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Don't end up buying paint when what you want is stain

Q: I visited a national brand paint store and talked with an employee about solid stain. I told him I wanted a solid color on my home but that I didn't want to paint my home because it would peel eventually. The salesman said I should use solid color stain. I bought 10 gallons of a custom color on his recommendation and took it home. When I opened up the first can, I was shocked to see how thick the product was. It was full bodied, just like paint. The label says it's nonreturnable because it's a custom color. Will it be a mistake to apply this to my home? What can/should I do?

A: The first thing I would do would be to go back to that paint store and discuss the situation with the store manager. You got very bad advice. You wanted to buy a product that would not peel. What you were sold was a paint that is marketed as a stain. Ask for a full refund.

You're not the only person to run into this problem. It happened to me 25 years ago on my own home. I went to the same kind of paint store asking for the same product you wanted. An employee told me, too, to use a solid color stain that would never peel. Guess what? I can show you many places on that house where the "stain" is peeling. You and I equate the word "stain" with a colored liquid that soaks into the pores of wood and doesn't lie on the surface of the wood. Thus, it can't peel.

Here's advice to anybody who buys "stain." If you open can after can and the stain has the consistency of paint, that's what it is, paint. Paint is a film-forming coating. It's supposed to lie on the surface of what's being painted and bond to it mechanically and sometimes chemically. Paint doesn't soak completely into wood pores, taking the tiny color pigments with it. Thin-bodied stains that have the consistency of water are formulated to do just that.

Since you want your house to be a solid color, you're forced to use a paint. There's nothing wrong with that. But to minimize peeling, you want to purchase paint with a chemical makeup nearly identical to that of many adhesives. Think about it: Glues or adhesives are formulated to stick to things or bond two things together. Paint is simply glue with color in it.

You want to bond the paint film to the wood, so follow the directions on the label to the letter. The best thing you can do is wash the outside of your home with soap and water by hand to remove any and all dirt that will interfere with the ability of the glue to stick to your home.

Tim Carter is a licensed contractor. To view previous columns or tap into his archive of information, go to You can write to Tim Carter at P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati, OH 45236-0352.

Don't end up buying paint when what you want is stain 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 10:07am]
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