Updated Nov 1, 2022
Updated Nov 1, 2022
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This is your essential guide to staining wood for projects both large and small.
The time required and total cost of the project will vary depending on the size, surface area, and type of wood you’re staining. A typical can of wood stain will cost $15–$50 per gallon, and projects can take anywhere from an hour to a full day.
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There are two types of wood stain—oil-based and water-based.
Oil-based stains take longer to dry than water-based stains do, so they allow you to work for longer. If this is your first staining project, an oil-based stain will make it less likely that your coats will be uneven. Also, oil-based stains won’t raise the grain on the wood, so you won’t need to worry about sanding the finish.
Alternatively, water-based stains dry quickly. Though this ensures that you’ll finish your project faster, it also means that the stain will set more quickly. Unlike oil stains, water-based stains don’t give off strong odors or fumes and also come in a wider variety of colors not available in oil-based stains.
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Wood reacts differently to certain stains. Before you begin a new project, confirm the wood type that you plan to use for your project, and match the appropriate stain to it.
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Some types of wood possess characteristics that make them difficult to stain. Consider the above alternatives if you’re starting a project from scratch.
If you’re refurbishing an old piece of furniture, block out ample time to complete your project. There are eight critical steps to refurbishing and re-staining wood furniture.
If the furniture has minor dents, chips, or nicks, prep the surface accordingly.
Test the condition of your deck stain by dropping water on the surface. If the water soaks into the wood and does not bead up, then your deck needs a new coat of stain.
Never mix oil- and water-based stains. While it’s possible to mix two colors of stain to make a custom color, only do so if made by the same manufacturer. Ask a home improvement store pro before mixing two colors.
A water-based finish can be put over an oil-based stain, but only after waiting a full 24 hours. As most stains don’t include a finish in their solution, you’ll want to apply a finish to the material after 24 hours or as the instructions of your stain product recommend to lock in and seal the color of the stain.
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