Blog Semi Transparent Stain

Published on July 5th, 2013 | by Grant Barnard


Reviews and Difference Between Semi Transparent Stains

There are many different exterior stains that you can use. Below is our worst of list and best of list. They all have claims that their product is the best. There are so many different types of stains and even difference in opinions on how the stain should protect the deck or fence. Some stains work in weather in some states and some work in all weather. Its a complicated issue to chose the correct semi transparent stain. Read carefully and make your decision. If you are in the Indianapolis Metro area and need of deck staining or fence staining please contact Grants Painting.

Grants Painting, 5508 Elmwood Avenue Suite #320, Indianapoolis, IN, 46203, United States (US) - Phone: (317) 800-4540 Email: URL:

Three Basic Oils Used In Semi Transparent Exterior Stains(Oil Based AND Water Based)

There are four types of semi transparent stain oils. Even waterborne stains have oils in them(at least any of them worth using). Most stains use a combination of these oils. A product that is only one type of oil is typically not your best option.

  1. Non-Drying Oil Stain–  With non-drying oils you will have a beautiful fence or deck always. And it is easy for a homeowner to apply. However you will also apply this type of stain the most often and it will cost the most(at least in Indiana).
  2. Drying OilsDrying oils dry to a hard film known as a polymer. SHOULD NOT be used in areas that receive hail or any other hail type damage like a lawn mower that sometimes kicks up rocks. Stains with high amounts of drying oils such as boiled linseed oil can be destroyed in a good hail storm and very difficult to repair. Behr stains have a high amount of drying oils.
  3. Semi Drying OilsSemi drying oils are the best option in most environments because they protect and penetrate while not cracking and not rinsing off in a hard rain.

Best products and Worst products – Please suggest more

  1. Behr Semi Transparent Stains – Worst – This stain is more of a film forming coating. We would call this not a 
  2. stain but a “TransLUCENT” coating. In the painting industry we call this a “film forming” coating.
  3. Wolmans Semi Transparent Stain (DuraStain) – Worst – This product is much like the Behr stain and is another film forming product.
  4. Pittsburg Ultra Semi Transparent Stain – Best – This is a stain, available at Menards, that we used very much in our earlier years. It is an excellent stain but Pittsburg ultra Semi Transparent Stain ust not be applied too thick. That is the case with every semi transparent stain.
  5. Cabot Stains- Not Good In Our Humble Opinion – These stains have one and only one good benefit… Cabot stains are easy to touch up missed spots and its very easy to keep a wet edge. However when a water based stain is formulated for idiot proof application its going to fall short in every other category.  Its also very hard to clean up.
  6. TWP 1500 – Read our review about this great stain Here.

Film Forming Stain Vs. Non Film forming

Film forming stains are not recommended in any environment by Grants Painting. The film can be damaged by impact of a weed wacker, mowers kicking up rocks, and most of all hail! We recommend stains that soak in totally and protect the wood from inside.

How To Get Any Water Based Stain To Soak In More

Water based stains soak in better in cooler temperatures early in the morning. The wood should also be not too dry. Spraying it down a few hours before can help but be careful that water built up between the planks and the 2×4 will cause drips when the stain is applied. Also too much wetness and the wood wont be able to pull in any more liquid so the stain won’t penetrate. Usually a good wet down right before the sun goes down will get this done for an early morning application.

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About the Author

Grant Barnard started painting in 2000 and started Grants Painting in 2008. Originally doing business in northern Indiana, the business was moved to Indianapolis and Greenwood shortly after. Today the Grants Painting has blossomed into a reputable painting contracting company with an ever growing extensive website including our How To DIY Articles. Grants Painting covers all aspects of coatings and specialized in epoxy flooring, interior painting, exterior painting and cabinet painting.

