Oil- or Water- Based, or Both?
Waterborne acrylic stains stand up best to the sun. Oil stains penetrate deeply, even in tropical hardwoods. New, hybrid blends do both and are low in VOCs.
What Do They Cost?
Expect to pay $25 to $48 per gallon. Nontoxic "green" stains typically run from $40 to $75.
How Long Will the Finish Last?
It depends on the type. Those with more pigment last the longest: up to 7 years for a solid-color stain. Clear toners, which have the least amount of pigment, need to be reapplied annually.
When to Apply it?
Before installation, ideally, or soon after, to limit exposure to the elements. Reapply as needed, preferably in the spring.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
Most homeowners can easily apply stains using a brush or pump sprayer. For big projects that need lots of prep, consider hiring it out.