What is the Best Stain for Outdoor Wood Furniture? (2024)

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Selecting the optimal stain for outdoor wood furniture is paramount to maintaining its aesthetic allure and durability throughout the years. Yet, it’s crucial to understand that not all stains offer genuine protection against environmental elements. Lesser quality formulas may impart a deceptive sense of protection, inadvertently leaving your furniture vulnerable to rot, discoloration, and warping.

In light of this, making an informed choice becomes vital to ensure the longevity and well-being of your outdoor wood furnishings. To give yourself peace of mind, here are my recommendations for the best stains proven to preserve your furniture.

Premium Option
Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain
Editor’s Choice
Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer
Budget Option
Minwax 70009 Oil-Based Exterior Wood Stain
Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain
Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer
Minwax 70009 Oil-Based Exterior Wood Stain
• Wood Toned Colors
• Versatile Application
• 3-Way Oil Protection
• High-Quality Formula
• Long-Lasting Results
• PaintCare Recycling Fee
• "Goof Proof" Application
• Easy Maintenance
• No Dilution Required
• No Wet-Line Application
• Enhanced Wood Protection
• Easy Application
• Fast Drying Time
• Trusted Brand
• Versatile Application
Premium Option
Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain
Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain
• Wood Toned Colors
• Versatile Application
• 3-Way Oil Protection
• High-Quality Formula
• Long-Lasting Results
Editor’s Choice
Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer
Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer
• PaintCare Recycling Fee
• "Goof Proof" Application
• Easy Maintenance
• No Dilution Required
• No Wet-Line Application
Budget Option
Minwax 70009 Oil-Based Exterior Wood Stain
Minwax 70009 Oil-Based Exterior Wood Stain
• Enhanced Wood Protection
• Easy Application
• Fast Drying Time
• Trusted Brand
• Versatile Application

Reviews of the Top Stains for Outdoor Wood Furniture

1. Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer

Ready Seal 512 is a fantastic sealer and stain for outdoor furniture. It requires no primer and can be applied using a sprayer, roller, or brush. The best part is it never leaves streaks, runs, or laps, thanks to its goof-proof application. 

You don’t need to worry about back brushing, either. This self-blending product can be used in various temperature conditions, making it incredibly versatile. With no thinning or dilution required, it’s a time-saver too. 

This stain and sealer offer easy maintenance, with no stripping or sanding needed for re-application. It’s a reliable choice for enhancing and protecting wood surfaces.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

2. Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain

The Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain delivers 3-way oil protection that ensures deep penetration, safeguarding your outdoor woodwork. It has a unique blend of long oil alkyds, linseed oil, and tung oil, each contributing unique qualities. 

The honey teak color adds a warm and inviting tone to the wood. Its one-gallon size provides ample coverage, and the easy application ensures a smooth finish. 

I appreciate the durability of this oil-based wood stain, as it has proven to withstand the elements and maintain its vibrant appearance. Cabot’s Australian Timber Oil-Based Stain is a game-changer for revitalizing and protecting outdoor timber surfaces.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

3. Minwax 70009 Oil-Based Exterior Wood Stain

Minwax 70009 is the perfect solution for those on a budget. Its deep penetrating stain formula delivers an even and rich color that enhances the wood grain in just a single coat. 

The quick-drying feature is a real-time-saver, allowing the stain to deeply penetrate wood pores within 5 minutes and dry in two hours. Applying Minwax wood finish stain is easy, you can use a wood stain brush or a clean cloth and remove any excess after 5-15 minutes. 

Apart from being cost-effective, this product stands out because of its versatility; it can be applied effortlessly on both bare and stripped wood. What I particularly appreciate is its ability to bring out and enhance the wood’s natural color, lending a sense of authenticity and richness to the material. 

