Why Does Wood Turn Gray?

Every once in a while, we get a call from someone who recently noticed exterior natural woodwork at their home begin to “gray out”.

It does not matter whether it is a deck in their backyard or siding on the outside of their home, it could be either or, but the question is still the same.

Typically, the question is framed out somewhere along the lines of, “I had my ____________ cleaned and sealed not too long ago, why has it already turned gray?!?”

Even without seeing whatever it was that was treated, I already know the answer.

The scientific answer would be “Radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays breaks down the lignin in the cellulose structure on the surface of the wood causing photo chemical degradation (source: Timbertown).”

The answer in more layperson’s terms would be “the sun is the culprit”.

This can be a very disheartening occurrence to go through, particularly if you have put a whole lot of time and effort into restoring your natural wood deck/siding/etc.

The process of getting wood to its natural state can often be painstaking.

First, it needs to be cleaned and then prepped to varying degrees (elbow grease, elbow grease, elbow grease…) before it is ready for its finish.

Then, applying the finish can be cumbersome in and of itself, especially if the finish is being applied by brush.

Therefore, as you can imagine, the graying out process can be super frustrating to endure.

Our approach for protecting and treating natural wood decks, siding, and the like would be to first clean the surfaces we will be applying our system to, prepping as necessary, then applying 2 coats of C2 Clear Guard, and then 1 coat of Wolman Clear Water Repellent.

The C2 Guard is extraordinarily deep penetrating and is best done with 2 coats – wet-on-damp.

Because the C2 Guard penetrates so deeply, the Wolman can easily be applied over the C2 Guard once it is dry and be the Yin to the Guard’s Yang, as the C2 Guard provides incomparable protection to the cell structure of the wood and the Wolman creates a bit of a “Raincoat” to help the wood actually shed water and prevent moisture from penetrating its surfaces.

This is an AWESOME system (I personally believe the best-of-the-best!), but even with this being the case, it will NOT prevent the surfaces that are treated with it from graying out.

I always coach our Clients that the way the natural wood surface looks after it is washed, is the way that the natural wood will look after our system is applied to it.

The process we utilize (as described here), dries to an “invisible” finish and does NOT tone the wood whatsoever.

The only way to prevent the wood from graying out is by using a product that is more of a wood toning stain containing ultraviolet ray protection and which has an entirely different application process associated with it.

One has to be extremely careful however of which stain they choose for their natural wood (if they should elect to travel this route), as any type of film-building application at all could result in some pretty ugly peeling down the road.

Whether it is an aged pressure treated wood deck, clear white cedar shingles, or any type of related wood structure that is built outside and exposed to the weather in one way, shape, or form, the expectation should be there that if being left “natural” it should not be a question as to whether or not the wood will gray out, but rather how long it will take to do so.

This time element is not something that is easily defined as there are a number of factors involved.

Realizing this inevitability though, allows you to plan for the graying out process to begin at some point in time, rather than being under the false assumption that any type of “clear” treatment will allow the wood to maintain its natural look for anywhere near the length of time that you are envisioning it doing so. LOPCO Painting

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