What Stains to Use When Staining Exterior Wood Siding

What Stains to Use When Staining Exterior Wood Siding

Maintaining the exterior wood siding of your home is not merely an aesthetic concern; it’s an essential part of preserving your property’s structural integrity and longevity. Your wood siding is constantly exposed to harsh elements – rain, sun, wind, and more – which can lead to wear, decay, and fading. Therefore, using the right stains is important to counteract these effects and enhance the lifespan of your wood siding.

Now, you might be wondering why use stains? Stains play a crucial role in preserving and enhancing wood siding. They function as a protective barrier, preventing moisture penetration, UV damage, and wood decay. Moreover, stains enrich the natural beauty of the wood, enhancing its grains and tones. 

In this guide, we’ll talk about several types of exterior wood stains, factors to consider when choosing the right stain, and emphasize the importance of selecting the appropriate stain for maintaining your exterior wood siding.

Different Types of Exterior Wood Stains

Different Types of Exterior Wood Stains

Each type of wood has its unique characteristics, and understanding how various stains interact with these traits will help you achieve the desired look and protection. 

Here are the most common wood types and how stains work with them:


Cedar is renowned for its natural resistance to decay and insects, making it a common choice for exterior applications. Stains for cedar typically enhance its natural beauty, bringing out the wood’s vibrant hues and grain patterns. 

Ideal stains: Semi-transparent or transparent stains work well with cedar to preserve its characteristic appeal while offering protection.


Ash is known for its strength and resilience which makes it an excellent choice for exterior wood siding. 

Ideal Stains: They can be semi-transparent or solid, depending on whether you want to highlight the wood’s grain or achieve a more uniform finish.


Pine is a cost-effective and versatile wood option for siding. Due to its softer nature and tendency to absorb stains unevenly, it’s crucial to prep pine adequately before staining. 

Ideal Stains: Semi-transparent or solid stains are often recommended to achieve the desired finish.



Birch has a fine and even grain, making it ideal for achieving a polished look when stained. 

Ideal Stains: Semi-transparent and solid stains work well with birch, depending on whether you want to preserve some of the natural grain or achieve a uniform finish.


Redwood is renowned for its rich reddish-brown tones and natural resistance to decay. Redwood is an excellent option for nearly any climate, thanks to its resilience against various weather conditions.


Ideal Stains: Transparent or semi-transparent stains are often used to allow redwood’s natural hues and grain to shine through while protecting it against the elements.


Though less common today, chestnut wood offers a vintage and unique appeal. It is durable and rot-resistant.

Ideal Stains: Stains for chestnut wood can be semi-transparent or solid, depending on whether you want to enhance its natural look or achieve a complete color transformation.


Although classified as a softwood, cypress has a hardness level that surpasses typical softwoods. Its strength, versatility, and resistance to rot and insects make it stand out. 

Ideal Stains: Stains for cypress are typically transparent or semi-transparent, allowing the wood’s character to show through while providing protection and a touch of color.

Other types of woods: 


Engineered Wood

Engineered wood products, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), plywood or particle board, can be stained to appear like natural wood. 

Ideal Stains: They should be chosen based on the type of wood particles used and the desired aesthetic, ranging from translucent to solid.


Oak is a dense and durable hardwood, often used in exterior applications

Ideal Stains: They can vary from semi-transparent to solid, depending on whether you want to display the grain or achieve a consistent color across the siding.


Exotic Hardwood

Exotic hardwoods, like mahogany or ipe, are known for their exceptional durability and unique grain patterns. 

Ideal Stains: Stains for exotic hardwoods are usually chosen to highlight their natural beauty while providing adequate protection. Therefore, semi-transparent, or transparent stains are chosen for exotic hardwoods.

Common Types of Wood Stains

Common Types of Wood Stains

Apart from considering transparency or opacity, it’s essential to understand the distinct types of wood stains based on their composition and properties.


Shellac is a natural, resin-based stain made from lac bug secretions. It provides a glossy finish and is often used as a sealer or primer before applying other finishes.


Wax stains are made from a blend of wax and a solvent carrier. They offer a soft sheen and a smooth finish that enhance the wood’s appearance while providing a protective layer.


Varnish is a popular wood stain that contains a mixture of resin, oil, and solvent. It offers a durable, glossy finish, which protects the wood from water, heat, and chemicals.


Polyurethane stains provide a clear, protective coating to the wood. They are durable and resistant to wear, making them a preferred choice for high-traffic areas. Polyurethane stains can be oil- or water-based.

Things to Consider When Choosing Stains for Wood Siding

1. Wood Type and Porosity

Understanding the type of wood used for your siding and its porosity is important. Diverse types of wood absorb stains differently due to variations in their porosity. For example, hardwoods like oak have a lower porosity compared to softwoods like pine. 

Therefore, you should select a stain that complements the wood’s natural characteristics, enhancing its grain and color without overwhelming it.

2. Climate and Environmental Conditions

Consider the climate and environmental conditions in your city. Weather elements like sunlight, rain, snow, and humidity can significantly affect the wood and the stain’s longevity. In regions with intense sunlight, UV protection in the stain is vital to prevent fading.

In wet or humid climates, opt for a stain that provides excellent water resistance and mold/mildew protection to prevent rot and decay.

3. Desired Aesthetic Finish

Decide the aesthetic you want to achieve for your wood siding. Determine if you prefer a natural, rustic look or a more polished, modern appearance. Transparent stains are ideal for a subtle enhancement of the wood’s natural beauty, semi-transparent stains provide a touch of color while allowing the grain to show, and solid stains offer a uniform, opaque finish. 

4. Consider Wood Preparation

You want to ensure the wood is properly prepared before applying the stain. Ensure the surface is clean, dry, and free of any previous finishes, dirt, or debris. Wood conditioning or pre-stain treatments can be applied to even out the wood’s absorption of the stain, especially for softer woods. 

Proper preparation ensures the stain penetrates the wood evenly, resulting in a consistent finish.

5. Test the Stain

Always test the stain on a small area of the wood siding before applying it to the entire surface. This allows you to see how the stain interacts with the wood and how it looks once dry. It’s essential to test for the right shade, compatibility, and coverage, ensuring it meets your expectations before proceeding with the entire application.



Selecting the right stain is crucial when it comes to staining your exterior wood siding. It’s not just about adding color; it’s a vital shield against the elements, preserving the wood’s beauty and ensuring durability over time. A well-chosen stain enhances aesthetics, protects against moisture and decay, and celebrates the uniqueness of each wood piece. 

So, make an informed decision, invest in the right stain, and enjoy the enduring beauty and durability of your wood siding. Your home will thank you for it. If you need help in staining the wood sidings of your home, or if you are searching for a company that can help you complete painting tasks, do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.