Moreover, it leaves behind a tasteful matte finish, which many find appealing for its subtle elegance and understated beauty. This blend of affordability, versatility, and aesthetic appeal truly sets it apart in its category.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4. Olympic Maximum Wood Stain And Sealer

Olympic Maximum Wood Stain and Sealer is a cost-effective choice for maximizing the value of a gallon of stain. This versatile product is a waterproof stain and sealer, preventing outdoor furniture from cracking in freezing conditions.

It protects against fading and UV damage on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. Despite its affordable price, a single gallon offers impressive coverage, allowing you to cover up to 350 square feet with several coats. 

Its unique formulation allows easy penetration of damp wood, making it usable even after rainfall. It delivers a warm and attractive appearance while showcasing the grain. Its viscosity prevents fading caused by prolonged sun exposure.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

5. Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

The DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain is a top-notch eco-friendly option. With its water-based formula, DEFY Extreme reduces environmental impact without compromising performance. It effortlessly penetrates wood surfaces, enhancing their natural beauty while providing superior protection against UV rays, moisture, and mildew.

The semi-transparent deck stain finish strikes a perfect balance, allowing the wood’s grain and texture to shine while shielding it from the elements. The application process is smooth, and the low odor is a welcome bonus.

DEFY Extreme is a testament to sustainability, quality, and longevity. This is your ultimate choice if you seek an eco-friendly exterior stain for outdoor furniture that delivers unparalleled results.

What i Like

What I Don't Like

6. SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

The SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Stain stands out for fast-drying semi-opaque exterior stain. This remarkable product offers superior protection against the damaging effects of UV rays, ensuring your outdoor furniture stays in excellent condition.

With four stunning semi-solid stains to choose from, it effortlessly enhances the natural beauty of your wood, leaving a flat and authentic-looking result. Not only does it deliver exceptional performance, but it also boasts low VOCs, making it an environmentally friendly choice. 

It is water-based, so cleanup is easy. For all softwood types, including pressure-treated pine, cedar, or fir, this is undoubtedly the go-to exterior paint for a flawless finish.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

7. KILZ Waterproofing Wood Stain

This stain for outdoor furniture provides exceptional long-lasting protection, keeping it safe from the elements and maintaining its beauty. The 100% Acrylic formula is highly effective in safeguarding against sun, rain, and snow damage. 

I appreciate that it has a warranty of up to 5 years on siding and fences and up to 3 years on decks, which speaks to its durability. 

It can cover an area of 250 square feet with the first coat and 500 square feet with the second coat. If you’re looking for the best stains for outdoor wood furniture with excellent coverage, look no further than the KILZ Waterproofing Wood Stain.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Stains for Outdoor Wood Furniture Buyer’s Guide

Amount and Coverage

When choosing an exterior wood stain to cover a surface, it’s essential to consider the amount of coverage needed. Selecting a stain for outdoor furniture that provides maximum coverage is advisable to avoid any inconvenience during the project. 

The viscosity of the stain also affects the surface coverage. Stains that need fewer coats generally offer better coverage than those that need multiple coatings. 

A gallon of stain can cover about 100 square feet for the initial coat, but coverage may vary by brand. If you’re uncertain about the size, purchasing the largest available gallon is safe. 

Additionally, stains are cheaper than paint, and any leftover stain can be stored for future use.

Color

Darker colors have the advantage of absorbing more heat and tend to have a longer lifespan. They are also easier on the eyes. However, brighter colors can be uncomfortable to look at in bright sunlight as they are more reflective.

Brighter colors, though, maintain a cooler temperature and absorb less heat. When deciding on a color, a lighter stain can create a brighter atmosphere in your backyard, while a darker finish can give a cozier feel. 

Type of Outdoor Wood Stain

Oil-Based

Oil-based stains provide long-lasting durability and enhanced protection as they can penetrate the wood deeply compared to water-based stains. 

Cleaning up oil-based stains can be more challenging, as they require mineral spirits for removal and have a longer drying time.

Water-Based

Water-based stains usually have vibrant colors that are less likely to fade. Additionally, they dry rapidly and can be easily cleaned with just soap and water.

