Building any new structure (be it a deck, new fencing or a new cabin) is a massive project in itself. Determining which type of stain to use to beautify and preserve all of your hard work is a whole new feat. Here we seek to do the dirty work and bring to you the information you need to decide on which type of exterior wood stains and sealers will perform the best for you.
Why Choose Oil Based Stains?
One topic that needs to first be addressed is that of the great debate over water based vs. oil based deck stains. Many people come to us asking which one offers the best protection – especially for well-trafficked areas, such as wood decks.
Both types of stain have advantages, including that they both offer a beautiful finish on all types of wood. Both water and oil based stains also prevent UV damage and water intrusion, but oil based stains simply do the job better.
Oil based deck stains have been around longer than their water based counterparts and they last longer, wearing gradually by erosion. They also hold the ability to better preserve the natural color of the wood – plus oil based stains have a way of looking more natural than water-based stains.
Oil based stains also inhibit mold and mildew growth, each of which can contribute to wood decay and rot. They also naturally shed water and condition the wood, which prevents cracking, warping and splitting. Truthfully, they hold up to weather better overall.
In general, oil based stains are easier to maintain over time as well. The stain will eventually begin to fade and wear off with all stains. With an oil based stain, all that needs to be done to protect the wood once again is a light wash and a recoat. After several years, it is recommended to strip the stain completely to get back down to bare wood but it is not hard to do at all with a deck stripping product – and this is only necessary after several years of maintenance coats.
One misconception about oil based stains is that they are not environmentally friendly. This is untrue as many oil stains are made of low volatile organic compound (VOC) formulas and are compliant in most states.
Water based finishes, on the other hand, don’t penetrate very deeply into wood decking (if they do at all), thus causing them to wear differently. They are more likely to peel than they are to erode over time. Maintenance is also difficult over time as they are more difficult to strip when a recoat is necessary. Plus, when it is time to apply a new coat, the new finish has a tendency to look blotchy.
Beware of Imposters!
Watch out for water reducible alkyd based stains. They are not true oil based finishes and they should be avoided. It is hard to get good color saturation without generating a film on the wood’s surface with these types of stain. They also do not penetrate the wood like true, high quality oil based stains and they tend to crack and peel. They also are difficult to maintain over time as they need to be stripped completely before any reapplication can take place. Water reducible alkyd based stains are hard to re-coat because they tend to leave flaws and blemishes behind, showing unsightly lap-marks. Additionally, alkyds are commonly more expensive than natural oil-based finishes, which is just another reason to avoid using them.
Types of Oil Based Stains
Now that it has been determined that oil based stains are the way to go, it is important to understand the difference between the three main types of oil based exterior stains and sealers: film forming, deep penetrating and penetrating acrylic.
One problem we have seen frequently over the years is that film forming products have failed. They usually have a more plastic- or paint-like appearance and have a high tendency to crack and peel as they age. They also have a tendency to leave traffic patterns in areas people frequently walk.
Film forming stains are also typically more heavily pigmented than penetrating oil stains, which makes them more difficult to get rid of when it is time to recoat. This is a problem because if you are unable to completely remove an old coat, you must apply a new coat over top. The newly treated surface may look good initially, but it will not last as long over time because film forming stain does not adhere to itself very well. The buildup of multiple coats over time only leads to more frequent peeling and flaking. And if you are able to remove an old coat of film forming stain, you will still run into issues with cracking and peeling. It is basically unavoidable.
Film forming has another disadvantage that can be tragic. It is not uncommon for moisture to be trapped in the wood with film forming stains, which can lead to wood rot. Many structures, including gorgeous log cabins and cedar homes have been victim to extensive rot and, although the rotted logs may not be entirely due to film forming finishes, using this type of finish can help to speed up the process of decay. Wood needs to breathe. Logs naturally have the ability to soak up moisture so any finish applied to them needs to be breathable, enabling the wood to dry out after exposure to moisture. Because film forming finishes typically form a film on the surface of logs, they tend to form a barrier that keeps the logs from breathing.
Deep Penetrating (Woodrich Brand Timber Oil)
Deep penetrating wood stains offer a very natural looking wood finish, enabling the natural beauty of the wood to show through. They are great for an assortment of different projects, including new construction as well as staining new or pressure treated wood siding, decks, fences or log cabins.
Deep penetrating stains usually come in a variety of different colors or tones. Our Deep Penetrating Timber Oil Wood Stain comes in four different colors, including Amaretto, Brown Sugar, Warm Honey Gold and Western Cedar.
These stains are easy to use, even for first time users. This type of stain can be easily sprayed, making it ideal for anyone who does not want to stand over an entire project for days on end with a brush in hand. Plus, it never overlaps or leaves run marks!
Another benefit of deep penetrating exterior stain is its fantastic levels of protection and preservation. The oils do not sit on top of the wood surface but rather penetrate or dive deep into the pores of the wood, offering superb moisture-wicking protection and a safeguard from harmful UV rays. This type of stain is also fantastic for replenishing very old or dried out wood. Additionally, our stains contain elements that do not feed or attract mildew and mold.
Maintenance is much easier with deep penetrating wood stains as well. They never flake – they just fade and begin to disappear, so they are easier to maintain over time. There is no need for using a stain stripper to apply a new coat. You just simply do a light water wash on the wood prior to reapplication!
Penetrating acrylic wood stains offer a rich hardwood floor finish while highlighting the natural beauty of the wood. Our Penetrating Acrylic Wiping Wood Stains have high pigment content that outperforms other finishes on all types of wood, including cedar, popular and pressure treated pine). But unlike other stains, it is the best choice for exotic hardwoods, such as Cambara, Ipe, Garappa, Teak, etc.
Penetrating acrylic stains are easy to apply. It is best if you flood the surface then remove the excess. Apply with a roll or brush then wipe with a dry rag to unveil the beautiful quality finish. Like deep penetrating acrylic stains, they can also be sprayed on.
The oils penetrate the wood to replenish it while occupying available space, forming a new layer of protection at the wood’s surface without creating a barrier on top. It does not crack or peel – it just fades into the wood, similar to deep penetrating wood stains. Resin solids and transparent oxide pigments make it durable enough for even the harshest of outdoor weather.
When choosing an exterior stain type, it is not difficult to see which options rise above the rest. If you want your wood to look more natural, be easier to apply and maintain and want it to last longer, why would you not choose a penetrating oil based stain? It is all about the finish.