We see a variety of wood structures in Florida. Fences, decks, play yard features like swings and climbers, garden retention walls and houses with wooden siding. There are a variety of products on the market to help protect and provide color for these surfaces. Traditional house paints might be a solution for some items. For those seeking a more classical look, wood stains and sealers could be the answer. ProTect set out to them more about these stain products. This update includes a summary of our findings.
What Type of Wood?
Deciding on a finish for your wood is going to depend on what type of wood you are protecting and where you are in the life cycle of the surface. Many outdoor wood products are treated with preservatives. Older structures may have been treated with arsenic or even creosote. Raw or untreated wood like pine or cedar is frequently subject to sap bleed. These chemicals and natural components will affect coatings applied. There are also different products for horizontal versus vertical surfaces. Walked on surfaces typically require a harder finish to accommodate traffic.
Most of the data for found showed the longest-lasting products were often the most expensive up front but longer life should save you money over time. And buying strictly by brand can be a challenge. In some cases, different products from the same manufacturer often performed differently. More importantly, don’t assume products you used before are the same today. Manufacturers are constantly reformulating products seeking better performance and ways to keep up with changing government safety standards. The continued quest to reduce VOCs and solids tend to shorten the effective life of these coating systems.
Types of Stains
Top coats for wood basically come in three types: opaque, semi-transparent and clear. Some are acrylic (water based) and some are alkyd (oil based). Don’t assume that alkyd based products are better. With all the changes in regulations, water based products are getting more of the technology investments and may be your best choice.
Opaque or solid color stains tend to hold up the longest. They look more like paint than a stain, but do have wood penetrating qualities not found in top coated house paints. They do build up on the surface. They are subject to cracking and peeling like paint. And, they may be a challenge when applied over arsenic-laden or CCA lumber. Industry estimate show opaque products tend to last 3-7 years.
Semi-Transparent wood treatments are not as weather-resistant but they let a portion of the wood’s grain show through. They are a good choice for cedar, redwood, and other costly woods when you want to show off the wood’s appeal. Expect to get about 3-4 years from semi-transparent products.
Clear wood treatments are not tinted but the vast majority will have a yellow or bronze look when applied. They’re ideal for showing off the natural grain of the wood. These products typically contain ultraviolet inhibitors and wood preservatives. On average, these products should be reapplied every 1-2 years.
Preparation is the key to any successful painting or staining project. Understanding your starting point is critical. Knowing what has been done before to the wood is very important. Shifting from an opaque to semi-transparent or clear will likely require stripping the old coating. You may also need to restore the color of weathered wood. Specialty strippers, cleaning solution and wood brighteners compatible with your planned finish are available from your paint store.
Make sure all mildew, mold and other contaminants are removed and the surface is clean. To avoid adhesion issues test areas for absorption ion when using clear or semi-transparent products. If the absorption rate is not even, your wood will not look uniform. You may have to clean and or pre-treat the wood again prior to application. You may need to repeat the stripping and cleaning process several times.
Address and or replace any rotten wood. And note, new wood will not absorb sealers and semi-transparent satins at the same rate as the old wood. It’s going to look different. You may even see some variation in looks on new wood with solid stains. It’s one of the drawbacks of having to replace wood. (Hint: if you keep the wood sealed and protected, you will have less chance of having to experience this problem.)
Products & Providers
I am not a chemist and it would be somewhat foolish to attempt to review individual products. But, there are some pretty smart folks out there that make this stuff. Here’s a list of web sites (in alpha order) for some of the top companies which provide wood stains and sealers. These sites are choked full of ideas, product information, correct application methods, helpful tips and even a few project ideas:
Benjamin Moore - http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-your-home/exterior-stains
Olympic – http://www.olympic.com/stains
Thompson’s – http://www.thompsonswaterseal.com/
Expect to pay $20-70 a gallon for these products. Depending on the porosity of the wood, you will likely get 50-200 sq ft per gallon coverage. Opaque over opaque applications may get a bit more or 250-350 sq ft per gallon. You also have to factor in the cost of cleaning, stripping, brightening and repairing the surfaces. It will cost a lot more than your think upfront to do this correctly. Hiring a professional to complete the work is also an option. Expect them to need several visits to complete a typical deck, fence or siding project. And, depending on what needs to be done, plan enough time into your project to allow for drying time between steps and for multiple coats of product.
Most staining projects take more time than traditional house painting. Just be prepared and understand the steps required to make your project a success.
Certainly not an inclusive overview of this subject. But, we hope it helps a few understand the basics when it comes to staining wood around your home or business. Wood features like decks, fences, playground equipment and siding can add value and beauty if maintained well. When it comes to protecting your home or business, no one does it better than ProTect Painters. We encourage you to visit the sites listed above for more information. And, of course, please visit ProTect Painters at http://www.protectpainters.com/ and let us know how we can help you.