This type of stain for outdoor furniture is kinder to the environment and provides excellent protection against weather conditions, all without relying on harsh chemicals. 

Semi-Transparent

These are highly favored for outdoor wood surfaces due to their distinct color options, like dark walnut and driftwood gray. 

Unlike fully opaque exterior stains, semi-transparent stains allow the natural wood grain to show through, enhancing its appearance and providing a beautiful finish.

applying Cabot Stains

Opaque

Opaque stains, or solid stains, fully conceal the wood beneath them. They offer maximum protection while still providing a visually pleasing appearance. However, the wood grain will not be visible as the stain completely covers it. 

Ease of Application

Consider the level of skill required to apply the exterior wood stain. Some stains are easier to apply than others. 

If you’re a beginner, choose a stain for outdoor furniture that is easy to apply and doesn’t require a lot of expertise. Water-based stains are usually easier to apply than oil-based stains.

Climate

Different climates require different types of finishes. If you reside in a sunny area, choosing sealants that withstand UV rays is the best stain. On the other hand, if you live in a rainy region, you should opt for sealants resistant to moisture.

staining floor deck with Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

When choosing the appropriate product, take into account your particular environment and needs. For example, you might prioritize a non-toxic option to guarantee the safety of your family, backyard, and pets.

Wood Type

Some stains are more suitable for softwoods, while others are better suited for hardwoods. When applying a single coat of stain, softwood furniture tends to soak up more, resulting in a darker appearance on the surface.

On the other hand, hardwood surfaces like mahogany and oak require multiple coats to achieve a darker shade and less absorbent. Therefore, it is important to identify the wood type before selecting a stain.

Inspecting the wood grain makes it possible to identify the type of wood. Typically, hardwoods have a uniform and consistent grain pattern, whereas softwoods have irregular wood grains.

Wood Condition and Existing Finish

If your project involves different types of wood, using semi-solid stains is the best stain because it will help achieve a consistent appearance without sacrificing the visibility of the wood grain.

apply stain on Poplar wood

For new wood used in construction projects, clear and transparent stains are ideal. Semi-transparent and transparent stains can enhance the natural look of already-treated timber.

In the case of damaged wood with visible signs of damage, it is advisable to sand and prime it before applying a stain. Solid stains effectively cover stains and visible damage.

Intended Use

The intended use of the finish is a crucial factor in determining the most suitable exterior wood stain for your requirements. 

It is recommended to use an exterior-grade stain for exterior wood surfaces like siding, fences, decks, or chairs. These products are designed to protect the wood in various weather conditions. 

Some stains perform better on flat surfaces, while others may not be as effective. Horizontal surfaces are more vulnerable to standing water and UV rays. 

staining deck rails with Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

So, if the wood surface experiences high foot traffic, choose the best stains for outdoor wooden furniture that can penetrate deeper into the wood fibers.

Many outdoor furniture pieces showcase appealing patterns. In such cases, transparent stains are recommended as they enhance the visibility of the wood grain without obscuring it.

Cost

Stains vary in price, and the cost may impact your decision. While choosing a high-quality stain is important, you may also need to consider your budget. In general, an oil-based stain is more expensive than a water-based stain.

Eco-Friendliness

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your stain, choose an eco-friendly product. Look for stains made from natural or sustainable ingredients, and avoid those containing harmful chemicals.

Water-based stain offers a significant advantage in terms of its eco-friendliness. It does not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it a more environmentally conscious choice. 

Cleanup

Consider how easy it will be to clean up after applying the stain. Some of the best exterior wood stains require special solvents for cleanup, while others can be cleaned with soap and water. Choose a stain that is easy to clean and won’t require much effort.

Removing any unwanted or excess stain with water-based stains is simple: using a damp cloth to wipe them away. On the other hand, if you are dealing with an oil-based stain, removing and cleaning it requires using mineral spirits.

