Wood, Stain, and Better Decisions

A couple of weeks ago my mom stood in the middle of my lawn, looked around—at the unfinished garden fence, unfinished garden arbor, unfinished raised beds, barely-started large pergola, and the unfinished fence around the propane tank—then she furrowed a brow and was like, “So… all of your outside projects count as one thing on your Five Project List then?”

Ha. Ha. If you’re ever wondering where my smartass comes from, there you go…

But she’s also right. Unless you count the entire 5.90 acres of land that occurs outside of the actual house as one project, then I think it’s safe to say I’ve blown my Five Project Rule all the way out of the water. But after that winter? I’m giving myself a little leeway to just build the heck out of some things.

And since I’m in the middle of a million projects, I figure now might be a good time to start thinking about finishing at least a few of them before this twitch in my left eye becomes permanent.

Like this one…


Oh yeah, and this one…


And this one…


The trick is, I’ve got a bunch of different woods going on here, and I need to make some decisions about how to keep them cohesive.

For the beds in the garden, I used cedar for its naturally bug and rot resistant properties. The salvaged fence, however, is probably a pressure-treated (and unstained) pine… however it’s worn to a nice gray color.

The new pressure-treated posts for the arbor, pergola, and propane fence are, of course, a different color entirely.  Because why not.

I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with the garden fence, but I figured everything on this side of the yard could use a nice coat of stain.


Now, most of the time when people reach out and want me to test out a product for them, it’s like “Oh, hey, do you want to try out this new furniture polish?” And I’m like, “Um… maybe you haven’t been reading my website for the last three months, but my entire life is covered in freaking sawdust and garden soil… and I don’t clean.” So I was really surprised when Olympic Paints reached out to me a couple of weeks ago  and wanted to know if I had any outdoor projects going on that I could test out some of the Olympic ELITE WOODLAND OIL stain on. (And while this is SUPER exciting, I’m not capitalizing the name for effect… that’s just how it’s spelled.)

Try out a new product at the exact time I’m working on projects that need said product? Oh, Olympic Paints, DO I EVER. (That one was capitalized for effect.)

And, actually, this turned out to be a really good thing for me because I have been understandably gun-shy about picking stain colors ever since the Great Maroon Beam Debacle of 2010. (For those of you who weren’t reading about the bad decisions I was making four years ago, it wasn’t pretty.  And required buying a hand-planer and planning down all the wood. It still pisses me off, even though I don’t even live in that house anymore.)

The big lesson I learned from that was NO SOLID STAINS on anything that I still want to look like wood.

Here’s where Woodland Oil falls in the scheme of things:

Word on the street is that this Olympic Elite Woodland Oil is all about enhancing the beauty of wood though, not covering it up with an ugly, solid maroon color. Which seemed like a much, much better idea than, you know, the last time. My biggest concern was choosing the color… I basically just wanted something to look like a deep, rich wood, without being too dark or too orange.


I decided to give the cedar color a try, even though I’ve seen cedar stain that is basically the wood equivalent of a bad spray tan.


The nice thing for a girl who has a million unfinished projects to tackle is that this is a one-coat stain plus sealant. Just one swipe of the paintbush. That’s extremely doable, and actually looks really good.


(Took me two evenings after work to get this much done, so one side is still slightly darker than the other.)

This is the rich color I was looking for, and I’m hoping it will look good against the eventual barn-red of the wall behind it. And you can still tell that it’s actual wood! Very exciting. It also makes the boards of the fence look more cohesive and finished (so that’s one thing in my life that can be said for…)

I love the fact that it’s a one-and-done kind of project, and that the level of color/stain was perfect. Of course the real test of an outdoor wood-stain around here is how it holds up to the sun, rain, snow, hail, and other insanity that makes up Michigan weather, so I’ll check back in on this one in a few months. And probably again next Spring. I really appreciate a company that stands behind their product though and Olympic guarantees satisfaction with the application and performance properties of the stain (when you follow the directions, of course) or they’ll replace the product or give you your money back. So that’s awesome. It’s available exclusively at Lowe’s, which suits me just fine because I spend half of my time there anyway.

In the next couple of weeks as I finish up the arbor and pergola, I’ll likely stain them the same color. I’m not sure about the weathered garden fence yet… I kind of like that one the way it is.

(Also, thanks to Olympic Paint, who sponsored this post about all of my unfinished projects and bad decisions, and also provided the stain so that I could check at least one thing off my list. Don’t worry everyone, they didn’t tell me to say nice things about them… you’d know if they tried because then I definitely wouldn’t have said nice things about them. I’m contrary like that.)

30 Responses

  1. That is a nice stain color!I think I might want to try it on our *eventual* garden fence. Projects… we’ve been in our house for almost a year and we still have so, so, SO much to do! I was hoping to get my coop built this month but the truck decided that it wanted the money instead (radiator, brakes and tires). Rome wasn’t built in a day though, right?

