charles and ben prowell woodworks
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. . . To Finish or Not to Finish. That is the question.,


Factoid: There is no finish-- be it oil, stain, varnish, or paint--that will prolong the life of your Prowell product by a single day. Your finishing decisions are purely aesthetic and entirely subjective.
We know this from 40 years of revisiting our project sites from Duluth to Miami to Santa Barbara.

1) The correct species of wood matters.
---a): Western Cedar is inherantly stable, which means the dimensional changes it experiences between the seasons is minimal.
---b): Western cedar is equipped through mileniums of evolution with a plasma, or tanin oils, that deters the infestation of an ecosystem of bacterial fungus.
---c): Our standing orders from the mills specify the normal clear kiln-dried demands. But more so, vertical grain and a growth ring count of at least 20 per inch.
-------c1): Vertical grain boards are less likely to cup, warp, or twist than face grain board
---- --c2): 20 growth rings simply means that the tree is not harvested prematurely, which in turn means the tanins have fully matured and fiber between early harvest tree is less baby fat than developed, stable wood fiber.
2): The design of the products themselves accounts for a level of dimensional change and drainage that must be considered with any wood assembly fully exposed to the elements.
3): The complexity of wood joinery, which in turn allows the cedar to breath freeling for decades and decades, without being inhibited by nails, screws, bolts, and metal fasteners.

Rating Exterior Finishes:
P
rowell's products are fully exposed to the elements in a way unknown to the wood siding of a house or a front door or a garage door, etc, and consequently expecting them to accept any finish with the same forgiveness and lifeline is leashing yourself to a maintenance schedule every few years that is at odds with nature, and a rather painful recurring expense. We'll review the various exterior finishing options below, with their advantages and disadvantages.

OPTIONS:
Most of the below options require that the cedar be fully exposed to the element for 2-3 weeks prior to applying any non-penetrating finish. The cedar will acclimate from the Pacific NW of it's heritage to whereever you are. This requires 3-4 weeks. If you apply a non-penetrating finish--paint, etc--prior to this, the paint may not expand and contract akong with the gate and the result is bubble and checks.

EXTERIOR OIL FINISHES
1 year timeline.Can be applied immediately upon receipt of gate
Properties:
Earth tones only. Matte finish
Oil finishes are absorbing, which is good. The more coats applied, the better. Waiting 24 hours getween coats. The best results are allowing it to sit, absorb, and before it sets to a sticky consistency, wipe it dry. Oil-Based
Advantages:
1) Oil enhances the color of the wood.
2) If maintenance is neglected, oil does not crack or peel. So it can be re-oiled long after it has grayed out, and the color returns.
Disadvantages:
1) The best oil finish require multiple initial coats. The more the better.
2) Oil finishes, at best, last a year, maybe two.

EXTERIOR 2-PART FINISHES WITH TOP COAT
3-5 years timeline. Cedar must acclimate 2-3 weeks prior to coverage
Properties:
2-part finishes begin with an absorbing coat that provides the pigment, or tint. Essentially an oil finish.
The second follow-up coat a day later provides the lustre. Oil-Based
Advantages:
1) Lustre is nice. Front entry doors have lustre. Dining room tables have lustre. Some lips have lustre.
2) A showcase gleen to your products.
Disadvantages:
1) There is no finish impermeable to the moisture in the air--humidty, dew, fog. The wood is going to breath--expand.contract regardless.
2) The top coat and its sheen, if neglected, will ultimately crack and peel. Requiring scraping and sadning prior to refinishing.
3) 2-part finishes have a lifeline of 2+ years. i.e. they require frequent maintenance.

EXTERIOR MARINE SPAR VARNISH
1-2 years timeline. Cedar must acclimate 2-3 weeks prior to coverage
Properties
Better known as Man O' War varnish, the thick, molasses-like signature high-glosss varnish for classic mahogany and teak wood boats. Oil-Based
Advantages: None
Disadvantages:
1) Unless you are a classic boat enthusiast who has nothing better to do with you days than spend them refinishing your gate, this product is to be avoided at all costs.
2) Severe checking and peeling of neglected
3) Requires annual maintenance.