Extra Tools and Materials You’ll Need for Staining Outdoor Pieces

Palm Sander

This is a power tool used to smooth surfaces by abrasion with sandpaper. It’s often used in preparation for staining to ensure a smooth, even surface for the stain to adhere to.

Polish Remover

This strips any existing polish, varnish, or other finishes from the wood before staining. This ensures that the stain will penetrate the wood evenly and effectively. 

Rags

For thicker stains, it is best to apply them using a rag. When choosing a rag for applying the best outdoor wood stain, opt for one that is tightly woven and free of loose strings.

removing old varnish

Drop Cloth

A drop cloth is laid down to protect the surrounding area from spills, drips, and dust generated during the sanding and staining process.

Tack Cloth

This is a sticky cloth that is used to remove dust and small particles from the surface of the wood after sanding and before staining. This ensures a smooth, clean surface for the stain to adhere to.

Brush

A brush is used to apply the stain to the wood. Brushes are typically used for larger, flat surfaces and can help to ensure an even application of stain.

Foam Brush

A foam brush is often used to apply wood stain because it doesn’t leave brush marks, and it can get into tight corners and crevices more easily than a traditional bristle brush. Foam brushes are useful for applying exterior wood stains to intricate or detailed pieces.

foam brushes

How to Apply Stain on Your Exterior Wooden Furniture

Step #1: Collect the Things You’ll Need

Before applying wood stain on outdoor furniture, gather all the necessary materials. It’s important to avoid interruptions caused by missing supplies. To ensure a smooth process, have these items ready:

Step #2: Wear Protective Gear

Before starting the staining process, wear the necessary protective gear. Put on gloves to protect your hands from the stain and chemicals. 

staining materials and gears

Wear safety goggles to shield your eyes from potential splashes or drips. Additionally, consider wearing a mask to avoid inhaling any fumes or particles.

Step #3: Prepare the Surface

Prepare the wooden surface by cleaning it thoroughly. Remove loose dirt, dust, or debris using a brush or a clean cloth. If there are any mildew or mold stains, use a mildew cleaner.

Use a pre-stain conditioner for softwoods to achieve an even finish. And for oil-based stains, use a natural bristle brush and a synthetic bristle brush for a water-based stain.

See Also: What Does Wood Conditioner Do

Step #4: Remove the Old Stain/Finish (If Needed)

Remove old stains using a chemical stripping solution or sanding in a well-ventilated area. Use a fine-grit sanding sponge for hard-to-reach or curved areas. Wait 20 minutes for the stripping solution to work, then scrape off the old stain.

applying soy gel stripper

Ensure to thoroughly clean the wood surface and remove any traces of the old stain before moving on to the next step.

Step #5: Sand the Surface

To prepare the wooden surface for stain application, begin by sanding it. Start with medium-grit sandpaper (around 120) and gradually get finer grit (around 220). Remember to sand in the direction of the grain to prevent scratches or unevenness. 

Pay extra attention to rough areas, imperfections, or uneven surfaces, aiming for a smooth finish. After sanding, use a clean or tack cloth to remove residual sanding dust or fine particles.

Step #6: Apply a Layer of Stain

To apply the stain, you can utilize either a brush or a rag to ensure even coverage on the surface of the wooden furniture. 

staining with Olympic Maximum Wood Sealer For Decks

Begin the application from the upper portion of the outdoor furniture, gradually working your way downwards. This approach helps maintain a consistent and smooth stain application across the entire surface.

Step #7: Wait for it to Dry

After applying the first coat of stain, allow it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

The drying time can vary depending on the type of stain and environmental conditions. It is important to be patient and not rush the drying process to ensure a proper finish.

Ensure the outdoor furniture is placed in a well-ventilated area while drying to ensure proper air circulation. Avoid touching or disturbing the newly stained surfaces until it is completely dry to avoid smudges or unevenness. 

Step #8: Apply the Second Layer of Stain

For a deeper hue, apply a second layer of stain and let it dry. Take the time to thoroughly examine the surface of your outdoor furniture to confirm that it is completely dry before applying subsequent coats. 

