Exterior stains can make any woodworking project look professional and stand out highlighting the natural grain of the wood. Furthermore, this kind of coating protects the wood from water and sunbeams. There are so many different formulas and types of exterior stains that you can become overwhelmed with all of the options available.
Here are the best exterior wood stains for various situations and an explanation of all the features so you can know exactly what you are looking for.
Best Exterior Wood Stains in January, 2020
|Wood stain||Coverage (quart)||Recoat dry time (hours)||Colors|
|50 sq ft||2-4||7|
|2||Ready Seal||50 sq ft||24||7|
|3||#1 Deck Premium||50 sq ft||2||4|
|4||Thompson's WaterSeal Stain||up to 100 sq ft||2||5|
|5||Old Masters||75-125 sq ft||6-8||18|
|6||Kilz Exterior Wood Stain||up to 75 sq ft||1-2||9|
1. Defy Extreme – Perfect For Exterior Decks And Pressure Treated Wood
Wood grains show through a semi-transparent layer with a matte finish for a natural look. High-Quality Resins in this formula add durability against weather and scratching. The resin also fights against fading. It includes zinc nano-particles that reduce the growth of mold.
You’ll get a lot of value from this stain on outdoor projects that experience a lot of constant moisture. It will seal and protect against the elements exceptionally well. It’s best used on pressure-treated woods that are meant for exterior use. It has great features like added zinc particles that reduce mold and mildew.
The resin in the formula stops fading, so you’ll get a longer lifespan from this option on decking than most other brands on the market. Cleanup is easy because it’s water-based. You can use a standard brush to apply it. You don’t need to strip this stain when putting on a maintenance coat later on. No Sanding Is Required.
A new deck project would be ideal for this product. You’ll need to completely remove your previous stain or finish if it’s not Defy brand. Maintenance is simple and it lasts a very long time.
2. Ready Seal – Top Exterior Stain for Wooden Fence And Siding
The Ready Seal good proof application doesn’t require any primer before using. You can apply this stain at any temperature. It has a built sealer. This deal includes a one-gallon container. It is an oil-based all-in-one stain and sealant.
Ready Seal Has outdone themselves with this product. It features all of the best characteristics woodworkers are looking for in one product. It offers a streak-free and runs free-formula that’s great for beginner hobbyists.
The sealant is built-in and deeply penetrates the wood to provide exceptional water resistance. It has anti-mildew and anti-mold properties. This product even protects against harmful UV rays and reduces fading over time. You can apply it at any temperature with no difference in results.
It’s worth using on exterior projects, especially fences. It’s a medium-bodied formula with above average coloring. There’s a lot of value for the price of this product. Sanding is optional but results in a more professional-looking finish.
Anyone will see a lot of value in this product. It simplifies the process of wood staining with a professional quality end result. It’s perfect for exterior projects.
3. #1 Deck Premium Wood Stain – Choice For Exterior Siding and Floors
You should use this product with softwoods in exterior projects. It protects against moisture and UV light. It has a low odor and is easily cleaned up with soapy water. It’s an average product without any other features that stand out from other brands, but it doesn’t suffer from any great downsides either.
This is for exterior use only. You can’t thin it with mineral spirits or else the sealer mixture will be deteriorated.
4. Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain – All In One Application
The Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain is somewhat unusual as it is touted as a wood stain & sealer all in one. This presents both savings in cost and labor. The all in one formula negates the need to first stain the project and then a second product to seal and protect the stain. It is designed for use on all exterior wood projects.
Thompson’s WaterSeal Stain is offered in five different color choices and each of them is a natural wood grain hue. The product is an exterior wood stain and wood protector that allows some natural wood grain to show through while enhancing the appearance by adding subtle natural color to the surface of the wood.
Both Stain and Sealer
And it adds a measure of assurance to know that the product exceeds Industry Standard ASTM D-4446 for waterproofing wood. Additionally, the same advanced polymer that provides the waterproof feature also provides fade-resistant color Thompson’s WaterSeal is also mildew resistant and offers protection from UV damage. It also dries to the touch in 1-2 hours.
This product does not have any obvious negatives. The only attribute that has merit in mentioning as a downside is the stain’s coverage and appearance. While this product is categorized as transparent, manufacturers literature specifies that it will allow “some” natural wood grain and texture to show through. This could be no different from all stains – whereby they all add subtle color to the wood grain and could be viewed as slightly diminishing some of the wood grain to show through.
5. Old Masters – Gel Wood Stain For Outdoor Use
Old Masters gel stains are highly pigmented and oil-based. The focus of this product is providing intense colors on virtually any surface. You can use it on interior or exterior projects. It’s suitable for woods, metals, fiberglass, and composite materials. A single coating is all that’s needed in most applications. This package contains one-quart of exceptionally-rich Dark Walnut stain.
The best quality of Old Masters products is their incredibly rich colors. This product is extremely thick which makes it perfect for exterior applications with minimal fading over long periods of time. You can simulate a realistic wood grain over painted surfaces using the Old Masters Woodgraining Tool. It’s easy to apply and isn’t likely to drip from your brush.
