Whether you’re refinishing a piece of furniture, updating the cabinets or repairing your floor, a stain is a great way to highlight the beauty of your wood. Stains are translucent and even though they add colour and richness to wood, they won’t cover up the natural grain like a solid paint product will. If you’re confused by all the choices here are some tips to picking the perfect one for you.
- First of all, start with bare wood. This will most likely involve A LOT of sanding. Stains look best when they have soaked a bit into the wood so you won’t be able to put them over a varnish or wax. Remove any sealers with either a paint stripper (be careful – they can burn your skin) or good old fashioned sandpaper.
- Are you using your stain inside or outside? It makes a big difference. Not all stains have UV filters so make sure you pick the right one for your project.
- I find that the easiest way to apply a stain is with a clean, lint free cloth. Rub the stain on in the direction of the wood until there are no more streak marks and the colour is even. Make sure to put on gloves to avoid staining your hands.
- Speaking of streaks, I prefer gel stains (General Finishes is one of my favourites) to stain/varnish-in- one products. The constancy is thicker so you don’t have to worry about stuff running down your paint brush (or hand…or chair leg) and you get a more consistent colour. With a stain/varnish if you apply too much in one area the stain will be darker and lighter in places where it’s been stretched thin.
- If you’re making a repair and trying to match new wood to the tone of the existing wood, bring an off cut of the new material along with the old piece (drawer, chair, etc) to the paint store. Different woods will give you difference shades with the same colour stain.
- NEVER judge a stain by the name. What does Antique Walnut mean to you? Probably something different than it means to me. Always try the stain on a piece of wood first.
- Don’t be scared to mix and match stains with paint. A table with a stained wood top can look stunning with a painted skirt and legs.
- Remember that most stains will have to be sealed before you can start using your furniture/floor/cabinet. Without a varnish, the colour may rub off over time and cleaning will be challenging. If you can, wait at least 24 hours before your last coat of stain and first coat of varnish to prevent rub off.
- Finally, just because a varnish is dry to the touch, it doesn’t mean it’s CURED, or has achieved its full chemical hardness. Depending on the product, that process may take a few weeks so be gentle.