Before Starting

Before You Start

I. Rules for Staining Wood

  • Read the InstructionsNever assume the application process is the same for any two stains. While the formula for Armstrong-Clark has remained constant for many years, the formulas of our competitors are constantly changing. No two companies necessarily have the same requirements for preparation and application, nor the same requirements (and limitations of what can be done) for application. Different woods, in different climates, with different environments may have different needs for wood preparation or application. There are too many variables to assume any one process will maximize results for your circumstances.
  • Always clean the wood before staining, even if it is new!90% of the success of a job is accomplished with proper preparation. Preparation has everything to do with providing the proper conditions for stain to properly absorb into and adhere to wood. If not done properly stain will not have the conditions necessary for longevity. Use a wood cleaner on wood without a coating or previously stained with Armstrong-Clark. For most other stains on the market "cleaning" means stripping and brightening, sanding, or both.
  • Remove a prior stain when changing brandsArmstrong-Clark makes sample cans available for customers to test for color and absorbency. Success with a sample can penetrating through an old prior stain (that is not Armstrong-Clark) in testing does not necessarily guarantee long term success. If the underlying stain fails, it will take the newly applied stain with it. Armstrong-Clark oil based wood stain cannot go over any water based stains, or any stains with acrylic. For best results it is recommended that prior coatings that are not Armstrong-Clark are removed before applying our stain. If the prior coating is Armstrong-Clark it simply needs to be cleaned, not necessarily removed before applying a maintenance coat.
  • More is NOT Better!Many people make the mistake of thinking more stain is better. This about the most incorrect assumption you can make when it comes to staining wood. Wood only has the ability to absorb so much stain. Testing for absorbency before application will provide insight into how much stain your wood will absorb. Generally you will get 200 square feet per gallon on softwoods and 300-400 square feet per gallon on hardwoods. If the wood is newer or in good shape you may get a little more. If wood is worn or older you will get a little less.
  • Never assume a photo of a color will look the same on your wood.Age and species of a wood, preparation methods/ chemicals used, whether the wood is smooth or rough, how the wood has weathered due to environmental exposures, and whether one or two coats are applied can all have a dramatic effect on the resulting color of an applied stain. Any given gallon of stain can look very different on two different boards.
  • Test for color with sample cans!!We always recommend testing for color with sample cans because of all the variables mentioned above. Sample cans are available for FREE at stocking retailers while online retailers charge for shipping and handling. All our colors are intermixable and so sample cans can be used to test blends. When blending colors do not use whole cans as these are filled by hand. Instead use a measuring spoon (like a tablespoon) to measure out the stain into another container like a Dixie cup. Each scoop represents one gallon needed to be purchased for the blend. Neither Armstrong-Clark nor stores will create blends. All blends are to be mixed by
    applicators in their own five gallon bucket.
  • Understand coverage expectationsUnderstanding coverage rates is important as they provide insight into whether you may be over applying or under applying a stain. On softwoods Armstrong-Clark stains average about 200 sqft. per gallon. On vertical rough cut wood or new smooth cut horizontal wood you may get up to 250 sqft. per gallon. Older wood that has not had a scheduled maintenance program may only get 170 sqft. per gallon. On hardwoods you should expect to get 300 sqft. per gallon and no more than 400square feet per gallon.
  • Pigment is the sacrificial raw ingredient that absorbs the UV radiation that turns wood gray.The more pigment in a stain, the longer it takes for the wood to turn gray. Regardless of the color applied, the underlying wood will eventually gray. Cleaner brighteners help restore a natural blonde color to wood that has turned gray before applying a maintenance coat. Transparent colors fade quicker than any other colors. Natural Tone fades the quickest because there is almost no pigment in it. Even when the color fades on transparent colors there may still be oil in the wood protecting the wood interior fiber.
  • Pigments fade quicker the higher you go in elevation, especially once you go higher than 2000ft.UV rays are stronger at higher elevations and therefore more pigment is needed to protect the wood at these elevations.
  • NEW WOOD - For new wood use the install date as the starting date for calculating how long you need to wait before staining new wood.The exception to following this rule is when pre-staining is a requirement. The stain on the bottom or backside providing a moisture barrier will last a significant amount of time as compared to the top or front side. However, the top or front side facing the sun, rain, wind, and traffic will fade significantly sooner.
  • NEW WOOD - Kiln drying does not mean wood can be stained as soon as the wood is installed. Kiln drying helps with reducing the twisting and warping a wood may experience through the drying process. However, it does not remove the natural oil that is prevalent in new wood, nor does it open up the pores or remove the mill glaze.
  • NEW WOOD -  Stain applied to new wood (less than one year old) will not last as long as older wood (at least one year old).Expect to re-stain new smooth cut softwood twelve to eighteen months after the initial staining. Stain applied to hardwoods any less than six months after installation may only last 1 to 3 months. The exception would be stain on the underside of deck boards and ceilings that are pre-stained.
  • Glossy coatings, stains with acrylic, film forming stains, or stains with hard drying oils require stripping and brightening, or sanding, or both before applying a maintenance coat.
  • Hard coat / film forming stains risk peeling and cracking over their lifetime.
  • Color build will result after many applications leaving colors darker and muted.Consider a light strip before your fourth or fifth application of stain. Safe Strip manufactured by Gemini works wonderful for removing Armstrong-Clark stain. Per Gemini you do not need to brighten after using their product.
  • Black Stains are not necessarily mold or mildew.Often tannin or dirt are confused for mold or mildew. Be sure to conduct the correct tests to determine what black stains you may have before proceeding with cleaning the wood.

