When is Exterior Paint not the best solution

Solid body stain on NE Portland rake shake shingle

We are frequently asked why we would recommend a stain instead of paint?

Scraped rake shake shingle home
“Its all in the prep” on this NE Portland home

Lets start by talking about the differences between stain and paint. The biggest difference is that stain will penetrate a surface, where as paint will build on top of the surface. There are many different types of stains that are intended for wood and concrete. To keep it simple we will just go over the two most popular types of stain.


Semi-transparent or semi-opaque stains are typically used on decks and fencing. These stains will allow the grain of the wood to be seen through the stain.


Solid body stain is what Painting Oregon uses on a majority of wood sided homes. Solid body stain will soak into the wood grain but will not build layers. So for example on a rough-cut cedar sided home the grain and textures of the wood will still be seen after using a solid body stain. Solid stain can be colored to nearly any color in the rainbow and is only available in a flat sheen. Solid body stain can penetrate concrete, previously painted wood surfaces, or new wood siding. You will have a hard time seeing any difference in appearance from a home that has been stained or painted using a flat sheen. Take a look at some of our past projects using paints and stain colors.


So now back to the question at hand.

Why do we recommend a stain instead of paint on the siding of your home?


If your reading this you more than likely have one of the following scenarios on your home:

  1. 1.  Your home was built in 1980 to the present has cedar lap siding that was previously stained using a solid body stain and has faded over the years.
  2. 2.  Your home was probably built in early 1900’s to 1975, has wood siding and has been previously primed with an oil based and lead based primer.  It has been painted with a lead based, oil based, or water based top coat.  More than likely a combination of all types.


Now based on the above scenarios we will dissect our reasoning about our recommendation.


Scenario 1: You are in great shape. Solid body stain offers the least amount of prep the next time you want to change the paint colors (stain colors) of your home. Because you have used a solid body stain previously all that is required is a thorough power wash, using our earth friendly biodegradable soap. Spot priming of any wood knots, caulking around your window and door trims, and we are ready to start painting…or staining. We will spray and back roll our first coat of solid stain and allow it to cure for 24 hours. This assures that any tannin stains coming through your wood siding are blocked. Then we will be back to spray our second coat. That’s it. We will return in 8-10 years (average life of a paint job in Portland) to wash again, check caulking and knot holes, and apply another two coats of stain.


Scenario 2: You more than likely have six to 10 coats of oil, lead or latex paint and oil or lead based primer on your wood siding, and areas of peeling paint or bare wood. Because the coating we apply is only as strong as the bottom layer of primer or paint. Less or lighter weight coatings are actually a better solution for this situation. The phrase “the best product, is not always the best solution” fits this scenario perfectly. Lets paint…or stain a picture. Think about those first coats of paint and primer that were applied by painters 50+ years ago to your siding. Those first coats are beginning to fail or peel from the wood siding on your home. Then, you hire a painter to come and scrape and sand the areas that are peeling. They spot prime the bare wood areas, and then paint two coats of paint from Behr, Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin-Moore, or Miller paint. This process is repeated around four to five times. Some painters prepped properly, some may have not, and regardless your home continues to get those two coats of paint. Now, fast forward to today. Your home is peeling again, your siding laps are sealed, and your dreading another paint job.

Solid body stain on NE Portland rake shake shingle
Sherwin-Williams Woodscapes solid body stain on this rake shake home.

Do you really want to continue to do the same process as has been done for the past 50+ years? Continuing down this path creates extreme paint build up, that can seal the laps on your horizontal siding causing more bubbles and paint peeling. This is one of the main reason we recommend using solid stain versus latex paints. The other reason is that acrylic latex paint actually creates a tight stretchable shell around your siding. The new coatings on the market today form tight cross-linking that will actually “pull” on your existing coatings. This pulling will create failures much sooner that it should.

When we use a solid body stain like Benjamin-Moore Arbor Coat or Sherwin Williams Woodscapes we simply are coloring your existing coatings, not building more layers on top of the previous layers. Because stain is the most breathable coating available, your wood siding is able to breathe through our stain coat. No doubt your existing coats layers of paint will fail in the future, but with stain we are not “shelling” your existing coats. So instead of prepping the paint we applied this year, we only are prepping the old layers that have decided to stop adhering to your wood siding.


Just some of the benefits of a Solid Body Stain on the exterior of your home:

  • Breathable
  • Flat sheen hides imperfections better
  • Soaks into surface, doesn’t build
  • Blocks stains
  • Can be tinted any color in the rainbow
  • Fades instead of peels
  • Less prep on repaint
  • Easy touch-ups



When we provide you an estimate for your exterior painting project we are recommending a paint system that we have used and trusted for many years. We understand that the idea of “stain” on your home instead of paint might seem different. Trust that we only recommend the best solution for your project. We are professional painting contractors and do this for a living. Call us today for a no hassle free estimate to discuss your exterior staining project.