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4 Tips for Staining Exterior Wood Like a Pro

Here are four essential tips for getting your exterior stain job right the first time, straight from the Advance Painting repository of must do's.



We can usually determine if a cleaning agent is required by the level of gray-ness of the wood components. Paint stores and hardware stores carry several brands of wood cleaners, so you can pick one that fits your needs.

Wet your surface, then pre-spray as needed with your cleaning/bleaching agent. You can agitate the cleaner into the wood if desired with a semi-stiff brush.


Before the wood dries out, power wash the surface. This is the best way to remove dirt, old dried stain, mildew, and angry insects from your wood surfaces.

You will see the color changing as the old color and dead wood fibers rinse out of the surface. You can wash sections at a time, or a whole run of fencing at once if you don’t use a cleaning/bleaching agent.

Once the cleaning task is completed, wait at least 24 hours for the wood to dry.


Cover the ground surfaces underneath the area you plan to stain.  Plastic sheeting, drop cloths, and cardboard are good tools to protect the ground from your stain, and will keep your brush or roller from picking up dirt and transferring it to your wood.


With the stain poured off into a useable-sized container (a 2 gallon bucket is perfect for this job), begin by staining one board at a time. You can apply stain with a brush, roller, or spray system such as an HVLP gun. 

Working with the grain is essential; if you go across the grain you will get an uneven appearance when everything dries.

Also, stain is not like paint, where you can ‘cut in’ the edges and then roll out the inside area. It is important that you complete a board, top to bottom, before moving to the next board.  

Or in the case of a door or window, complete a component end to end before moving on to the next surface area.

If you stop your progress, you will find that the stain is difficult to blend in.  

There is a fix, however, if you find yourself in this predicament.

Re-apply the stain where the color is lighter, and apply less and less pressure with your brush as you near the ‘line’ where you can see the stain edge.  With a little finesse, you can blend in the stain until it is virtually unnoticeable. 

One coat of exterior stain is almost always all that is necessary.  The finished product will have an evenly uneven look to it, which will develop into a nice patina over time.  A well-stained fence will make for good neighbors, and some very good looking landscaping!

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Preparing a Room for Painting Part 3: Removing Window Coverings

Window coverings present a different dilemma.  If you have any mechanical aptitude, you will be able to look at the upper frame of your window covering, and figure out how they are attached to the wall.  After all, they were built to be installed by a human, so they should be uninstallable, too! 


Always try to enlist some help when attempting to remove a window covering.  Because they are long and top heavy, they can quickly become unmanageable when you disengage the attachment points.


Most blinds have a frame attached to the upper drywall surface inside the window opening, with a small valance hiding the frame.  The valance should be removed first, if at all possible.  Once removed, set the valance aside in a safe place.  You don’t want to step on your valance, and chances are you won’t be able to find a replacement for it, either.


Next, retract the window covering, into the smallest possible. Pulling the drawstring usually accomplishes this.  Once retracted, you should be able to see the side covers (for blinds), or the attachment points behind the window covering frame.  With your helper holding one side, gently flip the side cover open, or disengage 1 side of the window covering attachment.  A screwdriver or small pair of pliers will be a great hand tool to make this happen.  

Have your helper hold the disattached side for you, in a position close to it’s normal location.  Next, release the center attachment, and move to the other end of the window covering.  Open that flap, or release that attachment, while bracing the covering in position with your other hand.  Gently slide the window covering out and away from the window.

You will want to wrap the drawstring around the retracted window covering, so that it doesn’t get caught up on anything.  Label the window covering, either with a piece of tape or directly on the frame with a sharpie.  Make sure if you go the sharpie route, you mark an area that won’t be visible when you re-install the blind later on.  Removing permanent pen markings is almost impossible without blemishing the surface that you wrote on.

Finally, set the window covering aside in a safe place.

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Preparing a Room for Painting Part 2: Switch Plates and Plug Plates

If you’ve gotten your project room cleared of furniture, all you should have left to remove are the things most people don’t want to. Namely, switchplates and plug plates, window coverings, and air registers.

These are permanent items on your walls and ceilings. But if you don’t uninstall them, they are sure to get paint on them.  No matter how careful you are.

Switchplates are the easiest fixtures to remove.  But be aware:  those little screws have specific homes that they need to go back to when you are done with your painting.  

There are several types of screws that hold your plates to the walls.  More modern plates have very short colored screws that match the color of the switch or electrical plug.  Older traditional plates have longer colored matching screws.  


Some plates (cable, telephone and utility plates) will be longer yet, and may have shiney, metal heads. Be sure to bag similar screws together as you remove them, and keep the corresponding plates in the same bag with their screws if it is possible.  

Once the plates are all safely removed from the walls, you will want to cover each plug and switch on the walls with tape, so that you don’t paint over them with your roller or brush.  Usually a piece of 1 ½ “ tape, about 2” long, will be perfect to keep each electrical plug and light switch safe from a wayward paint roller. 

Some plates will not be removable.  Computers, telephones or faxes which cannot be turned off are examples.  Most of the time, you can at least remove the screws holding them tight to the wall, and gently pull the plate away from the wall.  These plates can now be carefully taped, so you can paint in the wall surface behind the plate. 

Next time: Preparing a Room for Painting Part 3: Removing Window Coverings

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