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Choosing the Right Stain: Solid-body, Semi-Transparent, or Paint?

Siding After Blue Painting

Understanding Semi-Transparent Stain

Most people know what stained wood is and what it looks like.  When you stain wood, you typically like to see the color variation that the wood grain provides.  Stains that show this color variated are typically called Natural, Semi-Transparent, or Semi-Solid.  Meaning, they give you some of the color you chose, redwood, cedar, walnut, etc., while still letting the color change with the wood grain.  These types of stain usually look really nice, but don’t offer as much protective value, so they need to be maintained more often.  It’s a tradeoff between how something looks and how long it lasts.

Solid-body Stain Vs Semi-Transparent and Paint

Solid-body stains, on the other hand, create a solid-colored coating with no color variation while preserving the underlying texture of the wood grain.  What you lose in the look, you gain in protective value.  Think of them as a very flat finish exterior paint that penetrates like a stain.  They are less prone to peeling, chipping, or cracking than paint.  Solid stain is self-priming and offers almost the same benefits as paint in terms of protecting substrates.  The surface preparation required to reapply solid body stain is much easier and typically never involves scraping or sanding like you would when preparing a painted surface.  Generally, all that is needed is a simple wash before reapplication.

Solid-body stains penetrate wood better than paint.  It can be applied over previously painted or stained surfaces but performs at its best when applied directly to wood.  We would recommend a primer coat first when applying it over a previously painted surface or an old, stained surface.  Unlike paint or film-building stains, solid body stains are not prone to failures based on the movement of substrates.  If there is too much movement in the substrate, paint will pop, crack, peel, chip, and then continue to do so.  Solid-body stain will not, which is why it is typically utilized as a protective coating on new wood siding, decks, railings, and other wood components affected by movement from solar gain and extreme UV exposure.  Solid-body stains are also excellent at blocking harmful UV rays, which rapidly degrade wood.

Solid body stains give homeowners and architects an unlimited color palette to choose from as they can be mixed in any color.  Solid-body stains are excellent at masking imperfections or evening out discolored areas, such as from sprinkler staining.  This is especially helpful if you have replaced deck boards or siding courses, and they don’t match the original boards completely. 

What areas of your home or structure are ideal candidates for a solid body stain?

  • Decks
  • Pergolas
  • Railing
  • Siding
  • Fascia
  • Fences
  • Gazebos

before photo of siding getting ready to be painted or stained
before photo of siding getting ready to be painted or stained
photo of exterior siding after being painted or stained
photo of exterior siding after being painted or stained

Sharkskin Solid Stain, by Rodda Paint, is our go-to solid body stain. 

The waterborne acrylic and urethane hybrid formula of Sharkskin Solid Stain is specifically designed for the harsh climates of the Western States, where blistering hot summers dominate only to be overtaken by brutally cold or wet winters.  The adhesion and durability of this product is amazing, and since it’s waterborne, it’s user-friendly as compared to oil-based stain.  It is appropriately formulated to withstand weather extremes, is scuff resistant, and has anti-microbial properties, so it nearly eliminates the ability for mold, mildew, and algae to colonize.  It has excellent color retention and water repellency, which means more time between reapplications.  This isn’t just a great coating, this is a coating designed specifically for your geography, which is why it performs so well.  

So, the next time you need some exterior wood stained, see if a solid body stain might be a better choice than a semi-transparent stain or standard paint.  It will last longer than a semi-transparent stain, as long as a good quality paint and it will be much easier to maintain going forward.  

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Ada County including Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Nampa, Star, McCall, Cascade, Donnelly, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, & Sun Valley.


Nevada including Elko, Fernley, Winnemucca, Wendover, Wells, Ely, Eureka, and Battle Mountain.