Can Tung Oil Be Used Outside? A Guide To Outdoor Wood Finishes

Are you looking for a natural and durable finish for your outdoor wood projects? Tung oil might be the solution you need. Tung oil is a popular choice for wood finishing because of its water-resistant, UV-resistant, and mold-resistant properties. But can tung oil be used outside?

The answer is yes, but there are some things you need to know before applying tung oil to your outdoor wood projects. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of using tung oil as an outdoor wood finish. We will discuss how to prepare the wood surface for tung oil application, how to apply tung oil to outdoor wood, and how to maintain the tung oil finish over time.

We will also explore some alternatives to tung oil for outdoor wood finishing and give you tips on how to choose the right wood species for outdoor use. By the end of this guide, you will have all the knowledge you need to decide if tung oil is the right choice for your outdoor wood projects.

Understanding Tung Oil as an Outdoor Wood Finish

Looking for a durable outdoor wood finish? Look no further than tung oil! Tung oil is a natural, non-toxic, and water-resistant oil that is derived from the nuts of the tung tree.

It has been used for centuries as a wood finish, and is known for its ability to penetrate deeply into the wood, providing a protective layer that enhances the wood’s natural beauty.

One of the main benefits of using tung oil as an outdoor wood finish is that it is highly resistant to water and moisture. This makes it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture, decks, and other wooden structures that are exposed to the elements.

Tung oil also has excellent UV resistance, which means that it won’t yellow or darken over time, even with prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Another advantage of using tung oil is that it is easy to apply and maintain. Unlike some other wood finishes, tung oil doesn’t require a lot of prep work before application.

Simply clean the surface of your wood and apply a few coats of tung oil, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. And because tung oil is a natural oil, it can easily be reapplied as needed to maintain its protective properties and keep your outdoor wood looking beautiful for years to come.

Preparing the Wood Surface for Tung Oil Application

Before applying this natural finish, it’s important to properly clean and sand the wood surface to ensure the best results and longevity. Start by removing any dirt, debris, or loose paint using a stiff-bristled brush or pressure washer. If there are any old finishes, they should be removed using a paint stripper or sandpaper. After stripping, make sure to clean the surface with a solvent or mineral spirits to remove any remaining residues.

Next, you need to prepare the wood surface for sanding. If the wood is already smooth, you can start sanding with a fine grit sandpaper. However, if the wood is rough, you may need to start with a coarse grit sandpaper and work your way up to a finer grit. The goal is to achieve a smooth surface without any scratches or rough spots. Always sand with the grain of the wood to avoid creating any cross-grain scratches.

To help illustrate the sanding process, refer to the table below:

Sandpaper Grit Surface Condition Use
60-80 Rough, uneven surface Removes deep scratches and stains
120-150 Slightly rough surface Smooths and removes any remaining scratches
180-220 Smooth surface with minor imperfections Smooths and prepares for finishing
320-400 Smooth, even surface Final sanding before finishing

By properly preparing the wood surface before applying tung oil, you are ensuring that the finish will adhere to the wood and provide optimal protection against the outdoor elements. Take your time with the sanding process and make sure to remove any dust or debris before applying the finish. With a little patience and attention to detail, you can achieve a beautiful and long-lasting finish for your outdoor wood projects.

Applying Tung Oil to Outdoor Wood

To achieve a beautiful and natural-looking finish on your outdoor wooden furniture, start by gently rubbing the prepared surface with a cloth dampened with a mixture of linseed oil and mineral spirits. This will help to open up the wood’s pores and allow the tung oil to penetrate deeply and evenly.

Once the surface has been wiped down, apply a thin coat of tung oil with a brush or cloth, making sure to spread it evenly and work it into the wood’s grain. Allow the first coat of tung oil to dry completely, which can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours depending on humidity and temperature.

Once dry, lightly sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper to remove any rough or raised areas. Then, apply a second coat of tung oil in the same manner as the first. Repeat this process for a third coat if desired, but be sure to allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Remember, tung oil is not a waterproof finish, so it’s important to reapply it every year or so to maintain the wood’s natural beauty and protect it from the elements. When applying additional coats, simply sand the surface lightly and apply the tung oil as before.

With proper care and maintenance, your outdoor wooden furniture can look beautiful and last for many years to come.

Maintaining Tung Oil Finish on Outdoor Wood

Proper upkeep and diligent maintenance are crucial for preserving the natural and rustic appeal of your wooden furniture that’s been treated with tung oil. While tung oil is a durable and long-lasting finish, it still requires routine maintenance to protect it from the elements.

