Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain Review

Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain Review

Is finally out…our Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain Review – in the July 2012 issue of American Painting Contractor magazine. Please check it out. We put almost a year of observation into this product prior to submitting the review for publication, and since the review was published, we have continued to observe favorable results from the 636/637 product combination that we reviewed.

More: Arborcoat Testing

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  1. Dave McCann says:

    Just started a project using Arborcoat (recommended by our paint store) solid 640 on a redwood fence. Now I’ve read a lot of bad things about this product half way through, I’m wondering if the solid is better or if it has been reformulated as some have suggested?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Dave, we haven’t used it in a couple of years. I don’t think the solid stain had as many issues as the transparent with the clear coat. If you have prepped well, it should be fine.

    • Drake says:

      Heya Dave, 640 should work great for you. Any underperforming products have been reformulated. And, contrary to what a lot of internet sites (largely competitor-driven) are saying, the Arborcoat is a very good product. In fact, they’ve just been voted highest in EVERY category for stains by JD Powers’ US Paint Satisfaction survey. Yes, every single category they scored above every other brand. Source:

      • Scott Burt says:

        Thanks for the link, Drake. I followed it and saw this:

        Exterior Stain Brand Satisfaction Rankings

        Benjamin Moore (814) ranks highest in customer satisfaction among exterior stain brands, performing particularly well in application; design guides; durability; price; product offerings; and warranty/guarantee
        – See more at:

        It doesn’t cite Arborcoat line in particular, but rather BM brand as a whole. Anything in their reports specific to AC? That would be great for the brand if so.

        • Drake says:

          Benjamin Moore’s exterior stains are all labeled under the Arborcoat name. That’s been the case for over a year now, though it may have taken a while for all of the old inventory to move from some warehouses.

  2. Drake says:

    Out of curiosity, have you tried this product since it was reformulated? Due some unfortunate issues with the earlier Arborcoat stains, they were completely reformulated. New versions have urethane and are a three way acrylic/alkyd/urethane hybrid that, in my opinion, holds up much better over time than the old. Personally, for anything other than a solid stain I still recommend an oil based coating (we prefer Penofin for our transparent coatings), but this seems like it could be a good contender.

  3. Chris says:

    This is junk- my mahogany deck is now ruined. 2 good coats looked beautiful for a week and then it faded rapidly until nothing was left 2 months later. A nightmare.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Chris. It seems that you are not alone in bad experience with the product.

      • Drake says:

        For what it’s worth, hardwood decks (like mahogany and ipe) shouldn’t be stained with this product. This is either a failure of the store employees or him for not knowing the correct usage of the product. Hardwoods take special hardwood stains. This isn’t a failure of the product at all. I’m surprised you weren’t aware of that, Scott.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Drake, mahogany isn’t particularly hard (while ipe certainly is). If a deck stain can’t work on mahogany, it probably shouldn’t be in the running for consideration on many species.

          • Drake says:

            It’s not a function of how hard the wood is, it’s a function of how dense the grain is. Mahogany is maybe not quite as dense as ipe, but it’s a hardwood (by definition) and soaks up stain much less readily than softwoods like cedar and treated lumber will. His issue corroborates this- it sat on the surface of the deck rather than soaking in, and quickly faded off. That’s what happens (best case) when you treat a hardwood with a non-penetrating stain (like the Arborcoat product mentioned). In fact, if you read the tech data sheet for this product, it explicitly states it’s not recommended for hardwoods: Something like Penofin Hardwood Oil, or Ultra Premium, would have been a better answer for his deck. Don’t treat mahogany with non-penetrating stains. Again, surprised you don’t know this. And yes, it shouldn’t be in the running for ANY hardwood species, because it’s not a penetrating stain.

