Red Balau Deck Protection, Restoration and Maintenance

By Bill Christou, 06/11/17

Red Balau is a truly difficult wood species to pin down. It is sold under names such as Nova Batu, Lightning Brand Mahogany, ExoDek Mahogany, Mangaris and Red Balau. The actual species name is called Red Balau and belongs in the Shorea Spp. Family.

Red Balau exhibits a color, hardness, durability, and grain which is considered similar to Mahogany and is a common reason why so many home owners choose the specie for use in their outdoor living projects.

Just as other species used for decking require specific steps to keep them protected and looking stellar, so does Red Balau. If you have experienced unwanted changes in the appearance of your Red Balau deck or if you have invested the time and effort into installing a new deck, in today's blog post we will try to provide you with answers on how to properly care for and protect your investment.

Restoration Techniques for Existing Decks

As with countless other species used outdoors for decking, Red Balau requires some periodic maintenance to keep the boards well-protected and in their original state.

We understand that many homeowners have made large investments in creating their ideal outdoor living spaces. Unfortunately many homeowners have not been fully informed on what it takes to keep their investment impeccable and are truly disappointed and surprised when they witness changes occurring to their decks. Many times maintenance has been overlooked and the original look slips away over time as exposure to the elements begins to make its effects felt.

Fortunately for most homeowners an amazing attribute of this durable wood is that it can be brought back to a brand new state through time tested quality restoration techniques which can be easily carried out by the average homeowner.

Step 1 - Clean Debris off Deck Surface

The first step in Red Balau deck refinishing process consist of sweeping any loose leaves and dirt off the surface. This way we are not forcing debris into the surface pores during our next steps.

Step 2 - Power Wash

It should be noted that light pressure washing followed by re-application of oil finish will gradually darken the hardwood decking.
If you desire to bring the finish as close as possible back to original color, then a deeper pressure washing is required. For deep pressure washing, a maximum pressure of 2500 psi should be used at a distance of no less than 4" in order to avoid tearing the wood fibers.

Step 3 (optional) - Touch Sanding

Sanding with a conventional hardwood flooring sander will also bring the material back to its original unfinished color. Sand paper grits as low as 80 grit can be used on hardwood decking. It's important to select a sander with flexible backer so that the sandpaper can follow the contour of individual boards. Higher grits such as 150-200 will wear out extremely quickly and get gummed up with oil and dirt. We recommend starting with 80 grit and only dropping lower if the deck hasn't seen any maintenance for several years.
It is also possible to use a random orbital sander, running the handheld sander down the length of each board. This is certainly a tedious process so we strongly recommend you have knee pads and Advil at the ready. Last we checked, you could rent a floor sander from Home Depot for about the same price as a decent handheld random orbital.
Once you have sanded the deck, removing dust from the surface grain is key. Ideally another light pressure wash should do the trick and will also eliminate any remaining contaminants such as mold and algae. After this process your lumber will look as it did when you originally installed it. Your deck is now ready to be sealed with an appropriate oil base blend to protect and maintain the deck boards close to their original condition.

Step 4 - Reapplication of Weatherizing / Protective Coating

Nova Blog Photo
The final step of your Red Balau deck refinishing process is application of the weatherizing or protective coating. There are a slew of products on the market that claim to protect and keep the look of your deck.

There are many things to consider when choosing a product, the most important of which is to keep in mind what the wood will look like and how easily it can be maintained in the future. The best products are penetrating sealers. We stay away from water based and film forming finishes as they look unnatural and our experience has shown that they are not easily maintainable and can become slippery when wet.

We recommend homeowners coat their Red Balau decks with a penetrating oil finish. Our experience is that oil-based finishes reach deeper into the pores of the wood's cellular structure to add protection while enhancing the grain. When applying the actual oil finish, it's critical not to let the oil puddle up. We find it most effective to roll it on, not too heavy, and then back roll it within 2-3 minutes. Too much oil on top of the boards will not offer additional protection since it will not soak into the wood; and, too much oil will show footprints for weeks after finishing.

The coating will naturally and gradually dissipate over time. Microclimate in your area will determine when periodic maintenance is again needed, however the advantage of oil based finishes are that they can be reapplied easily.