4) Long, slow dry time. This means you have to continually check for runs if finishing the gates vertically. It also means that while the finish is drying, it collects dust particles like flypaper.

SEMI-TRANSPARENT STAINS
5+- years timeline. Can be applied immediately upon receipt of gate
Properties
Absorbing stains that provide color pigment and sealer in one coat. Oil-Based
Advanatges:
1) With pigmented color at your disposal, you can match the trim or house body color
2) An absorbing product, meaning it penetrates the wood fiber and won't crack or peel. If neglected, it simply wears away and the cedar eventually weathers to a natural gray.
Disadvantages:
1) No speakable disadvantages other than only 5 years between re-finishing.

SOLID-BODY PIGMENT STAINS
7+- years timeline. Cedar must acclimate 2-3 weeks prior to coverage
Properties
A paint-like consistency that lays on the wood, as opposed to pentrating finishes. Oil and water based
Advantages:
1) Wide range of pigmented color to shoose form.
2) Much less chance mof checking pr peeling if neglected beyond the timeline.
3) Gives a slight sheen , somewhhat less than semi-gloss paint
Disadvanates:
1) No real disadvantages.

PAINT
7-10 years timeline. Cedar must acclimate 2-3 weeks prior to coverage
Properties
Good quality exterior paints such as Kelly Moore provide the longest lifeline of any finish. A layered finish nthat does not absorb into the cedar
Advantages:
1) A perfect match to the prefered color
2) Long lasting and consistent color.

3) Wipeable surface. Easy to clean off smudges, etc
Disadvantages:
1) If neglected, it peels and checks and becomes unsightly, Requiring scraping and sanding before re-painting.
2) It will last almost as long as the paint on your house, but not quite. Unlike the sides of your hhouse facing one direction only, the gate is exposed on 360 degrees.

WOODRX
7-8 yr timeline. Can be applied immediately upon receipt of gate or pre-finished by Prowell Woodworks
Properties
The premier, non-solvent absorbing finish. Earth tone pigments only.

Advanatges:
1) The privilage of having the finish applied prior nto shipping or delivery. Two industrially sprayed coats by our professional finishers.
2) If the tineline passes and is neglected for years more, fresh coats can be applied withn no prep to the existing cedar. Otherwise it will gradually fade and the cedar will consequently weather to a gradual gray.
3) Water-based. meaning it dries very quick. Second coat can be applied within an hour.
4) No solvent fumes to injest.
Disadvantages:
1) Because it dries so fast, applying with a brush can be tricky. WoodRX sells a pump sprayer that is more effective than brushing.
2) only a doen or so earth tone colors available, Abd mseveral of them are nearly indistinqy=uishable from one another. Check the link below to see the various pigments on our products.


When, and when not, to Finish:

To many organic landscapes, a weathered gate or fence is the preferred aesthetic. Sites and properties designed in such a manner where products such as Prowell's are more about the landscape than the architecture of the residence. Painting or staining hardscapes such as fences and gates, etc on these sites is to attempt to carry the precedent of the architecture of the residence into the expanse of the wilderness. On these sites, it is often preferred to simply allow the products to either weather naturally or opt for our pre-weathered finish, which quickens the weathering sequence from two years to being shipped in such a state.


Finishing with Earth-Tones
_WoodRX

Within the above aesthetic, there is a distinction between organic wilderness and cultivated wilderness. If the lot is large and the gates and fences extend some distance from the residence and as a perimeter to carefully maintained landscapes, it is architecturally preferable to finish the products with any of the earth-toned patinas offered by WoodRX. This distinguishes the hardscape (fences, gates, etc) from the residence by separating natural colors from architectural colors. A waxy finish with a satin sheen.

Finishing with Color
_Paint, Semi-transparent stains, solid-body stains.

