Skip to content
Sponsored Content

Ask Rhonda: How do I use exterior stain properly?

An expert’s tips on how to successfully apply exterior stain
Rhonda Ackland - Paint

Staining is one of those jobs you can’t just jump into: a little preparation is required. Follow a few preliminary steps and the rest of the work will be much easier.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of staining your deck or fence, you want to ensure a long-lasting finish.

How exactly do you do that? To find out, we spoke with Rhonda from Heritage Home Hardware in Sault Ste. Marie.

Turns out the two simple secrets to successful exterior staining are:

1) careful prep work ahead of time and

2) using a high-quality stain.

Do these two things and you’ll be guaranteed a beautiful finish that lasts long.

Pro tip: if you choose to skip the prep, chances are you’ll find yourself needing to redo this same project again next year, which no one wants to happen.

Prep work

Believe it or not, 90% of all stain failure is due to a simple lack of prep work.

What many don’t realize is that new wood can have a sheen on it called mill glaze. This can prevent the stain that you apply from penetrating. To remove this glaze, sand the area you wish to stain with 80 grit sandpaper; the other option is that you can use Wood-Shield Wood Restorer (1874-207).

It’s also important to check the moisture content in the wood you are about to stain. The moisture level should be under 15-25%, depending on the product used. To check, use a moisture metre (1010-586); most Home Hardware stores will loan them out.

Take a look at the current condition of your deck. If the existing stain has more than 25% peeling, Rhonda recommends that you remove the coating first and start fresh. To do this, she recommends Natura Safe Strip (1874-402).

You always want to clean the wood well first, as mildew may not be visible and it will cause your stain to peel. Try Natura Mildew Off (1874-401) or Activox (1874-410); it removes algae, mold and dirt. This product also does a great job of restoring weathered and greyed wood back to its original appearance.

Speaking of greyed wood, these deadwood fibres need to be removed. Failing to do this is the most common mistake that people make when staining. These grey fibres sit on top of the wood and do not adhere to the substrate. Adding stain overtop of the grey does change the colour, but moisture lifts the fibres off and will take your new stain with it. To remove these deadwood fibres, use Natura Wood Prep (1874-400), Wood-Shield Wood Restorer (1874-207) or Activox (1874-410).


You may be tempted to skip this step, but don’t. You want to open up the fresh wood fibre and the best way to do this is with 80 grit sandpaper. Be sure to thoroughly sweep or vacuum up the dust afterward.

Ideal conditions

You’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for optimum weather conditions to do your staining. Several conditions must be met. To determine if it’s an ideal day to stain, look for: no rain in the forecast for the next 24 hours, a day and night surface temperature that’s between 10°C and 27°C, a light breeze present so there is some airflow and the dew point past (or not approaching). You’ll also want to be able to work in the shade.


If you will be spraying stain onto a surface, follow that up with some back-brushing, making sure that you work the stain into the wood fibre. Stain all six sides of each board, if possible.

Quality stains

Rhonda recommends Wood-Shield stains, which come in both semi-transparent and solid finishes. If you need help trying to envision the end result, you can use the online Colour Visualizer at

Semi-transparent stains penetrate the wood and still allow the natural grain and its inherent characteristics to show through. They are available in 36 colours.

Solid stains penetrate the wood and highlight its texture. There are thousands of colours to choose from.

The full lineup of BeautiTone’s quality stains and paints is made right here in Canada. All of the exterior products have been specially formulated to withstand the unique extremes that are a part of our climate. This brand is sold exclusively by Home Hardware.

Be sure to consult with the store’s Paint and Stain Expert to help you select the best stain for your project.

For more information about applying exterior stain, visit Heritage Home Hardware or call 705-759-5101.