How to Waterproof a Wood Carving

Protecting your wooden carving from water is important to prolong its life. Although preventing water damage to wood is possible, there are also ways to make your wood carving completely waterproof. In this article, we will do exactly that and guide you on how to waterproof a wood carving.

You can make a wood carving waterproof by applying a sealer to it. The sealer creates a protective coat over the surface of the wood which repels water. This way the wood does not absorb any moisture, preventing damage.

Sealing wood is not only the best way to protect it from water, but it also protects it from other elements. For instance, sealers can also prevent the wood from sun degradation. UV rays are very harmful to wood and its grain, ruining its beautiful color and making it gray.

This is why most of the time when you keep a piece of wood outside for too long it becomes gray in color. Though it is mostly on the surface, you can reinvigorate the color of the grain by sanding it properly and reapplying a coat of your sealer.

Also, there are several types of sealers available on the market. If your primary concern is waterproofing for the most part, then we’ll also look at the best waterproof sealer in a later part of this guide. With that in mind, let us expand a little on how a sealer helps to waterproof a wood carving.

Waterproofing a Wood Carving Using a Sealer

Sealers, like their name suggests, are used to seal the wood. So it is a generally broad term and there are many sealers used for this purpose. Polyurethane, shellac, and dry oils are examples of sealers. So when you are using these, you are sealing the wood to prevent it from being damaged by the elements.

Let us go through some pros and cons of waterproofing a wood carving using a sealer.


  • Sealers protect the wood from absorbing water by creating a protective coating around it.
  • Some modern sealers contain UV inhibitors that protect the wood from harmful UV rays.
  • Sealers prevent rot and mildew on wood.
  • Oil-based sealers enhance the natural grain structure while preventing its color from fading.
  • Sealers prevent the natural oils in the wood from evaporating and cracking over time.


  • Some sealers can be toxic and need to be applied carefully.
  • Sealers wear off and need to be reapplied periodically to keep the wood safe.
  • Sealers take a lot of time to cure and require a few coats to truly make your wood carving waterproof.
  • Some sealers require you to wash the wood, dry it off, clean it then apply a coat. This can also be very time-consuming on top of waiting for coats to cure.

How to Apply:

To apply a sealer, you first need to sand your carving. If your carving has fine details, then you can skip this process, because you don’t want to sand off those details. But usually, you start off by sanding your wood carving properly. After which you clean it off, make sure there is no dust or dirt on it.

Once that is done, just take a paintbrush and thoroughly apply a thin layer of your sealer on the carving. After that, coat the whole wood carving properly, wait for it to cure or dry — which usually takes around a day or so.

Once the first coat is dried off, it is absorbed into the pores of the wood, sealing it. Then you need to sand over the first layer, clean it off, and apply another layer on it. After it dries off, you need to sand over it again or opt to skip it and apply yet another coat of your sealer.

Now usually people apply 2-3 coats of their sealer. But you can apply up to 5 coats to make it even more waterproof. Though remember that each coat sits atop the other, so it will increase the thickness of the whole structure. But to make sure the wood carving is waterproof enough, apply enough coats of your sealer.

Best Waterproof Sealer

One of the best sealers in the market to make your wooden carvings waterproof is the Rain Guard Water Sealers Wood Sealer. This product offers a satisfaction guarantee of up to five years. This is to say something about the results of this sealer.

The Rain Guard Wood Sealer only comes in a clear coat, meaning it does not alter the color of the natural wood. For some people, it might be a point of sale, while others would dislike that. Also, once it cures off, it is non-toxic, plant and pet-friendly. 

It also has UV stabilizers to prevent UV rays, which break the sealer, crack it and cause the wood color to gray.

Will a Sealed Carving be Protected from the Rain?

If you are living somewhere, where you know it rains a lot, protecting your wooden carvings if placed outdoors needs to be your priority. Because rain can cause wood to swell, rot, and splinter up.

But a wood carving or any other wooden project once sealed will remain protected from rain. If you have used a good brand of sealer, it will definitely keep your wooden carving from absorbing any moisture outdoors for a good period.

Your sealer does not only protect your wood carving from rain but also snow as well. Snow is basically moisture that is solidified in the clouds due to negative temperatures.

There are plenty of ways to seal your outdoor carving from rain, snow, and other potential threats. If you are interested to know more about sealing, you can read more about it in our very well written article 3 Easy Steps to Seal an Outdoor Wood Carving that will give you a better understanding of the topic.

How to Reapply Another Coat of Sealer

Once your previous coat of sealer has become faded and is peeling off, it is time to recoat the wooden carving. You can usually see when the sealer has worn off when skin seems to be peeling off and cracking on the wood. This means that the sealer is too dry and is peeling away.

To apply another coat the first thing you must do is to sand off the whole wood carving. This will take off the previous coats of the sealer that you have applied to it. The reason for doing so is that you want to evenly cover the whole wooden carving with fresh sealer.

Once you have sanded off the whole thing, it is just like how you would apply a sealer to a new carving.

You can skip the sanding process if you want and just apply another coat. But it might cause some issues if the sealer does not bond to the previous one properly.

How Much Does a Sealer Actually Waterproof a Carving?

At the end of the day, a sealer is to prevent the wood from absorbing any moisture from the air. If you continuously soak a wood carving inside water, it will last for very little. Sooner or later, the sealer will give away, and the wood will start to absorb water. So you cannot completely waterproof any wooden carving to a degree that you can submerge it in water and keep it that way.

You can submerge a sealed wood carving in water but if you take it out immediately and dry it off, the sealer will stay intact.

As we said in the previous section, it can bear the brunt of rain without issues. Of course, after a while, you still need to apply another coat of your sealer. A sealer is not a permanent waterproof solution, even if you used something like an epoxy-based product.

Even though epoxy-based sealants offer much better resilience and last a long time before you need to apply another coat, it still fades off with time. Nothing can beat the harsh elements of the outdoors. And no sealer completely waterproofs wood to a degree that you keep it submerged for a long time without drying and reapplying another coat.

Final Thoughts

Applying a sealer is essential to any wooden carving to keep it protected from moisture. Depending on the sealer, it can make a wood impervious to water completely till it still coats the wood. Sooner or later, however, the sealer fades and you need to reapply another coat. It keeps your wood waterproof to a degree though but will fade away faster if submerged in water.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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