If, however, the lot is within a manicured neighborhood and the gates and fence are not only connected physically to the main architecture but in close enough proximity to be viewed as a single entity, the gates and fences are often finished with the same color coding as the primary residence. The house body or trim colors extended into the landscape. As the same finsih, or the same pstina but with the flat matte of a pigmented transparent stain.

There are those sites when a hardscape of fences and gates are inexorably linked to the architecture of the residence. Smallish lots where the gates, etc adjoin the building and never stray too far to establish an identity apart from the primary architecture itself. They are seen upon first impression as accessories to the building. Such as the front porch railing. So, in these scenarios it is more common to match--or closely match--the hardscape gates and fences to either the house's sidewall color, or the trim. This is a practice followed with with either paint, or color-pigmented stain.


For a variety of reasons, we offer only the WoodRX as a pre-finish. While also a pre-weathered finish that simply enhances the aging process to a silvery gray without having to wait two years for the natural aging.
1) WoodRX is the most durable and flexible exterior finish product on the market.
A lifeline of approximately 7-8 years in most parts of the country; slightly less in the hot humid conditions of the south, and slightly longer in the temperate climates of the West Coast.. Available only in the earth tones seen in the chart below.
2) Forgo the tedium of waiting several seasons for that natural silvery weathered gray, and simply have Prowell pre-weather the product prior to delivery/shipping.
3) For pigment color, in matching trim or body color of the house, your longest lifelines come from solid-body stains and paint. Neither are absorbent and therefore cannot be applied until the wood has fully acclimated to the local climate. Approximately 3-4 weeks. Sansin offers a good stain product that can be difficult to find. And Benjamin Moore a good paint product. Both are to be applied on site.
4)
Leave your products alone to weather and age to an unfettered silvery grey.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note:
We do not offer stain samples. Well, perhaps occasionally, if the scope of the commission warrants it.

     
WOODRX
     
COSTS
Linked to WoodRX web siteWoodRx wood finish

By far the most advanced exterior finish available.
A non-toxic environmentally-friendly finish for exterior applications. Easy application and quick drying allows for two coats within two hours. (The second coat is extremely important). Because of the quick drying, it also all but eliminates the collection of dust particles gathering between coats. Although it can be brushed, it's best to spray. If brushing, maintain a wet edge to your brush to avoid overlapping brush strokes against the grain.

*Non-toxic, water-based formula. Easy clean-up. Odorless. Quick drying. Longer lasting..
*Timeline: 7-8+ years.
*Click on the WoodRX image for more information, or order through Home Depot's online store w/ sprayer.
$44+_/gallon + shipping.
Slightly waxy finish with a satin sheen.

* To view the WoodRX colors on our products
* To view the WoodRX web site
* To view the WoodRX color charts

 

Single Gate: $575
Two Panels: $725
Six Panels: $1,900
Gate and two Panels: $1,150
Benches/Swings: $625
Driveway Gate: $1375

*Inquire for pricing on Garden Gates beyond 47" with and Driveway Gates beyond 12' overall width.

 


     
WOODRX COLOR CHART
     
 
     

WOODRX COLORS ON OUR GATES
(Click the image)

     

=

     
 
     

 

Jorge applies the first of two sprayed coats of WoodRX Ultra to Driveway Gates #27 (Tint: Chestnut)

staining a cedar driveway gate

finishing a wood gate with stain
     
 
     

T
he first of two eventual coats to Bench #4 (Tint: Teak)

spraying WoodRX. prowell

     
Francisco illustrating a combination of a sprayed application followed by back-brushing. Arbor #19 . Chestnut
     

spraying WoodRX

     
Prior to the sprayong application, the gates are detailed with a light spray-over to expose blemishes such as gule stains or light scratches.
     

]

     
ECO PRE-WEATERED
     
COSTS
Eco-Wood finishes


ECO WOOD TREATMENT is a non toxic wood stain, treatment that chemically reacts to the cedar to create an aged aesthetic. This is a mildly distressed procedure that results in light silvery grey patina that eliminates the normal two-year aging process that ocurrs when frech cedar is exposed to the elements,

As the coloring wears off over the next couple of years, the underlying cedar is gradually exposed and gradually graying itself until the transformation is completed, and unnoticed.

