What’s the difference between oil based and water based decking coatings?

It’s a common frustration that we hear about time and time again. Reinforced by misconceptions and confused by the volume of information available – What is the difference between WATER BASED and OIL BASED exterior coatings?

First things first – and most common question – Which lasts longer? Now, you might have heard from an uncle or from your mate who knows a builder that OIL BASED lasts longer. This is the general consensus of the old-school – and it is incorrect! WATER BASED, is not only easier to use, faster drying and safer, but represents newer technology, with which OIL BASED simply cannot compete.

Don’t get us wrong though, OIL BASED coatings have their place in a much larger picture, but we’ll get to that shortly.

How do coatings work?

OIL BASED coatings work by penetrating into the timber – think of a sponge soaking in liquid. OIL BASED coatings penetrate into the pores of your timber, leaving very little film on the surface. WATER BASED coatings work by not only penetrating the timber, but by building a film on the surface. This film inhibits UV radiation, prevents water soaking-in and is the reason WATER BASED lasts longer than OIL BASED. Think of it as the difference between 20 SPF sunscreen (OIL BASED) and 50 SPF sunscreen (WATER BASED).

So, why oil based?

The simple reason is, some people prefer the rich look that OIL BASED imparts on the timber. People that are passionate about this appearance, are happy to do the work involved in keeping this look. This ‘work’ would consist of regular maintenance inspections to check for water penetration, thoroughly scrubbing with Deck Clean and re-coating with their OIL BASED decking oil of choice every 3-6-12 months.

What about water based?

Compare this to Cabot’s Aquadeck, which is guaranteed to last up to twice as long as traditional decking oils. Cabot’s make this claim with confidence, knowing the superiority of WATER BASED technology compared to OIL BASED. In terms of appearance, WATER BASED is similar to OIL BASED, however it might not provide the same warmth and colour development to the timber. To counter this, we make our WATER BASED products available in a wide range of colours to suit any look you’re aspiring towards.

So when you run into someone who says that OIL BASED lasts longer, you can let them know there’s a new leader in durability, safety and efficiency!

Still not sure? Speak to the team at your local Mitre 10 who will be able to help you select the right decking coating for your needs.