Using Solid Stain In Our Outdoor Shower | Young House Love - David Watkins Designs
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Using Solid Stain In Our Outdoor Shower | Young House Love

Using Solid Stain In Our Outdoor Shower | Young House Love

In all of our years of DIYing, I don’t think we’ve ever used a solid stain before. But we recently had a project that was *perfectly* suited for it and, well, solid stain quickly won us over. It was recommended by a professional house painter to us, specifically because he thought it would be great for our outdoor shower. And we found it easy to apply, it gave us great coverage, and we got an even-better-than-we-expected result (which is always the best kind!). So here’s a post that covers all the pros & cons and hows & whys of solid stain.

Side Of Outdoor Shower With Behr Solid Stain In Tugboat

As you can see, the “canvas” for this staining project was our outdoor shower. We gave it a mini-makeover right after moving in, but we knew it may need more attention and care down the line. Honestly, we dreaded the task of stripping and restaining it – so many nooks & crannies! – but using a solid stain ended up being a pretty painless process – and there was no sanding required. The entire project took two afternoons and we were using it again a day later!

Can Of Behr Premium Solid Color Stain In Tugboat Next To Roller Tray

Not only was it easy, it’s going to be so much more durable for us. We should’ve done it years ago!

Sherry Hanging Plants In Outdoor Shower With Behr Solid Stain on Walls

Solid Stain Before & After

Before we dive into the solid stain FAQs, here are some before & afters – because they really show you what it can do. As a reminder, this shower looked pretty bad when we first toured the home. We were a little worried it was a lost cause – especially after our contractor suggested ripping it off the house. Thankfully we told him we wanted to revive it.

Outdoor Shower Before Right Side Gross

Cleaning it up with a pressure washer helped a lot, and we’ve been doing that annually to keep it from getting too scummy along with oiling the wood in an attempt to protect it. It has always been a somewhat weathered and timeworn look, which has so much charm to us, but we recently had to face the music that it was time for some spongy, rotten, and broken cedar boards to be completely replaced. And we knew we needed a better long-term solution to keep that from happening again.

Two Examples Of Rotted Cedar Siding In Outdoor Shower

You can see the replaced boards looking brighter & less gray in the picture on the left below, which prompted our solid stain update (right photo below). It will end up being much less maintenance and will keep any more boards from rotting like the ones we had to have replaced, so it feels like a big win. More on all of the solid stain perks in a moment.

Before And After Of Outdoor Shower With Solid Stain

Here are those same photos, a bit bigger for you to see. Again, this first picture was taken a few days before we applied the solid stain. You can see a few new boards among the more worn sunbleached ones (top and bottom on the right side, and a bunch on the left wall in the middle and bottom). There were also other boards that were replaced on the door wall, which is behind me in this photo.

Outdoor Shower With Cedar Planks Replaced

The repairs turned out great but they left the shower looking mismatched. Many seams and holes had to be filled with wood putty or outdoor caulking, which led to an even patchier result. We also knew we had to do something to seal the new cedar, but a regular stain wouldn’t hide the color differences.

Outdoor Shower With Patches Of New Cedar Siding As Walls

Thankfully we consulted with a local painter (and friend!) who came over to look at it with us in person and strongly recommended solid stain. We were nervous at first, having never used a solid stain, but he told us we could easily do this ourselves. And he was right. Now we’re 1,000% convinced it was the right choice, and we’re so glad he recommended it.

Better than any photo is a video. So here is a rundown of how it looks in motion, with some wide shots and some close-ups for you too. You really get a feeling for how our outdoor shower flows into our front porch at large in this video, so take a peek if you can. It provides a lot of context for how this works with our entire exterior:

For a simple before & after photo comparison, here’s the outdoor shower as it looked when we bought this house in February of 2020:

Outdoor Shower Before Straight On

And here’s the outdoor shower today. Nothing beats the warmth of clean beautiful cedar, but you can see how the solid stain has given our siding a more protected and uniform appearance. It’s a lot less porous (three cheers for less grime building up and less rot down the line!) and it has never felt so clean in here.

Outdoor Shower With Solid Stain Behr Tugboat Walls And Plants

Wider photos really don’t capture the natural wood texture that comes through in person (the video does a better job I think!), but this photo helps to show how it looks up close & personal… like when you’re actually in here taking a shower.

Close Up Of Wood Grain Visible Under Solid Stain

I should also mention that a couple of winters ago we replaced the shower’s old wood flooring with Trex, which has been another big improvement. It’s rot-proof & water-friendly since droplets can collect on that flat surface for a few hours after a shower. Now it matches the flooring on all of our other porches and decks too, which is great. Not to keep saying “watch the video”, but that also shows how it all flows together.

Sherry Sitting In Outdoor Shower With Plants and Behr Solid Stain Walls Tugboat

Why Choose A Solid Stain?

Solid stains are somewhere between paint and traditional semi-transparent stains. They can be applied to any unpainted wood surface and, like other stains, they add color & protect the wood without hiding the wood grain texture. However, the final result is an even and very protective coat. This is why it was so well suited to our outdoor shower’s issues & specifically why a paint pro recommended it.

Applying Behr Solid Stain With Brush On Outdoor Shower

Although in pictures like the one above, it might just look like a solid brown paint when it goes on, it allows more wood grain to show through. So once it’s dry you’ll likely notice that it looks more like stained wood (versus brown paint).

