How To Choose an Exterior Wood Stain
Now that your log home build is complete, how can you preserve the fresh and natural look of the new wood exterior? While ongoing maintenance will eventually be of utmost important, the first step is to take care in selecting the right stain for your home. There are several factors that go into researching and selecting the proper stain.
The first thing to understand about exterior stains is that they come in two general formulations, water-based and oil-based. Each type has is own advantages and disadvantages.
Water-based stains, also known as latex or acrylic stains, are the easiest to work with. They don’t emit the noxious fumes associated with oil-based paints (though that may not be a concern for exterior jobs), dry quickly, and clean up with just soap and water. Water-based stains remain more flexible after drying than oil-based ones, and can thus better accommodate settling or changes in temperature. They are also more breathable, allowing moisture to escape if necessary, and nonflammable.
Oil-based stains, also called alkyd stains, are noted primarily for their durability. Though they emit noxious fumes and require toxic solvents to clean up, oil-based stains penetrate wood more thoroughly than water-based stains and provide a much harder surface.
These differences are summed up here:
|Easiest to work with and clean||✔|
|Better wood penetration||✔|
You may want to note that if you are covering over an old stain, you will probably have to use the same stain base as the previous coating.
When it comes to the opacity of your stain, there are several options. Opacity of a stain determines how much of the underlying wood grain shows through. A low opacity stain will show more of the wood grain, while a high opacity stain will cover the wood grain and show more of the stains own color.
Clear stains contain almost no coloring and allow the natural grain and color to show through clearly. They are the least durable stains, in some cases needing to be reapplied yearly. Under a clear stain, wood will continue to fade and discolor as it ages, meaning you may be forced to move on to a more opaque stain at some point.
Semi-transparent stains are still mostly translucent, letting the natural wood grain and texture show through, but also contain a small amount of color. Semi-transparent stains should last longer than clear stains, between three and seven years depending on conditions.
Semi-solid stains are a step up in opacity from semi-transparent ones. They still let a smaller amount of the natural wood grain show through, but have more color in them as well. They increase UV blockage and are more durable than semi-transparent or clear stains, usually lasting five to nine years.
Solid stains contain the most color and look more like actual paint. They are designed to completely block the wood grain underneath from showing. Solid stains have the most variety of colors available, and are also the most durable, often lasting over ten years. (Note that if you want to change colors the next time around, you will probably have to sand the surface completely.)
Here is a visual summary of the different types:
Lets the natural look of the wood show through completely
Adds a small amount of color while letting most of the natural wood show grain through
Adds more color while letting some of the natural wood show through.
Acts similar to a paint, adding color and mostly masking the wood grain beneath