7 June 2018 at 4:12 pm #548410
My wife and I recently purchased a Big Green Egg grill for our house’s deck. I am in the early stages of building a table for the grill to sit on, and I had some question regarding finishes for the project once it is completed.
Ideally, we would prefer as low-maintenance a finish as possible. This is largely due to the fact that the Big Green Egg itself weighs over 200 pounds and it would make moving the table or turning it upside down to repair any issues with the finish much more labor-intensive than other typical outdoor furniture.
The table will be constructed out of white oak. There is no awning over our deck, but I plan on putting a cover over the table and grill when not in use to try and protect it from direct rainfall as much as possible. We live in central Massachusetts, so there we have humid summers and relatively harsh winters to deal with.
The way I see it, I have two options when it comes to selecting a finish:
(1) Leave the table unfinished. This requires no re-applications, though an occasional sanding may be required. The table will weather to a silvery-gray color over the years.
(2) Use a marine grade spar varnish or similar topcoat. I am leaning towards this option because I prefer the look of the non-weathered oak color. My understanding is that this will require a periodic re-finishing of the table to maintain the look.
My main question is, how often should I expect to need to refinish the table if I choose the spar varnish route? Because the Egg itself is so heavy, I am not looking forward to lifting it out of the table each time I need to reapply the finish.
Also, if anyone else has any other suggestions of finishing options I didn’t mention here, that would be greatly appreciated! Perhaps there is a better option out there that I am not aware of.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read all of this and answer!
– Rob7 June 2018 at 9:49 pm #548416
Most durable outdoor finish is probably the CPES + Epifanes combo. Matt Cremona did that finish on his farmhouse table, which lives outdoors in Minnesota, and he says it’s unchanged in two years outside in Minnesota.
The CPES is a penetrating epoxy, and everybody probably knows Epifanes. You can see a bit about it starting at 10:44 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbFQq1pExf427 June 2018 at 5:27 pm #548900
A followup question. The combination of CPES + Epifanes works well for outdoor furniture, but the epifanes is a sort of marine varnish and when I have used it, I have used lots of coats to build up a reasonably thick film. Anyone have suggestions for a decent finish for redwood (or cedar) to be used outdoors without top coating with a marine varnish? Some sort of penetrating oil that does not build up a film? Redwood is very soft and dents quickly which, I assume, does not work well with a varnish topcoat. I have made my first completely handmade table as outdoor furniture for the deck — it is practice before making indoor oak ones. I have never had great luck with outdoor furniture finishing and am tired of sanding off old furniture and decks. I am considering TWP deck stains for the deck and it might be good for the outdoor furniture as well. It is supposed to be a penetrating oil of some sort with decent UV and water protection and is easy to reapply, again supposedly. It is reviewed here. https://www.deckstainhelp.com/twp-100-series-wood-and-deck-stain-review-2016/. But any suggestions would be appreciated.29 June 2018 at 3:02 pm #548972
If you want to use a more natural finish, try boat soup, an oil based finish with linseed oil, tung oil and pine tar. I’m not sure where to get it where you are, but there’s Farbmanufaktur Werder in Germany, which should ship EU wide. I have repeatedly ordered from them and find them to be reliable. Quality is fine as well.
from Germany1 July 2018 at 4:38 pm #549017
Thanks for this @davidr. I had never heard of it. I see on the web that you can buy ready made boat soup products or make your own. There seems to be some disagreement as to what the tar does. Some say it just stays sticky, and others deny it. Some say it darkens the wood nearly black, and some deny it. I did not find, after a brief search, references to people using it for furniture besides boats. Maybe it is worth some experimenting. What sorts of furniture woods have you used it on? Oh, and who would have guessed how many food pages there are dedicated to Thai boat soup recipes!1 July 2018 at 9:27 pm #549027
I used it on soft woods for flooring, shed front, terrace and on a table, but we usually cover it with a wax tablecloth. It does darken the wood visibly, but it depends on whether it’s new or weathered wood, the latter soaking in more of if and darken it more. Oak will likely soak a bit more.