      II. Design & Environment Considerations

      The biggest problems outdoor wooden structures face are water (moisture). Pressurized water from sprinklers, or rain falling off a roof without a gutter, will pound away any stain on a deck or fence. Moisture will create problems for the absorption and adhesion of stains and will degrade both the stain and the wood sooner than later. Even if a stain is applied when wood moisture is low, a high moisture environment will create problems. Poor air circulation and ventilation is the most common cause of higher moisture content in wood. Improper air flow forces moisture coming up from the ground to travel through the wood to escape (or stay trapped and grow mildews, molds, and fungi). If your wood is already installed your options to deal with this may be limited. If you have not yet installed your wood there may be some options to take into consideration.

      a. Decks
      b. Irrigation
      Sprinklers hitting fences will remove stain and degrade wood with a constant pounding of water. Turn sprinklers away from fences. Water dug the Grand Canyon through rock. Just think what it can do to soft wood.
      c. Pools
      It isn’t fully understood why stain around a pool will deteriorate more quickly. The chlorine in the water (bleach) can break down stains. Additionally the wet/ dry cycle is accelerated greatly when pools are used causing further deterioration of a stain. Lastly, pools often have higher traffic than most of our other outdoor surfaces, especially near the edges of the pool. When the stain is worn conducting the water will confirm whether or not the wood still has oil protecting the interior of the wood to determine if it is time to re-stain.
      d. Southern and Western Exposures
      Southern and Western exposures typically take full force of sun, wind, and rain. Stain applied to either of these two side soften will wear away sooner than northern and eastern exposures. It is not uncommon for stain on a house to be reapplied on these two sides once before the entire house needs to be re-stained.
      e. Sea Spray and Sand
      Salt from sea spray and sand in coastal environments are extremely abrasive and will accelerate the deterioration of any coating, especially when combined with higher winds and stronger rains than inland areas which are better protected.
      f. Damp or Shaded Environments
      Although our stain includes a mildewcide, consider adding additional mildewcide (M1), available at your local hardware/paint store, to the stain if you live in an environment conducive to excessive mold or mildew growth.

      III. Understanding Age & Condition of Wood

      A. New Wood

      New wood has a number of contributing factors that limit the color, absorption, and durability of an applied stain. In addition to higher moisture content (in wood that is not kiln dried), new wood has higher concentrations of natural oil. This natural oil inhibits the absorption of an oil stain because there is nowhere for the oil in stain to go. The pores of new wood are closed and smooth cut wood will have a mill glaze on the surface that must be removed. Lastly, chemicals in pressure treated wood can also inhibit the absorption of stain.

