Building your own birdhouse makes a pleasant garden addition that holds great benefits for both you and the birds that call your area home. However, you want the birdhouse you made to be properly sealed from the elements, and some may wonder what is a good safe way to waterproof a birdhouse.
Properly waterproof a wooden birdhouse by using Cedar, Cypress, or other natural wood, glued joints that are nailed or screwed together. Pitch the roof at 30˚ or more with 1.50-inch overhang on the front, 0.75 inches on the sides, and front board approximately 0.25-0.50 inch short from the roof for ventilation.
Remember, the main objective of waterproofing your birdhouse is prolonging its life and minimizing maintenance.
To ensure that a birdhouse’s interior stays dry, you should construct the roof constructed without joints. Any paint or sealant should only be applied to the exterior to minimize the birds’ exposure to chemicals.
This article will look at how to optimally weatherproof a birdhouse for longevity and take into consideration other factors for building a birdhouse.
How to Waterproof a Wooden Birdhouse
The best choice for a birdhouse in your garden would be one that is custom-built for a type of bird that naturally occurs in your area. Birds that will be attracted to birdhouses for nesting are those that naturally nest in cavities. For the most part, these birds will typically nest in holes naturally occurring in trees.
Birds will move into an optimally built house that protects them from rain, wind, and cold, therefore water- and weatherproofing is of the utmost importance.
Natural predators will also find it more difficult to get to the nest if it is in a well-constructed birdhouse. Such predators include ravens, crows, red squirrels, and weasels, depending on the geographical location.
Why Choose Wood
Wood is a natural material that decays easily and fairly quickly if left exposed to the elements. Therefore, it may seem like a better idea to use a different man-made material for your birdhouse to ensure longevity. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Wood is the best choice for a birdhouse such as Cedar or Cypress, (mentioned earlier), as it provides optimal insulation for eggs and young and is familiar to the birds that will come looking for a home. Due to the nature of wood, weatherproofing is critical to ensure that your little shelter does not come tumbling down with the first rain.
Roughly hewn wooden slabs, plywood, pine, or tree sections are good choices but avoid creosote-treated wood and pressure-treated wood, as the treatment could harm the eggs or young.
Wood with a green-colored stain has been treated with a copper-based preservative will produce poisonous vapors when it is exposed to water, so you should avoid it at all costs.
To extend the life of your birdhouse, you should paint the exterior and seal it against potential water damage. It is always best to paint the exterior in dull, natural hues that blend in with the environment as this is least likely to attract predators (source).
Waterproofing Your Birdhouse
The best way to waterproof your wooden birdhouse is by making sure you treat all exposed wood, the roof, and limit water entry to the interior.
When constructing your birdhouse, it is a good idea to first use glue to glue the panels of your structure together before nailing or screwing them together. This will assist in keeping the finished product waterproof.
A slanted roof or pitched roof will allow water run-off, will last longer, and it will be easier to protect than a flat roof. The roof should also extend at least one to two inches past the sides of the birdhouse.
Once you have finished building your birdhouse, the final waterproofing can begin!
You will need:
- Wood filler and sandpaper
- A strip of metal or waterproofing tape
- Raw linseed oil or a clear lacquer sealant
- Optional: Lead-free and non-toxic paint
- Use wood filler to fill any small holes or depressions in the birdhouse.
- Sand the wood filler down to make the exterior smooth and flat.
- Paint only the exterior with raw linseed oil or clear lacquer sealant and allow it to dry.
- Apply a strip of metal or waterproofing tape to the roof seam if it is pitched.
- Optional: Paint your birdhouse in a dull, natural hue to blend in with the environment.
- Affix your birdhouse to a sheltered spot, such as under the eaves of your roof.
Linseed oil can be used to seal your birdhouse as it is natural and non-toxic should birds peck at the wood and ingest it. However, it does take a long time to dry — up to a week in some areas!
So, if you’re looking for a faster solution, you can also use a clear and non-toxic lacquer sealant of your choice.
It is important to ensure that you paint the exterior thoroughly and apply at least two to three coats to the roof itself as it will take the most punishment from the weather.
Once done, you should place your birdhouse in a space that isn’t directly exposed to the sun and will be partially protected from rain, snow, drips, and wind as well — the eaves under your home roof will make a cozy spot (source).
Waterproofing for Longevity
Any wooden object that is left outdoors needs to be properly waterproof to ensure that it stays intact for as many years as possible. A well-built and treated pine or plywood birdhouse will be the best choice for a structure that will withstand the elements for at least 10 to 15 years.
A birdhouse constructed from pine or plywood should be treated with a wood stain to protect it against rot. The panels that are most exposed will need several coats to withstand the prevailing weather.
Should you prefer a colored finish, a semi-transparent, oil-based stain will penetrate optimally and endure for a minimum of three years on smooth wood, longer if the surface is rough. It is also possible to paint your birdhouse with a natural lead-free paint for a more contemporary look.
Ideally, you do not want to varnish a birdhouse because clear film finishes will crack, blister, and peel under the onslaught of sunlight and moisture (source).
Be sure to read our blog post, is it ok to stain a birdhouse, as we go over proper ways and techniques of staining and painting your newly constructed birdhouse.
Best Waterproof Design Ideas
If you’d like the local birdlife to cozy up in their custom-built garden lodgings, you’ll want to ensure a warm and dry interior. The optimal method to achieve this is to angle the roof slightly and extend it over the front and sides enough for it to protect the entrance hole as well as the panels from rain and snow.
As an added protective measure, drilling drainage holes in the floor will alleviate the chances of flooding. To ensure water does not leak in, extend the sides of the house down beyond the floor (source).
A birdhouse will provide many hours of joy for homeowners, as well as benefit local wildlife, if properly constructed and sealed, but placement is of equal importance.
Your birdhouse should be placed at a suitable height and in the appropriate habitat for the type of birds you hope will use it. The entrance should face away from the prevailing winds and general rain direction.
Birds also tend to prefer their house to be set upon a steady tree, pole, or post, or the underside of the eaves of a house roof. For safety and comfort reasons, they will seldom resort to using a free-swinging birdhouse.
A birdhouse securely fastened under the eaves of a house roof will provide optimal protection from the elements, whereas one located in a tree may be subject to dripping water from leaves and branches as well as curious critters trying to get at the inside.
Birdhouses are generally located in safe and high areas, which means that care should be taken to construct it in such a way that maintenance is minimal.
The roof or floor should be easily removable so that you can access the inside for cleaning purposes as well as for routine checks to ensure that water hasn’t managed to find its way inside.
A birdhouse should be cleaned every spring once the young have left the nest, as well as disinfected so as to avoid spreading any avian diseases. Make sure to properly dry the interior before closing the birdhouse up again.
The routine spring-cleaning of your birdhouse is an ideal time to inspect the entire structure for signs of weathering and decay. If you find rot or see that the sealant has become defunct, you can sand down the exterior and reapply your chosen sealant (source).
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A purpose-built birdhouse is a useful and environmentally-friendly garden addition, but to ensure that it remains a safe haven for local birdlife for years to come, you should have it properly protected from the elements.
The best way to waterproof a birdhouse is by optimizing the construction to include a slanted roof and drainage holes, glue between panels, and provide a waterproof strip of rubber or metal for the roof seam.
The wooden exterior should also be treated to keep it dry using either raw linseed oil or a suitable clear and non-toxic lacquer sealant.