  • Clint

    Hi Grant
    What is your opinion on Sherwin Williams Deck Scape SemiTranparent for Cedar fence. I want to keep the nautural cedar color. Is it ok to use clear sealer rather than using one with a toner. Any info is appreciated. Thanks – CLINT

    • Grant Barnard

      Hi Clint. As I said when we spoke that I am unfamiliar with the Sherwin Williams Deckscapes product. We use the Acri Shield natural tone base semi transparent stain with no colorant when the customers request absolutely no color to be added. The product itself has the UV scrubbers/absorbers that prevent greying(sun damage). However even a slight color will extend the appearance of the stain mainly because the color covers the grey that you start to see at the stains end life. Now this is true for Acri Shield and I cannot speak for other stains. Thanks for reading our free blog Clint. Come back anytime.

  • Grant is a super helpful, knowledgable guy….Highly recommended!

  • Grant, i would appreciate your thoughts regarding surface film coatings like Renew that fills cracks 1/4 deep.The product has a nice feel and look but i see it peeling under harsh conditions.
    My deck is quite large and semi – transparent stains are my first choice.So far, I have 20 hrs of surface prep on this deck.
    Porter Acri Sheild is my choice but no stores in Knoxville, Tn. Based on your experience how does ppg ultra deck stain compare to porter? PPG made a smart move purchasing porter.


    • Grant Barnard

      Well they have not been around long enough to say… But yes! If it forms a film then it can peel.

      Semi Transparent Stains are not meant to form a film and thats why most of it fails. Applicator error. The trick is to do it early morning before the sun heats up the wood. Once that happens then the semi transparent flash dries and forms a film. It should NOT be a film.

      I think you are talking about the Pittsburg Ultra Stain which is a very very good product.

      Thanks for your comment, Earl


    • Peter

      Hi Grant.I have a fens about ten years old and it was stained with clear stain/it looks like-we but this house and I am not sure/. Now wood is almost black.I am not sure what is the best solution for me-solid color paint or solid color stain – because I don’t think I can wash it good for clear coat…And do I have to p rewash fens for solid color?.Thank you for your time.

      • Yes you do have to always power wash at least lightly. At this point you can strip it or paint it.

  • Mike Miller

    Grant Do you have any experience with Messmers UV plus for Cedar siding?

  • Bill Haseloff

    We had hail damage on our 7 year old Chinese cedar fence. We tried applying a cedar toned wood finish. Made it look worse. What should we use to make our fence look good again?

    • Sorry Bill. Your best solution is to totally remove the coating at this point. Either that or you could try Sikkens SRD in a darker color.

  • Nicole

    Hi Grant!

    When you speak of Acri Shield Semi Trans being one of the best, which are you speaking of semi trans acrylic oil or semi trans alkyd oil? Also, what is the difference. We are working on my deck. Just had it pressure washed and I would like to go with something that brings the grain out of the cedar wood but doesn’t have too much color in it. Thank you!

    • Nicole, Good Questions.
      They are not much different.
      Water will be shinier and harder to keep a wet edge but cleans up better
      alkyd oil will protect from water longer but not hold color as long. It will also wear slightly different and redcoat better.

      OR PPG now carries an actual oil stain in a formula that fits within most states VOC limits. Its called TWP 1500 and it will draw the character out the most, hold color less, recoat beautifully, and protect against water damage for the longest.

      • Nicole

        Thank you for your response, Grant.

  • Christine Smith

    I just powerwashed a huge deck with a round pool.. Some wood has been there15 years, some 3. It gets direct sun most of the day and is very dry. What is my best option for protecting it?

  • Debbie Henson

    We have a cedar sided house. We have used in the past a semi transparent cwf from Menards now we can no longer get it in semi transparent. We stained it cedar stain until we got the desired look and then we stained it with cwf clear. It has been several years since we have done anything 3-4 years and it is now starting to chip off and needs to be restained. We were told by Menards to use Pittsburgh semi transparent cedar natural tone and they told us to use a power washer first to take off the stain that will come off. I was wondering if that was right and I’m concerned the stain will not match and it will be more work and we will be in worse shape. I guess what I’m asking is what we should do and what we should use. Thanks

  • Jason

    Hi Grant,

    I live in northwest Indiana and im looking to stain my deck. Its pressure treated wood (dont remember the type) and this will be 2 years since i last stained it.

