A penetrating, oil-based, transparent wood stain is a popular choice for cedar siding. A transparent stain will provide your siding with UV protection and water resistance while also completely revealing the underlying beauty and complexity of the wood's grain. In addition, penetrating stain is typically a single-coat application. The stain completely soaks into the wood's surface. If you have high quality cedar siding, and you like the look of natural wood, a transparent oil stain is a good choice.
Expect to perform regular maintenance with a transparent stain. With a lightly-tinted transparent stain you may have to re-apply to siding every two to four years. Because the products UV protection comes from the pigment, a darker stain will tend to last longer than a lightly colored stain. Even with a darker stain, re-applying every three to five years is not uncommon.
The re-application process with transparent stains is pretty simple. The siding needs only to be cleaned, potentially brightened with a wood brightening product, and then re-stained with another coat of product.
A semi-transparent stain is similar in many ways to a transparent stain. Semi-transparent stains also penetrate the wood's surface, and typically a single coat is all that is needed. Also, the re-application process with semi-transparent is the same as with transparent stains.
The primary difference between semi-transparent and transparent stain lies in the appearance and the longevity. A semi-transparent stain has a larger pigment that the transparent stain; as a result it will tend to last longer. You can expect three to five years of life from a semi-transparent stain before it needs to be re-applied.
Because of the larger pigment in semi-transparent stain, it will obscure more of the natural wood grain than a transparent stain. You will still see the major features of your siding, and the outline of the grain patter, but the finer details of the wood will be blocked from view by the stain.
Solid Color Stains and Paints
A solid color stain is similar to, but slightly thinner than, a traditional paint. These are both true film-forming products; two coats should be applied over primed wood. You will get the longest life and the most protection for your wood with a solid color stain or paint, but the finish will completely obscure the wood grain. A properly applied application of solid color stain or paint can last for 15 years or longer.
When a solid color stain or paint fails, it will lift or peel. The failing coating will need to be removed by scraping and sanding before a new coat can be applied.