To maintain the finish on your outdoor wood, begin by wiping down the surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove any dirt or debris. Next, inspect the finish for any signs of wear or damage. If you notice any areas that have begun to fade or show signs of wear, consider applying a fresh coat of tung oil to rejuvenate the finish. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application, and allow the finish to dry completely before using the furniture.

To keep your tung oil finish looking great for years to come, it’s important to protect it from the elements. Whenever possible, avoid exposing your outdoor wood to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Additionally, consider using a high-quality outdoor furniture cover to protect your wooden furniture from rain, snow, and other harsh weather conditions.

With proper care and maintenance, your tung oil finish will continue to provide a beautiful and protective coating for your outdoor wood furniture.

Alternatives to Tung Oil for Outdoor Wood Finishing

Looking for alternatives to tung oil for outdoor wood finishing? You might want to consider polyurethane. This durable finish is water-resistant and provides excellent protection against weathering.

Another option is varnish, which also offers protection from the elements while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood.

And if you’re looking for a more opaque finish, paint is a great choice for outdoor wood surfaces.


Although polyurethane is a popular finish for indoor projects, it may not be the best choice for outdoor wood due to its tendency to crack and peel in sunlight and moisture. While it does provide a hard and durable finish, polyurethane is not flexible enough to withstand the natural expansion and contraction of wood in varying weather conditions. This can lead to the finish cracking and peeling, exposing the wood to the elements and potentially causing damage.

If you do decide to use polyurethane for outdoor wood finishing, there are some steps you can take to increase its effectiveness and durability. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Choose a polyurethane specifically designed for outdoor use, as it’ll be formulated to better resist the damaging effects of sunlight and moisture.

  2. Apply multiple thin coats, rather than one thick coat, to allow the finish to properly cure and adhere to the wood.

  3. Sand between coats to ensure a smooth and even finish.

  4. Consider applying a UV-resistant topcoat to further protect the wood from sun damage.


Now that you know about polyurethane, let’s talk about another popular outdoor wood finish: varnish.
Varnish is a clear, protective coating that can be used on exterior wood surfaces to protect them from the elements. It’s made from a combination of oil, resin, and solvents, and it dries to a hard, durable finish that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

One of the benefits of using varnish is that it’s easy to apply and maintain. You can brush or spray it onto your wood surface, and it will dry to a glossy, smooth finish. Plus, it’s resistant to water, UV rays, and mildew, so it’s a great choice for outdoor furniture, decks, and other wood surfaces that need to withstand the elements.

Just be sure to apply it in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.


Painting your wooden fence or deck with a high-quality paint can not only add a pop of color and personality to your outdoor space, but also provide a protective layer against weather damage.

When choosing a paint for outdoor use, it’s important to select one that’s specifically designed for exterior surfaces. These paints are formulated to withstand the elements and are resistant to fading, cracking, and peeling.

Before applying the paint, make sure the surface is clean and free of any debris or loose paint. You may need to sand or power wash the area to ensure a smooth surface for the new paint to adhere to.

Apply the paint in thin, even coats, allowing each layer to dry completely before adding another. With proper preparation and application, a high-quality paint can provide long-lasting protection and aesthetic appeal to your outdoor wood surfaces.

Choosing the Right Wood Species for Outdoor Use

To make sure your outdoor wood project lasts, you should choose a wood species that is durable enough to withstand the elements. Here are some things to consider when selecting the right wood for your outdoor project:

  • Resistance to rot: Look for woods that are naturally resistant to rot, such as cedar, redwood, and teak. These woods contain natural oils and resins that make them more resistant to decay.

  • Density: Dense woods like Ipe and Cumaru are highly resistant to insects and rot. They’re also extremely hard and durable, making them a good choice for outdoor projects that will see a lot of use.

  • Maintenance: Some woods require more maintenance than others. For example, pine and fir are less expensive than cedar or redwood, but they require more maintenance to keep them looking good. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to maintain your wood, choose a more durable species.

  • Appearance: Different wood species have different appearances, so choose one that fits your aesthetic preferences. Some woods, like cedar and redwood, have a natural beauty that requires no staining or painting, while other woods, like oak and maple, have a more refined appearance that may look better with a stain or paint.

  • Cost: The cost of different wood species varies greatly, so choose one that fits your budget. Remember that more expensive woods may require less maintenance and last longer, so they may be a better value in the long run.

Choosing the right wood species is essential for any outdoor wood project. By considering factors like resistance to rot, density, maintenance, appearance, and cost, you can select a wood that’ll look great and last for years to come.