An Independent Test and Review of Cuprinol Ducksback
Cuprinol has made a lot of noise about their fence and shed stain containing wax and repelling rainwater better than any other product, even naming it Ducksback for obvious reasons.
But is it any good?
How does it hold up against water?
Is it worth it?
We independently tested this popular garden product so you can make an informed buying decision.
How We Tested Ducksback and What We Looked For
We purchased a five-litre tub of Rich Cedar Cuprinol Ducksback and tested it on three surfaces:
- A new fence panel.
- A new piece of smooth timber.
- An old shed that had previously been stained.
This is what we looked for:
- Coverage rate.
- The number of coats realistically required to get a good finish.
- How accurate the colour was compared to the image on the tub.
- Ease of application.
- Sprayer compatibility.
- Ability to resist rain.
- Hosepipe and tissue test.
- How it performed on the different types of timber.
- Comparison to other paints.
Read This Before You Buy
There are two things you need to know before you buy this product:
1) Cuprinol Ducksback is one of several products on the market that should only be applied to rough-sawn timber.
Rough-sawn means most sheds and almost all fences.
Gardeners should not apply Cuprinol Ducksback to smooth timber such as window frames, smooth timber doors or furniture.
Here’s what Cuprinol say:
Ducksback is not deep penetrating but very much relies on the timber texture for adhesion. For this reason it is recommended for rough sawn timber only. If the construction contains smooth timber components, or has lost texture through weathering then adhesion performance will be reduced.
2) You will need to put on a second (and possibly a third) coat and you must do so before the first coat has fully cured.
This is because the dried wax will repel the additional coats once it has set.
If you use Ducksback on smooth timber or try to apply it over a first coat that has fully cured, it won’t adhere correctly and may wash off in the coming months.
We conducted independent research and also contacted Cuprinol for further advice, and based on this, we suggest applying additional coats between 2 and 4 hours after the previous coat. If you leave the painted fence for several days, do a test patch to see if it repels the next coat.
Here are the specs from the manufacturer:
5l or 9l tubs | 2-3 coats | 6sq/mtr per ltr | Showerproof in 1 hr, recoat in 2/4 hrs | Water-based | Rough sawn timber only | Sprayer: Yes, compatible |
Our Test of Cuprinol Ducksback
We purchased a 5-litre tub of Cuprinol Ducksback and tested it on a new fence panel, starting with just one section so you can see the difference compared to the unpainted section.
Closeup photo, taken after a few days and with water beading on the surface:
Water beading and rolling off during our test
We then placed the panel horizontally and allowed water to pool on one of the slats.
As you can see, Ducksback repelled the water, which didn’t absorb into the wood at all. We even checked the back of the panel, and it was bone dry.
Water pooling on the surface
Here’s a photo from a different angle:
Water beads, just like on a duck’s back
How We Got On With Cuprinol Ducksback
Coverage Rate: We measured the paint carefully before applying it to the fence and found that the first coat went down at a rate of 4.5 metres per litre and subsequent coats at 5.5 square metres per litre.
Number of Coats Required: During the test, we found that the fence looked patchy after one coat but much better after the second. The third coat is optional, but as this was a new fence, we applied it; if your fence already has a similar colour paint on it, it may not need this third coat.
Colour Accuracy: We found that the colour of the fence closely matched the colour tab on the tin, as shown in this image:
Ease of Application: After stirring the tub of Cuprinol Ducksback, we found that the product was fairly thick, and it adhered well to our brush and the fence without dripping.
Rainwater Resistance: After one week, we left the panel outside on a rainy day, and we could clearly see the water beading and rolling off the surface.
Hosepipe and Tissue Test: In an effort to replicate weathering, we hosed the panel with water from our hosepipe one week after staining the fence and none of the colour appeared to wash off. We also dabbed the surface with wet white kitchen tissue, which didn’t pick up any colour, indicating that the paint had adhered correctly:
Sprayer Compatibility: We tested Cuprinol Ducksback using a powerful Wagner sprayer and found it performed better after we watered it down slightly.
Effectiveness on Other Surface Types: The manufacturer states that Ducksback shouldn’t be applied to smooth timber as it won’t adhere correctly. We tested Cuprinol’s product on a strip of smooth wood and also on a pre-stained shed with smooth panelling. While Ducksback initially adhered well, we were able to wash/rub it off with a wet cloth after a week. On the shed, we then sanded down a section with very coarse sandpaper to create a rough surface and tested Ducksback again; this time, it adhered as expected and didn’t wash off.
Overall, Cuprinol’s Ducksback met our expectations.
It adhered well to the new fence, looked good after two coats and was easy to apply. The colour was a close match to the tab on the tub and it repelled water better than any other water-based fence products we tested including Ronseal’s paint, and the effectiveness in this area was even better than fences stained with Creocote or other oil-based finish.
What’s Good and Not So Good
Here are the pros and cons for Cuprinol Ducksback fence paint/stain:
- Deep colours to choose from.
- The colour closely matched the image on the tub.
- It wasn’t too watery and didn’t drip.
- Sprayer compatible.
- Looked great after only two coats.
- Very water repellent, once dried.
- Quick drying (touch dry in 1 hr, recoat in 2-4 hrs).
- Because it repels moisture, it may repel second and third coats, so these must be applied before the wax has cured.
- It shouldn’t be applied to smooth timber.
- The deep colour masks the grain and knots in the timber and the finish may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Analysis of Online Reviews
Almost every product we have ever tested has received some negative reviews from past customers, so we looked into what others are saying about Ducksback to see if anything stood out.
On the Wickes website, Cuprinol Ducksback has a rating of 4.9 out of 5 based on over 1000 reviews.
On Amazon, it has a similar rating from a similar number of reviewers.
On Trustpilot, we did find some negative reviews, with some consumers saying the product was more watery than they expected – the product we tested certainly wasn’t like this, it was thick and gloopy, just perfect for painting fences. Also, some reviewers stated that it washed off after a few months. While we can’t be 100% sure why this happened, it’s possible that the Ducksback was applied to smooth timber or the first coat was allowed to cure and it repelled subsequent coats. Based on this assumption, we advise consumers to recoat after a few hours and not to leave it for more than a day before applying second and third coats, as this is an issue the manufacturer warns about in their literature.
In our original test of four popular fence paints, we found Cuprinol Ducksback to be the best with Ronseal’s Fence Life a close second.
After doing some research, we’ve found a newish product – Ronseal Fence Life Plus, which like Ducksback, is expected to last 5 years.
Ronseal’s Fence Life Plus has over 4000 reviews on Amazon and very few are negative. We can’t find any about it washing off in the rain either.
We also noted that this new product is advertised as lasting 5 years while the original Ronseal paint we tested has literature stating the colour will last only 2+years.
While we haven’t tested the Fence Life Plus, we think all the indicators are pointing to this being an improvement over their original “Fence Life” product.
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This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by Paul Farley.
Explore: Paul’s profile and qualifications.
We selected Cuprinol Ducksback as it’s a popular fence stain, and when we tested four popular products in April 2023, it performed better than the other three, so we decided to write a more in-depth review for our readers.
Author: Daniel Woodley
Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.
He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.
Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.
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