    I have already removed the previous stain, cleaned, scrubbed, brightened and sanded the deck.

    Im am trying to choose between semi transparent stains by:

    -cabot semi transparent deck & siding stains
    -behr weather proofing all in one wood stain and sealer
    -thompsons semi transparent oil stain
    -pittburg ultra advanced

    I want something that will handle Indiana weather but also something that i can reapply in a few years without going through all the hassle of completely removing the previous stain.

    Also it has been raining on and off the last month or so, for whatever product you recommended, how many consecutive dry days do i need to apply the stain?

    fellow Hoosier

  • Lisa Up

    We purchased an old farmhouse that has board and batten cedar. It is approximately 30 years old and has never been stained, painted or protected. It appears the rough cedar side was exposed.
    We are in the process of renovating the house. We took some of the boards of the original 1940’s part of the structure, which covered lap siding. The boards for the most part look almost new on the backside that was against the house.
    Our question is can we turn the boards around and use them on the good side-which appears to be the smoother side of the board?
    We have available Cetol® SRD Semi-Transparent stain. I used it years ago on some Cedar dimensional timbers and got excellent results. Other than that I will have to get something over the internet, as it is Sherwin Williams or Home Depot products that we have available.
    Last, after we get the boards back in place, do we need to power wash them before staining?
    Thanks for the advice! We are slightly overwhelmed!

    • OK Lisa. Well now…. Your easiest and most “Beginner Proof” way to do this is the way you want, Im sure. 🙂 Old rough saw cedar is easy to destroy with a power washer.
      Go get some pool shock from the pool supply store. The liquid kind if you can find it but the powdered will work too. Dilute it and use a yard sprayer to spray it on. Do a couple of test areas to get the right dilution rates, you’ll know when you get there cause it will seem just too easy. Then power wash off the waste. Get the new version of TWP1500 that is a low voc formula, found on the internet, and apply that with a yard sprayer and back brush with a large brush that goes on the end of a broom stick or extension pole. Sometimes the pool shock destroys the yard sprayer so this may require two.

  • Emily M

    We are currently constructing a pressure treated rough pine fence with metal posts in MA. I was looking for a dark or black stain which is not easy to find. I saw Timber Pro has an ebony stain as does Acri Shield. Do you have any thoughts regarding the Acri Shield Semi-Transparent vs Semi-Opaque (and Alkyd vs Acrylic) and any experience on the durability of a darker stain. Also would we stain now or wait; the pickets have been in our garage 6-8 weeks at this point and should be completely up by the weekend. Thanks for help

  • Jeff

    I read the reviews and chose TWP1500 to protect my new cedar deck in Maine, 2 years ago. After one year, it was very gray looking so I used an OXI cleaner and stiff brush to clean it off and after drying the deck out after the cleaning, recoated but this time I didn’t do it on such a hot day and tried to not put it on so thick. A year later, the whole deck is almost black all over. So I just finished pressure washing it off so right now my deck is light colored bare cedar that looks like new again. It seemed like the TWP formed a coating on top of the wood rather than sinking into it, and that coating turned black or very dark gray over the course of less than a year. I see you are recommending TWP. Why do you think I’ve had such horrible results with TWP? Thanks for any guidance. Any other product I should consider? I’d like to stay away from solid stains because I want to be able to see the wood grain at least a little bit.

    • Well the wood seems to have not been properly cleaned each time. It really takes a high flow power washer to get the job done correctly – Or at least a smaller power washer with a bit of careful time consuming cleaning. A brush would take literally days to get any wood surface clean enough for the stain.

      PS. The black is simply formed with yellow oxide pigments hit grey wood.

      Sorry Jeff

  • 2nd amendment vs evil govt

    after reading all reviews at lowes , home depot and internet…….seems all these deck stains are expensive and suck after a year or three! brands like cabots and thompsons water seal have all been bought out and cheapened. looks like everyone is in the act to screw the sheeple. maybe a brick patio would be a better way to go. more money up front, but easy to maintain.

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