The advantage is an obvious one: You simply do not have to wait two years for the brightly-milled cedar to become a stately silvery gray.

 

*The process does not involve pigments; there is no finish layering the surface of the cedar. The dilution simply reacts to the tannins within the cedar,

 

 

Single Gate: $525
Two Panels: $675
Six Panels: $1,750
Gate and two Panels: $1,050
Benches/Swings: $575
Driveway Gate: $1250

 

Unfinished cedar

 

T
he same day Eco Wood Treatment was applied at the finishers
 

T
hree days exposed to the elements and the pre-weathered finish reaches its darkest patina.
grarying cedar

weathere cedar aged

weathered cedar

Fence panel style #11 as unfinished cedar.

  The same panel illustrating the aging patina from one sprayed coat of Eco Wood.

unfinished cedar

 

Eco Wood cedar

 

 

     
WEATHERED GRAY
     
 
COSTS
 

Leave your products alone to weather and age to an unfettered silvery grey. Their lifeline is far beyond what any warranty can claim and that lifeline will not be extended one day by the application of any finish whatsoever.

In part because of the species of wood and the grades of that species and the age, or maturity of that grade spec'd by Prowell to insure a minimum number of growth rings stipulating the maturity of the tree at the time of harvest.

But moreover, a thorough understanding of wood and joinery and design. Designing a

 
FREE

product that mimics the techniques and species employed by the Japanese and Norwegian temples built in the 3rd and 4th century that stand today! If the wood is allowed to freely breath throughout the year, under any conditions, be it Duluth, MN or Ft Meyers, FL, and that wood is the right wood, the application of finishes is as superfluous as fertilizing a lawn.

Be mindful of the maintenance and cost you're committed to with a finish. All those little grids and pickets refinished by a finishing contractor every few years and be particularly mindful of those finishes that, when ignored, such as paints and marine varnishes, will crack and peel and require scraping and sanding and on and on.

In the spring of 2013 we visited a site featuring Panel Style #1 originally installed in 1996. Allowed to weather with no detrimental affects to the integrity of the product.

   
   
 
 
 
 
 
   
     

No finish, listed below or above, will prolong the life of a Prowell product by a single day.
This is due to both the species and grade of wood spec'd from the mill, as well as the methodology of both the joinery and design that encourages a stress-free environment for dimensional movement.

Yes, we're repeating ourselves.

 

     

RECOMMENDED TECHNIQUES
Finising on site

     

Wood Gates built from even the highest standards of western cedar are not to be confused with decks or house siding or front doors or even garage doors (These have one whole side insulated from the weather, as well as the overhead roof and jambs. Decks and siding planks are fastened to joists or studs every 16" and exposed on only one face). Prowell's products are fully exposed to the elements on all six sides. Because our cedar comes from the coastal Northwest, and then inventoried in the shop of coastal Northern California, it will invariably want to breath once it finally leaves the shop and is exposed for the first time to the full climate. Some areas will see more dimensional adjustments than others, such as Florida compared to San Diego.

Prowell's products are designed to specifically allow the seasonal expansion and contraction of the cedar experienced most dramatically in the first weeks of exposure to the elements. But . . . solid finishes such as paint or solid-body stains or 3-part layered sealants and exterior varnishes will not always cooperate with the wood's inherent need to acclimate to your specific micro climate. While the cedar is adjusting and breathing during those first weeks, paints and solid stains and marine varnishes will not necessarily stretch with the same pliancy. They may, in 15-20% of the time, even see bubbling and checking and blemished results in the finish.

The solution? If you prefer a painted or solid-body stain finish, it's best to wait 4+ weeks once your product arrives and has been installed. Allow it to breath, acclimate itself in its full exposure, and then apply your solid finish to a much higher degree of success. If it rains and takes on moisture during that time frame, allow it to dry in the clear weather for several days prior to applying your finish--lest the absorbed moisture becomes trapped by the finish and has no means of escape.


