Oil-Based vs Water-Based Exterior Wood Stain

Wood stain being applied to bare wood.

If you are planning on painting your wood siding with an exterior wood stain, you're probably wondering whether to use a water-based or an oil-based product. There are important factors you should consider when making your decision. While paint only coats the surface, stains such as varnish penetrate below the surface. In deciding whether you should use a paint or a stain to cover a surface, you should take these differences into account.

Here are six tips that will help you make the best choice for the task at hand.

Tip 1 - Choose a High-Quality Stain

If you plan to stain a surface exposed to weather, it's important that you choose a high-quality product. The reason for this is that a stain of a higher quality will maintain its beauty longer, even when exposed to UV rays, rain, and extreme temperatures.

Tip 2 - Consider the Old Paint Coating

Look for old coats of stain or paint on the surface you plan to finish. Old stain finishes may be hard to detect and may resemble the natural color of the wood surface on which you'll be applying your new paint or stain. If you're going to stain a surface that has previously been painted or stained with an oil-based product, then a water-based product will better adhere to the surface to be covered.

Tip 3 - Consider the Type of Wood

If you're going to stain a surface that has a natural resistance to rotting, such as redwood, cypress, or cedar products, a water-based product will be the better choice.

Tip 4 - Factor in Exposure to Weather

Oil-based stains should be used if you are painting a surface on a deck, outdoor furniture, or shutters, and if these surfaces will be exposed to sunlight, wind, rain, and other outdoor elements. This variety is more durable and better suited to handle these conditions.

Tip 5 - Evaluate the Advantages of Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains penetrate the wood better. In addition, they are more durable. Because this type of stain takes longer to dry, the finished product tends to have a more even finish. You can also find a gel formula that has its own advantages. It will not cause the wood grain to raise. The gel formula also penetrates the wood better than the traditional one, which means you will not need to apply several coats to achieve the same color depth.

Tip 6 - Evaluate the Advantages of Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains are more mildew resistant than oil-based stains. In fact, some oil-based stains encourage mildew, so be careful if you're considering purchasing an oil-based stain. Look for a brand that states that it's mildew-resistant.

Other advantages to using water-based stains are that they don't produce as much odor or harmful fumes, are non-flammable, dry more quickly, retain color better, easier cleanup and they are more environmentally friendly because they don't emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

Figuring out whether to use a water-based or oil-based stain is the easy part. Now comes the hard part, the application.