Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Review

This Review (our experience) of Arborcoat was first published in 2010. The product has changed since then and so has our experience with it. We updated it in 2015 and will do so in the summer of 2019. 

To call this a Review of  Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat would be unfair. First of all, it’s very new and we don’t exactly know it’s long term performance. The Toronto climate is tough on exteriors and creating the proper surface conditions is an adventure. This a blog is about our experience with Arborcoat and not a review per say.

A few years ago (late nineties) Benjamin Moore developed the Gennex waterborne colourant technology. Benjamin Moore’s best paints today use this advanced low and zero VOC system. Natura, Aura, Ben and Ecospec have been used enough by consumers and the verdict is positive. Painting contractors had success with the new Benjamin Moore paints. On exterior projects Ecopainting uses a lot of these new waterborne products. we are very happy with their performance and how easy they are to use. Using the Gennex system on exterior products Benjamin Moore created high performance paints with serious green attributes. This time we can claim that some eco friendly coatings can outperform any paints.

Then came ARBORCOAT. A low VOC and low odour product that promises better performance than any traditional solvent based stain. The first summer it was available we used hundreds of gallons of ARBORCOAT. We were contracted to stain the exterior railing of a 54 unit townhouse complex in downtown Toronto. We used the solid stain version, tinted to Benjamin Moore’s colours. We also used the same solid stain for deck staining and some residential wood siding. Our painters seemed to like how easy the product was to use. The product had a thickness feel about it and looked really good . It showed fewer  lap marks and excellent hiding properties.

In early September that year we used the transparent product. This was on a large siding job in Uxbridge. The feedback was all positive as far as ease of application went. Time of course will be the real test, but so far the early reviews were all positive.

We used a solid black Arborcoat stain later to finish a Toronto carport. The carport was one year old and this was the first coating it received. Again, the report from the painters was positive. The stain left a beautiful smooth finish without losing the wood`s grain and texture. One coat easily covered the wood in a nice rich solid black. This was a perfect look for the old surroundings of the carport.

Updating our experience – 2015

We used the product a few times since. We applied it on decks, siding, railings, vertical and horizontal surfaces. We used the solid, semi-transparent or translucent versions of the the product and the results are mixed.

It demands perfect surface and weather conditions. All products need this but some stains are a little more forgiving. Considering the small time window for exterior staining in Toronto, staining weather almost never happens.

Vertical surfaces perform better. We went back to enough job sites and it still looks good. Most coatings perform better on vertical surfaces, Arborcoat was not any different.

Nice siding product. It’s a good alternative for paint on wood siding if you want to maintain the texture of the wood. Durability on wood siding is very good with good prep work.

I wouldn’t recommend it for decks under any circumstance. We used solid, semi, translucent Arborcoat and none performed well on decks. Deck staining is not our specialty, but we have enough experience to form this opinion. Old decks or new decks, the performance of the product was not acceptable. The prep was good, the weather conditions agreeable but it stil failed. In some cases the coating peeled in sheets and restaining these decks was a nightmare. The tried and true penetrating oil products were absolutely superior. Film forming acrylics almost always fail despite claims of superior adhesion. Despite our initial hopes and first impressions, Arborcoat was not any different.

This blog was written for Ecopainting, Toronto painters servicing both the residential and commercial sector.

10 thoughts on “Benjamin Moore Arborcoat”

  1. PROPER PREP IS IMPORTANT .Wood that is smooth needs to be sanded 80 to 100 grit non ferrous sand paper .Apply arbour coat to all 6 sides prior to construction .Ensure moisture content is between 13 and 16 percent .Apply second coat and let dry .Have stained 50 million bft of wood in 30 plus years .Never had a job fail .Slaping stain on surface only is poor practice .Of course it will fail because moisture gets in sun heats up and moisture turns to steam and lifts stain off .Before negative comments do it right

    • Hi Paul, thank you for commenting. I agree that proper prep is absolutely necessary and most brands will perform better with it. The problem is you don’t always have the ideal situation to do the prep with. For example: “Apply arbour coat to all 6 sides prior to construction” is a great suggestion. The reality is most of the decks we re-stain are built already. The customer hires a contractor to stain, not to build one every time. Sometimes an existing deck is built too close to the ground and since the boards are not previously stained on all sides, the moisture is already present. Expecting the moisture content to drop to below 15% in a climate like ours is not always realistic. Yet the customer still wants it stained. I suppose you can turn down all deck re-staining jobs but somebody will stain them anyway without informing the customer.
      The best we can hope in a short time window here is to use a non film forming stain that lets the wood “breathe”. There are some newer offerings that claim to be “Hydrophilic” and can be applied when the surface is a little wet but time will tell how they will perform.
      To conclude, I agree with you if everything is equal.

