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Staining Exterior Wood Siding & Trim

March 2, 2021

Types of Exterior Siding & Trim Wood

There are many kinds of wood that get used as exterior finishes and many of them need to be stained. While the various wood types all take stain slightly different, this blog will discuss staining all but the hardest of woods (i.e. teak, mahogany etc.). 

Most exterior wood is either pine, fir, or cedar. All three are relatively soft and absorbent. 

Pine Wood

Fir Wood

Cedar Wood

In addition to the varying types of wood, there are many types of stain that can be applied. I would like to discuss in this blog, the 3 main types of stain, how long they last, and why you might choose one over the other. Most stains, as of 2015, have some hydrophobic properties. 

Solid Acrylic Stain

Solid stain should last about 5 years. It is 100% opaque and will resemble a thin coat of paint allowing the wood texture to show through, but none of the grain. When applied, about 50% of the coating will penetrate into the wood and 50% will lay on the surface. 

Semi-Transparent Acrylic Stain

These semi-transparent acrylic stains should last from 2-3 years and will let much of the wood’s grain be visible through the coating. About 75% of the coating penetrates into the wood and 25% lays on the surface. 

Since semi-transparent acrylic stains only block a small percentage of the destructive UV rays, the wood under the stain tends to break down which causes the stain to wash away. It’s a bit of a trade-off in that if you want the wood grain to show, it will not last quite as long.

There are also a few things to consider when it is time to recoat the wood:
  • Option 1: You can wash the wood clean and apply more semi-transparent stain over the partially failed coating. This will give you a uneven coating as the wood will get a little darker with each recoating, which is sometimes a “desirable look.”
  • Option 2: You can completely strip the wood and apply the stain to the now bare wood. This option makes the wood look like it did the first time the stain was applied.

Semi-Solid Acrylic Stain

Not only are there solid acrylic stains and semi-transparent acrylic stain, but there is also semi-solid acrylic stains. This type of stain is a hybrid between a semi-transparent acrylic stain and a solid acrylic stain, which would put its life span right in the middle of both of about 3-4 years. Of the three types of stain, these are the least used and hardly used at that, so in my 34 years of experience I do not have enough first-hand knowledge of them to state the true life-span.  

Clear Sealer

Clear Sealer will last 12 – 18 months. This product is as simple as it sounds. A clear sealer is typically hydrophobic, which keeps the water penetration to a minimum. 

In Summary

I strongly recommend re-staining exterior wood every 3-5 years at the absolute minimum. The stain will start to and fail and if left to weather to long, the wood becomes exposed to more UV light, which breaks down the wood fibers and deteriorates the wood. This then calls for a harder pressure wash to remove the dead wood, which will ultimately shorten the lifespan of your wood. 

By stretching your re-stain cycle an extra 2 years, you will most likely cost yourself more in the long run. Not only will you incur additional costs, but you will be left with a house that looks run-down and in need of re-staining, as opposed to always looking good!

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