Someone who wants very distinct coloring and doesn’t mind the extra work involved will find this stain really useful.
6. Kilz Exterior Wood Stain – Semi-transparent Waterproofing Stain
Kilz Semi-transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Stain is designed to treat and protect outdoor wood products. The formula is 100% acrylic and provides protection from rain, snow and sun damage for decks, railings, siding, shingles, patio furniture, shakes and fences.
This stain is offered in 9 colors. Each of the color choices appear similar to traditional wood grain color hues. The listing of color choices available does not specifically state what wood type they are trying to emulate. They do not specifically designate what wood type the stain is reflecting; pine, oak, walnut or maple.
Durable Exterior Protection
This Kilz exterior wood stain presents many positives. It offers a durable waterproof and mildew-resistant finish that can stand up to rugged outdoor conditions.
You should take heed that while this stain can be used on exterior wood surfaces that range from new to moderately weathered and unsealed for products that have anywhere from 0-10 years of exposure; however, unless the product is brand new and clean you can expect extra prep work before being ready to move ahead with the staining process.
There’s something about when you put an exterior stain on natural wood and you get to see that woodgrain pop, it just gives you goosebumps.
When it comes to stains you can honestly have the best qualities of both worlds. You can have a durable product that also looks professional with enough care taken during the application.
How to determine the type of your wood
The first thing you need to do is determine what type of wood you’ve got. Softwoods like pine will absorb a stain much easier than hardwood and thus could come off looking quite dark with even one coat of stain. Hardwood like oak and cherry, on the other hand, does not absorb stain as well and you may need to put several coats to actually get it to darken up to any significant extent.
So here is how you determine what type of wood you actually have whether it be hardwood or softwood. It’s easy to actually tell for the most part by just looking at the grain of the wood. With hardwood, you’ll notice the grain is rather consistent throughout whereas softwood frequently can be blotchy and the grain isn’t consistent throughout the length of the bore.
What level of protection to choose
For all outdoor applications, you should just pick the best looking exterior stain with the most protective features possible.
What type of exterior stain to purchase
There are two main factors that will help you decide what type of stain to purchase.
The first key point is the level of quality you want to see on your finished project. Fine woodworking projects like outdoor furniture are typically going to need to look amazingly finished. Outdoor decks and fences aren’t going to be seen as closely, so it really doesn’t matter.
The second key point is going to be how resilient you need your stain to be. An outdoor application should absolutely incorporate UV resistance, mold resistance, and water-proofing. Combination sealant and stain are usually going to be your most solid option for exterior products. Some brands that work for exterior applications might not look very great on finer quality woodworking projects. So I suggest you choose one of the wood sealers for your exterior wood to give it the protection it deserves.
How to prepare wood for staining
Because softwood can sometimes have an uneven grain or kind of a splotchy appearance it’s better to usually use some type of pre-stain conditioner on the wood itself prior to applying the stain. This will allow a more even look. Prior to actually stain the wood it’s important that it be sanded to the level that you’re looking for.
Sandpaper is going to allow for a more difficult time for the stain to absorb into the wood and thus you’ll have a lighter appearance. If you use a coarser grade the wood will have a better ability to absorb the stain but it will have a rougher surface so you have a darker surface but a rougher looking texture.
What you need to stain
For decks or fences, you’ll need a wide brush. For small exterior projects the supplies that you’re going to need: a foam brush or a regular brush, a pair of disposable gloves and lots of rags. Remember rags should not be too big because if you deal with a large one and you try to drag it and wipe the stain off you’ll find that the larger the rag some of it will get caught in the stain and then you’ll be dragging it all around the top of your piece so you’d like to have more control on the rags that you use. So cut them in smaller pieces that work for you.
Safety precautions before staining
You can use a kind of a sponge brush or a regular type of stain brush and rags. The sponge brush absorbs some of the stain so that you can spread it evenly over the wood. Because stain is difficult to get off your hands it’s better to use a pair of vinyl or latex gloves to protect your hands from getting a stain on. In addition, it’s better to work in an open area or a bit well-ventilated area as the fumes from the stain are quite strong.
How to apply an exterior stain on small projects
To actually apply the exterior stain you have to soak up some of it on the brush and rub it along the line or grain of the wood. Apply a liberal amount on the surface and let it sit on for approximately 5 to 15 minutes. The longer you wait the more time the stain has to absorb into the wood. Particularly with hardwoods because of the difficulty in absorbing into the surface you may need to put several coats on.
So give 5 to 15 minutes of rest and then wipe it down with the rag. Use a clean rag and wipe down the stain in the direction of the grain of the wood. If you choose to put on a second coat to darken this up wait 4 to 6 hours and then apply a second coat again in the direction of the grain and let it dry for another 15 minutes and then again wipe off any excess stain. After you’ve got it darkened to the level that you’re interested in you can let this sit for approximately 8 hours.