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Choosing the Right Exterior Wood Stain

Taking the Mystery Out of Exterior Stains

When it comes to staining your exterior project, selecting the correct type of stain is just as important as choosing the colour. There are a number of factors to consider ensuring you protect your investment and extend longevity.

Six types of natural wood with Cedar coloured stain applied.

Consider the Type of Wood

Before you start, it’s essential to know what kind of surface you are working with. There are many types of natural wood, and each will impact your stain results. Pressure-treated wood will appear much darker when stain is applied compared to a lighter wood, like pine. While it was common at one point to wait up to a year to stain new or pressure treated wood, 30 days is the current recommendation.

Consider the Age

The age and condition of your wood should be considered when choosing your stain’s opacity. If the wood is in good condition, you may want to show off the natural wood grain with a translucent or transparent. If the wood is older and weathered, you could consider a solid stain to hide blemishes.

For older surfaces, prep work is essential. Cleaning is an integral part of staining success. Getting rid of old mildew, loose wood fibres, dirt, and dust will make the staining process much easier. Products like RESTORE, REMOVE, CLEAN and BRIGHTEN from Benjamin Moore will help remove unwanted dirt and prepare the surface to achieve the best results. A light sanding, with 80-grit sandpaper is also recommended.

Can of semi-transparent Arborcoat stain

Arborcoat Semi-Transparent Stain. Great for horizontal surfaces.

Can of Arborcoat solid stain

Arborcoat Solid Stain. Great coverage for older woods.

Decide the Opacity

Do you want to see the wood grain or cover it completely? The most popular opacities are translucent, semi-transparent and solid, each having different results.We recommend using semi-transparent for horizontal pieces, like floorboards and steps as it’s more forgiving in high-traffic areas.

Consider the Location

The location of the stained wood is also important when choosing stain types. If your deck is elevated off the ground, a water-based exterior stain can be sufficient to combat over-exposure to UV rays which can cause fading and discolouration of the boards. If you deck is built low to the ground, it is more susceptible to moisture which can seep up through and cause decay. An alkyd (or oil-based) exterior stain formula will help protect your wood from the moisture.


Sidings & Railings: Seagull Gray ES-72 Solid
Trim: Fairview Taupe HS-85 Solid
Door & Floor: Cedar ES-40 Translucent
Ceiling: Teak ES-30 Translucent

Choosing a Colour

Arborcoat is Benjamin Moore’s most popular stain with various colours and opacities. Translucent stain is available in 9 ready-made colours, semi-transparent has a selection of 75 and solid stain is tintable in over 3500+ Benjamin Moore colours.

Keep in mind that choosing a darker shade draws more heat, which can reduce the stain’s durability. Therefore, choosing a lighter colour option should make your stain last longer.

If you’re looking for serious curb appeal, try a two-tone deck! You can achieve a trendy modern look by using semi-transparent for horizontal boards and solid stain for vertical boards.

Water-based Stain vs. Oil-based Stain
There are advantages of both when choosing a stain type for finishing your outdoor project. Water- based or Waterborne, clean up easily with just soap and water. It also dries quickly and provides excellent UV protection, slowing down the fading of the wood’s colour.

Oil-based stain will penetrate deeper into the wood then waterborne, which creates a more uniform finish and protects the wood both inside and out. Oil stains are also proven to minimize cracking and peeling and tend to be earlier to recoat.

Whatever you choose, we are here to help you every step of the way. Our exterior stain displays provide great visuals of colour and opacities to assist you when choosing the right exterior stain for your home.

Our experts are here to help you choose and pair colours to prepare your home’s exterior for summer!

Drop by a Benjamin Moore Paint Shop Near You >>