      For these reasons new wood needs to weather for a period of time after installation so that the pores of the wood can open up. The timing of when a stain can be applied and properly absorbed is a balance of a number of variables including species of wood, cut of wood (smooth or rough), and exposures (covered verse full exposure sun, rain, and snow). Wood does not need a year, but typically it needs at least a few months.

      The mill glaze can be removed and the pores can be opened up (marginally) by lightly sanding with 60 grit sandpaper, applying oxalic acid/brighteners, or cleaning with a liquid bleach solution. Some wood restoration professionals will even apply a light stripper (and then a brightener) to help “beat up” the wood for better absorption. Testing for absorption and conducting the sprinkle test to determine when the wood will accept stain.

      1. Things to know about staining new wood
      i. Kiln dried does not mean it is ready for stain upon installation.

      Drying only addresses moisture content in wood and helps to prevent warping and cupping otherwise more prevalent in the natural drying process. It does not remove the existing oil concentration inside the wood. When there is existing oil in the wood there is no room for
      additional oil to absorb.

      ii. When determining the age of the wood use the date of installation as the first day

      When wood is sitting in a lumber yard it is not weathering and moisture can get trapped in the boards that are on the inside of the wood stacks.

      iii. Pre-staining & back priming

      Back priming is the process of staining the back side of wood siding prior to installation. Typically this is common with cedar siding to provide an additional moisture barrier to prevent tannin bleed. “Pre-staining” often refers to the process of staining all sides of wood prior to installation.Typically this is done for cedar shingles at a factory, to provide an additional ground moisture barrier when installing decking that is close to the ground or otherwise has poor air circulation, or installing a second story deck where color is desired on the underside. These processes often present the dilemma of staining wood that is not ready to accept stain. Although there may be a requirement for back priming or staining, the expectations for stain longevity on the exposed surface of the wood need to be reduced.

      • Proceeding forward with a project is acceptable when pre-staining or back priming is required for a project even though the wood is not ready for stain.
        The surface stain will not last long, but these processes are used to protect the back or underside of wood to add a moisture barrier that will last longer because they are not exposed to weathering conditions.
      • If a manufacture provides a recommendation for pre-staining or back priming we recommend you follow a wood manufacturer’s instructions.
        Their recommendation does not ensure longevity or success. However, if there is ever a problem with your project they cannot deny your claim solely based on the fact that their instructions were not followed.
      Indoor Pre-staining ADVISORY

      Pre-staining is sometimes performed indoors, especially in winter months. Staining indoors presents additional drying and curing challenges as there is inadequate airflow as compared to staining outdoors. It is just as important to have air flow over stained wood as having temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry times can be extended from days to weeks in temperatures below 50 degrees or when there is inadequate airflow.

      iv. Expectations for color and longevity should be reduced for wood less than one year old.

      New softwood often requires a maintenance coat 12-18 months after an initial stain application. Only apply one coat of stain to wood that has been installed for less than one year. In the first year after installation DO NOT apply semi-solids to smooth cut or horizontal wood. Semi-solids can be applied to rough cut vertical wood under a year old from installation. Stain applied to newly installed exotic hardwoods may only last one to three months. We do not recommend staining exotic hardwoods for the first six months after installation unless pre-staining is required for the project, or the wood manufacturer recommends it for their product.

      v. Absorbency testing answers the question of when it’s time to stain

      Get a glass of water. Stick your fingers into the water. Bring your fingers close to the wood and shake off some droplets. The goal is not to have the droplets drop a far distance and “splat” on the surface of the wood. The wood is ready to accept stain when the droplets start spreading out and soaking into the wood within 2 minutes. Wood will absorb stain just like it absorbs water. If the wood is absorbing water it is too soon to stain. Note - this test does not work well on exotic hardwoods as their tight grain naturally inhibits water absorption.

