Exterior 450 Water Based Wood Stain

GF's Exterior 450 Stains are premium quality, exterior pigmented wood stains designed for outdoor projects with vertical surfaces such fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. These outdoor water-based wood stains not recommended for a deck finish. Exterior 450 Stains contain U.V. absorbers to protect the finish and mildewcides to retard mold.

Need some inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for outdoor furniture ideas.

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Step 1: Preparation of Raw Wood for Water Based Stain

Before applying stain, all raw wood projects require preparation sanding, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Prep Sanding for Raw Wood Projects
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Sand open-grain wood (e.g., oak, ash, mahogany, parawood) with 180-grit sandpaper followed by 220-grit sandpaper.
  2. Sand closed-grain wood (e.g., cherry, pine, maple, birch, alder) with 150-grit sandpaper followed by 180-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove dust with a water-dampened rag or oil-free tack cloth.
  4. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
  5. Do NOT use steel wool with water-based finishes; the particles will get trapped in the finish and rust.

Reducing Grain Raise on Raw Wood
To reduce grain raise, dampen the wood with water after prep sanding. Let dry completely, then lightly sand with fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Exterior 450 Stain

General Finishes Exterior 450 Water Based Wood Stain Application Steps

  1. Stir stain to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can before and throughout the application process.
  2. If desired, thin stain with 10-15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender. will improve flow and leveling and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates.
  3. Test your complete finishing process before starting. Stain color is affected by variances in wood and deepened by the application of topcoat.
  4. Divide your project into manageable sections: top, side, drawer, door, table seam.
  5. Hand-Application Over Raw Wood:
    • Apply a LIBERAL amount of stain to ensure easy workability using an acrylic bristle brush, foam brush, pad applicator or roller. If not enough stain is used, the surface may dry too quickly, causing an uneven appearance. On large projects, leave wet edge between sections to prevent lap lines between sections.
    • Stain a complete section and wipe off the excess evenly with the grain using quality paper towel or shop towel. Check for missed spots and lap marks before moving to the next section. Do NOT use cotton t-shirts to wipe away stain because they will "push" the stain around and not absorb it.
    • Immediately correct lap marks by rewetting the entire working area with stain and wiping off the excess.
    • Pull excess stain out of corners and detail with a bristle brush.
    • Let the stain dry 2+ hours in ideal conditions, 70*F/20*C, 50-70% humidity. Increase dry time if:
      • Humidity is over 80%
      • 3+ coats are applied
      • Thick coats are applied
        • To accelerate drying in humid conditions add General Finishes Accelerator to Exterior 450 Stain before applying and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness. 
  6. Spray Application: 
    • Before spraying, strain topcoat through a fine-mesh filter.
    • HVLP: 1.1mm-1.3mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes. Wear a full filter respirator (NIOSH/MSHA-approved) and, if spraying in an interior space, make sure there is good ventilation. Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 50% for even coverage. Wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. Read here for more information on spraying techniques.
    • Let the stain dry 2+ hours in ideal conditions (50-70% humidity, 70*F). Increase dry time if:
      • Humidity is over 80%
      • 3+ coats are applied
      • Thick coats are applied
        • To accelerate drying in humid conditions add General Finishes Accelerator to Exterior 450 Stain before applying and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness. 
  7. Optional: apply a second coat to deepen the color. Apply no more than 2 coats.
  8. Finish with 3 coats of General Finishes Exterior 450 Topcoat.

Step 3: Topcoat Over Exterior 450 Stain

Always seal General Finishes Exterior 450 Stain with 3 coats exterior-rated topcoat. We recommend General Finishes Exterior 450 Topcoat, which is formulated to be compatible with Exterior 450 Stain.

Exterior 450 Topcoat is designed to allow water permeate the finish and, as it dries, the water releases back out to allow the finish to tighten down again. 

Horizontal surfaces and uncured surfaces with sitting water may cloud or blush temporarily as the finish dries. Once fully cured, any blushing that occurs should be minimal.

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of Water Based Products

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using, including compatibility with other manufacturers products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products and will not be responsible for any costs such as labor, damage, or replacement costs.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning. 

If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto www.epa.gov/lead. WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.


Basic Features
Product Colors Natural Base, Butternut, Sugar Maple, Chestnut, Cedar, Olde Cherry, Red Mahogany, Coffee Bean, Black Walnut
Base Type Water
Interior or Exterior Exterior only
Coats 1+ coats
Application Method Brush, Roll, Spray
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes No
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.1mm-1.3mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 30+ min.
Dry Time - Recoat 2+ hr
Can Sizes Quarts, Gallons
Coverage 150 sq. ft/quart, 448 sq. ft/gal
Technical Data
Viscosity Medium
Weight Solids 21%
VOC <150 g/L

Design Center



Exterior 450 Stain Colors | Water Based | Shown on Cedar


Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

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Should I use Pre-Stain Conditioner Before Staining a Douglas Fir Door to prevent blotching?

Douglas Fir is a difficult wood to stain evenly. A 50|50 mix of your Exterior 450 stain color and Exterior 450 Clear would be a better choice for an exterior conditioner. Blotching may still occur even with this procedure.

After applying the conditioner mix, let it dry 2-3 hours. Allow more time in humid weather. Then a apply the stain color of your choice. Multiple coats will deepen the color.


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Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat


  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

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