AdviceFlooringInterior design

How to Stain Wood

Natural wood can be beautiful and age wonderfully, but inexpensive woods or wood that has been damaged unevenly over time can look far better when stained. Not to be confused with varnishing, a stain seeps down into the structure of the wood, acting as a dye and changing its colour.

Stains come mostly in oil-based and water-based varieties and are available in numerous shades. Oil-based are easier to work with and dry fast, so they are best for the DIY-er.

staining wood floors

How to stain wood

First, need to be sure that you definitely want to stain your wood, as it is not something that will simply sand off and that you know how to stain wood. It is always advisable to first test any stain you have on a patch no one will see or on a scrap piece of similar wood. Apply a first coat to smoothly-sanded wood and leave this to dry. You should then add a second coat if you need it, leaving a small area with just one application on so that you can see how the second coat darkens the wood. The effect of a second coat may not be as dramatic as you may first think, as the colour soaks into the wood rather than just colouring the top surface.

You should also apply any finishes or polishes that you will be using to your test wood, as this will give you an idea of the final colour you will achieve. Stain does not protect wood by itself, so you will need to add your varnish or polish to keep the wood in good condition. Staining can be a long and messy job, so if you are not confident then you should call a flooring or woodworking specialist to carry the work out.

Once you have tested your stain then you will be ready to apply it to your floor, doors or furniture. Preparation is everything when you are staining, so be sure that you have all the things you need, such as brushes and cloths, as well as a clean area to work in. Unless you are staining your floor, you will want to carry out this work with plenty of plastic sheeting around.

how to stain wood

If you are staining a flat surface, such as a door, then be sure to set this up flat, using chairs or a workbench to lay the wood on. If you try to paint a door in situ, you will get runs in the stain and you will not cover the whole surface evenly.

Sand the surface you want to stain to create an even surface that is receptive to the stain. You can then brush the stain into the wood with the grain, taking care to apply evenly. Once you have covered the surface then wipe over it with a clean cloth or a sponge pad to ensure an even finish and remove any excess stain. Be sure to wipe over any drips or splashes as you make them, so they don’t appear as dark spots on the wood. If you are staining uneven or rounded areas, such as on chairs or table legs, then be sure to rub the stain into every part of the design with a cloth. Work up and down the wood, as well as around it so that you get an even finish.

If you are staining wooden flooring then you will need to work quickly and methodically to get an even finish. If you have floorboards, try to stain them in small groups of three or four, finishing at the edge of the boards before moving on to a new group. This means you will avoid unevenly finished boards and get a consistent look across the room. Mop up drips or spills as you go, smoothing any excess away with a cloth. If you have a solid wood floor or other set up then work in small areas, blending with a cloth and extra stain where needed. Be methodical about working back towards a door so you get an even finish and are not stuck in a final corner when nearly done. If you need to stain a second time then simply repeat the process, again being methodical to make sure that you cover every piece of wood you have already stained.

If you don’t feel confident about staining your wood flooring yourself then post a job on Rated People in our Flooring Specialist category to receive quotes from  recommended tradesmen in your area.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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One Comment

  1. I want to.paint my light oak dressing table and tall boy white..I’ve already done my kitchen unit doors but although I used the correct paint according to the tin, I’m not that impressed. Doesn’t seem to be my books in library etc with hints for success with this project thanks

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