Enhance your wood floors, furniture and more with the right stain
Wood is an elegant material that is often used to construct floors, furniture,
walls, doors and door frames, cupboards and more. The adaptable nature of wood
allows it to be used in a diverse range of applications to create a variety of
styles. Stains allow you to further augment wood’s natural beauty by adding
color, enhancing the appearance of wood grain and emphasizing grain contrast.
Choosing which kind of stain to use depends primarily on what type of wood or
object you’re applying the stain to. Staining requires little more than time,
patience and technique, making it an ideal project for a do-it-yourselfer.
Adding stain to worn or damaged hardwood floors or an old piece of furniture
can breathe new life into objects and make them seem brand new again. Keep the
following questions in mind as you prepare your next staining project:
Oil-Based vs. Water-Based Stains, Types and Application
Traditionally, wood stain has been oil-based. More recently, however, water-based stains have begun to gain in popularity. Each type offers different qualities, and choosing which one to use depends on what you’re staining, how much time you plan to put into the project and your personal preferences. Stains are also available in different formulas, each of which have different properties or are applied through different means. While stains enhance the look of wood, they do not protect it from scratches or wear and tear. You’ll need to apply a finish after staining to protect your project.
Oil-Based Stains vs. Water-Based Stains: Oil-based stains have been in use for many years. They provide depth of color and minimal raising of a wood’s grain, though the topcoat may take on a slight amber tint over time. Water-based stains dry more quickly and can be easily cleaned up with soap and water. Because of their fast drying time, it may be easiest to work on small sections when using water-based stains to avoid drying before you are finished. They give off little odor, are more environmentally friendly and provide a clear topcoat. Water-based stains also provide a wider range of intense colors. Both types provide excellent durability.
Stain Types: Generally speaking, there are five different stain types:
gel stain, wiping stain, combination stain/finish, spray stain and water-based
liquid stain. They differ in the types of surfaces they are best suited to,
how they are applied and their characteristics. One of the primary differences
between types is the viscosity level, or thickness, of gel stains compared to
thinner-bodied stains. Gel stains may be somewhat easier to apply for novice
woodworkers because they provide equal coverage for both porous and nonporous
areas. They don’t drip or splatter, which makes them ideal for applying to
vertical surfaces. Thin-bodied stains, however, provide more depth because
they actually penetrate the surface. Wiping stains are very versatile and can
be used with nearly any wood surface that hasn’t been finished before.
Different stains may require multiple coats, so be sure to consult the
manufacturer’s instructions. The chart below highlights the main features and
characteristics of each type.
|Water-Based Liquid Stain||
Application: Regardless of which type of stain you select, you’ll want to stir it thoroughly before you begin to work. The pigment settles to the bottom of the container over time, so you’ll get an uneven finish if you don’t stir before applying. Test stain on a scrap piece of wood or inconspicuous area, like the back of a piece of furniture, before you begin to make sure it provides the look you want. It’s best if you can use a test piece of the same type of wood as the object you’ll be staining. Sand the work surface until it’s smooth so the stain doesn’t look blotchy when it is applied. Interior stains are generally applied with a brush or rag and then wiped off to control how deeply the stain penetrates. Brushes are ideal when working with irregularly shaped areas while rags are excellent for use on flat surfaces. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to learn what temperature your work area should be set at. If the temperature is too hot or cold, it can severely affect drying time. Make sure your work area is well-ventilated, wear gloves and use a face mask if the stain emits hazardous fumes.
Conditioner: Prior to staining, it may be necessary to apply conditioner. Conditioner prepares the surface of wood, particularly soft or porous woods such as pine and alder, to receive a coat of stain more evenly. It dries fairly quickly, so applying it won’t cause you to lose much time.
Finish: Stain enhances wood’s appearance, but finish protects it and keeps it looking good. Once stain has dried, you’ll want to apply the finish. Finishes may be oil or water based and are available in both brush-on and spray-on forms. You can also find formulas that serve as both a stain and finish, saving you time by allowing you to apply them both at once.
Tack Cloth: Once you’re done sanding, you’ll need to clear off the dust. Brushes and dry rags aren’t the most effective way of doing this, as they may leave some debris behind. Tack cloths are pieces of sticky cheesecloth that pick up dust and sanding debris much more efficiently, paving the way for a higher quality stain.
Pick up all the brushes and rags you’ll need to complete your staining project.
Conditioner and sandpaper may be necessary to prep the surface, and finish will keep it safe after the job is done.