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Oil Based vs Water Based

Oil Based Stains & Sealers vs Water Based Stains & Sealers

Selecting a stain or sealer for your wood deck, siding or furniture can be a daunting task.  You read about water (or soy) based stains that are all natural and environmentally friendly and then you read about oil stains and it can all be very confusing.  The fact of the matter is that there is no real correct answer.  What we want to do is to educate you on the pros and cons of each and allow you to make your own decision! 


Qualities of Water Based Stains & Sealers:

Wood Breathability – Water base stains and sealers do not trap moisture in the wood allowing the wood to breath after application allowing the wood’s own inherent properties protect itself.  This is especially beneficial on softer woods like cypress, cedar and redwood.

Application Process – The application of water based products can be much easier to deal with.  There are little or no harmful fumes emitted which allows for you to use in an enclose area and not have to have all the windows open.  Dry time is faster and clean-up is a synch with just soap and water.  You have to be careful because using too much of a water based stain can raise the grain of some woods.  It’s less of an issue with decking, siding and outdoor furniture where you aren’t trying to have that perfect glossy finish.  If you are finishing a raw piece of wood, you can select whichever type you want.  And water based products can be applied over oil based products if that was what was originally used.

Mildew Resistant – Completely mildew resistant because of the breathability quality we discussed earlier.  However, some manufacturers will include additives that can increase the possibility of mildew.  If this is the case, the instructions will say that the product is not breathable. 

Environmentally Friendly – Soy Based Stains are often considered eco-friendly.  Where water based stains don’t normally carry the same stamp, they are certainly more environmentally friendly.  They have less harmful chemicals and are not flammable.

Durability – Over the years they have made these products more durable but oil stains are still considered to be more durable.  What this means is that you may want to reapply more often as the finish will wear off faster.  So the advantage of an easy application can be offset a bit by the need for reapplying more often.

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