Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Woodscapes Stain vs. Paint
Woodscapes is an exterior wood stain made and sold by Sherwin Williams. The solid finish is the only stain I use for staining fences and cedar siding. The stain is available in both an oil-based and waterborne version, but my review is based on the waterborne option.
When re-coating siding, or a fence, a common question is whether stain or paint should be used. For wood surfaces, especially cedar, that have already been stained, Woodscapes performs very well. You can also apply this product over previously painted surfaces.
Stain penetrates wood, soaking into the grain to protect it and accentuate it's beauty. Paint forms a thick layer on top that takes away from the natural beauty of wood. Painted siding can also be a nightmare to prepare for a repaint when it starts to fail. With proper surface prep, Woodscapes will only fade over time, instead of peeling off in layers like paint. Stain also doesn't require a prime coat over bare wood like paint does.
If your fence, or siding, is shaded most of the day, mildew is much more likely to form and spread. Using a mildew-resistant product is important. I have found that water-based Woodscapes resists mildew really well when applied to clean wood.
Before applying the stain, I first spray a mix of bleach, water and detergent onto existing mildew, allowing it to soak into the wood for about ten minutes, followed by a thorough power washing. I have returned to homes I stained many years ago, using this product, that show no signs of mildew growth.
The oil-based version of this stain though is a different story. While I haven't personally used it, there are complaints about mildew forming not long after staining. This is because the resins in oil-based stain and paint actually feed mildew, which is why I typical use water-based products. Oil stain also tends to peel more than fade.
In my experience using the water-based Woodscapes in the solid finish, the stain hasn't peeled where I have used it. Like any product, the surface needs to be power washed and scraped if the previous coating is loose and peeling. After power washing, the wood should have two or three days to completely dry before applying the stain.
Although I haven't used the oil-based Woodscapes, there are complaints about the stain peeling and attracting mildew. When in doubt, I recommend going with the water-based option to avoid problems.
Wood Knots and Tannin Bleed
Tannin bleed is a huge eyesore when it happens on cedar siding stained a light color. Wood knots leak a dark discoloration into the stain that looks horrible. If you're staining your house siding a light color, I recommend spot priming the wood knots first before using this product.
While this product is self-priming, it won't completely seal wood knots to prevent discoloration from showing up in a light colored stain. I once stained a cedar sided home a light cream color with this product and the knots did not cover in two coats.
If you're staining the house a darker color, then this doesn't matter. What I always do is spot prime the wood knots with BIN shellac primer first. This prevents bleed-through and increases durability.
Is Woodscapes Solid Stain Worth It?
I can vouch for the water-based, acrylic option, but not the oil one. For cedar fences and siding, it is probably one of the best products to use for durability and appearance. It restores faded siding and looks excellent with two coats. It also dries very fast, allowing the second coat to be applied the same day.
Like most of the premium coatings at Sherwin Williams, the per gallon price isn't cheap. The cost is $57 per gallon, as of this writing. That is the regular retail price without a sale or discount through a store account. Sherwin Williams has an exterior coatings sale several times per year, typically for 30% to 40% off, that can save you a lot of money.
Darker colors in this product don't touch up well in my experience, especially blue and green. Two coats are a must to hide wood knots and prevent flash marks where the brush and roller overlapped.
This product sprays really well through an airless sprayer. The thin consistency makes brushing and rolling easy. Most importantly, this product has been very durable on the vertical surfaces I have used it on, or I wouldn't continue using it. Even outside of cedar application, I have sprayed and rolled it on T1-11 siding with excellent results.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the difference between Sherwin Williams Woodscape stain for siding, and their recently acquired Super Deck? I purchased the Super Deck in a solid color to stain T1-11 siding panels installed last year on the garage that I renovated. I understand that the T1-11 is pre-primed from the factory, and was told that you could not put a stain over primer?
Answer: You can stain T1-11 siding with Woodscapes acrylic solid stain. I've done it many times. Woodscapes is a siding stain and Super Deck is a deck stain. Power wash your new siding, if needed, and stain it with two coats of Woodscapes.
Question: What is the best stain to use on a new pergola?
Answer: You can use Sherwin Williams Woodscapes stain or Super Deck Stain. If the wood is brand new it needs to dry out for a while before applying a stain. This can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the type of wood.
Question: Your review speaks about solid stains, but what about Sherwin Williams' semi-transparent for a new cedar fence? Any thoughts?
Answer: The solid finish will last longer, but semi-transparent is fine too. If the cedar is brand new, though, the wood may need time to dry out before applying the stain.
Question: When using Woodscapes solid waterborne on previously-stained trim, must I sand off all the old (different) stain down to the wood or is it enough to sand a bit to remove the glossy outer layer?