      2.General timing on Staining New Wood

      Regardless of the general timing listed here testing for absorption is always recommended.

      i. Pressure Treated Wood

      Generally need about six months after installation before staining. This does not mean you cannot have success in 2-3 months from installation.

      ii. Exotic Hardwoods

      Generally need about six months after installation before staining.

      iii. Cedar

      Generally needs 2 to 3 months after installation before staining.

      iv. Redwood & Western Red Cedar

      Both redwood and western red cedar are notorious for having higher concentrations of natural oil in them as compared so many other woods. Until some of this oil has disappeared there is nowhere for new oil to go. Typically these woods need 3+ months before an initial staining. Unfortunately many people who install these woods want to enjoy the beauty of the two tone wood are prompted to apply stain as soon as possible to preserve the look (and often do so prematurely). When trying to preserve the new look consider waiting a minimum of four to six weeks, or until the color of the wood starts fading to allow the wood to open up to better absorb stain. Note that nothing can be done to stop the fading and graying out of the natural two tone of the wood. Once it fades it can only be brought back with sanding. Any gray can be treated with a brightener to restore a more natural blonde color to the wood.

      B. Older Established Installed Wood

      Wood installed more than year at the time of stain application.
      Inspect your wood for any wood rot or decay and replace any boards as needed. Ideally you will want to replace rotted boards three to six months before you plan on staining so that they can weather some to better accept stain during application. The amount of time needed will depend on the type of wood and your climate. Do not expect the appearance of stain on the new replacement boards to look the same as the older wood. It will take time for the new wood to “season”. Read the “New Wood” section for additional insight into staining new wood.
      1. Previously Stained Wood

      Most stains other than Armstrong-Clark oil based stains require that the previous coat of stain be removed using a chemical stripper followed by a brightener, and/or sanding before applying a maintenance coat. Failure to remove the previous stain can result in absorption and adhesion failure.

      Stripping is a chemical process to emulsify a stain (turning a stain into goop) which is then rinsed away. The stripping process pulls out oil from the wood leaving the wood dry. Stripping also darkens wood. A brightener needs to be applied after stripping to neutralize the caustic pH of the stripping chemicals on the surface of the wood while also bringing back a more natural blonde color.

      Sanding is often part of the process to remove a previous stain for several reasons. The first reason is that many people are afraid of the stripping process and prefer to manually remove a stain via sanding.

      A second reason for sanding is that stripping does not always remove all of a previous stain, even after multiple applications of stripper. Therefore stripping is often used to help reduce the amount of sanding that needs to be done by removing a majority of the existing stain that will “gum” up sand paper.

      The final reason for sanding as part of the preparation process is that the surface of wood can be damaged during the cleaning process resulting in “fuzz” or “fur”. Chemicals that are too strong or chemicals that dwell on the wood too long will chemically damage the surface of the wood. Scrubbing too hard, using a brush with too stiff of a bristle, or pressure washing with too much pressure will also damage the surface of the wood. All of these will result in the wood looking fuzzy, furry, or like there are little tiny splinters on the wood. This fuzz or fur needs to be removed before the wood can be stained by sanding. Click here to learn more about fuzz or furr.

      2. Aged Unstained Wood

      Wood that has been aged and untreated for a significant amount of time is most likely to have layers of gray, decayed, and loose wood fiber. If these fibers are stained, there is a risk that these fibers will take the stain with them as they are displaced from the wood. The result is the appearance of stain failure when in fact it is the inability of loose fibers to remain intact. To prepare you must first clean the wood. Wood restoration professionals will follow the cleaning process a light sanding to remove the loose would fibers to ensure longevity of the stain. For hardwoods they may use 80 grit, with softwoods they will use 60grit sand paper. If the wood is in poor shape wood restoration professionals may start with 35 grit before finishing with 60 grit.

      IV. Understanding Tannin

      Tannins are water soluble natural extractives produced in living wood that protects trees from insects and infestation. When the tree is killed the tannin remains in the wood. The heartwood (inner darker wood) has higher concentrations of sap wood (outer lighter wood). Although tannins are found in all woods, some species like redwood, cedar, and ipe can have much higher concentrations than other woods like pine or douglas fir. Additionally, new wood has higher concentrations of tannin than older wood.

