outdoor wood stain

Best Exterior Wood Stain – Find the Right Outdoor Wood Stain

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When it comes to your outdoor wood furniture you want it to look its best and protect it from damage. Using an outdoor wood stain is not only a good idea for wood furniture but can also be used on wooden deck surfaces, fences, doors, and any outdoor wood surface. By applying the best exterior stain, you will not only keep the wood looking great but will improve the lifespan of the wooden surface.



Reasons for Applying the Best Exterior Stain

Any wood surface outside should have some protection from the elements. A sealant or wood stain will help to protect the wood from moisture and sun exposure. You want to avoid things like mold, or mildew from developing and help keep the wood from fading. When you use the best stain for outdoor furniture, you will extend the life of the wood and improve its appearance.

You will need to select the best exterior wood stain that offers excellent quality. When selecting an outdoor wood stain there are a few things you have to be aware of. For example, you will need to know what type of wood you are going to be working with, or is there a budget involved? These and a few other aspects will establish the choice of exterior stain. To help you with the selection process, we will be providing application information, helping you out with a few tips and we will be recommending a few products.

best exterior stain



What is an Exterior Stain?

An exterior stain comes in two forms, oil-based and water-based. Both of these options have different characteristics, and one may be more suitable for a certain job than the other. To decide, you will need to understand what separates the two wood stains.


Oil-Based Exterior Stain

The basis of this type of stain is common linseed oil and you will need to use mineral spirits to thin and clean it. This type of porch stain is absorbed into the wood more effectively and provides a rich color to the wood. Oil-based stains also condition the wood nicely, which helps with preventing cracks or peeling. It also makes the wood surface more durable and provides excellent adhesive qualities.

The drying times are longer at about 48 hours; however, this means the final finish will be smoother. Oil-based exterior stains are prone to water damage, mold, and mildew. These stains are also flammable when they are still wet. However, oil-based exterior stains are the best choice, as they offer durability and can withstand harsher conditions.


Water-Based Exterior Stain

This type of outdoor wood stain is popular, as it is eco-friendly, produce less VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), and are safer to work with. They also dry quickly in about three hours or less, however, this makes it more challenging to work with. These exterior stains can easily be cleaned and thinned using water.

Water-based exterior stains are water-resistant, as there is better air movement, and it does not lock-in water which helps prevent mold and mildew. But the stain does not sink into the wood as effectively as the oil-based stains. This means, as a whole, the protection is less which means it is also less durable.

Water-based stains are better used on smaller simple projects that require a fast-drying time. This stain is perfect on wood that is already naturally resistant to decay, for example, redwood and cypress.

best stain for outdoor furniture



What Surfaces are Best for Wood Stain and Sealer

You can apply wood stain and sealer to most wooden surfaces. Wood surfaces that are located outdoors are especially in need of protection, so an outdoor wood stain is recommended. You can use the best stain for outdoor furniture on the following:

  • Any decorative piece of wood
  • Doors
  • Outdoor Trims
  • Wood Furniture
  • Wood Porches
  • Wooden Fences
  • Sidings



Types of Exterior Wood Stain Colors

There are many exterior wood stain colors, and these also come in various transparencies. Also known as an opaqueness, this indicates how solid the exterior wood stain colors are. The stain color can also refer to durability and general protection.


Opaque Exterior Stain

This is a solid stain and offers excellent durability and protection, as it has a high concentration of pigment. This exterior stain will hide the wood surface completely and needs to be applied again every four or five years.


Semi-Opaque Exterior Stain

Also referred to as semi-solid, it provides a fairly strong tint that can cover the wood surface underneath. Re-application needs to be done every three or four years.


Semi-Transparent Exterior Stain

One of the more commonly used stains, as it leaves a tint, but you can still see the wood beneath. Every so often, about two or three years you will need to reapply a satin coat.


Clear Toner Exterior Stain

This stain provides a slight hue but is almost transparent, displaying the natural wood beneath it. The clear stain does not leave a film and will peel and, therefore, needs to be reapplied once a year.

best exterior wood stain



How to Select the Best Exterior Stain

There are some things that you need to think about before purchasing the best stain for outdoor furniture. Some of these factors include the following:


Wood Type

Various types of wood will absorb wood stain differently, for instance, softer woods like pine are highly absorbent. This means the stain will look darker after only one coat has been applied. However, harder woods like oak are not as absorbent and will need a few coats of stain before it appears darker.

You should be able to figure out the type of wood by the grain, hardwoods have even and consistent wood grains while softer woods appear more uneven.


Type of Outdoor Wood Stain

When you know the type of wood you have and what protection you are looking for, you can then decide on what wood stain to use. You must now choose between an oil-based or water-based stain, each of which is available in different opacities. Both the type of wood stain and the amount of pigment will further define the strength and how long the stain will last before you have to apply fresh coats.