Answer: I'm assuming you're referring to exterior stained trim. Woodscapes bonds well without primer, but if the trim is really glossy, I'd scuff sand it a little before applying the Woodscapes stain. You don't have to sand it down to the bare wood.
Question: I used semi-transparent Woodscape stain on a new privacy fence, can I use the solid for the 2nd coat? I just saw you prefer the solid.
Answer: Yes, but the solid stain must be the same type of Woodscapes, oil over oil, or waterborne over waterborne. The solid stain will also change the look of the finish. You won't see the wood grain as much as you do with the semi-transparent.
Question: I need to replace cedar wood shingle siding. The current ones are painted with SW Emerald latex paint. Can I use SW Woodscape to prime and paint final coat with Emerald Exterior latex?
Answer: If you're going to replace the painted cedar siding with the same siding, don't paint it. Stain the new cedar with two coats of Woodscapes stain (acrylic). Stain penetrates cedar, soaking into the wood, whereas paint mostly forms a layer on top that will eventually start peeling, requiring lots of scraping when you repaint next time. The cedar should have been stained instead of painted in the first place, but if you must paint the new cedar, which I don't recommend, you'd need to prime the bare wood with an exterior bonding primer (oil-based) that will seal the surface, and appy two coats of your Emerald exterior paint, or Duration. Duration is very durable.
Question: Do you back brush, backroll Sherwin Williams Woodscapes stain on house siding or just spray on 2 coats? What is the preferred method of woodstaining for a 3 story house?
Answer: Yes, I spray Woodscapes onto siding with my airless sprayer and use a 4-inch roller to backroll the stain into the pores of the wood as I spray. I do this for both coats. Two coats are best for durability, color definition, and touch up hide. Stain the soffit and fascia first, then mask off the windows with plastic and spray the siding. The top two siding boards near the soffit you'll have to stain by hand to avoid overspray going onto the other color, but everything below that can be sprayed. It's a lot faster than playing with a brush all day long.
Question: Can I use Sherwin Williams Woodscapes Stain on a screened in porch floor that has a solid stain on it now?
Answer: No, Woodscapes is a siding stain. On a screen porch floor, either Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor enamel, or Super Deck solid stain, would be fine. If you're planning on coating the floor with a finish that has any transparency, you'd have to strip off the existing solid stain first, but if you're coating it with another solid finish, this isn't needed.
Question: We built cedar porch posts a few weeks ago and want to stain them. The Sherwin Williams staff member recommended this over the phone, but I assumed it was waterproof. Doesn’t it need to be? And does stain cover if we seal up all the cracks with silicone?
Answer: Woodscapes is meant for cedar siding. You can use it on your cedar porch posts too without any problems with rain, it's exterior stain, but you should know that the finish of the acrylic Woodscapes is flat and dull, so dirt won't wash off as easily as it would if it were painted with glossy paint. If that's not important though, Woodscapes is an awesome product for cedar. I use it on all of my cedar siding projects.
Question: Can Woodscapes stain be used to stain a deck? If so, is a clear coat needed once stained twice?
Answer: No, I wouldn't stain a deck with Woodscapes. The finish of the stain is too dull and not meant to be walked on. The stain is meant for use on siding and fences. The product Super Deck stain is a good choice. That's what I use for deck staining.
Question: Can I use Sherwin Williams Woodscapes stain on a porch floor?
Answer: Woodscapes stain is meant for wood siding, not flooring. The Sherwin Williams products Super Deck, Porch and Floor Enamel, or All Surface Enamel, are good for flooring. I've personally had good experiences using their Porch and Floor enamel on porch flooring.
Question: Is it OK to prime new cedar siding with Zinsser Oil Base Cover Stain and then cover it with Woodscape Solid Color Stain?
Answer: No, it's unnecessary. Apply two coats of Woodscapes. This product can be applied over bare wood knots. No primer needed. It prevents tannin bleed.
Question: Do you need to use a sealer after using Woodscapes solid stain?
Answer: No, you don't have to use a sealer, only two coats of the stain.
Question: is it OK to prime cedar siding with Zinsser oil based cover stain and then stain with Woodscape solid stain?
Answer: Priming your cedar with oil based cover stain primer is unnecessary. I don't recommend that. Apply two coats of Woodscapes, and you're done. First, make sure the cedar is completely prepped, power washed, scraped, etc.
Question: Can I use deck stain indoors?
Answer: I would not use deck stain indoors. It's meant for outdoor use. The VOC content of deck stain is high and using it indoors can be toxic. The deck stain might also contain mildewcide which is also toxic. The fumes will be strong.
Question: From my understanding it is best to apply stain directly on areas without priming even if primer is tinted. The current cedar is flaking last stained in 07, and have scraped-sanded areas where need down to the wood. I thought was going to need to spot prime but sounds like spot paint with woodscapes then another add another coat?
