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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General Finishes Cedar Exterior 450 Water Based Wood Stain, Gallon


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 120-grit sandpaper, followed by 150-grit, then 180-grit.
  2. Sand closed-grain wood (e.g., cherry, pine, maple, birch, alder) with 150-grit sandpaper followed by 220-grit.
  3. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  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.

Prep Sanding for Existing Finish

  1. Remove any existing finish by sanding with 120-grit-sandpaper & scuffing with a wire brush if needed. 
  2. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.

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.

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. IIf desired, thin with up to 15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender. Start by adding 5% in increments until you reach the desired consistency. 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 a synthetic bristle brush, foam brush, pad applicator or short-nap 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 synthetic bristle brush.
    • Let the stain dry 2+ hours when applying 1 coat in ideal conditions, 70°F/20°C, 50-70% humidity. Increase dry time if:
      • Humidity is over 80%
      • A second coat is 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.
    • Spray wet films at 3-5-mil thickness. 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%
      • Additional 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.

Warning: Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

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

Please be mindful of the manner in which water-based products are stored and how long they have been in storage. They not a forever product. 

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 can. However, the life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage (see Storage Tips below).

Water-based products can last 3-5 years if the can is unopened, in good condition and stored in correct temperatures.

Product that is 3 years old will not look like product that is 6 months to 1 year old. You will see more stratification or separation as the product ages. Always stir thoroughly before using. 

Foul Smell
If your product has a foul smell, it is contaminated and no longer in useable condition.

Clumps & Settling
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 product stir with a 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.

Inability to reincorporate large, chunky lumps after stirring for several minutes is an indication that the product has frozen and can no longer be used.

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. Product falling into 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 100°F/26°C. Keep from freezing. 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

Exterior 450 Stain Warnings and Warranties


Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for color satisfaction, misapplication, nor compatibility with other manufacturer's products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products, and not for costs such as labor, damage or project replacement.

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.

FIRST AID: Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms occur due to the following. EYE CONTACT: Remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for 20+ minutes while lifting upper and lower eyelids. SKIN CONTACT: Wash thoroughly after handling. INHALATION: Move to fresh air and loosen clothing. If not breathing, if breathing is irregular or if respiratory arrest occurs, provide artificial respiration or oxygen by trained personnel. INGESTION: Call physician immediately. Wash out mouth with water. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person.

Prop 65 WARNING:

  • Black Walnut, Butternut, Cedar, Chestnut, Olde Cherry, Red Mahogany:
    This product can expose you to chemicals including Carbon black, respirable powder, Crystalline silica, respirable powder, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
  • Coffee Bean: 
    This product can expose you to chemicals including Ethylene oxide, 4-Methylpentan-2-one, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. This product can expose you to chemicals including Carbon black, respirable powder, Crystalline silica, respirable powder, Acetaldehyde, 1,4-Dioxane, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, and N-methyl- 2-pyrrolidone, Ethanediol, which are known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
  • Natural Base, Sugar Maple:
    This product can expose you to N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.

WARNING: Keep out of reach of children. Do not swallow. Avoid contact with eyes. Keep container tightly closed when not in use. Wash thoroughly after handling.


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
Type Exterior Water Based Stain
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 140-160 sq.ft./quart, 560-640 sq.ft./gallon
Technical Data
Viscosity Medium
Weight Solids 21%
VOC Black Walnut: <72.444 g/L
Butternut: <82.127 g/L
Cedar: <96.650 g/L
Chestnut: <79.923 g/L
Coffee Bean: <74.473 g/L
Natural Base: <54.480 g/L
Olde Cherry: <71.165 g/L
Red Mahogany: <76.372 g/L
Sugar Maple: <92.709 g/L

Design Center



*Can I Mix GF Milk Paint into Exterior 450 Topcoat To Tint The Final Coat?

Yes, you can. The resin systems for General Finishes Exterior 450 Topcoat and Milk Paint are the same.

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*How Soon Can I Put My Project Outdoors After Finishing with General Finishes Exterior 450?

We recommend waiting 5-6 days to let the finish cure a bit before putting outdoors. The finish will continue to harden for approximately 20-21 days.

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*I Used Exterior 450 Over a Mix of Mineral Spirits & Trans Tint Dye Stain and the Finish is Peeling - How Do I Fix the Peeling?*

Most dyes, such as Trans Tint, can only be mixed with alcohol or water, not mineral spirits. A water-based finish, such as Exterior 450, cannot be used in conjunction with mineral spirits, even with an extended dry time. Solvents do not play well with water-based finishes.

Unfortunately, there is no fix for the peeling finish. You will have to sand the project down, apply an exterior stain and recoat with Exterior 450. Also, advise your customer that no finish will withstand the sun indefinitely. All exterior finishes need recoating and maintenance over time.


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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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