This post shares how we stained our deck and fence to make them look brand new again! I’m sharing a detailed ready seal fence stain review, including why we chose it over the Behr Waterproofing Exterior Wood Finish that we used for the deck. Enjoy!
Part 2: Fence and Deck Stain Reviews
Alright folks, if you checked out part one of this two-part series, you’ll know that I published a post all about how to pressure wash a fence and deck. I love how the pressure washed wood looked, but I decided I wanted to finish things off with some stain to really help give the treated pine a richer look.
So off to the internet I went to look at my different options. I have to say, this was quite the rabbit hole. Stains can be tricky to choose from pictures because they can take so differently in real life depending on the type and condition of the wood you’re using. Ultimately I decided to use Behr’s Transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Finish in Natural Clear for the deck.
However, I chose Ready Seal Wood Stain and Finish in Natural for the fence. (My friend used Behr products to stain her fence, though.) More on why later when we get into the fence staining section of this post. But let’s jump in and talk about the deck first because that was the smaller of the two projects and the one I tackled first!
Behr Natural Clear Transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Finish Review
Behr’s deck products have pretty much cornered the homeowner market, it seems. We have used an opaque outdoor stain and sealer on quite a few of our outdoor projects (the shed in our backyard, our modern DIY trellis, and Ramona’s rock pit, play table, and water table). And we have been really happy with how all of these finishes have held up.
However, the reviews on some of the Behr Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Finish products were spotty. A lot of the reviews said that it was way more opaque than semi-transparent, and we definitely didn’t want that. I look at approximately 1 billion pictures, and although in my head I wanted something between transparent and opaque, I chose to go with the Behr Transparent.
What color did we choose?
We chose the color “Natural Clear” from the transparent exterior waterproofing series. However, this comes with a huge disclaimer—it’s not actually clear. It should not be called clear at all. It should actually be called “natural transparent” with the understanding that it’s more of a “thicker” transparent, if that makes sense. Here’s a picture of the stuff:
However, I was looking for a natural-looking finish, not necessarily a clear finish. And I was really impressed with some of the before and after photos I saw online of it being used on fences and decks. So I decided to give it a go on our deck posts first.
If it was too dark, I’d be fine with the deck posts being a bit darker. (In fact, I’d originally planned on going darker for the deck posts but decided it would just be easiest to stain the posts and the fence the same color.) That way I could give it a test run on the deck posts and then make a decision about whether or not to use it on the fence.
I used a stain pad with a handle designed for staining decks, and I’m glad I did. It’s what Behr recommends for use with this stain, and I am a rule follower. What can I say. The stain went on perfectly. I had very few drips as long as I pressed the excess stain out in my paint tray before jumping up on the ladder.
As the can instructed, I did two thin coats and waited about 2 hours between each coat. I also put the stain on when I was 95% sure it wasn’t going to rain for at least 4 hours.
Behr Transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Finish Tips
A few things to keep in mind about using the Behr Natural Clear Transparent Waterproofing Exterior wood finish:
1. Application. I think this would be fine with a sprayer, but the deck pad worked great. I’m generally not a fan of buying special tools I only use for certain things, instead preferring to just use paint rollers and brushes when I can. But the deck pack was super cheap, and we can reuse the handle for other jobs in the future.
2. Color. Since the color I used wasn’t clear or totally transparent, I’d definitely recommend getting a sample of the color and finish you choose to use. This stuff isn’t exactly cheap, so you don’t want to blow a ton of money on it.
3. Finish. Although marketed as a stain, I really feel like this product has more of a “paint” feel to it. It doesn’t seem to absorb into the wood as much as it sits on top of it to seal it. This led to a really lovely finish on the deck posts, especially when the sun hits it and there is just a bit of a satin sheen.
Before and afters of the stained deck posts…
So I know you guys just want to see the before and afters. And I have to say, they are good. This was one of those projects where I didn’t realize how shitty the original looked until I saw the improved version! The bit of sheen the finish adds really gives the posts a nice look.
That, coupled with the slight brown tint of the “clear” outdoor finish, really gave the posts a facelift. All in just a few hours total. I was very impressed. Checked it out—the color looks gorgeous!
Obviously I can’t speak to how the finish holds up just yet, but I will definitely be updating this post next year after it has gone through all four seasons. I am a bit nervous about the “paint” look this has—a bit worried about chipping. Some of the reviews mentioned that, but I know all conditions are different and that it can always be partly user error as well. Now onto the fence.
