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How to Choose the Right Exterior Stain

Choosing the Right Type of Exterior Stain

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’re working with. There are many types of natural wood and each will impact the final look of your stain. Pressure-treated, being the most commonly used, will appear much darker when the stain is applied compared to a lighter wood like white pine.

Consider the Age

New wood will be more forgiving with lighter stains than aged wood, as a darker stain accentuates imperfections like dings and scratches.

For older surfaces, cleaning is an integral part of staining success. Getting rid of old mildew, unwanted BBQ grease, 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.


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 opacity’s are translucent, semi-transparent and solid, each having different results.

We do recommend using semi-transparent for horizontal pieces, like floorboards and steps as it’s more forgiving in high-traffic areas. In contrast, a solid stain is generally more popular for aged decks as it hides more imperfections in the wood.


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

Choose 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 is tintable in over 3000 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 can help you choose and pair colours to prepare your home’s exterior for summer!

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