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Can You Put Oak Flooring Outside (i.e. For a Deck)?

Close up photo of oak floor installed outdoors.

Building a deck for your home is a lot of work and requires thorough planning and many considerations. The kind of wood you use is especially important, as not all wood is suitable for outdoor use.

Oak flooring is a good choice for decks and patios, but it needs to be treated to protect it against the elements and ensure long-term use. If you approach this kind of project the right way, you can build a deck with oak flooring without any issues or problems down the line.

Can Wood Flooring Be Used Outdoors?

Wood is by nature a material that expands and contracts as moisture is gained and lost and when it has to deal with temperature fluctuations. For this reason, it can seem like a bad idea to use any kind of wood for outside purposes.

However, when treated to protect against temperature changes and moisture, wood can be a great material for outdoor flooring. There are several kinds of wood that perform well outside, such as oak, cherry, and ash. 

White oak is especially popular because it is strong, rather impervious to water, rot-resistant, and pleasing to the eye. 

Note: white oak isn’t actually white—the bark is a light gray color but the finished wood is very light brown in color.

Treating Oak Wood

Close up photo of a oak hardwood floor with paint brush.

To make sure your oak wood flooring lasts while being used outside and doesn’t suffer damage, you’ll have to treat it. This treatment is referred to as ‘finishing’ and is essential for decks and patios.

White oak is already able to strongly resist rot and water, and it’s easy to work with. This makes it a popular choice.

Of course, it’s not completely resistant to the elements and needs to be protected. 

Here follows a clear guide on how you can treat oak wood to protect it.

Prepare The Wood

Before applying the finishing treatment to your oak flooring, you have to prepare it properly. You need to sand the wood with sandpaper, using different grains. It’s best to start off with a rough grit like 80 and then steadily progress to finer grit such as 120 and 180 and finish with 320.

Between every sanding session, you should clean the wood with a cloth that has been moistened with mineral spirits. This will help to remove sawdust and other particles.

Although the sanding process can be time-consuming, it’s very important and will affect how well your finish applies to and gets absorbed by your floor.

Finishing Materials and Application

A zoom in photo of a oil painted wooden floor.

There are several choices when it comes to applying finishes to wooden floors, and they have different ways of being applied. Let’s look at your options and how you have to apply them.

Related: Can You Whitewash Oak Flooring?

Penetrating Finishes

These finishes seep into your wood and will seal it against moisture and protect it against pests. However, they don’t offer any protection against general wear and tear or sunlight.

You will have to reapply this kind of finish regularly and you can get them in different forms that repel water. 

To apply, use a thick mop made of wool so you can have a smooth and even application.

Water Repellents 

After the summer rain, a close-up of a recently sealed cottage deck.

Most people want to use water repellents to protect their wood, but they don’t make the wood completely waterproof. They do repel water and reduce warping while also protecting the wood against mildew and fungi. Typically, these repellents contain drying oil, solvents, and paraffin wax.

You can apply these finishes with a thick brush, making sure to cover all exposed parts of the floor.

Teak or Tung oil Finishes 

These finishes bring out the natural color of oak and can make your deck look absolutely fabulous. However, they don’t last very long and will have to be reapplied regularly to avoid photooxidation damage.

To apply, stir the oil well and use a stiff brush or microfiber roller to spread the oil evenly along the wood grain. Leave the oil finish to dry for as long as the manufacturer recommends and apply a second coat if you find it necessary.

Film Forming Finishes

A. polished, shining hardwood floor as a backdrop or texture.

These finishes are made up of solid color stains, varnishes, paints, and polyurethanes and are good at protecting wood against dirt and wear. They are available in various sheens and last very long.

With that said, they can take a lot of effort to apply. You’ll have to apply a primer to ensure the finish adheres correctly. Use a small brush for any small nooks and a microfiber roller for the rest of the floor.

Polyurethanes and Clear Varnishes

If you want a balance between aesthetics and protection, you’ll like clear varnishes and polyurethanes. They can bring out the beauty of your wood and protect it against the sun, decay, and wear.

You’ll have to apply these finishes precisely to ensure they spread evenly and to prevent bubbles from forming. You’ll have to let the first coat dry well and then gently sand the surface. Then you need to remove the particles left after sanding and apply a second coat. You may have to apply up to three coats for the best results.


A relaxing oak wood decking cafe terrace surrounded by nature.

Putting oak flooring outside for a deck is a good idea because this wood performs well outside. However, you need to treat the wood so it’s protected and will endure many years outside without losing its quality and remaining attractive. Follow the advice shared here and you won’t regret using oak wood flooring outside.

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