Experience has shown that conventional paints cannot now be relied upon to provide a complete seal against water entry, that in practice water can often circumvent the film and that the paint, far from serving to keep water out will seal it in. Moreover present-day paints are often subject to localised and premature failure out of doors and consequently entail high maintenance costs. Problems of wood decay and premature paint failure reached a high level during the 1960s, and led to the acceptance of the need for the preservative treatment of softwood joinery and cladding. The question remains however, whether, in the light of changes in the quality of timber and how it is used, the traditional approach of attempting to seal the outer surface of the wood is still valid, or should be abandoned in favour of using different types of finish which are more permeable to moisture and prevent it accumulating in the timber. One of the reasons for the remarkable success of semi-transparent exterior wood stains is that they met the demand for finishes of increased water vapour permeability for timber which was susceptible to decay. They also possessed two other important attractions: they provided natural finishes for exterior timber which were without the technical problems of clear varnish; and their mode of breakdown by erosion reduced the preparation work in maintenance and hence the overall maintenance costs. These are valid commendations for stains and remain important factors encouraging their use. Stains offer the architect additional design freedom and, used effectively, can make a pleasing contribution to the appearance of modern buildings. They do reduce average moisture levels in the timber and are simple to maintain, though these advantages may be offset to some extent if more frequent maintenance is necessary and if the higher permeability creates problems from dimensional movement.