Everything You Need to Know About Creocote
Based on 20 Years Experience
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It’s been 20 years since the UK government banned the sale of Creosote to domestic customers, and I was one of the first to try the alternative products that came onto the market back then. These alternatives are produced by several different manufacturers who all use the same name – Creocote.
While the original Creosote is still available for trade customers such as farmers and professional gardeners, domestic customers and those who are concerned about its health implications can buy Creocote, and it’s a good product.
This page contains everything you need to know about Creocote and a few photos so you can see what it looks like on fence panels and timber.
What Creocote Does
The original Creosote is made from coal tar and is used on timber telegraph poles as a waterproofer and preservative – wood-boring insects won’t go near a pole treated with Creosote, and the waterproofing features keep rot away. It’s also used by farmers and professional gardeners on fences and timber products.
Creocote is an oil-based alternative that isn’t quite as effective but still has many benefits:
1) It looks similar – The finished look of Creocote is very similar to the original Creosote, and you’ll still be able to see the grain and knots in fence panels and other timber products treated with it – the wood will still retain that desirable “natural” look. This is in contrast to most modern fence paints that are so thick that they mask the grain and distinct features of the timber.
2) It’s oil-based – Most fence and external timber paints are water-based and sit on the surface of the timber. Creocote is oil-based and penetrates deeper into the timber, and is very waterproof.
3) It stops bugs – While most Creocote products on sale aren’t marketed as a specialist timber preservative (that would require regulatory approval as anything that kills insects is a pesticide and requires official approval), they do contain oils and additives that naturally deter some wood-boring pests and based on my experience, they are nearly as effective as the original Creosote product. (There are better products on sale though, but they cost much more per litre.)
4) It still smells (quite a bit) – The original Creosote was well known for its odour that would last for years and deter horses and other animals from chewing the timber. Creocote smells similar, but I’ve found that the odour fades somewhat after a few weeks and doesn’t deter animals to the same degree as the original did (if you want to stop horses chewing timber, I suggest you get a pro to stain it with the original Creosote instead).
I Tested Two Creocote Products
As part of this review, I tested two popular Creocote products:
What Creocote Looks Like
Creocote usually comes in two colours; light and dark.
For this guide, I stained a fence panel with both; here’s what it looked like after one coat:
This is what it looked like after the second coat:
You can clearly see how it’s enhanced the knots and grain in the timber.
I then went a step further and applied a third coat:
My preference? I like the look of the light Croecote after two coats, the knots and grain are enhanced nicely, and it’s water-repellent (actually it was water-repellent after the first coat).
Here’s two photos of Creocote repelling water:
You Need to Know This About Creocote
If you’ve never used Creocote before, here’s what you need to know:
Creocote is really, really runny and it drips everywhere. When I tested this product on the fence panel, I had to use a brush to smooth out the runs constantly, and that was on a porous, rough surface. On smooth timber, such as a gate, I’ve found it even runnier.
You can apply it via brush or sprayer, but it could get messy if you use the sprayer and you have delicate items under or near the fence.
It takes ages to dry – In very dry and warm conditions, I found it can dry enough for a recoat in 48 hours, but I’ve also seen it take several days, so if you plan on using several coats, it could take a while to get the desired finish. The fence will also stay greasy for quite a long time too.
It brings out the features of the timber – Creocote brings out the original features of the timber, such as grain and knots, so if you like that natural look to your timber, Creocote is probably for you. Personally, I love the finished look but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not the easiest product to use.
Different timber will look uneven – Modern water-based fence paints often smother the timber in one overwhelming, uniform (and often bland) colour. Creocote is different because timber posts may dye a different colour than the fence panels or gates. The finished look will depend on the original colour of the timber and its ability to absorb the oil. I worked on a project once where the gate post required one coat, but I had to put three onto the gate to get a close colour match.
It repels water – being oil-based, this fence treatment will repel water better than any other fence paint I’ve tested, apart from Cuprinol Ducksback, which contains wax to keep out water.
11 Questions Answered:
Will Creocote Stop Horses Chewing Fences and Timber Barriers?
From what I’ve seen and my experience, it will only deter horses for a short while until the odour has worn off.
If you have a paddock or similar, I suggest you get a professional in to treat the timbers with the original Creosote which has been used for decades to stop horses chewing the timber.
Can Creocote Be Used Over Creosote?
Yes, Creocote can be painted over Creosote as both are oil-based, but the user should be careful when preparing the surface as Creosote contains nasty chemicals that you wouldn’t want to breathe in.
How Long Does Creocote Last?
Based on my experience, I think it should need recoating after four to five years if the timber is in a sheltered location, but in an exposed, windswept spot, it will benefit from a recoat every few years.