Answer: No primer over bare wood is needed with Woodscapes stain. Don't spot apply the stain though over the bare wood areas. Apply two coats over the whole surface.
Question: I have an 80-year-old log cabin and I have stripped about 50% of the paint from the logs. Some of the old paint is still on the logs after I used a 4.5 polycarbonate grinding disc on an angle grinder. There are no glossy surfaces. Will Woodscapes solid water base stain adhere to the old, scuffed substrate?
Answer: Yes, Woodscapes solid stain is fine for your log cabin. One consideration to make though is that this stain is very dull in appearance. If you want the logs to be glossy and more scuff resistant, you might consider clear coating the stain, or use a stain with a glossy finish. If you clear coat the stain, make sure the products are compatible with each other.
Question: If we have previously used oil stains in the past, can we now switch to the water based acrylic? It has probably been 10 years since we stained.
Answer: Yes, you can apply waterborne siding stain over the weathered oil stain. Waterborne stain is less prone to mildew growth. I would power wash the siding really good with a good siding cleaner and let that dry for a few days or more. Then stain the siding with a solid waterborne siding stain. Woodscapes solid stain holds up well on cedar siding. It's only the stain I use for my wood siding projects.
Question: How does Woodscapes Water-based solid stain compare to Arborcoat water-based solid stain?
Answer: I've never used Arborcoat stain, but Benjamin Moore has some great products. I've used their paint, but none of their stain. I've used Woodscapes for many years on cedar siding and fences. The solid acrylic Woodscapes holds up really well on cedar siding. I've returned to homes I stained 5 years prior and the exterior showed no signs of chipping.
Question: Can I use a hand-pump sprayer to apply this?
Answer: I'm not sure if a hand pump sprayer will spray Woodscapes or not. The stain isn't super thick, but I've only sprayed it through my airless sprayer, not a pump sprayer.
Question: I have 325 feet of fence which I am replacing and I have been considering semi-solid stain as we like to see the grain in the wood, perhaps a "redwood" color. Is the Sherwin Williams semi-transparent as good as solid?
Answer: To be honest, I've only used the solid stain Woodscapes on fences and siding. Solid stain is thicker and more resistant to UV rays so it's going to last longer than the semi-transparent finish. If you want to see the grain more the semi-transparent finish will accentuate it more, but even the solid stain does too. The stain is thin and doesn't form as thick of a layer as paint does.
© 2017 Matt G.
Matt G. (author) from United States on April 29, 2019:
Sherwin Williams Super Deck stain or Woodscapes would be fine, but if you're staining any deck flooring, use Super Deck stain. If the pergola wood is brand new you'll have to give it some time to dry out before staining it.
J. Baker on April 29, 2019:
I have a new pergola it is ready for stain what kind should I use? The wood has knots I hate nots.
Matt G. (author) from United States on April 16, 2019:
Glad to hear it worked out for you.
cid h on April 16, 2019:
Great News! The Sherwin-Williams store manager, Troy is gonna give me the stain in the Woodscapes product!! (It’s a customized color for our HOA). No more worries! Probably should have called him first!
cid h on April 16, 2019:
Thanks Matt...I am still worried over it...
Matt G. (author) from United States on April 15, 2019:
I would have used Woodscapes for your cedar siding and trim. I don't know why the store sold you deck stain for your siding. Super Deck is a durable product that might hold up fine on your siding, but Woodscapes definitely would have been best for that. I'm not sure what the price difference is between those products.
cid h on April 15, 2019:
In the past I have used Woodscapes for both the cedar siding and cedar trim on my home. Yesterday Sherwin-Williams sold me Super deck for the siding and stayed with Woodscape for the trim, do you think this will be/become a problem? And do you happen to know if there is a price difference?
Matt G. (author) from United States on March 30, 2019:
No primer is needed underneath Woodscapes stain. All of the loose old paint should be removed and two coats of Woodscapes applied. The caulk tube should indicate whether it's paintable, or stainable.
Matt G. (author) from United States on March 08, 2019:
Thanks Laura. To be honest, I don't remember the Woodscapes color options because it's been a while since I've used the product, but if you visit your local Sherwin Williams they usually have the Woodscapes color book in the store.
Laura R. on March 04, 2019:
Thanks for your post. Very insightful. What color would you recommend for a cedar fence? Leaning towards the cedar or ember color, but I am having a hard time finding pictures.
Matt G. (author) from United States on September 22, 2018:
Honestly, I'm not sure because I've never stained a log cabin, but I think it would be fine. I recommend asking your local Sherwin Williams store manager.
firstname.lastname@example.org on September 21, 2018:
Can water based semi-transparent woodscapes be used on the exterior of log cabins?