What Should I Consider When Choosing a Wood Stain?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Whether you are refinishing a wood surface or staining one for the first time, your selection of wood stain will have an impact on the finished look. Choosing a color from amongst the numerous shades available is certainly an important selection, but also keep in mind the types of stains available as well as the application methods and uses of each stain.

Like paint, wood stain is available in both oil-based and water-based varieties. Both are suitable for most any wood surface, but oil-based tends to be more durable than water-based on most. Oil-based is also a better selection for outdoor wood surfaces. However, water-based wood stain provides easier clean up and is a suitable choice for indoor surfaces. Durability can be enhanced by applying an oil-based clear protective finish.

The actual consistency of wood stain varies as well. Liquid wood stain was the most common and abundantly available choice for a long time, but in recent years, gel wood stains that are thicker in consistency have made their way into the home-improvement market. Aside from the differences in application, both choices are suitable for most any surface. Some people find the gel consistency easier to work with, but it is really a matter of personal preference.


Regardless of your preference for oil-based, water-based, or gel wood stain, your choice will really hinge on the availability of your preference in the color you choose. Traditional color finishes for wood stain, such as walnut, oak, cherry, mahogany and pine, have always been popular. However, modern decor and the demand for more color choice have led manufacturers to produce wood stain in a variety of colors from blue to red to black.

When choosing a wood stain color, determine if you are attempting to match existing pieces or surfaces in your home. If you are restoring a piece of furniture or wood trim to its original grandeur, you might choose to mimic its original finish or type of wood. If instead, you are finishing a new surface or attempting to create an entirely new look for an area, such as a kitchen, you might consider exploring color choices, including complimenting painted surfaces and accents. Compare various shades and colors of wood stain to paint samples, fabric samples, and other color options before commit. Also explore pictures from home and garden magazines and websites to get inspiration.

While applying a wood stain to a surface is more time consuming than painting, the finished product is often more beautiful, because the natural grain of the wood shines through, giving depth and character. By selecting a wood stain that is conducive to both your preferred method of application and clean up as well as your decor and desired finished look, you will undoubtedly be pleased with the final outcome. If you have trouble deciding between the various types and finishes of wood stain, ask the sales associates at your local paint or home improvement store for input.


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Post 3

@raynbow- Regardless of the type of wood stain you choose, you should use a sponge brush instead of a bristle brush to apply it. A sponge brush will give you a smoother finish. It is also less messy to use, because it hold excess wood stain inside the sponge instead of dripping it everywhere. This also makes it an idea tool for applying stain on items inside of your home.

Post 2

@raynbow- The best product for you to use on interior wood trim is a water based wood stain in my opinion. It is less messy, easier to clean up when you are finished or if you have a spill, and has less odor than other types of wood stains. This makes it less unbearable when using it indoors, because some types of stains contain a lot of fumes when used indoors.

When using any type of stain, however, you will want to protect the surrounding carpet, fabrics, and walls with painter's tape and drop clothes. If you don't, you could damage these items from mishaps with your wood stain.

Post 1

Does anyone have some thoughts about the best wood stain to use for indoor wood trim that is located around doors, walls, and windows? These pieces are already stained, but I want to touch them up a bit. I also do not want to remove them, and want to make the job of staining the wood as easy as possible.

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