Before staining or painting any wood surface, it’s a good idea to first coat it with a high-quality wood sealer. This will protect your wood and lengthen its lifespan, as well as improving the quality of your finish coat. A quick search online will reveal that there are a lot of different wood sealers available. What’s the difference between these products? Which one is the best choice?
To make this decision a bit easier for you to understand, we’ve tested and compared all of the best wood sealers on the market in 2020. The following ten reviews have been compiled so you can see our findings during testing and use what we learned to help you pick the right wood sealer for your project. After the reviews, we’ll briefly refresh on which traits you should be keeping an eye out for with your wood sealer.
|350 sq ft||4.90/5|
|Rain Guard Water Sealers|
|200 sq ft||4.80/5|
|150 sq ft||4.75/5|
|ANCHORSEAL||100 sq ft||4.45/5|
|FDC Chem Pure Tung Oil||100 sq ft||4.15/5|
This wood sealer from SEAL-ONCE is specifically made to withstand the wet conditions of marine life. That doesn’t mean you can only use it for marine applications though. It’s a very effective sealer that penetrates deep into your wood to create a flexible, breathable barrier. It’s rot, mold, mildew, and algae resistant. Since it’s water-based, cleanup is easily done with soap and water. It’s also completely non-toxic. One gallon will cover about 300 square feet, and a second coat can be applied while the first coat is still damp.
This formula dries clear, so you can paint or stain the wood after treating it. On top of all this, the SEAL-ONCE wood sealer is a tinted formula that offers UV-protection in 11 different color tints. We were pleased with how the finish turned out, and the tints offered a very nice coloration. Application was easy with brush, roller, or sprayer. With such impressive qualities, it’s easy to see why we think this is the best outdoor wood sealer.
If you want the best wood sealer for the money, we think Rain Guard Water Sealers SP-8002 wood sealer is the best value you’ll find. For just one-third of the price you’ll pay for our first position pick, you can get the same 300 square-feet of coverage from the Rain Guard wood sealer. This product features a no-sheen formula to keep the natural look of your wood. It also dries clear with non-yellowing technology which we were thankful for.
The Rain Guard water sealer is one of the longest-lasting products we tested. It has great longevity, but there is one drawback with the application. This sealer must be applied to bone-dry wood. If there’s any moisture in the wood, then the sealer won’t work properly. Aside from wood, it can be applied to brick, stucco, concrete, and paint. We had just as much luck applying it with a brush as with a hand pump sprayer. Since this product has almost no detectable odor, we think it’s the best indoor wood sealer that we tested. Altogether, it’s pretty hard to beat the value that the Rain Guard wood sealer offers.
Our pick for premium choice is the Ready Seal 512 wood sealer. It’s an impressive sealer overall, but it’s more than just that. This product is a sealer and stain all in one, saving you time and money by combining the sealing and staining into a single step with just one product. The finish on this stain is rich and lush, and it comes in eight different shades for you to choose from.
The Ready Seal 512 features a special formula that never runs or streaks. Whether you want to brush it, roll it, or spray it, this product creates a nice, smooth, streak-free finish. Speaking of spraying it, you won’t even need to thin it down to do so. You can fill the gun with it as is and apply it without any further steps. It still won’t streak or run. The only downside to this product is the 48-72 hours you’ll be waiting for it to cure. If you can handle that, then this sealer is one of the absolute best options available on the market.
Water-based and non-toxic, the Anchorseal 2 green wood sealer is intended specifically for sealing the ends of cut logs and for turning bowls. The 100 square-feet that this gallon will cover isn’t very impressive, though luckily, this is one of the more affordable products that we reviewed. Though it does dry clear, the Anchorseal doesn’t look great as a finish. And since it’s meant to seal the cut ends of your lumber, it’s not designed for doing large wood surfaces. This means that it’s not a very versatile product. It’s good at what it does, but we would prefer to see a bit more versatility to put it in the top three.
Desire a deep antique-style finish on the wood you’re sealing? Then you should check out the FDC Chem pure tung oil wood sealer. The finish it provides is rich and full, almost appearing wet, creating a hand-rubbed effect. Despite this, it’s one of the fastest drying oil coats.
Acting as a moisture-resistant barrier, this coating protects against grease, alcohol, oil, water, and acid. It can also be used on many different types of wood, such as pine, cedar, cherry wood, oak, and more. Besides wood, this tung oil finish can also be used on concrete, brick, and stone. For maximum effect, a second coat can be applied 12-24 hours after the first. Though the finish is very nice, this isn’t the most cost-effective product. It’s also a bit more time-intensive to apply, so keep that in mind when making a decision.
Free from harsh fumes and VOCs, the Agra Life LS128 TriCoPolymer wood sealer is completely non-toxic and eco-friendly. It’s perfectly safe for use on pet pens, animal shelters, and livestock yards. Pretty affordable overall, we would have liked the Agra Life wood sealer if it had been more effective.
As it is, this sealer must be painted or stained if you want it to work as advertised. If you leave it as the only protectant, your wood will weather and gray. Moreover, soon anything you place on the sealed surface will stick to it and rip the sealer up when you move it. This is frustrating, to say the least, and it kept this wood-sealing product from reaching a higher position on our list.
