Pros: Good color selection, low odor, easy clean up with mineral spirits.
Cons: Has a medium gloss/sheen when dry requiring careful attention to brush stroke overlap and keeping a wet edge is a must, no second coat is recommended. Very slow to dry in humid weather. Paint store color mixer leaves unmixed solids on bottom of can.
My house needed to be re-stained after 10 plus years. Weathering of the cedar bevel siding was apparent with the old stain and some of the southern facing siding was all cupped and splitting. I had used Cabot’s Oil Stain in the past since the house was new, but this time I had waited too long between stainings. I called the local paint store and found that Cabot’s Stain does not make the oil based alkyd stain available any longer (at least in my state.) Going on-line to find it was too risky since the color match could prove to be a problem.
Every former Cabot dealer in my area was now selling Benjamin Moore paints even though www.cabotstain.com listed them still carrying the Cabot’s brand. Not one carried it. So after researching the Benjamin Moore line, I decided that the Arborcoat classic oil semi-solid stain was the closest alkyd oil stain when compared to the Cabot’s I had previously used.
It normally had taken 12 gallons to stain the entire house in the past, but I was replacing the south facing cedar siding with new rough sawn cedar siding. I needed about 900 linear feet of siding and before putting it up, I wanted to seal it on all sides. Using a roller and a brush (to back brush the stain in) I used a little under 3 gallons to seal the siding. I did it in my garage so as to keep the sun from drying it out too quickly. I noticed that after 3 days the first boards were still wet and moving them to another drying rack messed up the finish on quite a few boards. I called the BM customer support line and they told me that it takes a while to dry in hot humid weather – which it was at the time.
I made a drying rack for the remainder of the boards so I could continue to stain them over the next few days batches of 25-30 boards. The weather had cooled and humidity was lower so the boards were dry to the touch overnight. The weather made a big difference just like the techs at BM said.
New Siding Replacement
It took another few weeks of minor repairs to the house before I tackled the siding replacement. After 3 days of hanging the new siding (from 8 to 25 feet up – not easy for one person) there was a noticeable band of lighter boards on the top third of the siding. My neighbor noticed this from his house across the street and as a joke, asked if it was planned. I knew I had to give them another coat which I had not planned, but I also needed to color the nail heads. The label on the can says not to put down a second coat. I called the techs at BM again. The first one I spoke to said there was nothing I could do about putting a second coat on except to sand off the old and start fresh. Or, put on a coat of their waterborne stain. Now I’m thinking I’ll have two different stains on the house and I didn’t like the option. I still had the entire rest of the house to stain over the old Cabot’s stain.
After researching the waterborne stain option, I was somewhat confused since it seemed to conflict with the tech’s advice where I would have to remove the old Cabot’s stain and any new stain do prepare the surface. I was thinking: what happens five or so years down the road when I have to re-stain the house? Technically, that would be a ‘second coat’ and I would have to strip the house. I never had to do that with Cabot’s. I called the techs at BM again and this time his advice was to strip the new stained siding either chemically or by sanding. Well, you can’t sand rough sawn cedar and still have that rustic rough look. He agreed and said that I could chemically strip the siding with their 315 product. Spray it on, wait 30 minutes and wash it off with a pressure washer. But if the old siding was weathered enough, then it should be ok to stain over it. He also contradicted the first techs advice saying I could not put waterborne stain over the oil based stain. We spoke for a little longer and he made sure that I understood that BM could not guarantee their product if I simply re-stained over the 1st coat.
I thought about this some and thought that if I stripped the whole house now then stained it, it would be the recommended procedure that BM would stand behind. But doing it preemptively seemed like a lot more cost, labor, and time. What if I took a chance and just applied a second coat? If it failed, then I could strip only the section that failed and re-stain it. This seemed like a reasonable plan to me.
Using an Airless Sprayer:
I had already brushed and rolled 900 feet of siding. Each time I applied the stain with the roller, there were a lot of drips because the stain is much thinner than paint. But I was working on a horizontal surface and the drips were easily handled. However, working on a vertical wall of siding would likely get pretty messy using a roller. So I thought an airless sprayer would the right way to go. Instead of renting an airless sprayer for a week, I bought one for less than what the rental would cost (see review here).
