Is It Better to Stain or Paint a Shed? (Check Out Paint Reason #4!)

Paints and stains are similar in some aspects. Both consist of pigment(s) and a vehicle.

Also, both provide the color and protection you want on a wooden or concrete surface.

Once you open their cans, however, the differences between these two become apparent.

The stain, for example, will be thinner than any paint.

So, Is It Better to Stain or Paint a Shed?

That’s a common question among homeowners who’d rather paint or stain their structures themselves than hire a professional painter. Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer to it. Both options won’t last forever but can offer varying degrees of protection to wooden and concrete surfaces. Each option has benefits and drawbacks you should put into consideration.

Three Reasons To Go The Staining Route

Staining would be best in these situations:

1. Budget Makeover

If you are looking for a cheap way to improve the appearance of your shed, choose staining instead of painting.

A gallon of the average stain costs $20 – $35.

A can of paint of the same capacity perfect for a shed cost between $30 and $60.

Also, unlike paint, the stain won’t demand an extra $15 – $40 per gallon for a wood preservative.

Furthermore, stains don’t require the application of a primer: that’s about $15 – $30 saved per gallon!

Most of the commercial wood stains you will find in the store comes with their preservative, and you don’t need to apply a primer for them to adhere.

2. A More Natural Look

If you’d like to add a natural look to your shed, it only makes sense you stain it.

All wood stains come with opacity anywhere between semi-solid and transparent, all of which help partially fill the pores in the wood and form a film on your shed.

The result is a natural grain pattern, superficial cracks that become more apparent, and a more natural look.

Paint, on another hand, doesn’t bring the natural look out of wood because of the high percentage of resins and pigments.

As such, it fills the pores to form a uniform layer that’s prone to cracking.

However, if you’d like to hide these cracks or cover the distinct look of wood grain and create a more refined appearance, a decent paint job is the way to go.

If your main objective is to disguise the imperfections on the surface and still retain its rustic appearance, choose a solid and highly pigmented wood stain for the job.

3. Ease of Application

Either painting the shed or staining it will require lengthy preparation of the surface until it’s clean and ready for the project.

This will include sweeping the surface, scrubbing with a special cleaner (often bought from the store for this specific purpose), and repairing broken parts.

Thereafter, you will need to sand the surface to eliminate the little crooked parts and ridges.

You can use a brush or roller to apply the stain in a single sweep.

And because stains are runny, they seldom form globs or pools. Even better, their transparency and consistency minimize the formation of lap signs in the finish.

You won’t need to add an extra clear top coat if you decide to go with a 2-in-1 stain (stain-and-sealer) such as Behr Waterproofing Stain and Sealer.

Conversely, before painting, your shed should be carefully treated with a wood preservative before the addition of a quality primer.

The fact that you need to apply at least 2 coats of oil-based or latex paint means painting is more laborious than staining.

Another setback is the tendency of the paint to form globs (because it is thicker than stain) and unsightly lap marks in the finish.

Once you are done with painting, you will need to seal the surface with a transparent polyurethane sealer for better results.

More reasons to stain:

  • Besides ease of application, it is easier to re-coat the surface with a stain especially if the surface requires a touch-up
  • With stain, you get to enhance the wood rather than cover it.
  • While the paint is prone to peeling, cracking, and flaking, stain seldom chips

Four Reasons To Go The Painting Route

Choose painting over staining if you are looking for:

1. Durability

If your main objective is to give your shed a long-lasting coat, painting is the best option for you.

To be frank, both stain and paint finishes aren’t entirely flawless – a paint will peel or chip whereas the stain will be discolored by heat.

When it comes to general durability, however, a paint job outlives stain finish by several years – a paint job lasts for about 10 years.

A stain lasts for about 8 years or less. Latex paints are known for their superb protection qualities against UV-induced fading.

If you’d like to protect the shed from moisture-related destruction, choose oil-based paint.

If your heart is all for staining and would like to use it to protect the surface against UV rays and moisture, go for more solid stains (more pigments and opaque) as opposed to conventional transparent stains.

2. Variety

Paints are sold in hues – more than you will ever need.

If you are looking for a particular color that fits your shed, you can choose one from the wide range of hues you will find at your local home improvement store.

These hues range from neutral pigments such as light green or light brown to deep blue and crimson.

Wood stains, on another hand, are designed to bring an accent on the natural qualities of wood.

This means they are limited to hues of brown and a few clear varieties.

3. Ease of maintenance

Once your paint job dries into a uniform sleek, you can easily sweep off the dirt or wash it multiple times for longer. You can even scrub it lightly and use a pressure washer as long as you keep it below 600 psi if you used softwood and 1.500 psi for hardwood.

4. Painting Brings Out the Artist in You

The whole job of adding applying a fresh coat of paint on your shed may come across as boring or straight tedious but comes with a few benefits.

Studies show that painting helps a person beat stress.

Besides boosting your cortisol levels and improving the mood, painting brings out the artist in you and can help you get hooked to an array of other artistic activities such as drawing.

If you have never painted before, there is a strong likelihood your first project will turn out a bit streaky.

That’s because solid painting usually takes practice learning the kind of strokes and layers that are best for a surface.

Covering those layers requires sufficient skill as well.

To avoid turning your shed into an ugly mess, try practicing painting another surface before going to your shade.

Other benefits of paints:

  • Paint provides a uniform cover
  • It offers more finishes and sheens
  • You can add a fresh coat of paint on a previously painted surface (after preparation) but you can’t stain a painted surface


Is it better to stain or paint a shed?

It’s going to depend on how you want the shed to look after the exercise.

Also, consider such factors as affordability and durability.

If you are thinking of ease of application, then staining would be the best route to take. Staining requires less time to apply compared to paint – a primer is not needed.

Better yet, staining is the best way to give your shed a more natural look on a budget.

However, when it comes to ease of maintenance, variety, and durability, painting is the best option.