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When wood is exposed to the elements of the environment, its structural and aesthetic integrity can be compromised especially at higher altitudes. Factors such as water and sunlight weaken the lignin content that helps hold wood fibers together. When this lignin is broken down, the wood turns gray in color and begins to rapidly decay. If water enters the wood at this stage it can lead to severe rotting and weakening of the wood. To prevent this from occurring, wood finish must be applied.

To choose the best exterior paint or stain for your job, match the coating to your house, your climate, and the look you want.

Done right, an exterior paint job can last 10 years; stain needs to be reapplied more often, anywhere from 2 to 10 years, depending on the type of stain and quality of application.

What is Finish?

Finish is a coating applied to wood that helps keep it sealed and protected from destructive environmental forces. There are a variety of wood finishes available that offer an array of aesthetic and protective values for wood. In most cases exterior finish will either be in the form of paint or stain.

  • Paint is effective in protecting wood due to the fact that is creates a seal with an opaque film. This multi-colored option will cover the grain of the wood, while sometimes leaving behind its texture. Paints provide a solid color on the wood and can last up to 5-7 years, although maintenance may need to be kept up to avoid any chipping of the paint.
  • Stain finishes are relatively easy to apply, resistant to peeling, and have the ability to bring out the grain and texture of the wood. Stains come in a variety of styles and are the perfect way to add some character to the natural look of the wood. Most stains need to be re-finished on a regular basis.

Exterior Paints:

Acrylic Latex Paints

Acrylic latex is the favored choice for exterior house painting. These water-based paints come in an endless range of colors and three popular finishes. Flat paint, commonly used indoors, offers the least protection against the elements. Satin, with its slightly higher sheen, is a good choice for wood siding. Semi-gloss or gloss offers the most protection and works well on high-use areas like window and door trim.

Pros: The paint film remains flexible even after drying, so it breathes and moves slightly to accommodate changes in temperature, or even house settling, without cracking. In addition to wood, latex can also cover siding made of vinyl, aluminum, fiber cement, stucco, brick, and metal.

Oil-based Paints

Oil based paint, long prized for its durability, which used to be the gold standard for exteriors and some high-traffic house trim such as handrails, doors, and floors. But these days it plays second fiddle to latex.

Pros: Oil paints dry hard and get harder with time. That makes them perfect for high-traffic uses: porch floors, steps, metal handrails, even your front door.

Exterior Stains:

Exterior stain is the choice when you want to let some of the natural features of the wood shine through but still shield your investment from the elements. Cedar, redwood, and other beautiful varieties cry out for stain. As a rule, stain isn’t as protective as paint; sunlight and weather can still penetrate the stain, causing the wood to age and discolor.

Like exterior paints, exterior stains come in latex and oil-based versions. You don’t want to cover an oil based stain with a latex stain, or vice versa, unless the old coat of stain has aged and weathered to the point where the new coat can adhere.

Stains Come in Three Finishes:

  • Clear stains are extremely translucent. You’ll see more of the wood, but you’ll need to reapply as often as every two to three years. Clear stains can still vary greatly in appearance. Over time, the wood under clear stain will continue to discolor, forcing you to eventually move to the next category.
  • Semi-transparent stains are bulkier and offer more protection than clear stains, because they contain a hint of pigment. Color choices are not nearly as numerous as those for latex paint, but there’s still a broad range of options. Reapply in five to seven years.
  • Opaque stains behave more like paint; they offer maximum protection and hide much of the wood’s look. But they still allow the texture to show through. These come in many colors, but choose carefully—if you want to change colors next time around, you’ll need to sand the surface completely. Opaques last 10 years or more.

Pros: Stains don’t require extensive surface prep the way paint does. You don’t need a primer and may be able to squeak by with one coat.

If you are ready to take the next step to improve the long term life of the exterior of your home and need help with making the right product selection… call or email us TODAY!

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