      Tannin presents itself in a variety of reddish brown, dark brown, and even a black like colored stains. When leaves and sticks land on wood surfaces and are not promptly removed the tannin will bleed out. The second way in which tannin presents itself is in the form of a blotchy appearance. This is known as diffuse tannin bleed and is common in redwood, especially new redwood, and even more so in new heartwood redwood. Unfortunately customers pay a premium for heartwood only to fight a blotchy look when initially stained. The third and final form of tannin is known as rundown or streaked tannin bleed. This is a visible dark streak often seen in cedar shingles.

      i. Images of Tannin Bleed
      ii. Causes of Tannin Bleed

      The primary cause of tannin bleed is moisture. Some scenarios where tannin bleed can be a
      problem include water sitting on the surface of the wood, running behind wood (in the case
      of siding), water vapor coming through a wall, or ground moisture that is trapped due to
      poor ventilation under a deck. Applying a stain can also get the tannins flowing.

      iii. Treatment

      The primary cause of tannin bleed is moisture. Some scenarios where tannin bleed can be a problem include water sitting on the surface of the wood, running behind wood (in the case of siding), water vapor coming through a wall, or ground moisture that is trapped due to poor ventilation under a deck. Applying a stain, whether water based or oil based, can also get the tannins flowing. It is very common for new redwood to look very blotchy when stained.

      iv. Prevention

      For wood with poor ventilation (siding or decks with air flow problems) back priming or pre-staining is used to help create a moisture barrier. Additionally the use of a cleaner brightener, or an oxygenated bleach cleaner followed by a brightener, before staining can help remove surface tannin. However, there is no guarantee you can prevent tannin stains with any preventative measures taken.

      V. Wood preparation chemicals

      • Strippers
        Most strippers on the market use caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide to remove prior stain applications, especially film forming oil based stains with acrylic or water based stains. Strippers will darken wood while removing oil from wood (will dry out wood). Their chemical makeup can treat surface mold and mildew. Strippers are the most caustic of preparation chemicals and leave a caustic residue on the surface of wood that requires neutralizing. Wood restoration professionals will sometimes use strippers (and then brighteners) on new wood to “beat up” the surface of the wood and open up the pores to help with stain absorption.
      • Brighteners
        Brighteners are acidic formulas required to neutralize the caustic residue left on the surface of wood by stripping chemicals or caustic cleaners. On new wood they are used to help open up the pores of wood for better stain absorption. They will turn darkened or grayed wood to a more natural blonde color, and they will treat both tannin and rust stains. Brighteners will not treat mold or mildew. There are a variety of ingredients including citric acid, but the most prevalent formula is oxalic acid. NEVER mix oxalic acid (or brighteners) with bleach as a toxic chemic reaction occur that can be harmful to your health.
      • Cleaner Brighteners  
        General cleaners that add surfactant with acids (typically oxalic acid and or citric acid) to help clean and brighten wood. Used to treat tannin bleed or rust stains. Will turn gray wood to a more natural blonde color. Will not treat mold or mildew. These are pre-mixed formulas.  
      • Bleached Based Cleaners  
        Liquid bleach (sodium hypochlorite) based cleaners formulas include a surfactant (soap) to help with the cleaning process because bleach by itself is not a cleaner. Mild scrubbing is required with these cleaners for best results, and they can be either rinsed off with a hose or with light power washing. These cleaners are not as good for cleaning as oxygenated bleach cleaners, but are better for killing surface mold and mildew (they will not necessarily kill mold or mildew roots). They cannot treat tannin or rust stains. There has been much debate over using liquid bleach on wood because of how it can destroy the woods lignin (the woods glue that holds it together). If left on wood too long, or if too strong of a concentration is used, the solution can damage the lignin in wood resulting in fuzzing, poor adhesion of stain, and further degradation of the wood. If not properly rinsed bleach cleaners can eat away and rust nails and screws in your wood over time. These cleaners keeps gray wood gray or a whitish gray which is ideal for applying colors like driftwood or when either darker or muted colors are preferred. NEVER mix bleach with oxalic acid (or brighteners) as a toxic chemic reaction occur that can be harmful to your health. 