          • Scott Burt says:

            That is definitely where there is some confusion with this product, Drake. Waterbornes actually can/do penetrate wood that is properly prepped. The early generation Arborcoat (for us, but apparently not the rest of the general population) was a great example of this. The trans stain penetrated very well, and the clear sat on top as the sacrificial coat. That was actually a good system. It is unfortunate that it was not acceptable to the masses from a prep and app standpoint. We could talk for days about the differences between mahogany and ipe, that is really beside the point in the grand discussion of Arborcoat misunderstandings. But in the overall wood species world, mahogany, not that hard or dense. And significantly more open grained. Should work there, but apparently different users will have differnt mileage. Probably best for a mfr to classify conservatively that way. Thanks for the input. Also, we don’t recommend any of the Penofins anymore. There are much more durably and low maintenance oils that have quickly outpaced Penofin on ipe and in general.

          • Drake says:

            Waterbornes can soak into the wood some, yes. But they aren’t penetrating oils (which is what I should have said). Even penetrating waterbornes typically leave some film, even if it’s not much, and they just flat out don’t penetrate as well as oils do. And again, say what you want about mahogany- it is, by definition, a hardwood, and is much denser than any softwoods you’re using. You shouldn’t treat it as if it’s cedar or PT pine, because it doesn’t behave the same way.

            We’ve had fantastic luck with Penofin over the last few years. It’s not the durability that makes it excellent (generally a couple of years, so not terrible but not great, either) it’s the ease of recoating that makes it great. If you take proper care of the deck retreating is as easy as a soft wash clean and restaining. It also takes care of the wood much better than some of the other brands, which sport much lower UV protection values. Each to his own, though.

  4. Rebecca says:

    May 16 2014
    I’m not one for choosing to give a bad review on a product but on this one, the Arborcoat stain, in fairness to anyone considering it I must say
    “don’t.” I want to save anyone from the same grief we are experiencing.
    The stain did not hold up. Whether it’s our northeast cold winters I have no idea. The stain peeled badly and the entire area where the rain
    falls off the roof of our house onto our deck it has totally removed.
    My husband is presently on the deck trying as best he can to remove the peeling stain which is a huge mess. I personally chose
    the Aborcoat as it came recommended to me as being ” the best”
    product to use. I was willing to pay the price, wanting our new deck
    too look great since it’s facing the street in front of our house. I can see the stain is not easy to remove and will need to seek advice from
    a Benjamin Moore rep. to finish the removal so it can be stained
    with something else. I would hate to see someone else going
    through the same process we are, expensive and tedious.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Rebecca, thank you for the honest assessment of the product. I am sure others will gain from your unfortunate experience. We have been hearing many such stories, regrettably.

    • Michael says:

      Unfortunately the Arborcoat with a clear topcoat has failed spectacularly on a massive deck complex here in Northern California. My crew and I are now in the midst of a major salvage operation. In all my years applying exterior finishes, I have never experienced any thing like this. It would be nice if the finish simply peeled off and we could be on our way after a cleaning, a wash, and a re coat. However the strips of finish wrap themselves around any and all of the high end plantings and stonework, as well as launch themselves into the lagoon necessitating wetsuits and kayaks with pool skimmers and now pre-placed filter cloth. In the ares of the deck that were not exposed to sunlight or moisture, the finish is ironclad, and simply will not come off without a stripper. I’m not a big fan of spot stripping and brightening a massive deck. Basically as you can guess I’m not a big fan of this finishing system, which my partner actually begged me not to use ( dude…clear coat on decks over transparent? Are you nuts? It’s gonna peel!!)

      At this point After twenty years of using primarily Benjamin Moore products, I’m switching to Sherwin Williams. I can’t see myself trusting any exterior product that BM recommends after this.

  5. Denise says:

    I would NEVER use this product again..nor would I recommend it to anyone! The product is not made for deck surfaces in the winter in Chicago. This product has cost us thousands of dollars in trying to fix it . It peeled the very first winter and because of vegetation and pets, it has been difficult to use a stripper strong enough to get rid of it. I am very disappointed with the performance of it and the lack of information and help we received from BM

    • Scott Burt says:

      Sadly, Denise, you are not the only one sharing unsatisfactory experiences with Arborcoat. Hopefully, BM is being proactive on the customer service side.

