Arborcoat on Weathered Wood and Other Thoughts

transparent stain

This is rather exceptional…

Not included in our review, here’s why:

Ever put exterior stain on gray weathered wood and watch it turn to black cloudy ugliness? That’s what oil stain always did. Here’s what Benjamin Moore Arborcoat waterborne alkyd/acrylic transparent stain did on some tired outdoor furniture.

If you look carefully, there are three boards that comprise the seat on the bench. When I started brushing the benchtop, with NO prep, I had to stop and take this picture. I am a notorious woodsnob, and I’ve not seen weathered wood accept stain this way before.

I chose not to include this snippet in our final Arborcoat review, mostly because I want to test this capability further before making any claims or recommendations for applying Arborcoat to unprepped weathered exterior wood, but on this small scale, it impressed like crazy. We stained all the deck furniture this way, and have been watching ever since.

 Reviews aren’t about sizzle, they are about steak.

Arborcoat on weathered wood symbolizes why I am not a fan at all of “first impression” product reviews. At all. Responsible and useful test and review info needs to incubate, no matter how important the writer thinks it is or how much the world presumably can’t live without it. It’s not so important that it should be half-assed, or driven by emotion, ego or guess. The above photo is “first impression” and inconclusive. So, we chose not to go all around the internet trumpeting this product as a one step prep eliminating miracle cure for weathered wood. While time may tell that to be the case, it is not our style to jump that gun half cocked.

Over a year in testing, our ongoing Arborcoat Review was only submitted to American Painting Contractor magazine when we were confident with our observations of the 636/637 combo. We can see in the site traffic stats that Arborcoat is a topic of considerable interest to our readers. The APC review is based on a well documented and comprehensive log cabin restoration project on which we used Arborcoat to refinish. And, we had observed its performance for 11 months at the time of our review publication.

It takes alot of time to compile formal exterior product reviews for publication. We prep and apply product to manufacturer specifications to observe repeatable results, so that we can speak with the authority of experience in making claims about the performance of an exterior product. I couldn’t write the Arborcoat review until I saw what I needed to see over the course of the changing seasons in a year. On the flip side, our regional Benjamin Moore rep made several site visits to verify that our surfaces were prepared to an acceptable “manufacturer recommended” standard, and – more importantly – that the product was applying and drying to our satisfaction and expectation.

The Steak is Medium Well

It would have been easy to publish something here, or there, sometime around three months into testing, but it would not have been responsible or comprehensive. It would have been first impression, and the review world is watered down by unsubstantiated premature conclusions about products, and manufacturers, everyday. That doesn’t serve contractors or manufacturers well. It only serves the writer by giving him something juicy to say sooner. Immediate gratification cripples objectivity.

While we do many reviews that are exclusive to topcoatreview.com, we also enjoy the challenge of submitting higher profile products and tool reviews for print publication. (And we have some good ones in the works.) The reason for this is because we understand that anyone can pretty much write anything they want on the internet these days and click publish. Bad review writing is like twitter with unlimited words. Sometimes they are genuine, sometimes they are twisted.

Our print published materials are often read by multiple editors, and in some cases even reviewed by editorial advisory boards prior to publication. It is really, really good for more than one set of eyes to see a piece prior to publication to ensure objectivity and accuracy. Plus, it keeps a writer sharp to have his work critiqued by better professional writers than himself or herself.

Because there are so many opinions and so few editors on the internet, magazine publication will always be a good place for contractors to find reliable information that is distilled down to its best and most potent form.

Scott Burt

Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine (www.paintmag.com) since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. This site is an extension of Scott's publication work, and he encourages readers to leave comments and questions about articles published here. Hope to hear from you!

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Review Update | Home Improvement Idea Central | July 27, 2013
  2. Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Semi-Solid Stain | The Blogging Painters | June 15, 2012
  3. Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain | Topcoat Review | June 14, 2012
  1. Lee says:

    A local painter stained our new ash decks with Arborcoat semi-transparent two years ago. I want to restain the decks this Fall before winter arrives. We live in New England. I’ve read a lot of negative info about AC on the web. One site states they do not recommend it. I’m trying to decide whether to use AC for the re-stain, or switch to Cabot (which I’ve used on our house in the past, and like). Do you have a recommendation? Also, I can’t seem to find your review of Arborcoat – the one link I found was a dead link.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Lee, sorry about that…the Arborcoat review was completed in July 2012 and published in APC magazine (paintmag.com). The archives on that site get cleaned up from time to time. The only place that full published piece seems to exist is here:http://www.paintmag.com/content/superior-stain Hope this helps. Please note that the formulations of Arborcoat products have been changed at least a couple of times that we know of since the time of this review and we have not tested the newer versions.

  2. Stu says:

    Great posts! AC line is confuzling! So many permutations.

    I powerwashed 30 yrs grime, mildew and old transparent alkyd stain off western red cedar clapboard siding on a four sided garage in the Adirondacks. Siding looked awesome stripped.

    Tested 3 strips of AC semi-transparent 638 with natural cedartone tint, AC Transparent 637-40 (cedar), and AC Translucent 623-40 (cedar).

    638 semi a bit too opaque.
    637-40 went on sides 1&2, but I find it too orange/sunburnt. Maybe a bit too shiny (plastic-like?) as well.
    623-40 went on side 3. Again, a bit too orange/sunburnt. Nicely transparent to show wood grain & knotholes, as was the 637-40. Halfway through that 3rd side, I threw in the 638 semi trial pint, for a 50/50 mix with 637-40. Looks pretty good! Close to what I want.

    Q1: performance diff between 637 Transparent & 623 Translucent?
    (This is clapboard siding, not a deck floor so I did not elect to use the contovertial 636 ClearCoat.)

