Finishing and treating Oak

Posted 08/06/2012 - by Charlotte Clemons in Blog, Oak Finishing, Treating Oak

Green Oak Weathering

A frequently asked question at Hortus Ligneous is whether Oak should be treated at all and if so what are the variety of treatments available in order to protect and enhance Oak beams, skirting boards, doors, kitchens, gates and other Oak products.

There are obviously a variety of treatments available on the market, some of which we have first hand experience of others which we have not had much to do with. Much is a matter of opinion and personal taste when deciding on the final finish for your oak work. Ask yourself some questions when deciding if treatment is necessary or not and consider where the Oak is: do you want your oak work to involve a regular maintenance programme? Will the timber be exposed to the elements? What colours do you want the oak to be? Are you happy with silver Oak or blackening?

Oak cabinet treated with Danish oil

In general the majority of people are keen on exterior oak seasoning naturally, becoming silvery in the sun, hence saving time and expense on treatments. However, inside oak work such as doors and worktops are much more aesthetically pleasing in the rich, well looked after honey colour.

Oak is arguably one of the most beautiful natural products of all time. It is timeless and most certainly a firm timber favourite of ours at Hortus Ligneous. It is one of the most durable and naturally beautiful materials that you will find and essentially it is maintenance free. It is not a necessity to treat Oak as it has spent many years in the outside environment: however it often comes down to the matter of personal choice. Treatment doesn’t increase the Oaks strength or durability but most certainly can improve and preserve its look.

Oak worktop treated with tung oil, which offers a water resistant protection

The natural tannins in the wood react with the surrounding air and the hardwood changes gradually from the beautiful light honey colour, that the majority of us love, to a more silvery hue. If water comes into contact with Oak it penetrates the wood and reacts with the high tannin contact, resulting in “blackening”. Many people consider this natural weathering process attractive however some choose to treat the timber. With treatment a chemical process occurs and the oak turns to a rich, attractive nutty colour in a matter of hours.
There are a variety of oils, stains, varnishes and wax’s that are available- I shall run through these in my next blog.