Exterior Wood Stain Coverage

Wood stains do tend to be cheaper than paint, but you must take into consideration the surface size. Most single gallon stains generally cover about 100 square feet on the first coat, but it can depend on the brand. However, it is always better to choose a good quality stain product and pay a bit more than just go for something that comes in larger quantities and is cheaper.


Exterior Wood Stain Colors

There are quite a few stain colors available and you can choose between a clear, semi-transparent, semi-solid to solid stain. The type of stain color will determine how long the stain lasts and how durable it will be.

If you choose a solid stain color, it is best to select one that fits in with your overall décor. Otherwise, choose a stain color that is closest to the original wood color to stay with the natural wood look.


How Much is a Porch Stain Going to Cost?

The price for the best exterior wood stain can be expensive, however, paying for a high-quality product that covers a fair amount of surface area is the best way to go. Spending now will save you in the future when it comes to maintaining your stained wood surface.

exterior stain



Recommended Best Exterior Wood Stain

Choosing the best exterior stain can be challenging, as there are so many brands that say they offer the best product. So, we have gathered the three best exterior stain choices for you.


Best Value Exterior Stain: READY SEAL Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

This exterior wood stain and sealer is from the popular Ready Seal brand. The main benefit of using this stain is no priming is necessary before you apply the stain. This makes the entire job that much easier.

READY SEAL Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood
  •  A cedar wood stain and sealer
  • UV-resistant, waterproof, and mildew resistant
  • Easy application - requires no primer, thinning, or stripping
View on Amazon

The product is oil-based and consists of an efficient sealer that will penetrate the wood for maximum protection. You can apply the stain in all kinds of temperatures without problems. The first coat will give you a dark stain, however, the real color will only be displayed after about two weeks.

There are various hues available from mahogany, redwood, golden pine, natural cedar, dark walnut, burnt hickory, pecan, and light oak.


  • Easy to apply and will not run
  • Penetrates the wood effectively
  • You do not need to prime or sand
  • Offers a high-quality finish
  • Protects from mold, UV light, mildew, and water
  • Easy to use all-in-one product


  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Should not be applied to newly stained, sealed, or painted wood surfaces

This product is excellent to use on decks, all outdoor furniture, and fences.


Best Premium Exterior Stain: DEFY Extreme Outdoor Wood Stain

Looking for an eco-friendly exterior stain option? Then the Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent outdoor wood stain might just be it. This water-based stain is a high-quality stain that provides durability, is resistant to surface and weather damages, and offers a matte finish. This is because it contains extremely small zinc particles that help to protect from water damage, mildew, and mold.

DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain
  • A water-based semi-transparent wood stain
  • Extremely durable, lasting quality
  • UV resistant and eco friendly
View on Amazon

The product will give long-lasting color and you have a choice between many different stain colors. The exterior wood stain colors include crystal clear, light walnut, redwood, cedar, natural pine, butternut, and driftwood gray.


  • UV and fade resistant
  • Excellent durability
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Does not need sanding or stripping
  • Eco-friendly


  • The application can be difficult
  • Cannot be used over other stains
  • You need to apply a wood brightener before you stain

One of the best choices for an outdoor wood stain and can be used as a porch stain and on other outdoor furniture. Since old wood stains need to be removed, this is an excellent choice for new projects.


Best Budget-Friendly Exterior Stain: MINWAX Wood Finish Stain

The Minwax Wood Finish is an excellent choice for a porch stain and other outdoor furniture. The wood stain is affordable, and you can use it on all kinds of wood whether it is bare or stripped. The oil-based stain penetrates effectively into the wood and will emphasize the original color wood. The wood stain will give your wood a matte finish.

MINWAX Wood Finish Penetrating Stain
  • An ideal staining solution for various unfinished wood surfaces
  • Available in 28 different colors to match the wood
  • Penetrates deep into the wood fibers to highlight the grain
View on Amazon

This budget-friendly option also gives you a variety of different stain colors. Compared to other brands, this product does provide a lighter stain, therefore, more coats may be necessary.


  • Fast drying time
  • Application is easy
  • Emphasizes the original wood
  • A variety of stain colors to choose from
  • Can use on outdoor wood surfaces as well as indoor


  • There is an odor that can remain for some time
  • As a light stain, it needs more coats
  • It will take longer to dry if the wood has been pre-stained

This wood stain is best used on all kinds of wood furniture indoors and outdoors. It is perfect for refurbishing old and weathered wood items.