Outdoor Shower Solid Stain Color Tugboat

Solid Stain Vs. Paint

Solid stain may give you a similar result to paint, but here are some key differences to understand when picking one over the other:

  • Solid stain can only be applied over raw or previously stained surfaces, typically just wood and concrete.
  • Paint works on plenty of surfaces including previously painted ones, from wood and concrete to drywall, plastic, metal, etc.
  • Solid stain doesn’t require a primer coat on raw wood, paint does.
  • Paint comes in seemingly endless color options, stain typically doesn’t.
  • Solid stain tends to wear outside by fading, and may require recoating (although the stain we used said it was guaranteed to last for 25 years on siding or fences!).
  • By contrast, paint tends to wear outside by peeling, which requires sanding and priming before recoating.
  • Solid stain soaks into wood, better preserving the wood grain appearance.
  • Paint sits on top of wood, which can hide more of the wood grain.
  • Solid stain tends to be more affordable. For example, Behr’s top solid waterproofing stain is $30 cheaper per gallon than their top exterior paint.

For us, the primary benefits of using a solid waterproofing stain were:

  • using something that allows the wood grain to show through more
  • not needing to do a primer coat everywhere first
  • not having to deal with peeling paint down the line, which requires sanding and priming again before repainting

Note: we didn’t choose a clear or semi-transparent stain because sanding every nook and cranny to try to make different wood tones match seemed time-consuming at best and impossible at worst (old cedar that’s freshly sanded doesn’t always match new cedar due to how the wood ages over time, and the bench actually isn’t cedar, it’s previously stained pine).

Tools & Supplies Needed

Corner Of Outdoor Shower Caulked With Cedar Colored Caulk

Applying a solid stain requires pretty much the same tools and supplies you’d need for regular paint. Here is a materials list:

You can see in the photo above that we used exterior caulk to fill some corners and nail holes before beginning. We chose an exterior caulk in the color “Cedar Tan,” since it was closest to our stain color. We were a little nervous about it showing through the stain in the end, but it didn’t!

How To Apply Solid Stain

Solid stain goes on just like paint, if not a little easier. And it’s MUCH simpler than a traditional transparent or semi-transparent stain. You don’t have to wipe off the excess stain or worry about uneven coverage due to overlapping coats or the stain soaking in splotchily. Basically, if you can paint a room, you can use a solid stain.

Can Of Behr Premium Solid Color Stain In Tugboat Next To Roller Tray

Depending on the state of your wood, you may need to use a chemical cleaner or stripper to remove the old finish. Ours had worn off enough that we decided to just clean the surface with a stiff-bristled brush and shop-vac to remove any dust or debris.

We recommend working in sections (you can see that we did the shower door first in the photo below). Start by “cutting in” the edges/corners of one wall or section with your paintbrush. This was the most tedious part of our project because we brushed under the edge of each cedar plank to ensure that it was nicely covered.

John Brushing Behr Solid Stain On Cedar Outdoor Shower Walls

After cutting in that side wall with our brush, we used a small foam roller to roll stain onto each plank. A higher nap roller (3/8″) is important for rough surfaces like wood. Solid stain has a paint-like consistency, so it was easy to spread without dripping. Rolling went very quickly and was suuuuuuper satisfying

One Wall Of Outdoor Shower Completed With Tugboat Solid Stain by Behr

We tackled each wall of the shower the same way, cutting in first with the brush and then rolling. At took maybe 4-5 hours one Saturday afternoon. We let the first coat dry overnight and then did a second coat the next day, just to be safe. Some of the corners, especially where they had been caulked, required a quick third coat to achieve full solid coverage. Sometimes when you’re using paint, smaller touchups like these can leave brushmarks or can cause flashing (a visible difference in sheen), but we had NO ISSUES like this with the solid stain.

Outdoor Shower With Behr Premium Solid Stain Tugboat Color

Once everything was fully dried for another 24 hours, we loaded our stuff back into the shower. And by stuff, I mean mostly plants.

Solid Stain Color Options

Paint brands typically offer a smaller palette of stain color options compared to regular paint. For example, Behr offers thousands of paint colors but only 60 solid stain colors (below). You’ll typically find your options in a booklet or pamphlet in the stain section of the store, or online.

Behr Solid Stain Color Options

Stains tend to come in darker, earthier colors that complement a range of exterior applications like decks, fences, siding, and outdoor furniture. So despite the limited palette, most people will have no trouble finding a suitable hue. We chose Behr’s Tugboat because it’s a close match to our front porch decking which is a Trex color called Havanna Gold (again, check out the video that’s higher up in this post to see how it all flows together). We’ve chosen a more colorful stain in the past too, so don’t feel boxed into browns and tans.

Close Up Of Wood Grain Visible Under Solid Stain

Some paint brands sell sample sizes of their solid stains so you can test a few colors before committing. I would recommend testing them on a scrap piece of matching wood or siding, or in an inconspicuous spot on your siding or deck.

Would We Use Solid Stain Again?

Yes! We are really happy with both the application process AND the final result of our solid stain. It has only been a couple of months, so the jury is still out on how it weathers and wears over the years, but our outdoor shower is a great testing ground because it gets lots of moisture and the top gets lots of sun while the lower areas are mostly in the shade. We expect some amount of maintenance no matter what, but we’re really encouraged by how clean it has stayed so far, and it’s proving to be less porous and more waterproof.

Sherry Sitting In Outdoor Shower With Plants and Behr Solid Stain Walls Tugboat

So there you have it: our first use of solid stain – and a bunch of reasons that it might work well for a project you may be tackling.

View Of Tree Through Open Top Of Outdoor Shower

We’ll be sure to update this post once we’ve seen how our solid stained cedar is holding up. But so far our verdict is two thumbs up! And again, on the can, the claim is pretty impressive! See how it says it holds up on siding and fences for 25 years?!

Can Of Behr Premium Solid Color Stain In Tugboat Next To Roller Tray

Other Projects Using Stain

Here are some other projects with stain that you might be interested in checking out:

Collage Of DIY Project Using Wood Stain

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