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How to Choose the Right Exterior Wood Stain

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A wooden deck treated with Benjamin Moore exterior deck stain

Our stains come in different product
types (deck and deck & siding), opacities (transparencies), and colors. These choices ensure that you have the best product selection from which to choose for your particular project. Here are some important points to simplify your product selection.

Product Types
All Benjamin Moore Exterior Wood Stain products are designed to work on specific types of projects. For example, a deck stain is specially formulated to handle the foot traffic that is experienced on a deck. It is important to use a stain that is applicable to your project.

Stain opacity levels range from clear finishes to solid, with the amount of pigment in a stain determining its opacity. The more pigment in the stain, the more opaque the coverage will be, and the longer term of protection it will provide for the wood from the elements.

Transparent, Semi Transparent, and Semi Solid stains are designed to protect without completely obscuring the natural color and texture of wood. As the opacity moves towards solid, less grain shows through the finish. In contrast, solid stains will completely mask the wood grain, while allowing the wood texture to show through.

All Benjamin Moore Exterior Stain products may be applied to properly prepared wood. Solid stain can be used on new or previously painted wood. While the solid nature of previous coats of paint negates the benefits of clear-through Semi Solid stain, solid stain can be used since the objective is to mask the grain of the wood.

Benjamin Moore recommends that tannin-rich wood, such as cedar and redwood, be primed first to control tannin leaching, then finished with a solid stain.

Solid color stains can also be used on substrates, such as aluminum, concrete, or hardboard, which have been properly primed. Speak to your Benjamin Moore retailer for professional advice.

Benjamin Moore helps you through the process of choosing stain with an Opacity Key, which helps show how opaque or transparent a stain is in relation to other types of stain. The Opacity Key can be found on all Benjamin Moore Exterior Stain packaging.

Once you have determined the type of project (deck or siding) and opacity (Clear, Transparent, Semi Transparent, Semi Solid, or Solid), selecting a color is your next step. The more opaque the stain, the more color choices you have available.

Begin your color selection by looking at existing colors around your home. Consider the color of your roof, siding, trim, driveway, and any stone fencing or foundation you may have, along with large plantings such as trees that surround your home. Select colors that enhance these existing features or hues that tie together elements for a coordinated look.

Always test your color selections on your home's actual exterior so you can accurately gauge how the color will look when applied. Remember that the natural color or grain pattern of the wood itself can greatly influence the final color.

Learn about all of our exterior wood and deck stains and finishes, and find the one that's right for you. 


Watch videos on choosing the right wood stain, preparing your deck for staining, staining your deck, and maintaining your deck. 

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