    Q2: Blending AC colors the way I did… any issues?

    Q3: Why so many permutations?

    • Stu says:

      Fall 2016 – Just finished coating side 4 of our structure. I used this non-seen side as a bit of a laboratory. Tried swaths of Cabot & BM transparent alkyd stains, along with Arborcoat 623-10 (natural), and a couple of blends in my trusty yogurt cup of 623-10 and 623-40 (cedar).

      Putting on the old oil-based paints felt good, and while they were still wet, these sections glistened and the old cedar clapboards looked fantastic. Putting on the waterborne Arborcoat stains felt awful, dipping a brush in what looks like tomato soup and appears cloudy and paint-like going on.

      Once the wall dried, different story! The half with the alkyd oil-based, showed off all the dark imperfections, and missed by the power-washer spots. The boards are dark as if never cleaned.

      Contrast this with the Arborcoat 623 Translucent that had dried and shows very well. The natural (623-10) is perfect as is the blend wirh (623-40).

      Whereas 623-40 (cedar) seems like it should show well on cedar claps, I found it too orange, and unnatural. Start with 623-10 (natural) on your already richly colored cedar boards.

  3. Mary says:

    We have Cabot oil, semi solid stain on our deck. We are thinking of using Arborcoat on it. Do we need to take the stain off completely, down to bare wood?

    • Great question Mary! Cabot’s semi solid stain is a great product, as long as you didn’t use the California compliant low voc version – which is absolute junk.

      Ok, you don’t have to strip the old finish off as long as the wood is thirsty and able to drink in the new stain. Test the wood by applying a few drops of water. If the water soaks into the wood, then you can stain with either the same Cabot, or with the acrylic Arborcoat. If the water beads up, then acrylic Arborcoat will not work unless the finish is completely removed.

      If some areas bead up, and others are thirsty, then I recommend sticking with the exact same Cabot stain that was previously used, and applying with a brush. Then BEFORE the stain tacks up, wipe off all remaining stain that did not soak into the wood (remember stain is designed to penetrate and should not be over applied or allowed to dry on top of the wood). You’ll probably need a bunch of clean cotton rags 🙂

      Note: If your deck currently has semi-solid stain, then you must choose either semi-solid or solid body when you restain. You cannot choose a less opaque stain without stripping completely. Also, it is always beneficial to sand out all gray / dead wood fibers with 80 grit prior to staining. We have had really great luck with the semi-solid acrylic Arborcoat stain here in Helena Montana!

  4. Rich says:

    we have a new construction 3 season porch that will have heat, but probably won’t be heated often in the winter. We’re using pine bead board on the interior. Would this be an appropriate place to use Arborcoat solid color stain. The porch will have many windows and skylights and is open to a southwest sun, so we’re thinking the UV resistance of Arborcoat will help maintain color over time

  5. pablo says:

    can a sprayer be use to apply the arborcoat? we would be doing this on cedar siding.

    • Yes it can Pablo; but as with all stains it should be worked in with a brush. Buy a Bravo Stain Brush and work small sections at a time.
      Arborcoat dries very fast, so spray on and brush in a timely manner
      Cool weather or a splash of Benjamin Moore’s extender goes a long way.

      Cheers!

      • pablo says:

        Would dipping be the fastest and more efficient way to do this?
        Thank you so much for your answers!

      • pablo says:

        How About dipping the cedar 1×8 boards in the stain? Wouldn’t that be better than brushing?

        • Yes dipping is a great application method – especially with oil based stains. With any stain (Solid Body stains being an exception) you don’t want to over apply and have it dry on top of the wood. You want it to penetrate into the wood only. If the stain is over applied, and allowed to dry on top of the wood it has the potential to peel. So if you dip your cedar, I recommend that you dry-brush them off with a big stain brush to remove the excess stain. Hope this helps Pablo!

  6. Deborah cohen says:

    My contractor gave me paint grade interior birch doors but I want to Stain them…not paint them.. Problem is the grains are inconsistent from door to door and some are very blotchy. My question is….are there any interior semi-solid stains that I could use to make them all look relatively uniform? Please advise. Thank you.

  7. Mark Miller says:

    We have had 2 tough wildfire seasons in Washington. I am wondering about adding or mixing a fire retardant product to our next staining of cedar-sided houses. Any suggestions?

  8. william masters says:

    Can arborcoat be used indoors on wood walls

    • Scott Burt says:

      Technically I suppose it could be used indoors, William, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice. Generally, exterior products are formulated for uv resistance, and often have exterior grade mildewcides in them that are not desirable for interior off gassing. I see the appeal of a waterborne stain for interior, but my opinion is that I would avoid using Arborcoat or any exterior product for interior applications.

  9. Matthew Yakovakis says:

    I’m about to re-stain my 25 year old log cabin in Northern NH. all previous stains were oil based. My son insists on using solid or semi-solid arborcoat by Benjamin Moore. Questions: Is this a good choice in a very tough weather environment? If we go with water based arbor coat this time, will we be able to revert back to oil based in future? Does the arbor coat peel off the logs. Logs are pretty dry as they have been in place since 1988. A quick reply would be much appreciated as we about to order the stain and complete the job. My other choice would be Weatherall UV premium stain.

    thanks, Matt Yakovakis
    Colebrook, NH

    • Scott Burt says:

      Matt, Arborcoat works great on logs. The largest test piece we did for our review of it 3 years ago was a log cabin restoration and it has done great. It would not be advisable to put oil over it in the future though.

  10. Hey how is your no-prep grayed and weathered furniture holding up with Arbor Coat? Are out in the sun and weather?

    Thanks

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