This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Posted: September 3rd, 2009
Waterlox on Porch Beadboard

It’s been 7 years since I stripped the beadboard on the front porch of its 8+ decades of built-up paint.  I finished it with dewaxed garnet shellac because, when stripping the paint, I found that a thick coat of shellac was the first coat on the beadboard and it kept a good bond all those years.  Shellac isn’t suppose to be good for areas around water.  Our covered, but not enclosed, porch does get water from rain and snow when the wind blows but the beadboard is vertical so it doesn’t cause a problem. Though my porch does get piled-up snow on it sometimes in the winter,  it is facing north so it doesn’t get the abuse a southern exposure would.    I’ve read that dewaxed shellac holds up a bit better than the natural shellac as far as protecting against water. Neither is recommended for use around water or outdoor use but that is what was used on it all those decades ago so I decided to use it back 7 years ago when I refinished the beadboard.

This summer I noticed areas that were starting to lighten near the bottom.  Well, 7 years was a respectable time for a finish to last outside, even the painted columns and top railings didn’t last that long without another coat.  About a week ago I went over the beadboard again in some lower spots with the dewaxed garnet shellac.  Yesterday I sat out on a footstool and took Waterlox and applied it over the shellac.   Waterlox is much better at protecting against water than shellac is.  It is used on kitchen counters and in bathrooms.  It is so easy to work with.  I applied it to the beadboard just as if I was rubbing a liquid wax on it.  It doesn’t dry nearly as quickly as shellac but that is a good thing, too.  It has time to level out.  Another reason I wanted to use Waterlox is I can apply repeated coats over the next several years and not have to sand in between.  It will melt into itself (much like shellac melts into itself) when applied over another coat of Waterlox.  I hate polyurethane because you have to scratch it up with sandpaper for the next layer to bond to it. Too much work.  On things I have had to use urethane (spar) on, I find I have to repair the finish just as often as I do with the shellac and Waterlox.

So why not use something that will give the look of fine furniture.  There is a beautiful depth to the wood when you use shellac or Waterlox.  I don’t care for the look of polyurethanes. They look plastic to me (and peel like it, too, when they fail.)  I can just wipe on Waterlox every so often (so easy to do) and keep the finish nice. Waterlox looks just as pretty as shellac to get that depth-look (I think,) though it has only a slight amber color to it.  You can add special dyes to it to color it. Waterlox is much easier to work with than shellac in my opinion.

In this photo below you will see the beadboard which is now 92 years old.  It is coated with 3 coats of dewaxed garnet shellac that was applied after I stripped it 7 years ago and the touch-up done last week and then one coat of Waterlox done yesterday. I may add additional coats before winter if the weather holds.  I have many other projects to do before winter.


Waterlox and shellac will not last long on wood that gets sunlight, though.  The UV rays break down the wood fibers through the finish and there goes the bond.  They do make Waterlox for outdoor purposes with a UV block in it.  It’s made for marine applications.  But in my case I’m using the same stuff that I’m going to use on my indoor wood floors when I finally get to refinishing them because the porch gets very little sunlight.

The cons of Waterlox would be the smell until it cures.  I had to mail order mine because I couldn’t find any locally.  Also, once the container is opened and oxygen gets to it, it will start to gel.  I have gone back to apply a second application of Waterlox on something a couple of weeks later only to find it had gelled up and was no longer any good.  It is maddening because it is expensive. They make a product of some kind of gas you squirt into the container to keep the oxygen out but I’ve read it still goes bad on you. I try to do several projects at once to use it up before it gels.

Always make sure with whatever finish you chose, that you dont’ let sun hit it until it is fully cured and that you let each coat cure fully dry before you add another because any solvent unevaporated in  a coat below will blister the finish especially when it warms up when hit by sunshine.

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