Achieving 500 square-feet of coverage with a single gallon is pretty impressive until you look at the price that gallon goes for. This is the most expensive of all the wood sealers that we tested. It is certainly effective, though it doesn’t do anything special that would warrant the ludicrously high price. This sealer penetrates and protects by waterproofing your wood.
In our experience, the Waterlox applied well and the finish was very nice looking. However, it didn’t seem to ever want to cure fully. Worse yet, it wasn’t very durable and scratched easily on contact. We were hoping for a lot more from this sealer since it’s priced at an absolute premium. This time though, we were let down, and the Waterlox original sealer will be capped off at the seventh spot on this list.
The Bona ClassicSeal was one of the higher-priced options we tested, though it was also one of the poorer performers as well. It went on well enough, but it didn’t seem to stick well. The ClassicSeal kept wanting to peel off the floor. We had taken care to prep and clean our surfaces before application, but it wasn’t enough. Where it did get good adhesion, it just wasn’t very durable, scratching and scuffing very easily.
Though it does dry exceptionally clear, that’s one of its best properties. If it adhered better to our wood, it would probably earn a higher position. As it is, the Bona ClassicSeal just isn’t one of the best performing sealers.
One of the more affordably priced options we reviewed, the Thompson’s Waterseal is a VOC-compliant, clear wood-sealant. It’s a decent product overall, though not up to the standards of our top picks. This was one of the few sealers we weren’t able to put through a sprayer. It’s just too thick and clogs up the system. This is very disappointing since spraying tends to be a much faster method of application.
That wouldn’t have been too bad if it was the only issue. On top of this, we experienced poor adhesion with this product. It’s one of only a few we had this problem with, but it’s a very frustrating issue to deal with. We have to recommend picking something a bit more reliable such as the Rain Guard sealer in our second position.
Completely free of toxins and safety hazards, the EcoProCote wood sealer is made mostly from 100% natural plant oil and water. It dries within an hour so you can stain or paint on top. With no VOCs, this is a pretty much odorless product, something we did appreciate. That said, it’s a very pricey sealer that didn’t do much to earn the hefty price tag.
Unfortunately, this product always seems to react to water, turning a bit white when it comes in contact. We couldn’t figure out what’s causing this. Another downside was the 48-hour drying time. Once sealed, we prefer to continue quickly with the topcoat, something that’s not possible with the EcoProCote wood sealer.
Before heading out to purchase a wood sealer and get your project going, it’s a good idea to do a quick recap of what you want your wood sealer to be able to do. The following traits are the ones we suggest you keep in mind when comparing different wood sealers.
Coverage is going to play a very noticeable role in price and value. Coverage is essentially how many square feet you can roll with one container of wood sealer. Obviously, the more the better, but keep in mind that there will some variability in this number depending on how thick the coats are applied and how many coats are going on total.
Sealing is meant to protect the wood, but it can’t protect anything if it can’t hold up to abuse. Durability of your sealant is very important for protecting the look of your wood. If your sealer isn’t durable, it’ll be prone to scratching and chipping which will quickly start to look awful. On the other hand, a high-quality sealer should help you avoid these problems by filling in some of the existing imperfections and creating a durable finish that helps defend the wood against things such as mold, mildew, water, and contact.
If your sealer doesn’t stick, how effective could it possibly be? Most wood sealers are going to require a certain amount of prep work beforehand to make sure the surface you’re sealing is ready to accept the sealer. Even then, some sealers just don’t adhere very well. In such cases, you may find yourself frustrated at the wasted time and ruined finish. Save yourself the headache and pick a product that we’ve already extensively tested and determined will stick well to most surfaces.
There is some pretty drastic difference between the fastest and slowest drying options that we tested. On the quick side, some sealers are ready to be painted over in just one hour. This is incredibly fast and will help you get your project finished in short order. However, other products have very long drying times that can take 48-72 hours or more to fully cure. Drying time is most important when you’re trying to complete a project quickly for any reason. Time spent drying is time that not much else is getting done, so we prefer to have this step sped up in any way possible.
There are many different ways to apply a stain. You can brush, roll, or even spray. While most sealers will work just fine with any of these methods, others are going to be a bit more temperamental. For instance, some stains may be too thick to properly flow through a sprayer. In such cases, you’ll have to stick to brushing or rolling. While this can often leave streaks or runs in your finish, today, many new products exist that are drip-free, run-free, and streak-free. If you have just a small area to finish then you could probably get away with doing it by brush. For larger areas though, you’ll definitely need a sprayer or at least a roller.
You’ve read through a lot of information in our reviews, and you should be feeling confident in your ability to pick the wood sealer that will work best for your needs. The Seal-Once marine penetrating wood sealer was our top pick overall. Its deep-penetrating formula is non-toxic, water-based, and available in 11 different color tints that all produce a deep, rich look for your wood. We’re very comfortable recommending it as the best choice for most situations.
For the budget-conscious shopper, the Rain Guard wood sealer is an affordable option that can be applied any way you prefer. It dries completely clear and gets excellent coverage for much less than what you’ll pay for many competitors. Finally, the Ready Seal 512 is an incredible but pricey option that earns our premium pick in the third position. You’ll experience no runs or streaks when using this product, even though it’s thin enough to pray without diluting. It seals and stains simultaneously and is available in eight shades. These are all excellent choices, and we think you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Featured Image Credit By: waterlox, instagram
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!