to me. I’ve been using their original product on my own projects for years now and it works great. It comes as a powder that you dissolve into water, then spray, roll or brush on bare wood. It’s non-toxic and has no odour, except for the slight smell of iron. Over a period of weeks and months, this treatment turns wood surfaces a nice, even weathered grey colour. That’s what you can see below.

This colour is the result of chemical changes in the wood from one-time finishing product Ecowood Treatment. The look is less formal than traditional stains and you only need to apply it once.

“Even” is the operative word here. Unlike natural weathering that varies from nearly black to splotchy mold-covered light brown depending on the exposure, an Eco Wood surface is refined and simple. You only ever apply this stuff once. It works on decks, docks, fences and any other outdoor wood surface. The only drawback is the informal look it creates. There’s no colour as such with the original product, just an even medium or dark grey, depending on the wood type. Western red cedar turns fairly dark in time, and so does white pine. Eastern cedar turns a medium grey, and pressure treated wood gets light grey. The sample you see in the photo above is applied to construction-grade spruce.

To satisfy the demand for a fancier alternative, Eco Wood Treatment has come out with a semi-transparent coloured version.  It comes with the same envelope of powder that weathers wood by chemical reaction when mixed with water, but there’s also a small bottle of dye. Mix the dye in the water with the dissolved powder, then apply it the same way as the original. I usually use a pump-up backpack weed sprayer for this job, but a brush or roller is fine for smaller jobs. The results sure look good in my initial tests – much more formal than the original – but I now know that the colour fades to nothing after  few years. The dark board in the photo below is freshly treated with coloured Ecowood Treatment. After several years most of this colour disappeared, leaving the usual weathered type appearance of ordinary Ecowood Treatment. There’s nothing wrong with this, you just need to expect it.

Some of the test boards in an ongoing deck finish field trial I’ve conducted since 1990. The board on the left is finished with one of Ecowood Treatment’s new coloured product.

The only drawback is that colour versions of Eco Wood aren’t supposed to be used on deck surfaces that get foot traffic because the abrasion wears off the colour. Available from Eco Wood directly (www.ecowoodtreatment.com), or at any of the retailers listed on the website. Cost is about $25 for enough original powder to make 1 gallon of product; $90 for enough to make 5 gallons. Although it’s not appropriate for every outdoor wood situation, I like this stuff and keep using it again and again.

Click below for a video I made back in 2012 of a project where I used this product on a new building covered in cedar shingles.