Is Creocote Cheaper or More Expensive Than Modern Fence Paints?
Creocote is available in various tub sizes up to 20-litre drums, which go a very long way.
Also, I’ve found that Creocote has excellent coverage (7-8 sq mtrs per litre), much more than most modern fence paints that I’ve tried over the years (4-5 sq mtrs per litre).
If you have lots of timber fences, posts and trellises, Creocote is likely to work out cheaper.
How Should Creocote Be Applied?
I’ve applied it by brush and sprayer, and both were effective, although when applied by sprayer, I found it very runny with lots of drips.
Does Creocote Penetrate Into The Timber?
Yes, Creocote penetrates into the wood, much more so than most fence paints that are water-based and rely on the rough surface of the wood for adhesion.
Can Creocote Be Applied to Smooth Timber?
Yes, I’ve applied it to timber gates that were made from smooth timber. I had to apply several coats to get the desired colour, and it was very runny with lots of drips, but the finished look was lovely.
Can Creocote Be Applied to Decking?
Theoretically – yes, but it is smelly and greasy for a long time and may not be the best option, especially if you have pets or use the decking barefoot.
Personally, I wouldn’t use it on decking.
Even after a few weeks on our fence, it still felt greasy, and we could smell the oil.
Can Creocote Be Used On Timbers in Direct Contact With The Ground?
Creocote doesn’t contain the same wood-preserving chemicals that the original Creosote has, and most Creocote products aren’t marketed as a “wood preserver”.
If you have timber in direct contact with the ground, I recommend either the original Creosote or one of the many wood preservers on sale. This is because both contain chemicals that kill off boring insects that thrive in moist soil.
From what I can tell and have seen over the years, Creocote does protect the timber, but it probably isn’t the best product for timber in near-constant contact with moist soil.
Where Shouldn't I Use Creocote?
The exact ingredients of Creocote vary between manufacturers, but I feel that Creocote is best for external timber only and shouldn’t be used indoors.
Also, it shouldn’t be used on surfaces where food is prepared, such as tables or animal troughs. Neither should it be used on surfaces that come into skin contact regularly, such as furniture.
What Does Creocote Contain?
I’ve looked at the labels of several different brands, including the one I tested for this guide.
None of them listed pesticides, fungicides or algaecides as ingredients, while most just stated “oil based” or “oil and diesel based”
Who I Don’t Recommend Creocote To
I don’t recommend Creocote to:
1) Anyone worried about wood-boring insects. Creocote does stop some bugs, but there are dedicated wood-preserver products that contain pesticides that kill and prevent insects far better than Creocote.
2) Those who don’t have the patience to work with a very runny product.
3) Those who want to mask the timber grain and knots found in timber.
Who I Do Recommend It To
I recommend Creocote to:
1) Anyone who likes the appearance of timber treated with the original Creosote – the finished look is very similar.
2) Anyone who likes the look of timber and wants to enhance the grain, knots and other features rather than masking them with paint.
3) Those who want an affordable product that is sold in bottles and drums up to 20 litres.
4) Those that want to protect their investment, after all, fences aren’t cheap to replace these days.
In my opinion, timber treated with Creocote looks far better than any garden paint I’ve ever seen, and I’ve tried plenty.
The way it brings out the distinct features of the timber makes it perfect for anyone who appreciates the natural look of timber.
However, as a substitute, it does lack some of the key selling points of the original Creosote – it doesn’t contain the same pesticides, but that’s why the original was restricted; the chemicals leeched into the soil and harmed the environment.
I really hope you found this guide insightful.
Would I use Creocote?
For its appearance, yes I would.
But as a wood preserver to stop boring insects, I would use this product instead.
That wood preserver contains algaecides to stop algae, fungicides to stop fungal growth and pesticides (Permethrin) to stop wood-boring insects.
Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley
Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.
He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.
Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.
Why You Can Trust Us: Our Experience, Backed by a Qualified Horticulturist
We follow a detailed, rigorous process to create content that is helpful, factually correct and meets the highest standard of integrity.
Our 5-step process is:
1) We select a topic that we feel will help our readers.
2) The author creates the content based on their knowledge and experience of the subject. In this case, Daniel Woodley tested both light and dark Creocote on a fence panel and provided advice based on his past experience with both the original Creosote and the substitute, Creocote.
3) We then ask an expert with qualifications in the relevant area to fact-check and review the content, which we update accordingly, if applicable.
4) The content is checked by the site owners and published.
5) We review the content yearly to ensure it’s still correct and relevant – regulations change and new products frequently come onto the market and we want our readers to know that we do our best to keep our advice current.
This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by Elizabeth Smith, who is a qualified horticulturist.
Explore: Elizabeth’s profile and qualifications.
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