To assure the highest quality results when applying exterior wood stain, follow these steps and helpful tips from Sherwin-Williams stain experts.

  • Use the right brush. Use a natural-bristle brush for oil stains and a synthetic-bristle brush for latex stains.
  • Mix the stain thoroughly before you begin and frequently while you're staining. This helps keep the color consistent throughout the project.
  • Before proceeding, apply the stain on a discreet area of wood to test the color. 

Helpful Stain Application Tips

To assure the highest quality results from your staining work, closely follow these guidelines:

  • Apply stain only at the proper temperature. For most stains, 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimum, with the safety range from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Stains do vary, so check the label first.
  • Avoid high humidity and staining on hot surfaces. All finishes, including stains and paint, have trouble drying in moist conditions. Therefore, after a rain storm, let the surface to be stained dry for two to three days. Start staining on a side of your house not in direct sunlight. Both precautions help ensure the best stain penetration and the most predictable drying patterns.
  • Apply stain by brushing or wiping it in the direction of the grain, using smooth, even strokes. Wipe off any excess.
  • Avoid unattractive lap marks by applying stain from an unstained area back into the last wet stain. In other words, don't let a section of stain dry before you blend it in with stain from an adjoining section.
  • Left to right, top to bottom. The best way to stain lapped siding is from left to right, and from top to bottom. That way you'll always be working above the top of the ladder.
  • Stain horizontal siding three to five boards at a time, staining those boards all the way across the house. Then, repeat the process until you finish the side. Never stop in the middle of a wall — that's how lap marks are formed. Instead, continue staining until you've reached a natural break, such as a window, corner or door.
  • Stain vertical siding from the top to the bottom, three to five boards at a time.
  • Let stain dry completely (usually 24 hours).
  • Apply a second coat if you want a darker look. Also, apply a second coat when staining badly weathered or unfinished wood.

And remember, if you ever have questions about an exterior stain project, the experts at your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams store will be glad to help.