Applying an Outdoor Wood Stain

So, you have now purchased your exterior wood stain, it is time to apply it to your wooden surface. The following stages will lead you through the preparation and application process. When it comes to working on larger items such as your porch, a wide quality brush is your best option. You can also use a bristle brush or foam brush for smaller wood surfaces.

exterior wood stain colors


Wood Surface Preparation

Your wood surface requires some preparation before you can apply the wood stain. The wood surface must be clean, so you can first wipe or brush away any loose dirt. Next, use a mild soap to remove any grease or fatty residue. You can leave the soap or detergent for a few minutes after which you can hose it off. Finally, scrub the wood surface to get it thoroughly clean.

You want an even and smooth surface, so this is the time to sand it down. Different sandpaper can ultimately affect the absorption of the wood stain. So, for a darker stain use coarse sandpaper, which will give you a rough surface. Finer sandpaper will give you a smooth surface that absorbs less and provides a lighter stain color. When sanding, move with the grain to achieve a more even appearance.

When you are staining softer woods, it is recommended you use a pre-stain conditioner. This will help with absorption when applying the wood stain and gives a more even finish.


Safety and Exterior Wood Stain Colors

Working with wood stains can be hazardous, so wearing protective gear is always recommended. Put on rubber gloves, protective glasses, and a mask to protect from the toxic fumes. Working in a space that has good air circulation, with open windows, or even better outside. Since the oil-based stains are flammable when wet, you should be careful with any rags you use. Make sure these are thoroughly dry before you discard them.


Wood Stain Application

Follow this guide to applying an outdoor wood stain:

  • Using a brush apply the stain moving with the wood grain
  • Apply a fair amount of stain and wait for a few minutes. It will absorb more the longer you wait. Hardwoods need more than one coat, as it is less absorbent than softwoods
  • After a short time, wipe any excess stain up with a cloth. Again, wipe with the wood grain. The bigger the wood item, the more clean cloths you will need
  • Allow to dry for four to six hours and then apply the next coat. Follow the same process as the first coat
  • When you are done applying stain coats, allow to dry thoroughly. Drying times depend on the environment and the condition of the wood, it could take anything from a few hours in the case of water-based stains to 24 hours when it comes to oil-based stains
  • If you want, apply a sealant. Again, let dry for at least 24 hours before handling the wood item


Exterior Stain Tips

When applying your outdoor wood stain, there are a few tips you can take into consideration to ensure the best outcome. We have mentioned some of these before, which simply means that these instructions are important to follow.

  • When applying a stain, apply in the direction of the grain
  • If you are applying to larger surfaces on the ground, try using a pole sweeper. This has a longer handle and you will not have to kneel all the time, saving you from straining your back
  • Remember, after applying an oil-based stain, dry the cloths thoroughly. Oil-based stains are flammable, and the rags could catch fire if not thoroughly dried out

outdoor wood stain



Frequently Asked Questions


Should I Sand Wood Between Each Stain Coat?

Many sand in-between the stain coats, as it gives a more even and smoother finish. Use a 220-grit to 240-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the wood surface once the coat has thoroughly dried. Leave the final coat, do not sand this coat.


Can I Use a Coat of Oil on My Wood Stain?

Yes, to help maintain the wood stain, it is a good idea to apply a coat of oil at least once or even twice a year.


Is a Porch Stain or Paint the Best Option for my Porch?

A porch stain will penetrate the wood and offers excellent resistance to chipping, peeling, and cracking. Wood stains are durable and can hold up under bad weather conditions. You can also get a variety of colors from clear to solid that also helps protect from UV light.

On the other hand, painting the porch is popular because many believe it is cheaper and simpler to do. Many of the paints do offer UV protection and are easy to maintain. The paint will, however, cover up the original wood and can trap moisture once applied.


Will a Solid Stain Last the Longest?

All the different types of exterior stains will need to be reapplied eventually. However, a solid stain does last the longest before you have to reapply, up to four or even five years.


How Often Should I Reapply a Wood Stain?

The opaqueness determines when you should reapply wood stain. Generally, if you have used a high-quality product, you should only need to reapply after approximately three years.


Do I Need to Apply Only One Coat of Wood Stain?

You will only need to apply one liberal coat of wood stain to softwoods, as they absorb effectively. Hardwoods will need more than one coat to up the stain properly, as they do not absorb as effectively.


How Long Does a Wood Stain Take to Dry?

This will depend on the weather and temperatures, but water-based stains can take from two hours up to three hours to dry. To dry, oil-based stains need about 24 hours.


Should I Apply a Wood Stain and Sealant?

No, you do not need to apply a sealant if you have already applied a wood stain. However, a sealant will give your wood surface even more protection. The stain will provide a hue, while the sealant is clear and is simply there to give the wood surface extra protection from water, UV light, scratches, and mildew.


Adding an exterior wood stain can help to enhance the natural beauty of wood, as well as protect it from the elements. There are many wood stains available depending on the type of wood you are using and what kind of effect you wish to achieve. Follow our guide abovce to make sure you choose the best exterior wood stain for your project.


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