Ready Seal Fence Stain Review
If you’ve been a longtime reader (which is probably just my mom), you might remember that I used Ready Seal stain on an outdoor table years ago. While the color wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted, I was very pleased with the product’s quality. It was very easy to apply and much more like a traditional stain than the Behr stuff was.
Ready Seal products were originally designed for professional use, but they are now available to regular folks like you and me. They remain professional-grade, though, and can be used to refurbish and protect decks, outdoor furniture, fences, gazebos, and more.
Unlike the Behr finish, the Ready Seal finish has a natural look and is flat/matte. Since it soaks into the wood more, you don’t have to worry about cracking, peeling, and flaking. It’s also oil-based. These are all reasons I chose Ready Seal for the fence instead of the Behr product, although the colors turned out to be very similar once applied. The finishes, however, are very different.
I know, I keep mentioning that “paint” feel of the Behr finish. I was really worried about the potential for chipping in a year or two. Honestly, removing the stain from the deck posts in a few years didn’t sound too bad. But removing it from a board-on-board fence? Just kill me now. That sounds awful.
So I thought about Ready Seal. I remembered it being very similar to regular indoor wood stains where the wood would soak it up instead of it sitting on top of the wood and sealing it. Ready Seal also markets its product as something that never peels or cracks, so I decided to order some samples!
Ready Seal Stain Colors
As part of my thorough Ready Seal fence stain review, I wanted to test all of the colors. I was really pleased to see that you can order a neat little packet of color samples on Ready Seal’s website. The stain comes in 8 colors, and you just have to pay shipping. The colors come in little packets that are definitely enough to test.
I tested it on two different pieces of pine scrap wood I had in the garage. Both pieces show all 8 colors, and the colors appear in this order from left to right:
- Natural (formerly Light Oak)
- Natural Cedar
- Dark Walnut
- Burnt Hickory
- Mission Brown
Just keep in mind that the stains will take differently on different types of wood. The condition of the wood is also a big factor in how the stain presents itself. Is it new? Old? Super dry? Freshly pressured washed? So while testing all of the stains on a piece of scrap wood can give you a ballpark idea, you always want to test on the actual wood you’ll be using.
I was pretty sure I wanted to use the “Natural” shade even before testing the samples, but I was definitely sure after seeing everything on a scrap piece of pine. I knew that whatever stain I was using would look darker on the fence since the wood was so porous and a bit older. So I tested the “Natural” on the actual fence.
And while it was a bit darker than what I’d envisioned using, I figured I’d get used to it and that it would really improve the overall look of the fence. So I took some measurements to figure out how much I needed to order and put the order in!
Ready Seal fence stain review and application tips:
- A truly one-coat finish—yay! Remember that applying too much can lead to extended dry times or a finish that has more of a sheen than you want.
- All of the colors can be mixed together, but you shouldn’t tiny Ready Seal colors that have already been premixed.
- Don’t Ready Seal with water-based stains or sealers. Ready Seal finishes are not compatible with many seals and stains on the market, so it’s honestly best to just follow their instructions and don’t mix them with anything else.
- When using a sprayer like I did, make sure to use cardboard or plastic sheeting to cover areas you don’t want hit with overspray.
- Wet down areas you don’t want touched by overspray. This works because oil is lighter than water, so the oil-based finish will sit on top of the wet surface and can be easily sprayed off immediately after.
Apply Ready Seal fence stain with a sprayer
I used the Wagner Flexio 3000 paint sprayer (gifted by Wagner to me last year) for this job. I’ve used the sprayer on a few other paint and finish projects in the past, but this was the first large-scale outdoor staining project. And it worked great!
Since our fence is a board-on-board design, staining it with a roller or paint brush would have been incredibly time-consuming. Using the sprayer helped me knock the job out in a morning, including prep, covering things, spraying, and cleanup. Mike was shocked at how fast the process was.
I was also really pleased that the sprayer didn’t clog at all and had very little overspray. I actually didn’t end up having to cover as much as I thought I would because the overspray was so shallow. But I still covered more sensitive plants, edible plants, and things I just didn’t want sprayed. If I got a bit on the side of the house or sprayed for the gate hardware, I just wiped it down with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits.
How about a few before and afters of the fence?
I’m extremely happy with how the color turned out. I expect it to fade just a bit more; these “after” photos were taken about 4 days after application. Still, it’s going to look light years better than it did before! And I have much more confidence in this product lasting for a few years, too. Absolutely no concerns about chipping or peeling since it soaks into the wood. Now to enjoy the backyard for the rest of the summer—the work here is done. 🙂
And if you’re a video person, here’s a longer video embedded from YouTube showing some more of the process!