Do You Seal or Stain Exterior Wood First?
If you are working with external wood, you should first apply stain to it, followed by a sealant. This will help ensure a combination of good appearance as well as weather protection. However, it is also possible to avoid staining completely and directly apply the sealant to the exterior wood.
Since exterior wood is exposed to changing weather conditions, it requires a good amount of protection, especially since it tends to expand and contract with changing temperatures. It also absorbs water at a quick rate, making it lose some of its quality.
Sealing and staining are suitable solutions to this while also making the exterior wooden surface look good. To learn about which one you should apply first and whether or not you need to apply both, you should continue reading.
What Is Wood Sealing?
Wood sealing refers to the process of applying a coating on top of the wood. The sealant used for this purpose is usually a transparent or clear solution that helps prevent the pores in the wood from absorbing too much moisture.
Additionally, it keeps the wood safe from too much warping that might otherwise occur as a result of the weather. Since it is a clear substance, it does not change the color of the wood but enhances it a bit. This helps maintain the natural grain while also providing a more polished look.
Wood sealants are either made from oil, water or latex, so make sure you choose one that meets the needs of your exterior wood surface. Water or latex are good options due to their water resistance levels and minimal amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), although oil usually lasts longer.
Sealants made from polyurethane are pretty common, although materials like polyacrylic and lacquer can also work well.
What Is Wood Staining?
Wood staining is the process of applying a colorant to your wooden surface. Wood stain resembles paint more closely, although the structure, material, and appearance are still slightly different. The primary purpose of staining exterior wood is to improve its appearance.
It also helps preserve the condition of the wood grain, allowing it to function better under a variety of conditions. Numerous kinds of wood stains exist in the market, depending on the color and look that you wish to achieve.
For instance, some stains are clearer and more closely resemble the natural wooden color. Others are darker and help polish and darken the color of the wood, with some also being of specific colors that alter the appearance considerably.
Stains are made either from liquids or gels, with either of the two having a base of water, oil, polyurethane or alcohol. The colorant is mixed into this base to form the pigment that you can then apply to the wood.
Make sure you clean the wood properly before applying the stain.
Do You Seal or Stain Exterior Wood First?
If you want to stain and seal your wood, the first thing you should do is apply the stain. This will allow the color to absorb correctly so that the appearance improves. Allow the stain to dry thoroughly before you apply the sealant for added protection.
In all cases, the stain comes before the sealant. However, if you simply wish to preserve the natural grain and appearance of the wood, you can forgo the stain entirely and only apply the seal.
What you end up doing depends on your requirements, where you live as well as the structure that the exterior wood supports. Learn about this in further detail through the following sections.
Type of Project
Wood is often used for a variety of purposes when it comes to external projects and structures. For instance, you might use it to build any of the following:
|Factor||Sealant Only||Stain Only||Stain and Sealant||No Stain, No Sealant|
|Deck||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay||Protects from UV rays and adds color but provides less protection against moisture and mildew than sealants||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||N/A|
|Patio||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay||Protects from UV rays and adds color, but provides less protection against moisture and mildew than sealants||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||N/A|
|Door||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||N/A|
|Shed||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay||N/A||Sealant first, followed by stain if desired||Protects from moisture, UV rays, and mildew|
|Chair||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||Enhances appearance and provides additional protection against moisture, UV rays, and mildew||N/A|
|Pet House||Protects from moisture, UV rays, mildew, rot, and decay, but avoid applying stain as it may be harmful to pets||N/A||Sealant first, followed by stain if desired for aesthetic purposes||Protects from moisture, UV rays, and mildew|
Whether you apply the stain or not can depend on the type of project.
Usually, for a deck or patio, a sealant is absolutely essential due to the changes in weather and heavy foot traffic. Using a durable sealant will help keep the wood safe. Whether or not you stain the wood before this depends on you.
Applying a suitable stain to enhance their appearance is also necessary for doors and furniture, but make sure you top it up with a sealant too. In other cases, a stain might not be necessary at all, such as a shed or structure for your pets.
It is obvious that all exterior wood is situated outdoors, but even then, there are some areas that might be more vulnerable to the harsh rays of the sun or even the rain. In such a case, a sealant is a must so that the structure does not undergo excessive levels of damage.
As for a wood stain, applying a layer or two might be important if the structure is located in a central place, such as in the middle of your backyard.
Similarly, if it is situated closer to the rest of your house, it might become necessary to stain the wood to ensure that it looks good and goes well with the colors and design of your house.
On the other hand, if the structure is further away from the house and hidden by trees and bushes, you need not bother applying a stain before the sealant.
What function does the exterior wood serve? Are a lot of people likely to sit or walk around on it? Do you use it to store scrap materials and work on your projects? Is it a decorative piece?
Ask yourself these questions so that you can understand the order of applying the stain and the seal. For those structures that serve a more functional purpose, you can go ahead and directly apply the sealant to the wood.
Moreover, in some cases, it is also possible that the stain actively harms the structure and its usage. For instance, if you want to build a doghouse, staining might prove to be harmful to the dog, but a sealant will help keep your dog safe from the hot, cold or damp weather.
On the other hand, decorative pieces like carved wood, wall hangings or even antique furniture will require stain to enhance the beauty of the work.
Where you live tends to make a huge difference when it comes to how the wood behaves outdoors. If your region sees moderate temperatures throughout the year, it might be possible for you to apply only the stain and forego the sealant.
While this is not exactly the best idea, it will still be okay for a while if you are unable to find the right kind of sealant. After a point, however, it might become necessary for you to apply the sealant on top of the stain.
Sealants are crucial to apply in regions with extreme weather conditions like extreme heat or cold or strong downpours. You can either do this on top of the stain or without any coat of stain. This will keep the water out of the wood while also preventing considerable warping and mold growth.
The size of your wooden structure can also have an impact on what you apply to it and when. Bigger structures are pretty tricky to handle, in which case the best course of action might be to stick to the sealant without spending additional time and effort on applying the stain (unless required).
For bigger structures that are also highly visible and serve an aesthetic function, stains must be applied, so make sure you prepare the wood accordingly.
Make it a point to cover the surface uniformly while using a bit of sandpaper on the first dry layer before moving on to the next coat.
For smaller structures and those that do not require immediate use, starting out with the stain and then moving on to the sealant might be worthwhile.
Seal or Stain Exterior Wood FAQ.
Can You Stain and Seal on the Same Day?
Staining and sealing on the same day is possible, provided your stain is dry enough to accept the sealant. If not, make sure you wait for at least 24 hours for the stain to dry.
What Happens If You Seal Exterior Wood Before the Stain Dries?
If you seal the exterior wood before the stain dries appropriately, the sealant will not stick properly to the stain and wood. This will result in a blotchy appearance and result in clumps forming on some parts of the wood. It will also not work effectively in terms of weather protection.
How Many Coats of Stain Should You Apply on Exterior Wood?
A couple of coats of stain are ideal for exterior wood. However, in some situations, it is possible that the wood might not be able to absorb too much stain, so make sure you determine this in advance so as to avoid overdoing it.
Exterior wood can end up going through a lot of wear and tear over the months and years, which is why sealing and staining are ideal and simple ways to slow down this process.
While staining is usually meant to enhance the appearance of the wood, sealing serves a more functional purpose since it keeps the wood protected from damage due to heat, moisture, and frequent usage.
Applying the stain correctly will minimize or prevent ruining your expensive wood project. Hence, if you wish to apply both, start off with the stain and then apply the sealant once the stain dries.