Covering up a bad exterior stain job isn’t as simple as repainting, so it’s important to go into these jobs knowing the characteristics of the wood, how to perform proper prep and the right combination of products to get the customer’s desired look. To properly arm you for your next exterior stain project, APC heard from painting contractors and stain manufacturers about some of the common pitfalls of staining that could be easily prevented.
1. The “stain doesn’t peel” myth
“Each season, I have clients tell me that they’d rather use a solid stain for some application because their contractor told them ‘stain doesn’t peel’, and then I have to explain that a solid stain is very different from an old-fashioned wiping stain,” says Erick Gatcomb, owner of Gatcomb Painting & Design in Hancock, Maine.
“It’s my job as a painting contractor to educate my clients, but it can be a challenge when it’s common knowledge that ‘stain doesn’t peel,’” Gatcomb continues. “Solid stain is full-bodied and is a bit misleading. Clients are often disappointed to hear, ‘Yes, this will eventually crack and peel,’ even if it’s not to the that extent acrylic paint might do so.”
Gatcomb encourages other professional painting contractors to educate homeowners on the properties of the products to be used.
“It angers me when I see someone … selling the homeowner on a budget solid stain when paint would be preferable, and allowing said homeowner to believe that it will never fade, never need touch-ups, never peel, and will last forever,” he says. “I’ve been called to jobs like this where a dark stain was applied over latex paint in a full-sun area of the house and I have to be the one to explain that they’ve been misled. (And again, it makes them question me when they tell all their friends what I said and their friends say, “Nonsense. Stain doesn’t peel!”)
2. Adhesion problems on fresh cedar siding
“It seems that almost every year I get a complaint about stain peeling off of fresh cedar siding,” says Joe Cassidy, Technical Service and New Product Support Manager, ICP Construction. “The reason for this is a matter of adhesion.”
Cassidy explains that when cedar is cut in lumber mills, it tends to warm up from the saw blades and produce a shiny “mill glaze”. This prevents stains from penetrating and adhering properly.
“Prior to staining cedar, it is recommended to sand the surface down to open the pores of the wood to allow proper penetration and adhesion,” Cassidy says.
3. Staining too soon after pressure washing
Another trap that can compromise any paint job is coating too soon after a pressure wash.
“I spoke with a consumer recently who had fresh red cedar installed on her home, and had it stained with our Semi-Transparent Oil,” Cassidy recalls. “At first the house looked great. Unfortunately, after about 6-8 months the consumer started to notice black spots all over the home. What she was seeing was mold. The home had not properly dried out after the pressure washing, which trapped in moisture and eventually led to the growth of mold behind the coating. As you can imagine, this is going to be a costly fix for our consumer.”
4. Not making sure the wood is ready to finish
Rick Watson, director of product and technical information, Sherwin-Williams, recommends that painters avoid applying stain on hot surfaces or when dealing with high humidity.
“All finishes, including stains and paint, have trouble drying in moist conditions,” Watson says. “After a rain storm, let the surface to be stained dry for two to three days. Start staining on a side of the house not in direct sunlight. Both precautions help ensure the best stain penetration and the most predictable drying patterns.”
To make sure the wood is ready to finish, Watson advises testing the absorbency of the wood by sprinkling water on the surface. “If the water penetrates into the wood quickly, the wood is ready to finish. If the water beads up or does not penetrate, allow the wood to weather and test for absorbency again,” he says.
For more stain application tips, read the May 2018 APC Magazine.