  2. This post is SO timely! we built our deck last fall and are just now thinking of staining it. It’s pressure treated wood so we wanted to do something with it. In our previous house, we used an opaque stain and definitely didn’t want to do that again – covered up TOO much of the wood grain and was a pain to re-stain every time it scratched or chipped (we have a large dog). This product might be perfect! You mentioned that you brushed it on – do you think it would work well to roll it on and then over-brush (just to speed up the process)? Any recommendations on brush type? Did you feel that the ‘oil’ component was really absorbed into the wood better than a traditional stain? Sorry for the questions – thanks for the post!

    1. Totally agree on the opaque stain… this went on pretty much like a regular stain. I do think you could roll/backbrush and get a good finish. I just used a cheap multi-purpose brush and it worked well. It definitely went on well and absorbed well, but not significantly different from other stains I’ve used. I think the real test will be how well it holds up. I feel like a lot of stains sit on the surface and then chip/fade.

  3. You have such a good start. If you prioritized them and started at the top you would have them all done by the end of summer, they will look so good when you are done. They are all pretty inspiring projects.

  4. It is always nice to appreciate and let the natural beauty of the wood show rather than using a solid stain, I enjoy woodworking so I’m like that. Yup, you can do a bit daily on all out door projects and see and enjoy the fruits of your labor near the end of summer or prioritize finishing one at a time enjoying finished projects all summer long…and the harvest moon comes… :-)) Looking good! I still think your arbor / gate into garden area would be kewl with grape vines mostly covering it. They would be a wee bit high to handily pick but pick a few on the sides, let the birds eat the rest. Sky n imagination is the limit. Never know, could some day we see a ( Black Feather ) label wine. 🙂

  5. First…love your Mom’s sense of humor! That stain is a beautiful color and I can picture it on all that you mentioned. Going to be perfect with that red-wall-to-be, too.

  6. In San Diego we don’t contend with snow and such, but we do have rain and lots and lots of bright, bright sun. I have not had good results with stain for outdoor projects because of that. What works the best for me is to simply prime it and paint it. The paint looks good for a long time and then needs just one coat to keep on looking good. Stain tends to go to hell and require refinishing the wood before it can be stained again.

  7. A good start and great results. This has given me the courage to start work on my fence during the summer time again. We get too much rain here in Kingston Upon Thames – UK and that is the only reason for the delays at my end.

  8. It looks great. It really does. However I don’t believe in Santa Claus and neither should you. A one coat system that lasts? Please. Their are no four coat systems that last out in the direct sun and rain constantly. If you don’t keep some regular coats upto your fine work, in under two years, it will be as grey as the little fence in the above pic. Don’t want to rain on your parade. You did a fine job and it looks great. Unfortunately it won’t last. Nothing does in the direct elements. Different storey if it is undercover. My advice, more coats and plan on doing it every 6 months. The truth is seldom pleasing. Regards MJ.

  9. That turned out great. It dried a whole lot lighter than your first pic. Normally I go with the semi-transparent stuff since I feel I can get an extra year out of it before restaining but then you lose some of the grain.

  10. Would love to know what you fence looks like now. My whole house is starting to spot black from olympic elite. Stained about the same time you did!

  11. Great job! I’m also tackling a job that has been put off. My deck and going to use the Olympic Elite and was wondering how the stain held up is it worth the money

  12. I just started applying the Woodland OLYMPIC ELITE in the Mountain Cedar to my old deck that has lots of sun and weather damage. I also added more linseed oil for (hopefully) better wood preservation/treatment. The color with the extra linseed oil is quite dark – which is okay with me. Now, here is my dilemma: The wood is so rough and cracked that I am being pressured to put one of these new heavy coats on that fills cracks, etc., etc. Even though I hate using a product that covers the wood, I may need to do this in order to be able to walk barefoot on the deck without splinters and just for the aesthetic look of an unblemished wood. What do you think and what happens when the new heavy cover reaches the end of its’ life? B-t-way, this is a large sunny deck facing South/Southeast – full sun until about 1:00 p.m. Thank you in advance.

  13. Something so satisfying at seeing the beauty and character in wood come alive when stained. Just make sure you keep redoing it every 12mths. Never tried the Olympic elite stain, will have to give it a try, your results look awesome!

  14. “Thanks to Olympic paint who sponsored this post” is all one really needs to know.

  15. I used the Olympic Elite stain on my deck and
    love the natural glow of it. However I have a few
    pieces of wood that I would like to use the same
    color on which is Woodland Cedar. Can I get paint
    in that same color?

  16. We just replaced our deck and are now looking to stain it. Since your original post is over two years old I was wondering if you had any updates on how the Olympic Woodland Oil held up and how it looks now two years later?
    Thanks in advance!

      1. Do you pictures you can post of the Elite Stain after 2 yrs of weather? IF there is anyway of posting them today, we are heading out today to make our purchase and it would be so helpful. Thanks

  17. Ok so it’s been around 4 years, is this still looking good or have you refinished?

    Any recent pics?

  18. I find you very passionate about your family’s garden and wooden fence, that is wonderful. Really want to know what your fence looks like now?

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