APPLICATION TIPS--

A few notes regarding the application process for exterior finishes.

Although sealing or staining or painting your Prowell product does not prolong the life of the high-grade cedars by a single day, it is often an understandable aesthetic preference.

Excerpted from the Prowell Installation Manuals:

A few tips for those who will be finishing their own products:
When applying your finish, start with one side, brushing the bottom rail with the grain and then the vertical stiles with the grain to avoid the brush strokes over-lapping.(This is particularly important with WoodRx, which is water-based and dries very fast). For all horizontal rails, not allowing the brush stroke to dry before brushing the vertical stile. Do not apply stain to the edges of the pickets or upper pattern on this side or the stain will run down the opposite side and leave run marks penetrating the bare wood before you are able to finish the opposite side. For those with solid lower panels, do not stain the edges of your open slots until the back side is addressed. Once you turn to the other side, you can then apply stain to the picket faces and edges, knowing the run-off will not absorb against the already stained surface. Check, when finished, the direction of your brush stroke to smooth out any over-laps.

Spray finishes: All of the above recommended products can be applied with compressed air sprayers for a more even finish without the risk of runs.
WoodRX sells an accompanying sprayer, available direct from them or through Home Depot.

 

     

PROBLEMS RESULTING FROM CERTAIN FINISHES

     
TOP COAT FINISHES
   

 

A typical gate finished with Sikkens 2-part Cetrol-1, and 23-Plus. The top coat shown only four years later has begun to crack and weather.

If not refinished on schedule, the checking and yellowing will only become worse until the process involves scraping, sanding, and stripping.

 
 
 
exterior finishes
TOP COAT FINISHES
 

 

 

 

Here we have a Prowell knock-off of Gate style #93. Identified by the missing Prowell stamp; the placement of the upper slots; and the copper cap on top.

Additionally, the use of an un known 2-part exterior finish with a top sealer coat.

 

Illustrating what happens to sealer coats if not meticukously maintained on an annual basis, forever.

 

 
 
 
ad exterior wood finished

 

 
PAINT FINISHES
   

 

An example of a product being painted before the wood has fully acclimated to the local climate. This job was in Atlanta, which has a very different climate than the Prowell Shop, therefore resulting in an initial adjustment where the wood swells and shrinks to find the natural stability of Atlanta's humid environment.

Because paint is not a penetrating finish, it can potentially refuse to stretch with the adjustments of the cedar during the first few weeks on site. The result is a bubbling effect, seen here.

Occurring with enough frequency that we cannot offer paint as a pre-finish option

 
 
 
   
MOLD
   

 

#1534

Once every few years we get a letter from a concerned homeowner whose gate is host to a blackened discoloring. A fungal bacteria randomly deciding upon the cedar gate as a suitable home. Because there is a heritage among so many species of fungus that associates wood fiber with tasty buffets, the tendancy is not surprising. Eventually, however, these colonies come to realize that the fiber they prefer--fir, pine, poplar--is instead embedded with a genetic tannin oil that to the fungus, is as poisinous as a man-made chemical insecticide. Cedar, redwood, and teak all possess this natural defense mechanism, and in time the fungi spread the word among themselves that that particular gate, this western cedar gate, is best vacated. Left behind is the carnage of decomposed fungal skin that ultimately washes away in the rain. The gate does not suffer any damage to its wood fiber beyond a temporary blemish to its beauty.

 


 
 
 
MOLD
   

 

#1864

The image on the right was was of many our homeowner sent during the year following her gate installation. her efforts to eliminate the problem included a list of off-the-shelf products such as Goo Gone, Hydrogen Peroxide, dish detergent and water, and a 50/50 mixture of Clorox and water. To no avail. Efforts that spanned almost six months and then one day, returning from vacation, the black spots were gone.

 
 
 

 

gate navigaion-2

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