Staining 101

Adding stain to wood can bring out beautiful, natural colors in your home. Here are some basic tips on choosing and applying wood stains.

Choosing a Wood Stain

When it comes to choosing a wood stain, there are two kinds you can choose from: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based stains give you a slightly longer window of time. If you’re working on a larger-sized project such as floors or large sections of paneling, this means you can avoid stress and strict time constraints. Water-based stains have their own advantages, a few being the absence of strong odors and the easy, soap and water cleanup.

Now let’s get on to the application process.


The first thing you need to know is that finished wood will not be affected by stains. Both kinds of stain require open pores to absorb into the wood. To make sure that pores are open, you’ll want to lightly sand the wood before you begin. Start with medium-grit sandpaper and work your way up to fine-grit.

Stain can be applied with a variety of tools, like a bristle brush or even a cloth. Make sure you stir the can thoroughly – this will help redistribute any pigments that have settled at the bottom. Rubbing the stain into the direction of the grain will incorporate it evenly into all of the pores, even the deepest ones. Err on the side of too much stain here, because you want an even coat. If you think it’s not dark enough, go ahead and add a second coat.  

Clean Up

When you’re done, remove any unabsorbed stain with a dry cloth, and wipe in the direction of the grain – just like when you were applying it. Contrary to popular belief, just leaving unabsorbed stain on wood doesn’t work if you’re trying to get a darker color. In fact, all this will do is peel off eventually.

And just like that, you’re done! Just remember, a stain can bring out fantastic colors, but doesn’t offer any protection. Once the stain has dried fully, make sure to apply a clear finish to protect both your new stain and the wood underneath.  

Keep these tips in mind when you’re DIY-ing, and contact us at Ireland’s Finest Painting whenever you need extra help!

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