How to Complete Exterior Stain Projects

Properly apply exterior stain for professional-looking results

2-4 hours
Exterior Stains

Once you've thoroughly cleaned and prepared your exterior wood surface, it is time to apply the stain. This guide will help you quickly apply exterior stain and maintain it for beautiful, long-lasting results.

Tip: While this guide will provide basic steps to follow when finishing a stain project, it is very important that you follow the specific directions printed on the stain label for best results.

Safety: Before staining, lay a tarp or drop cloth to catch any excess stain. Do not allow clean-up water, combined with stain, to escape via storm drain or sewer.

What You Need

1
Prepare the wood

• Prepare the wood as outlined in this guide
• Allow to dry completely.
• Lay a tarp or drop cloth under and around the entire area you're staining to catch spills and protect your surroundings.

2
mix the stain and test

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing their product prior to and during application.
• Apply a small amount of the stain in an inconspicuous area, or on a remnant of wood left over from your new project. 
• Allow to dry and make sure that you are satisfied with the final appearance before you continue with the entire project.

Tip: Put all product into one container and mix for uniformity. For example, if you intend to apply 3 gallons of stain, mix the 3 gallons together in a 5 gallon pail prior to application.

3
Apply the stain

• Check the weather forecast to make sure that the weather will be dry for several days. The manufacturer's label will specify the amount of time required for their product to dry properly. 
• Use a roller, brush, or hand-pump sprayer to apply stain evenly. Refer to this guide to determine which applicator will give you the best results for your project.
• Follow all manufacturer’s instructions regarding the removal of excess stain, or the application of a second coat.

Tip: Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from accidental sprays of stain.

4
Staining Tips

When applying stain, there are a few simple tips you can follow to make your project look better:

• Backbrush to minimize brush and roller marks. If stain is uneven or puddles, use a roller to even out.
• For darker stains, work from the top down, and always stain your railings before your floor boards no matter what color stain you're applying. This will eliminate drip marks.
• Use a brush, roller, paint pad or sprayer to apply one thin coat for clear, toner and semi-transparent stains. For solid stains, apply two thin coats with a brush, roller or paint pad.
• To avoid lap marks, apply to a few boards at a time, keeping a wet edge.
• Treat all areas of the wood, including joints, edges and ends.
• Allow to dry fully, as indicated on manufacturer's instructions, before allowing foot traffic or placing furniture on the stained surface.

5
Clean up

• Depending upon the type of stain you've used, the manufacturer will specify whether clean-up requires soap and water, mineral spirits, chemicals or otherwise. (Typically, soap and water is used for water-based paints and stains, whereas mineral spirits is used to clean up oil-based paints and stains.)
• Combine all remaining product into the smallest container that will hold it and seal tightly, minimizing exposure to air.
• With oil-based products, allow all oil-soaked rags and tools to air dry completely prior to disposal to avoid creating fire hazards.

Safety: Do not allow clean-up water, combined with stain, to escape via storm drain or sewer.

6
exterior stain maintenance

• Clean your wooden deck on a regular basis to remove all dirt, pollen, soot. Use a deck brightener/deck wash to wash the surface without damaging the stain.
• Keep your deck swept free of debris like leaves and other debris, including between boards.
• Check for mold and mildew every few months. Use a mold and mildew remover that twists onto the end of a garden hose for easy application.
• Ensure the boards are structurally sound by checking for popping nails, broken screws, and loose, broken or warped wood and repair or replace prior to winter.• Clean your wooden deck on a regular basis to remove all dirt, pollen, soot. Use a deck brightener/deck wash to wash the surface without damaging the stain.
• Keep your deck swept free of debris like leaves and other debris, including between boards.
• Check for mold and mildew every few months.
• Ensure the boards are structurally sound by checking for popping nails, broken screws, and loose, broken or warped wood and repair or replace prior to winter.