        These solutions come pre-mixed and can be purchased at a store or can be homemade. Always read the instructions and recommendations of premixed cleaners. Pre-mixed solutions may require a neutralizing.
      • NEVER mix bleach with oxalic acid (or brighteners) as a toxic chemic reaction occur that can be harmful to your health.
      • Oxygenated Bleach (sodium percarbonate)
        Oxygenated bleach formulas are a more environmentally friendly alternative to liquid bleach and have a fizzing action that helps lift and loosen dirt and contaminants embedded in wood. These are powder based products that require warm water in mixing and have a limited lifetime once mixed – typically only about twenty minutes. Usually these cleaners are not harmful to wood or plants, and in recent years they have been regarded as having the best cleaning results of the cleaners in the market place. Typically these cleaners claim to treat mold and mildew. However, from marketplace among wood restoration professionals, at best they will kill mold and mildew only if there is a light growth, but not for heavier concentrations. Oxygenated cleaners do not require brightening for neutralization and they typically do not have a whitening effect on the color of wood. DO NOT add liquid bleach to these cleaners for better mold/mildew killing action. Mixing results in a chemical rendering your chemicals useless.
      • Two Step Cleaning Systems
        A two part cleaning system where one part is an oxygenated bleach for cleaning and treatment of surface mildew followed by an oxalic acid for brightening and treatment of tannin stains. These systems often come in powdered form.
      • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
        Used to remove grease stains and pull some oil out of wood. Can cause the cleaning surface to be very slippery and we caution against using it for safety concerns. A quarter cup is often added to homemade cleaning solutions.
      • Jomax (brand name)
        Mold/ Mildew treatment added to bleach and dish soap to make bleach more effective and to treat mold/ mildew. Recommended for damp environments.
      • Concrobium (brand name)
        A brand name for a non-bleach based cleaner used to treat mildew/ mold. Brand has a variety of products.
      • Wet & Forget / Spray & Forget (brand names)
        These are brand names for non-bleach based chemicals that are used to treat surface mold and mildew when cleaning or re-staining is not desired. These chemicals take up to four weeks to kill existing mold or mildew. They are also used as a preventative measure with a once a year application before any growth starts. In damp environments conducive to surface mold or mildew growth we recommend applying a preventative coat three to four weeks after the application of our stain. We also recommend hosing off, blowing off, or sweeping off horizontal surfaces once a month.

      VI. Post Cleaning

      As part of the preparation process wood restoration professionals will always sand smooth cut wood
      prior to applying a stain. This ensures any loose wood fibers remaining on the surface of the wood
      (especially if there is fuzzing or furring) are removed to ensure maximum longevity of an applied
      stain. Any required sanding should be completed before testing for color.

      A. Understanding Fuzz and Fur

      To clarify wood "fuzzies" or "fuzz" are the result of a chemical reaction from the application of a caustic chemical, and wood "furring" or "fur" is the result of a mechanical process of using too much pressure when power washing. Regardless, they look pretty much the same and used interchangeably even by most professionals.

      "Wood fuzzing" results from an over application of strippers. These are caustic chemicals that will create fuzz if applied with too strong of a concentration for a given wood, left to dwell on wood for too long, or a combination of the two. To minimize the chances of fuzz it is a common practice to start with lower strength stripper and work your way up to a higher strength stripper as needed. Do not let the chemicals dwell any longer than recommended in their instructions. Pay extra special attention if you have horizontal tongue and groove wood. This can be found in some exterior applications of hardwoods like IPE. Tongue and groove creates the problem of not allowing water to drain. When water cannot drain even a light strength stripper formula can create wood fuzzies because the solution sits longer during the rinsing process.

      Wood Furring is caused by using too much pressure when power washing. The softer the wood the more careful you need to be. Cedar is a very soft wood and will fur quicker than many other woods. You will want to use a fan pattern resulting in lower pressure output. Often this is a white tip on a power washer. Think of power washing wood as using a higher pressure garden hose. You do not want to use the pressure to actually clean the wood. You want soaps and strippers (depending on your need) to do majority of the cleaning and the pressure washing is just a little extra help to remove the unwanted contaminants. When you use too much pressure you will see small specs of wood coming off. If you see this, back off the pressure and or distance your nozzle is from the wood.

      In addition to chemical and mechanical causes of wood fur and wood fuzz in the prepping process, we have seen new wood that has not been prepared with power washing or chemical strippers with furring or fuzzing. We are not sure of the causes of this phenomenon, but we do recommend that you inspect your wood before preparing and or staining to insure that there isn't a larger problem that may be difficult to address.

