How to Stain Rough-Sawn Siding

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Rough-sawn siding lends a natural appearance to a home and is best finished with stain instead of paint because stain holds up longer on rough-sawn wood. Solid or opaque stain looks like paint but allows the character and grain of the wood to show. Use semitransparent stain for a more rustic look. The best quality stain won't be durable unless you prepare the surface and apply the stain properly. Staining rough-sawn wood presents some challenges, but if you do it correctly you'll have a professional-looking job that will last for years.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Detergent
  • Scrub brush
  • Garden hose
  • Stain-blocking primer
  • Stain brush
  • Roller
  • Airless sprayer

Applying Solid Stain

  • Scrub the siding with a mixture of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water if there is any mildew present. Use a commercial siding detergent with "mildewcide" for older siding that's been exposed to grime and the weather. Rinse thoroughly and allow it to dry for at least two days.

  • Prime rough-sawn siding with a stain-blocking wood primer. In most cases water-based primer works fine; but a solvent-based primer will block stains more effectively on cedar or redwood, particularly if you will be applying a light-colored solid stain.

  • Apply primer with a roller or brush. If you use an airless sprayer, work the primer into the wood with a roller or brush after spraying while the primer is still wet so it penetrates and adheres well.

  • Apply two coats of solid stain, waiting at least 8 hours between coats.

Applying Semitransparent Stain

  • Apply semitransparent stain to a clean, dry surface. Oil-based semitransparent stain is less likely to fade and will typically outlast water-based stain.

  • Brush the stain into the siding with a 3- or 4-inch stain brush, working with the grain of the wood. When spraying, work the stain into the wood with a brush while still wet.

  • Avoid the temptation to apply a second coat of semi-transparent stain unless the product label indicates a two-coat system is necessary. With most semi-transparent stains, applying a very thick coat, or multiple coats, will cause flaking and peeling.

Tips & Warnings

  • Apply a clear water-repellent coating to the back side and ends of rough-sawn siding pieces before installation whenever possible.
  • In humid climates where mildew is a problem, use water-based stain. It is more resistant to mildew than oil-based products.

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