Wood Stain | Buying the Right Stain for your Deck or Home


If wood covers the exterior of your home, you may be weighing stain versus paint. While paint coats a surface, stain penetrates. This allows the natural texture of the wood to shine through, and it also shows the grain if you use a semi-transparent stain. Exterior decks typically get stained instead of painted. Learn more about the many products available for staining wood siding, shingles and decks to pick the right one for your home.

Water-Based Stains vs. Oil-Based Stains

Which you choose depends on the existing finish, the wood itself and other factors. For example, if you plan to stain a surface already finished with an oil-based stain or paint, we recommend a water-based stain because it will adhere better. We also recommend water-based stain for woods that naturally resist rotting, including cypress, redwood and cedar; all water-based stains are mildew-resistant. Water-based stain offers a wider range of colors and better color retention.

Oil-based stain takes longer to dry than water-based stain, though, which allows you to achieve an even finish. We also recommend oil-based stain for decks, as it offers better penetration and durability. Oil-based stain can encourage mildew growth, so be sure to choose one labeled as mildew-resistant.

In terms of safety and eco-friendliness, many homeowners opt for water-based stain because it does not produce harmful fumes, nor can it catch fire during storage like oil-based stain. The later product also contains volatile organic compounds that contribute to air pollution.

Prepping the Surface

Just as with painting, staining requires proper prep for a long-lasting finish. Remove existing paints and/or sealants, clean off any dirt and/or mildew, and lightly sand away loose wood fibers. Remove dust before staining, as well, and follow these do’s and don’ts for best results if doing the job yourself:

  • Do stir stain to remix any color pigments that may have settled.

  • Do apply a second coat if you want a darker, more saturated finish.

  • Don’t try for that darker, more saturated finish by letting unabsorbed stain dry on the wood; it will just peel off later.

  • Don’t apply a finish before the stain has had time to dry; you will end up pulling the stain out of the wood with your brush.

Of course, we can do a thorough prep and application for you in the least amount of time. We have the knowledge and tools at the ready and can even help you choose the right stain product and color for your home.

Hot Wood Stain Colors for 2013

We recently wrote about our favorite new stain colors from Behr, Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore.

Benjamin Moore offers the widest range of options when it comes to the opacity of its exterior stains with five: natural/translucent, transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid and solid. This allows you to test the stain in place to get the desired amount of grain and texture showing. The company’s Arborcoat line comes in six natural/translucent and transparent colors. You have 75 semi-transparent and semi-solid stain colors to choose from, and solid stains can be tinted with any of Benjamin Moore’s available colors.

Behr sells nine transparent stains, with the semi-transparent and solid stain products coming in 60 colors. Sherwin-Williams makes 24 semi-transparent and 48 solid stains, as well as a transparent stain recommended for decks only.

To see which colors we like best, check out the full Stain Colors for 2013 | The Best of Behr, Sherwin-Williams & Benjamin Moore post.

No matter which stain you select for your home’s exterior or deck, we can take on the application and give you the longest-lasting stain job possible. With proper prep and application, it should last at least seven years.


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