Wood is eternally popular for outdoor projects like cladding, fencing and decking. For a beautiful and long-lasting project, it’s important to choose the right species and apply the right design principles.
Equally important is the right treatment. These finishes should always be carefully considered, specially selected and expertly applied.
Introducing factory-finished timber! When it comes to these treatments, technology is very advanced; there are some impressive, state-of-the-art products and processes available to keep your wood looking and performing at its best for as long as possible.
As we shall explain, these are much more than just a lick of woodcare product from your local DIY store!
What is factory-finished timber?
As is probably abundantly clear from the name, factory-treated timber (often referred to as pre-coated, factory-finished or pre-painted) refers to wood that has had protection professionally applied during the manufacturing process before being delivered to a customer. This means there’s nothing to be done at the time of installation.
These are no ordinary woodcare finishes you might pick up from the shop, however. Take SiOO:X, for example. This wood modification system makes use of silicon nanotechnology to modify and improve the timber’s properties, protecting the substrate and enhancing the performance and beauty of your cladding, fencing or decking.
You might also be surprised by the complexity of the factory treatment process.
How does the timber factory treatment process work?
To be finished to a professional quality standard, the treatments are applied in a controlled environment to achieve optimum impregnation of the product — making it ideal for moist conditions we’re accustomed to in the UK.
Professional factory finishing ensures optimum application rates and the perfect drying environment.
Let’s go into more depth on SiOO:X. Typically, two wood protection coats are applied before the final surface protection coat. Treatment is applied to all sides of the timber — including all edges, end grains and tongue and groove details — ensuring full envelope protection.
With a range of sophisticated equipment such as bespoke vacuum coaters, factory treatment ensures optimum application rate and the perfect drying environment. Treatments are best applied to kiln-dried timber with less than 20% moisture content.
Application is also best on 60 grit sanded sawn surfaces (not planned surfaces); glaze removal may be necessary. Different products can be applied depending on which part of the timber is being treated for maximum protection (for example, end grain sealer for any sawn ends).
After treatment, the wood should be sprayed with water to start the curing period. During this time, the timber should be allowed to stand on a drying rack in a dry environment that’s at least 10°C.
What species should be used for factory-treated timber?
Some of the most popular are heat-treated woods, like ThermoWood®, Thermo-Ayous and Thermo-Tulipwood CAMBIA®. These modified timbers take up the treatments very well, typically requiring half the amount of product typically required.
If you’re looking for that on-trend silvery-grey finish, these types of wood also have relatively quick curing and colour changes times — around three to four months.
Other popular species for factory treatment are your time-tested and celebrated classics, like Western Red Cedar, Siberian Larch, Douglas Fir, Alaskan Yellow Cedar and European Oak. These can take six to 12 months to attain those celebrated silvery-grey hues.
What are the best treatment options for factory-treated cladding or fencing?
One of the trending options often being requested is the monochromatic silvery-grey ‘old’ look. For enhanced UV durability and to showcase your wood’s natural beauty, a clear or translucent (semi-transparent) finish never goes out of style. Then there’s opaque finishes, which give architects unlimited freedom to make a statement with their project.
This is wildly popular for effortlessly imparting a rustic feel — essentially, a natural ‘weathered’ old look without any of the associated waiting time! It’s a great choice for those wanting to create a monochromatic, Scandi-inspired outdoor theme. We’ve written in more detail about the unstoppable trend for grey timber.
One popular way of achieving this is with SiOO:X’s patented two-part wood surface impregnation and protection system. Once the treated wood is exposed to moisture, the silicate reacts with carbon in the atmosphere and begins to cure, forming a network of crystals. SiOO:X offers two types of finish: light grey (for a silvery-grey appearance) and mid grey (for a deeper grey look).
This process continues for up to three years, mirroring and accelerating the wood’s natural ageing process and creating a stunning permanent grey appearance that is pleasant to the touch and easy to clean. The treatments are environmentally-friendly and water-based, suitable for cladding, fencing and decking.
This grey timber has proven exceptionally popular in recent years as the demand for nature-connected spaces soars — a trend we only foresee continuing. It gives your space all the charm and character of weathered wood, but without any of the age-related damage.
Great if you’re wanting to keep it simple with a factory finish that shows the wood’s beauty to its fullest whilst providing some strong protection from the elements.
With a professional factory finish using a product like Owatrol SI 106, you’ll protect your wood from UV and dramatically extend its service life without concealing any of the wood’s beauty — such a celebrated characteristic of these natural products.