By Bill Christou, 06/11/17

"I just installed a red balau deck. before installation, I lightly sanded the wood and then applied an oil based Pennofin penetrating natural stain. it dried for a coupe of days. We instlled it. A month or two later, after the spring pollens came down and light walking on the deck, sometimes with dirty shoes, I noticed the surface looked dirty, dull, and worn. How could a brand new deck look so bad so quickly? what did I do wrong? and how can I remedy it. thanks."

By paul on 04/13/20

"I'd love to know as well. Mine looked bad after 3 months. It was lightly re-sanded and re-oiled...and looked good for a couple more months. I gave up. I was told it could be left alone and would turn grey, so I tried that, but know my deck boards are starting to crack and split. So, I will be attempting to re-sand the entire balcony and re-oil it again. Very disappointed in the wood as it looks nothing like you see online. Every estimate I've had to "bring it back to life" is around $2000....which I can't afford to do every couple of months...or even once a year."

By Lori on 06/09/20

"My brand new red balau deck is already cupping and cracking. Should have gotten Ipe."

By Disappointed on 08/09/20

"I used a water based varnish,it has already had 6 coats since 2018 now cracking.Can i high pressure hose or must i sand ? Can i oil after cleaning ? What oil do i use ? The deck is at the coast what would be easiest as i am to old to maintain regularly."

By Andy on 02/23/21

"Tear it out and install trex or a similar product. The Mai ntenace required for these woods is ridiculous. . Unless you have a ton of money to hire people to do it properly , it will be disappointing. And you will become a slave to it"

By Don on 04/15/21

"Also do t hire some handyman who will go buy some crap at Home Depot . These guys do not understand the products needed and most of them are not skilled on application. They come in with rollers and it looks terrible"

By Don on 04/15/21

"We had similar problems with the oil. Looked good at first but every footprint showed up. Re applied a second coat at fall, but over winter it faded, was blotchy, and as it dried out it cupped and cracked. We have had this deck less than a year, and it looks crappy. Was excited fo get this product, but will not recommend."

By Angela Clague and Nick Hale. on 05/24/21

"I checked the moisture content of new red balau decking I just recieved and its reads 44%. Could that bbe correct or is my moisture meter broken??"

By Bradford on 07/13/21

"First off, Nova, the best method for applying oil to a hardwood is by use of a brush that can be attached to an extension pole. I use the ArroWorthy Olympian Bristlex. With this method you can fill any checks or open grooves thoroughly. It allows you to work the product into the wood. You will still have excess product that doesn't penetrate and for that I use and old towel as a work mat and rags. Best product I've found is Sikkens ProLuxe Cetol SRD Transparent Matte."

By Eric on 08/19/21

"From Nova - thanks everyone for all the comments and discussion. There is no doubt that a wood deck requires maintenance. I've found with Cumaru and ExoShield Walnut, I can get by with recoating every two years. I don't lose much color after 16-18 months but after that it definitely starts to fade. A light pressure wash a couple times per year definitely helps - it's like washing your car. You can't leave your car parked outside year round and expect it to look nice without ever washing it, right? For those of you that have found Sikkens or another product to be "the best", we would be happy to get you a sample of ExoShield for comparison. We've been doing testing since 2017 when we first developed ExoShield and we're confident it performs as well as anything out there."

By Steve G on 09/27/21

"Everyone at Nova, Keaton and Megan, have given me exceptional advice and help. They are really TERRIFIC AT NOVA. DEFINITELY A 5 STAR COMPANY."

By Alicia Ring on 10/29/21

"Blaua flower / chairs needs to be oiled, what oil Wil be the best"

By Nico on 01/18/22

"Nico, we developed our ExoShield to be the best performing wood stain available. It is oil based."

By Steve G on 01/19/22

"Thank you for sharing this informative article about deck repair. I hope there are a lot of deckbuilders who could read this article and be guided accordingly!"

By Deck Builders NYC on 05/26/22

"Thank you for sharing this informative article about deck maintenance. I hope there are a lot of contractors who could read this and be guided accordingly."

By Deck Maintenance Los Angeles on 06/15/22

"This stuff shrinks significantly within a month of installation. Very unhappy with it. Will have to rip out and start over with a better product. Will Nova make good on it?"

By Hoyt Robert on 08/17/22

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