The sprayer came with a 515 spray tip which would be good for thicker latex paints, but the stain was thinner so I bought a 411 spray tip. I worked flawlessly, delivering a fan spray of 8″ which was perfect for 2 boards at a time. The local BM paint store said I would use more stain using an airless sprayer than if I just brushed. I decided that instead of the usual 12 gallons, I would buy 14 and then buy more if needed.
Lap Marks and Sheen:
The Arborcoat stain has a moderate sheen which I was not expecting. A low sheen or low luster finish is what I wanted, but this shiny appearance emphasized the need for being careful about leaving lap marks. Lap marks occur when the paint starts to dry before continuing on down the same board. You must keep a wet edge with this stain. I asked the Techs at BM about the sheen and they said that the sheen would gradually reduce as it weathers.
My plan to use a ladder was not going to work if I had to maintain a wet edge down the length of the house. There are some sections where a siding board will run for 35 feet without interruption (like a window.) So painting a single board from end to end while keeping it wet was going to be a problem if I used a ladder.
Solids on the Bottom:
I bought this stain in single gallons because it is not available in 5 gallon pails. The first few gallons went toward sealing the new cedar siding boards. I typically stir the cans when I open them, but I had just brought it home from the paint store where they mixed it with color. I opened the can 10 minutes after buying it and with a quick stir, started staining. By the time I got the first two batches of boards sealed, I was still unaware of how thick the stain was getting. When I opened the second can the next day, I tried to stir it but could not get the stirrer through the 3/4″ thick sludge on the bottom. I fought with it for about 20 minutes before finally getting it all mixed in. I brought the third and forth gallons back to the paint store because they were the same way. The paint store clerk happily put them back into the mixer again after scoring the bottom. That mixed it all in and it stayed mixed and did not settle to the bottom again. I’m speculating that the first can’s poor mix was the reason that the top third of the siding was lighter in color. They were the first boards stained, and the last to go up.
Aerial Work Platform:
I decided to rent an Aerial Work Platform (AWP), also known as a bucket lift or cherry picker.
My local hardware store had a Nifty Lift SD-50 which would work well on lawns and was drivable around the house. (See review here.) I was able to stain about 80% of the house plus trim some overhanging trees in the 2-day rental period. This helped enormously with keeping a wet edge since I could start staining 5-6 boards on one end and just move the bucket along the siding and still keep a wet edge – no matter how high up I was.
I was disappointed in the results in several areas. Where I applied the second coat to the already stained new siding, it looked great. No lap marks and the sheen was pretty consistent on the entire side of the house. On other sections of the house where the siding was severely weathered, it looked awful. The siding had absorbed the stain at different rates and the faster absorption left a flat, non-shiny appearance while the slower absorption boards had a sheen to them. Apparently this is expected. In the tech data sheet application instructions I found:
If the 1st coat is absorbing unevenly a 2nd wet on wet application should be applied within 10 minutes of the application of the first coat. Do not over apply, excessive or uneven application will prolong the dry time and may result in sheen irregularity.
It appears that I needed to wait and watch the absorption rate on the boards, then apply additional Arborcoat as the boards dried unevenly. This would have been a royal pain and slowed my work considerably. But I noticed it after the 10 minute waiting time – I waited overnight as a matter of fact and the stain was dry by then. Since the double coat on the new siding looked so good, I decided to give the bad areas another coat. How much worse could it be?
Well, the second coat looked really nice, but it was going against all the advice from Benjamin Moore. I’ll have to revisit this post with an update after a year or until something changes.
This stain is very unforgiving during application, but can look very nice if applied properly. Not being able to put a second coat means you have to put it on perfectly the first time. I’m not that good even with all the proper equipment. With factors like weathering and wood absorption rates, there is always need for reapplying. Also, there is the re-staining efforts in the future where you may have to strip the house before putting it on again. That’s something I can’t or rather, won’t commit to. I didn’t have that problem with Cabot’s Oil Stain, but it may be the result of the new VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) laws going into effect in many states.
I can’t honestly recommend this stain for siding mainly because of the second coat issue and the sheen. Stain is supposed to penetrate the wood and most stains that I’ve come across allow additional coats until the color is even. I’m guessing that Arborcoat, with its water repellent finish affects the ability to put on a second coat. It may be a good stain for decks though that benefit from a good waterproof finish.
In the places where I needed to put a second coat, I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t fail prematurely. If it does, I’ll have to strip it and re-stain it. But right now, the house looks great. Let’s see what the future brings.