Expert Tips for the Best Exterior Wood Staining

Expert Tips for the Best Exterior Wood Staining

As a summer weather approaches, you’re likely excited about spending lots of time outside. It’s time to start thinking about how to get your outdoor space ready!

One of the most important parts of keeping up your outdoor space is making sure everything is properly stained. Whether you’re staining your deck, dock,  fence, or other exterior surface, I’m sharing my tips today to help you get the longest-lasting stain.

red chairs at the water

Selecting Your Stain

Before you pick up a paint brush, you need to make an important decision: select a stain.

When choosing your stain, look for a good-quality exterior stain. I always recommend the BeautiTone WoodShield stain line. The BeautiTone line is Canadian-made and specially created with Canadian weather in mind. You can shop the line exclusively at Home Hardware stores. 

Depending on your desired finished look, there are two different kinds of stain finishes to choose from:

Semi-Transparent Stain: This is a great option if you want to showcase the natural beauty of the wood while still providing protection.

Solid Stain: Solid stain looks similar to paint, except it highlights the texture of the wood. Ideally, choose a solid stain when staining new surfaces or adding an opaque finish to a previously stained wood.

Not sure which colour will look best for your surface? Check out this guide to the BeautiTone collection of stains.

BeautiTone Wood Shield Exterior Wood Stain
Images From Home Hardware​​

Preparing Exterior Wood for Staining

Before you start staining, it’s important to keep these steps in mind:

1. Clean

2. Sand

3. Check the weather forecast

First, let’s talk about how to prepare your wood for staining. Cleaning and sanding are key to ensuring the longevity of your stain. 


The first step of preparing your wood is cleaning the surface of the wood. It’s important to clean any mold, mildew, or other dirt off the surface to allow the stain to absorb fully.

When cleaning, you’ll need a deck brush and cleaner. Make sure you choose a cleaner specifically designed for the type of wood you will be staining, and use a stiff bristle deck brush. Using soap and water or other cleaners not designed for wood won’t provide a clean enough surface for the stain to absorb into the wood or may damage the wood altogether.

Exterior Wood Cleaning Brush

Moisture: check your wood for moisture before applying stain. The surface needs to be dry! Even if it seems dry to the touch consider whether there's been a heavy rainfall in the last few days. If so your deck may need more time to dry out, especially if it's a deck that's low to the ground. 

Check for dead wood: look for any greying or dead wood fibres (also known as "mill glaze") sitting on top. It’s important to remove any dead wood fibres to help the stain penetrate. Try a deck cleaner like Activox to remove grey wood fibres.

Remove existing stain: if your current stain is peeling, strip the coating before applying a fresh layer. Peeling stain makes it difficult for the new stain to absorb fully into the wood. Use an exterior stain stripper like Natura to remove any old stain.

Check for finishes: if you’re staining a surface made of new wood, it’s important to make sure there’s no finish on it. Sometimes, new wood has glazes or sheens applied which can prevent the new stain from penetrating. Remove the finish with 80-100 grit sandpaper before staining.


Before you start staining any wood, it’s important to sand your surfaces. I recommend using 80-100 grit sandpaper with an electric sander to smooth the wood and encourage deeper absorption with your chosen stain. 

When sanding, don’t forget to sand in the direction of the wood grain. Clean up any dust with a broom or vacuum before starting to stain. 

Check the Weather Forecast

Another important part of preparing to stain that many forget about is the weather. Before you’re ready to start staining, I recommend looking at the weather forecast. Heat, cold, and humidity can make it difficult to get a beautiful, even stain. 

Hot weather and humidity can dry out the stain too quickly. This can easily lead to uneven staining or streaks. Remember, heat isn’t your only concern when staining exterior surfaces. If the weather is cold or wet, the drying time for your stain will increase dramatically. 

When choosing a date to stain, I recommend picking a date with temperatures between 10 and 27°C. Don’t forget to look ahead in the forecast to choose a day when no rain is expected for 24 hours.

If you’re staining your deck, it’s important to consider where your deck is first. I recommend staining in the early morning to allow time for your deck to dry. Given this, plan to follow the sun or work in the shade during your project to prevent your stains from drying unevenly.

Here’s a quick checklist to look at in the forecast before starting to stain:

1. No rain expected for at least 24 hours

2. A light breeze in the air

3. Temperature between 10-27°C

Sunny Day On Deck

What Tools Should I Use For Staining?

Having the proper tools to stain is just as important as preparing your surfaces. 

To apply your stain, you should have the following:

1. Natural bristle brush – 4” block

2. 80-100 grit sandpaper

3. Good quality stain

4. Knee pads or a brush that accepts a broom-style handle, to make the task easier on your back. 

What’s the Best Way to Stain Exterior Surfaces?

By far, it’s best to use a natural bristle brush for your staining project. Using a brush instead of a paint pad will work your stain into the wood evenly and easily. 

If you’re not a contractor or professional, I don’t recommend using a roller or sprayer to apply your stain. It may seem more efficient, but these are tools for professionals who are able to work quickly. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to staining your boards once you’ve primed and prepared:

1. Start by heavily coating the end of each board. 

2. Next, start at the far end of your deck and stain outwards while brushing it out.

3. Stain 1-2 boards at a time, completing the entire board while maintaining a “wet edge”. This means applying paint in short distances and brushing back into the wet area. This will prevent any streaks in the stain. If possible, stain all 6 sides of each board.

4. When all boards have been completed, finish with a heavy coat on the end of the boards on the opposite side of where you started your project. You’ll end at the spot you began the project.

Note that overapplying your stain will lead to cracking or peeling. For oil-based stains to work, they must be able to penetrate the surface and dry properly. If you follow these steps above, you won’t have to worry about overapplication.

Protecting Your Deck Stain

Once you’ve stained your deck, it’s important to let it dry for at least 4 hours, otherwise you risk future issues. And if you're doing a second coat, make sure the first coat has fully absorbed and dried before applying the next one. 

Now that your outdoor space is ready, enjoy spending time out on your deck this summer! 



Sunny Day On Deck
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