Regarding the stickiness, you have to treat it like an oil finish and wipe off excess, or the build-up will be sticky. Multiple coats may be necessary.
from Germany2 July 2018 at 2:20 pm #549047
I don’t know how far you are in your project, but if you haven’t purchased wood yet, please review whether white oak is a good choice. As I recall, it reacts with water and iron and turns black easily. That’s why red oak is better for floors than white. If you’ve already committed, then you’re doing the right thing investigating finishes. I’d then stay away from any fasteners or, if they are required, spend extra for stainless (look that up….I think that helps with white oak but am not certain).2 July 2018 at 3:35 pm #549050
White oak is much more water proof than red oak is. That’s why it’s used to make whiskey barrels to this day. I’ve never heard anyone say red oak is better than white oak for flooring but it is less expensive. All of it, including any variety of Oak, Douglas Fir, Ipe, and several other species will turn black if plain steel fasteners are used. It’s a chemical reaction with iron and the tanic acid in the wood. 316 marine grade stainless fasteners would be best. The coated steel fasteners will eventually begin to corrode and cause issues.
Harry2 July 2018 at 5:18 pm #549051
Did I get it backwards? I’ll need to review. It wasn’t a question of durability that I was raising, though. My recollection was that white oak is much more liable to staining black in the presence of water than is red. That is why I chose red oak for our kitchen flooring over white. It would be amusing in a sick sort of way if I had that backwards. I was guessing that both red and white would be durable enough for this application, but I was favoring the red thinking it would be an advantage if (when?) the finish fails outdoors. But, maybe I’m all wrong. Investigating will have to wait because this is just a brief lunch break. Thanks for your comments.2 July 2018 at 5:41 pm #549052
I’d use Le Tonkinois Varnish, it is excellent stuff, only downside is that it’s very shiny, but you can easily take the shine down with wire wool. I’d also recommend chestnut as an alternative to oak, it’s very durable and cheap when you can get hold of it.2 July 2018 at 5:43 pm #549053
Thanks David, I have read some more about Boat Soup (or sauce as I have seen it called). Lots of folk make their own for marine applications, or for things like kayak paddles, with widely varying recipes. Most seem to be some mixture of tung oil or BLO, Turpentine, Pine Tar, and maybe a dryer. Some leave out the pine tar. Some use varnish instead of the oil. Some just mix together whatever old stuff they have lying around. Here is a typical professional recipe https://thomasboats.blogspot.com/2011/11/boat-soup-greenland-paddle-finish.html. Save for the tar, the recipes do not seem all that different from various recipes for wipe on finishes I have seen in furniture mags (and even used myself) which involve creating a thin mix of varnish and oils like BLO. I suppose that the tar is what makes it good for marine applications, though the amount of tar that gets into the wood seems fairly modest. Especially since, as David said, you have to wipe it off carefully. And there does not seem to be much UV protection from this finish. Even if you replace the oils with some varnish with UV protection, it is pretty thinned out. Anywyay, I might get myself some pine tar and experiment! (Years ago, before I decided to go with hand tools, I did experiment a bit with roofing tar in a finish.)
Thanks for wood comments Ed and Harryawheeler. I have read that white oak is better than red for outdoor stuff, something to do with how they absorb water I seem to remember. Actually, I have been using redwood and ceder for my outdoor furniture largely because I am still at the practicing stage of making mortise and tenon by hand and those woods are inexpensive (and match my deck!). (Though for those considering these woods, I find them harder in some ways to work by hand than oak. A chisel sharp enough to cleanly cut an oak mortise, or to cleanly chop an oak dovetail, might tear redwood rather than cleanly chop. Who would have guessed?) I am just starting to move to oak for an indoor table. I have never heard of the 316 Marine grade stainless fasteners mentioned by harryawheeler. Very good to know!2 July 2018 at 9:32 pm #549056
I think you got it reversed Ed. White oak is better in areas prone to water than red oak is. For me, I always tried to convince clients not to use wood of any sort in kitchen areas because it isn’t just a potential tannic acid reaction, it’s buckling and cupping that occurs if water is left standing on the floor and kitchens are the favorite place for the dogs water bowl:). Still, I had plenty of red and white oak installed in those areas and both work as long as the dog cooperates!
Harry3 July 2018 at 6:15 pm #549103
Regarding the UV resistance, the manufacturer I mentioned (Werder Farbmanufaktur) says you can get a pigmented variant in red, brown or black, but also that you can paint it over with oil paints.
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