      B. Understanding and Testing for Color

      We always recommend testing for color before proceeding with a project. Never rely on a photo for an accurate color representation of how a particular color will look on you wood. Test for color after wood preparation is completed as the preparation method used can affect the final color of a stain. Typically you need to wait 48 hours for wood to dry after washing before applying a sample can to test for color. After applying a sample wait at least 24 hours before viewing color. Never assess color in less than 24 hours. It will take 48-72 hours for final color. Account for this in your project schedule. Armstrong-Clark provides free sample cans at stocking retailers. They can also be purchased online from some distributors. The online fee is to cover the cost of freight. Testing should also be completed for absorbency, especially on new wood. Both the water test and sample cans can be used for absorbency testing.

      Factors that can affect the color of an applied stain:

      • Age of wood
      • Species of Wood
        Different species of wood have different cellular structures, absorption properties, natural oils, and natural coloring.
      • Cut of wood (smooth or rough)
      • Number of coats of stain
      • Prep method(s)
      • Conditions weathering the wood
        Wood exposed to the elements will weather much quicker than wood that is better protected. This is especially evident where a deck extends out from a covered porch area.
      • Grain of wood (flat grain vs. closed grain)
        Flat grain wood does not absorb stain very well while closed grain absorbs stain much better (relatively)
      • Part of the tree the wood came from (sap wood or heart wood)
        Within the lumber of any given species there is lighter colored sapwood in the outer growth rings and the darker colored heartwood in the inner growth rings, both of which absorb stain differently.
      What Affects Color examples?

      As consumers we can never look at a picture of a stain color in a photo nor a sample of stained wood and assume our project will look the same. There are too many variables that can affect the color of a finished project including wood species, age of wood, cut of wood, the number of coats applied, the exposure older wood has had, and how the wood is prepared.

      Example 1
      Example 2

      This is a picture that illustrates how different wood preparation processes can affect color on the very same piece of aged and grayed wood. The photo depicts a single piece of ipe with 2 vertical grooves cut into the wood. The top row is untreated and the color was consistent all the way across. The middle row shows the wood after cleaning. The left side was prepared with bleach, water, and liquid dish detergent. The middle was cleaned with just liquid dish detergent and water. The right side was prepared with a cleaner/ brightener. All sections were stained with the exact same Mahogany stain.

      Create your own unique color.

      All Armstrong-Clark colors are intermixable. On your own you can create a custom color by blending any of our colors. (Neither stores nor Armstrong-Clark custom blend). We recommend blending whole can ratios when mixing for a project (do not mix partial cans like a ½ gallon). When blending colors for testing color use a measuring spoon and mix in a separate container. Start over from scratch for each blend you test. Do not assume sample cans have equal amounts of stain in them. Once a blend is decided upon mix whole gallons cans in a 5 gallon bucket.

      VII. Planning & Scheduling

      The day you stain wood is the best the wood will look. After application stains are designed to slowly deteriorate. Get on a stain application schedule so wood looks its best during the months you will be using it most. For most of the country this means applying stain in the spring. For the hottest parts of the country this may mean applying stain in the fall.

      Do not start the cleaning process and apply stain during the pollen season. Pollen can land on cleaned surfaces after cleaning and can remain under an applied stain. Pollen can also mix into the stain. Mildewcides in a stain are designed to prevent mold and mildew from growing in a stain, but not from growing underneath a stain. Excess pollen can provide more “food” for mold growth than a mildewcide can combat. If this happens a stain must be removed to treat the mildew or mold and prevent wood deterioration.

      If painting outside surfaces like a house, and staining a deck, consider the cleaning and application sequence you will want to use. Cleaners/ strippers used in preparing a deck can scar painted surfaces, but house cleaning chemicals that contain bleach can remove soft coat stains like Armstrong-Clark.

      General Schedule
      Initial review (3 to 6 months out)

      • Old wood – review and replace any bad boards three to six months prior to stain application to allow new wood to weather.
      • New wood – allow three to six months for wood to weather

      Preparation (2 to 7+ days)

      • Cleaning – 1+ day
      • Drying – 2 days
      • Sanding – 1+ day
      • Color testing – 1 to 3 days

      Application – (1 to 2+ days)