Stains: Differences Between Water-Based and Oil-Based


There are distinct advantages to using either water based or oil based stains. Taking each pro and con into consideration will make the choice easier as you contemplate. Moisture can damage the wood as it soaks it up causing swelling while UV rays will dry and shrink the unpainted wood, causing possible cracking and warping in the surface. Ultraviolet rays accelerate the breakdown of wood fibers and discolor and bleach out the natural coloring. Unprotected wood surfaces are more susceptible to scratches, nicks, and irreversible staining. Whichever you choose, your exposed wood surfaces need protection with paint or stains.

Oil-Based Stains Pros & Cons

Oil based stains penetrate deeper and give more of a rich, vivid color can be refreshed quicker than water based stains. Applications go on easier for oil based stains because they penetrate the wood more easily and adhere to the surface. This surface adhesion quality helps to resist peeling. Unfortunately, the resins in oil-based stains make them more susceptible to mold and mildew. While they’re easier to apply initially, they require more maintenance afterward.

Water-based Stains Pros & Cons

Water based coatings have a tendency to hold color better and have better UV protection, mildewcide additives with various shades and colors. Time should be taken to apply water based stains during the initial application. They will fail otherwise because they have more trouble penetrating the wood surface. Working the stain into the wood properly makes the difference between a good adhesion and peeling down the road. Water based stains are much easier to clean up with simple dishwashing liquid and hot water which makes it eco-friendly. A consumer gets a lot of bang for the buck but you lose the deep, rich color an oil-based stain can deliver. Thus, the longevity is better for water-based stains if correctly applied.

After the decision is made to which product will best fit your needs, the prep work before an application is the key. Each surface needs thoroughly cleaned of dirt, grime, mildew, mold and algae off the surface and then thoroughly dried. Quality products, quality tools, and an experienced professional can deliver the job with A+ results. When you’re ready for your next stain project, give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you sort through the decision.