This attention to detail ensures optimal results for your staining project.

Tips and Tricks to Stain Application for Outdoor Furniture

Advantages of Staining Your Outdoor Wooden Pieces

prevent Rotting

Exterior wood can rot over time if it is not properly sealed. This impacts the appearance of outdoor structures and increases the risk of structural instability. Rot can be caused by mildew, mold, or termite infestations. 

rotting wood due to water damage

While there is no guaranteed method to halt the rotting process, applying and reapplying the best exterior wood stain can effectively prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Protection From UV Rays and Water Damage

Wood is susceptible to damage from the sun and water. When wood absorbs water and freezes, it can break, rot and crack.

Additionally, unsealed wood is prone to fading and discoloration when exposed to the sun for prolonged periods. To protect and maintain the appeal of your wood furniture, use the best stain for outdoors as a protective sealant.

Enhanced Appearance

Stains can enhance the natural wood grain, creating a visually stunning effect. If your outdoor furniture is older and you want to conceal imperfections, applying a solid stain can effectively cover up what lies beneath.

On the other hand, by using a semi-transparent exterior stain, you can appreciate the inherent beauty of the wood as it shines through the stain, which may be the preferred choice for some individuals. 

deck furniture

Key Differences Between Outdoor and Indoor Stains

Indoor and outdoor stains have different uses and characteristics. Indoor stains mainly colorize interior or indoor wood and often need a protective top coat. 

In contrast, outdoor stains are designed to color and protect exterior wood from weather damage, like UV rays and moisture. 

Because outdoor stains face harsher conditions, they must be extremely durable and resistant to fading, cracking, and peeling. They may also need more frequent upkeep.

Using indoor stains for staining outdoor furniture isn’t recommended as they’re not made to resist outdoor elements, which can lead to quick wear and damage to the wood.

Are Deck Stains Also Different From Outdoor Wood Stains?

Deck stains and outdoor wood stains, while both for outdoor use, have different purposes. Deck stain is made for flat surfaces like decks and patios and is more durable and resistant to foot traffic, sunlight, and weather. 

painting pergola with Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Outdoor or exterior stains, however, are used on various wooden structures like fences and furniture to enhance their color and protect them from the elements. They highlight the wood’s natural beauty and offer good durability. 

FAQ

What is the best weatherproof stain for outdoor furniture?

The best weatherproof stain for outdoor furniture contains a high level of pigment and offers UV protection. Some popular options include oil-based penetrating stains, solid-color stains, and semi-transparent stains with water-repellent properties. 

How often should I reapply stain on my outdoor furniture?

The frequency of reapplying stain to outdoor furniture can vary depending on several factors, including the type of wood, the climate in your area, and the amount of wear and exposure to the elements. It’s recommended to reapply stains to outdoor furniture every 1-3 years.

How long will it take for the stain to dry?

Wood stains generally take longer to dry and cure fully. The drying and curing time can range from 24 to 72 hours, depending on various factors such as the type of wood, outdoor temperatures, and the specific brand of stain used.

Will I need to put sealer over the stain?

Yes, applying a sealer over the stain on wood furniture is recommended. A sealer provides an additional layer of protection against discoloration and damage caused by sun exposure, moisture, and other environmental factors.

My Top Pick For a Stain for Outdoor Wood Furniture:
Ready Seal 512 Exterior Stain and Sealer

When choosing a stain for exterior use, Ready Seal 512 emerges as my pick for the best stain for outdoor wood furniture. The powerful formulation of this product does more than just enhance the visual allure of your furniture; it provides substantial protection as well. 

In my experience, finding a product that strikes the perfect balance between functionality and aesthetic enhancement is quite a challenge, but Ready Seal 512 rises to the occasion. 

It stands out as an exceptional choice for anyone looking to both preserve and elevate the appearance of their outdoor furniture.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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