June 16, 2023
Home Improvement

Exterior Paint & Solid Stain – What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between exterior paint and solid stain? We get this same question year after year. The truth is, not much!

Solid Stain

A solid stain is, essentially, a paint. Both are films that sit on the surface of a substrate. A penetrating stain differs from a solid stain entirely in that the product actually absorbs into the wood.

To determine which product is right for a given project, there are a number of different things to consider. Start with the substrate – is the wood rough or smooth? A solid stain will better accentuate the texture of the wood, so a rough surface likely calls for stain over paint. The disadvantage here is that solid stains are very flat and thus are typically less durable than paint. You can still expect 6-8 years of longevity out of a properly executed exterior stain application. Additionally, a degraded stained surface is typically less work to prepare than a degraded painted surface, so you can expect that less labor will be involved when it comes time to re-stain.

Exterior Paint

Paint, on the other hand, is a much thicker film that solid stain. This allows it to bridge cracks and imperfections in the substrate, resulting in a smoother finished surface. We recommend a low-lustre sheen on most exterior surfaces – it wears the best with weather conditions. However, increasing sheen level also increases the visibility of substrate imperfections. For this reason, low-lustre paint isn’t usually the best choice for rough surfaces. An exterior paint application can last anywhere from 5-10 years, depending on the quality of surface preparation and the quality of the paint product.

Whether you finish coat the wood with solid stain or with paint, keep in mind that both require the wood be primed first. And always remember that mistakes are easily made, but not easily fixed (and can be unbelievably costly). Be sure to hire a pro for the job the first time around!

Ragsdale, Inc. has been in the business of exterior surface restoration and finishing for over 35 years. We learned our hard lessons a long time ago! If you’re looking for a worry-free experience, contact us! We have the knowledge and experience to execute most any project without a hitch!

Tell the World


Ragsdale Co.

At Ragsdale, Inc. our mission extends far beyond a commitment to excellence in the area of painting, decorating and finishing. Our purpose is to utilize our skills and creativity to thrill our clients, while maintaining a safe and professional environment for our employees to work and provide for their families. Get in touch with our talented team today to talk about your next project!

detail shot of blue cabinetry with Ragsdale logo mark

The Ragsdale Co.
709 Sheridan Road
Lake Bluff, IL 60044