How To Treat Softwood For Outdoor Use? Our Guide Here!

Written By James
Updated May 1, 2022 by James

How To Treat Softwood For Outdoor Use? Our Guide Here!

How do you treat softwoods?

Softwood lumber has been used for centuries for building homes and furniture. This type of wood is durable and resistant to rot and insects. However, softwood lumber should be treated with preservatives to prevent decay.

There are two types of preservatives: copper and chromium. Copper is better at preventing decay, but chromium is cheaper and easier to apply.

Softwoods are fast-growing trees that are easy to harvest. They are more sustainable than hardwoods because they absorb more water and do not need to be replanted after harvesting.

Read on if you want to learn how to protect your softwoods from the elements.

How to Treat Softwood Lumber

  1. Clean the wood surface using a damp rag, wood cleaner, or sponge dipped in water.
  2. Remove all debris from the wood surface.
  3. Apply a thin coat of clear sealer to the wood.
  4. Apply a coat of traditional wood stain to the wood.
  5. Allow the wood material to dry completely before applying any finishing materials.
  6. Use a brush to apply an even coat of wax on the wood.
  7. Let it dry overnight.
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until you have applied your desired amount of finish.
  9. Seal the wood with a final coat of clear sealer.
  10. Lightly sand the wood surface to remove excess sealer.
  11. Varnish the wood to protect against excess moisture content and sunlight.
  12. Apply a top coat of varnish if necessary.

If you want to add colour to the wood, now is the time to do so.

Key differences between softwoods hardwoods

Wood is a great building material for exterior applications. Some types of wood are more prone to mould, fungi and algae than others. This could affect the choice of a protective finish.

Timber refers to wood. Softwood surfaces are softer and faster growing than hardwoods. They are typically found in coniferous trees such as pine and spruce.

Exotic hardwoods are harder and slower growing than softwoods. They are typically seen in deciduous trees such as oak and maple.

Hardwood products are made from hard shells, while softwood is made from trees without any protective coverings. Pine and spruce trees are examples of hardwood. Evergreens are also examples of hardwood.

Fibre content

The density of a tree's wood is measured by its fibre content. Hardwood contains more fibres than softwood.

Wood species

Trees that grow in colder climates contain more resin, making them harder than trees that grow in warmer temperatures.


Copper-based treatments are best for exterior applications because they will not discolour when exposed to sunlight.

Chromium-based treatments are suitable for interior applications because they can withstand high temperatures.


A chromium-based wood preservative is less expensive than copper-based ones. They are also easier to apply.


Stains are usually applied after the wood has dried. Staining is done to improve the appearance than two years ago.

How To Protect Softwoods

Treatments to wood surfaces require different techniques than protecting hardwoods.

Softwood needs to be protected from rainwater, snow and wind. It must be protected from rotting. It must be protected against insects and mould.

It is important to choose the right type of paint for softwood. The wrong kind of paint may cause the wood to rot.

There are two types of wood preserver: copper and chromium-based. 

Copper-based paints are better suited for indoor applications. Chromium-based colours are better for outdoor applications.

  • When choosing a primer, look at the manufacturer's instructions. If the primer says it is suitable for indoor and outdoor applications, it is probably safe to use on softwood.
  • Follow the manufacturers ' instructions when applying a wood stain, wood dyes, or other coating.
  • You should avoid using oil-based stains and lacquers on softwood. Oil-based products tend to attract dirt and dust.
  • You should avoid using water-based stains and lacquer on softwood. Water-based products are challenging to clean up.
  • Use a brush rather than a sprayer to apply your wood finish. A meeting allows you to control the amount of product on the surface.
  • Use a roller instead of a sprayer if possible. Roller application gives you more control over the amount of product on the surface.
  • If you have an existing coat of paint on your softwood, wait until it completely dries before applying a new coat. This helps prevent the old paint from being absorbed into the new one.
  • If you want to remove a previous coat of paint, sand the area first. Sanding removes some of the colours but leaves enough of the natural colour behind so that the new coat blends well with the old.
  • Apply a second coat only if necessary. You don't need to do this unless the first coat is too thin.

Environmental pros and cons

Hardwoods are usually grown in warmer climates, but there is some debate about whether or not this makes them better than softwoods.

Softwoods are grown in colder regions, but they are less expensive to produce and transport. Both types of wood are used in construction.

Hardwood trees take a long time to grow, but they're very durable. They're made up mostly of cellulose, making them strong and sturdy.

They're harder to work with because they dry out slower than softwoods. Sawing them requires more energy. They're usually thicker and need more wood to make a finished product.

Hardwoods are wood that grows quickly, so they're usually used for furniture. Coniferous trees grow slowly, so they're mostly used for lumber.

Softwoods are also called tropical woods because they grow in warm climates.

Most softwoods are harvested from North America or South America. They're often replaced when they're farmed in fast-growing commercial forests - a tick in the environmental boxes.

Softwoods are grown close to home and grow fast. They use less energy during the drying process, which saves money. They're also not as rare as other hardwood species.

Recommended protection for exterior soft and hardwood

Wood finishes are great for protecting your wood from water and other elements.

You should use exterior wood paint, stain or wood varnish to protect your wood from the elements.

All the best protective coatings contain water repellent and UV absorbers. These materials help protect your outdoor wood furniture from fading, cracking and peeling.

You should also consider whether you want your outdoor furniture to last longer than other types of furniture.

Types of timber matter. For example, hardwoods like oak or teak require more maintenance than mahoganies but need less than softwoods.

Outdoor wood that faces south will be affected by sunlight more quickly than average, affecting the surface as much as 75% sooner.

Wind can sandblast the surface, degrading the coatings quicker.

Choose a finish that suits your outdoor environment and gives you the lowest maintenance schedule.

Last Words

Treating softwoods for outdoor use is essential for keeping your furniture looking good.

There's no right way to apply a coating, but it's always worth trying at least two different methods before settling on one.

The most important thing is to choose a finish that works well for your needs.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

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My father, and his father before him, and his father; for the past 3 generations, my family have always been into gardening. The green fingers is a gift passed down to me and I thoroughly enjoy it! I also have worked in the manufacturing department for Bosch and DeWalt so I like to think I know a thing or two about tools and such!
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