  2. I have used the Arborcoat in a solid stain and you are correct it is a nightmare on all floors of my decks. We are in process of trying to sand it off. I’m wondering what solid stain you have had the most success with? I am beyond frustrated spending every summer restaining what was done the year before. Thanks

    • It is frustrating, especially when not having perfect conditions to work with. I hate to say this but the old penetrating oil products that didn’t form a film were better. We don’t do as many decks any more because of these issues. Sansin stains sound promising because it promises what oils used to do.

      • I am not sure where you are located but there aren’t many oil stains left because of regulations. The better hybrid or waterborne products like Sansin and others mimic the properties of oil by being thinner than usual and drying slow to allow for proper penetration of the wood. If Sikkens is still allowed in your area to carry oil, weha d success with them in the past. Benjamin Moore is bringing back some of their alkyd stains (at least here in Toronto Ontario). They call it “Classic Oil Finish”and I thing they go as opaque as Semi-solid. Ask at Sherwin Williams, they might have some product as well.

  3. I am in south central Texas where the weather gets brutally hot. My deck is roofed. It needed re-stain and I couldn’t remember what I had used before. I have used Ben Moore paints on houses with good results. It is during the covid 19 breakout and I ran up to the paint store and being that this is what they had, I bought 2 gal. First off it was $117 for them, kinda pricey. They had the semi-solid. I went with a color that appeared to match my original color. Right now, half the deck is painted. It dried flat sheen and chaulky looking. My prior stain was semi gloss and showed the wood. This doesn’t. The color is not at all what I wanted. It did dry smooth and went on exactly like paint. It dried super fast. I don’t know what to do now. Guess I will finish it d/t cost and pray it cleans easily and doesn’t flake. Bummed.

    • Hi Elizabeth. Since you are halfway done with the staining, you might as well complete the rest of it. If you removed most of the failing stain and you did not trap any moisture, it should be okay for a while. Unfortunately with any of these hybrid or waterborne finishes you have to follow instruction to almost impossible levels. For example do not stain too early or too late in the day. Do not stain too early or too late in the year. Do not paint after rain or before the rain and never in the sun. These almost perfect conditions that almost never happen makes deck staining a service that most painting contractors want to avoid. In the mean time, good luck and hopefully you get some longevity out of your hard work. (colour and look not withstanding)

  4. Hello! I’m looking for a exterior stain preferably oil based to refresh my home. Water no longer beads on the house. I’m am very concerned about what I can use … the previous stain did not peel, flake or crack… totally soaked in and lasted 14 years. The home was originally stained using Solignum creosote semi transparent stain and a few years down the road redone with the Pratt and lambert oil based stain none of which comply with Canada’s Voc restrictions now and are of course no longer available.The tongue and groove pine siding is now 33+ years old and is still in excellent condition… but needs to be refreshed! I’m looking for a product that will gives us the longevity that our prior penetrating stain did. So difficult! This will be the fourth time it has been done since being built. Sorry for all the information… just giving you some background! I can tell you my husband is old school and has a distrust of waterborne stain. I was recommended BM Arbour Coat Classic Oil Semi Transparent stain flat finish. Has anyone used this? I am located in the Muskoka Area .R

    • Hi Robin. Most quality waterbourne stains perform well on siding and horizontal surfaces. Most of their problems were on horizontal surfaces and more specifically decks. If you want to use Arbour Coat Classic Oil Semi Transparent stain you should have no issues with it. It should perform like most penetrating oil stains used to. I know you mentioned the existing finish is old but make sure it’s almost off, otherwise the stain will not be able to penetrate the substrate well. Also if the surface is unevenly discoloured, test the colour somewhere before proceeding. I think they also have a semi-solid in the oil line which is a little more opaque. Thank you for your question.


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