  6. Ziggy says:

    Im using arborcoat solid stain on a house with clap boards. I finished applying the 1st application and I have shiners everywhere. Not lap marks. I don’t really know if it is just surfactant leaching. Talk to Ben moore and they were very insulting towards me. Wouldn’t even send a rep out to the job site. B.S.!!!!!!!! Back in 05 used storm stain on the same house. Looked great. Whats up with Ben Moore? I’ve given them plenty of $$$$$ in the last 10 years. Their products seem to be declining in performance.

    • Scott Burt says:

      I’ve heard alot of situations like that, Matt. There seems to be quite a bit of regional variability in people’s experience with Arborcoat and Benjamin Moore service. The Arborcoat that I have put on has continued to perform well with minimal maintenance. But I have certainly heard from plenty of people who have had awful experiences with it. It is unfortunate when customers spend top dollar and end up dissatisfied with the product and the service. Hopefully BM and the other mfr’s won’t lose sight of that as product prices continue to increase.

  7. John says:

    I do not recommend this product on any custom log home. Especially if there is chinking present. It will tint the chinking a different color which is unsightly. Basically, it is not a true clear coat. I will not recommend the product in my business again as it has caused a very big problem turning the logs on a gray log home green and yellow.

  8. hunter says:

    hi scott: i just saw this product at my local hardware store the other day and picked up a small can for testing – your explanation of the 2-step process is great as that’s not as evident in the store.

    i need to coat a redwood fence in northern california: one side is brand new con-heart with SS screws and another is a 3 year old con-common with galvanized nails that’s beginning to show a bit of age (and the nails have “weeped”)

    by habit, i’d very much prefer a transparent penetrating oil finish, but much of what’s out there is either “clear” or a reddish tone (and the clear accentuates the red in the redwood). i’d very much prefer a transparent charcoal-tone which is what caught my eye about the arborcoat. while many semi-opaque brands have dark tones, the arborcoat has a transparent “silver gray”. my hope is that the gray will better coordinate the two woods (one new and red and the other older and graying).

    from reading the article, you seem to be a fan — which is encouraging. a few questions:

    1: any general thoughts on the above plan? (staining the new and old fence together)?
    2: would either of these products be sprayable via a pump sprayer? I have a larger compressor and could get a HVLP gun if this is definitely the way to go
    3: i’m going for protection more than anything (to retain the integrity of the wood). should i coat both sides? (the backside faces areas that aesthetics don’t matter). could i stain the face side and clear-coat the two sides?
    4: what sort of prep could/should be done on the old fence? anything to do to the new one?
    5: you generally don’t seem to favor film-coatings. this seems to be an exception, no?

    thanks for your insight.

    • Scott Burt says:


      I think you should do some experimenting. There is an article here on the site called “Arborcoat on Weathered Wood” that demonstrates an interesting characteristic that Arborcoat showed us in testing. Seemed to be able to refresh the wood nicely, instead of turning it a cloudy or muddy tone. I would definitely coat as many sides and edges as you can for protection, and hvlp is a very efficient delivery method. Pump spray is possible but messy. Ideally, for prep, if you could pressure wash the old and new sections that would get them clean and happy to receive the new stain. You are correct, I dont like film forming clears on high exposure exterior items. This is different, the clear is more of a sealer on top of stain, in my opinion, than a film. Do some experimenting and keep me posted!

  9. We had great results with Arborcoat.

    We power sanded the top coats off to the bare wood. Two years later the transparent finish still looks fresh.

    Perhaps Arborcoat works better with vertical surfaces and not so with decks.

    You may view the project on the exterior portfolio page of our website;

    Sharon, owner, lead painter, estimator

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