A Cautionary Tale

I have just finished coating my fence and trellis – three coats.

Am I pleased with the result? Fairly. More in a later garden update.

Am I happy with the product and my recent experience in buying it? No.

Twelve years ago (didn’t realise it was so long till I looked up my financial records) I had a new fence put up and coated the posts and both sides of the fence and trellis before erection to maximum it’s life. Since then they have always been covered by a variety of climbers so no chance to recoat.

Being about to have an expensive lot of paving laid it seemed an ideal time to recoat the fence both in terms of colour and preservation. Especially as I have removed all the climbers and I wouldn’t have to worry about getting the coating on the current paving as it won’t be there much longer!

A quick look in the garage amid my myriad paint tins did not reveal the remains of what I had coated the fence with previously, however I knew it was something that imparted both colour and preservation and suspected that I had bought it from Ronseal. Because there seemed to be so many different products on the market and the ones I looked at all seemed to assume you were applying them to bare wood, I felt very confused and sent an email to Ronseal to ask for advice. I said that I couldn’t remember what I had used but that it both coloured and preserved the fence and now I wished to renew the coating and what would they advise me to use. Ronseal replied “It may be the Double Action Wood Preserver that you used previously.  As it has been a few years now, the Shed & Fence Preserver could be applied over.  This can be obtained from B&Q.”

I think the first time I looked my local B&Q had some but when I wanted to buy it they were out of stock; so I looked to find it on-line and discovered I could buy it from Wood Finishes Direct and that even with delivery it would be cheaper or not much more expensive.

I then looked at what they had to say about coverage and how many coats were needed.

First Cautionary event

The information given suggested that at most two coats would be needed and it was only because I thought that one tin would be a bit borderline for two coats that I bought two (just in case).

When I received the tins, which came the next day just as I had asked for, I read the back and saw that for full colour and protection three coats were necessary. So I was glad I had opted for the two tins.

Second Cautionary item

It was necessary to leave twenty-four hours between coats so our recent dry spell was an ideal time to set to work.

My previous coating although on the thin side had been like single cream, this was like water! and it had a very strong smell that I blamed for giving me a headache. It was darker that the previous coating though I thought I had chosen the closest colour but with three coats it was at its lightest, so worth doing. (Reading reviews I discovered that the 2016 formulation had been revised and was a darker colour than before. Not that this necessarily had the same colour range as what I had used twelve years ago.)

It was not a product that I enjoyed using; the only plus point, I suppose, being that as it was so thin you didn’t get runs as it would appear I had had with the earlier coating.

Now why is this cautionary you may ask? Well not for the consistency or the headache inducing smell, though I can’t say they spoke in its favour, but because of what I realised when, quite by chance, I found a tin of the original coating when I had finally finished.

Now my first thought all those years ago had been to use creosote as that was what I had been brought up to think was what you used on fences. But then I read that it was not good for the environment. It was all to do with VOCs and the original product I had bought had been Ronseal’s ‘Double Action Wood Preserver’ (as they had suggested!) which had a nice little label on the back saying that it had a “Low VOC” content.

I had forgotten all about VOCs but had assumed what I had just used was simply the current equivalent to what I had used then.

How wrong can you be!!!!

When I looked on the back of the new tins there was a label saying that it had a “Very High VOC” content. Having spent a long time looking on the internet it appears that Ronseal do make a more environmentally friendly one called “5 Year Weather Defence Fence Life”. This like the earlier coating only needs two coats and can be recoated after a couple of hours! Why didn’t they mention that one? Would it not have worked? I don’t know.

Oh well. You live and learn. Maybe do more research next time and ask more questions.


10 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale

  1. Thank you for posting this cautionary tale …very interesting because our fence and gates need to be re-coated with similar stuff very shortly.
    It is so maddening when products are discontinued or changed as happens often with knitting yarn. You have your favourites and then they disappear or discontinue your favourite shade.
    Good luck with your garden work!


  2. We had our woodwork done when the outside of the house was repainted last year and I hate to think what was in the varnish the builders used – it was terribly strong-smelling and I’m very sensitive to these things. But I hadn’t thought of the effect on the environment from it, how stupid, I should have checked first. We always check if products are okay for the pond, and for our septic tank, so just one more thing to try to remember.
    I’ve been trying to find a furniture polish for wood that is low odour (for my own health) but haven’t been successful yet.
    Has your headache gone? If not, try an antihistamine as a lot of these things trigger histamine.


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