Semi-transparent finishes cover a huge range of different tints and shades, each providing a slight change in appearance depending on the treatment chosen. Delivering enhanced performance and durability, they protect your timber from the effects of moisture, ultraviolet light and decay-causing fungi, all of which can cause cracking and warping over time.
A well-chosen, expertly-applied translucent factory finish can even bring out the natural beauty of the wood’s grain pattern — a superb, timeless choice.
The ultimate way to take control over the finished look of your project. Opaque factory coatings give you the freedom to choose a solid, consistent and uniform colour for your wood to match your vision.
Colour possibilities are endless (even blue!), but the most popular opaque factory finishes are greys and blacks. These finishes provide fantastic durability to the treated timber at the expense of concealing some of its natural beauty.
Black, in particular, is a striking, on-trend choice. This arresting, daring look can also be achieved with charred cladding.
For even more information on different factory finishes available and product samples, be sure to check out our finishing partner, James E Hatch & Son.
What are the benefits of factory-finished timber cladding?
First of all, professional factory finishes ensure optimum production quality control. By giving you access to the best products and machinery, the process also provides long-life protection for your wood with none of the hassle. With such a range of tints and shades, pre-coated timber allows you to customise your project.
- Quality control: Factory treatment ensures better quality and production control. Some projects can also be required to meet conformance standards that only a factory finish can achieve thanks to the controlled nature of the environment. DIY woodcare finishes always have a higher risk of coating failure.
- Convenience: Finishing your cladding or fencing can be a messy, time-consuming process that often requires quite a bit of space, an abundance of patience — and the right weather conditions, which is never a given in the UK! It can almost feel as if you’re waiting for the stars to align whilst you wait for a dry day that’s not too warm, cold or wet! It’s never recommended to apply treatments outdoors during autumn and winter, which is no issue with factory treatment.
- Speed: If you’re running a larger project and need to meet a certain deadline, factory finished timber really comes into its own. Timelines can be established well in advance and aren’t dependent on weather conditions.
- Expertise: The woodcare product market can be a confusing one, that’s for sure. A professional finishing company will be able to advise on and select the best quality products for a beautiful, long-lasting finish that matches your project vision exactly. Factory coaters also have all the tools and tricks of the trade at their disposal; for example, they’ll know precisely how to prepare the wood surface to ensure optimal uptake of the treatment.
- Sustainability: Professionally treated wood makes use of the latest wood finishing technology and products. These allow architects to avoid lower-quality, oil-based finishes which can be toxic to the environment.
- Long-life protection: The choice of finish is just as important as choosing the right choice of species and applying the right design principles. Professional finishes, such as UV treatments, protect the wood from the destructive elements that they encounter when used outdoors. As the treatment provides a protective envelope that reinforces and strengthens the wood, you’ll have a very high-performance product on your hands, shielded against ultraviolet light, moisture and rot-causing fungi. Professional factory treatments create pleasing-to-the-touch surfaces that are very easy to wipe down, making maintenance simpler.
- Customisable: Many types of finish can be used to alter the colour of the wood so it suits your project vision; one of the most popular at the moment is a rustic natural grey finish to create a nature-connected space. A professional pre-finish allows you to benefit from professional expertise in selecting the right tint, knowing how it’ll look once it’s been applied to the wood.
- Suitable for large projects: Not only does a bigger project cause more inconvenience that can be avoided through using factory treatment, but many of the leading manufacturers of wood treatment systems (like SiOO:X) do not sell their products in bulk quantities over 10L to members of the public — only to approved organisations.
What are the disadvantages to factory-treated timber?
For factory finished wood, you’ll pay a little more in terms of money and time — but you’ll usually recoup both of these through lower labour costs and extended service life.
Although highly dependent on your specific project, you may typically have to pay an extra £25 per m² for a factory finish, with an additional two-to-three weeks to your project as a rule. However, factor in the enhanced beauty, service life and performance you’ll get from a professionally done solution, and you’re guaranteed to more than make your money back.
Start your project today
If you think a professional factory finish would be the best option for your next project, there’s no better time than the present to get started
Explore our range of quality timber cladding — available in a range of beautiful, sustainably-sourced species, all machined to profile by us and then able to be factory finished by our finisher, James E Hatch & Son. They’re even approved SiOO:X and Owatrol SI 106 coaters!
We also offer stylish slatted fencing in a range of durable, eye-catching timbers.
Once you’ve found some cladding or fencing that takes your fancy, you can enquire on the product page. Our team can also be reached by clicking the ‘get in touch’ button below, by filling in our contact form, by phoning 01765 640 564 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a third-generation family business, we pride ourselves on our customer service; we’re with you every step of the way, from initial enquiry through to the delivery of your goods.