How many homeowners have you heard say using wood stain is quick and easy? In theory, they are correct. In practice, it can be one huge, messy failure. However, it is possible to achieve a professional-looking job with a little research, preparation, and choosing the right materials!
In general, wood stains are chemical compounds of a binding agent, solvent and pigment. The solvent is what gives stain its liquidity. The binder holds the pigment within the liquid, and the solvent evaporates when the stain gets applied. This evaporation leaves behind the pigment with the binder, a process that is essentially dyeing the wood.
The right wood stain and sealant applied correctly can make wood beautiful. Choosing the right wood stain for the type of wood is key to getting the right tint. Wood lovers everywhere appreciate the natural beauty of wood grain. Paint sits on top of the wood and therefore hides wood’s most attractive qualities. On the other hand, wood stain and sealant preserve the natural wood patterns and protect the wood for longevity. The tips for applying wood stain below can help you get the desired finish for your projects.
Determine Which Stain Type to Use
All stain jobs start with selecting the right wood stain. Water-based stains are ideal for people who cannot work around chemical fumes. It is a fume-free, quick application that looks great. A water base may also be the right wood stain for those who have respiratory issues. The biggest issue with this type of wood stain is that it swells and separates the wood fibers. While this permits more pigment to penetrate, it may compromise the quality of the finish. Lightly re-sanding with a fine grit sandpaper can help. The other caution is that water-based stain dries quickly. Recruit a helper to wipe the stain behind your application if you are staining a huge area. Wait 24 hours before applying sealant.
Oil-based wood stains have some advantages over water-based stains. If chemical fumes are not a concern, an oil base may be the right wood stain choice. They dry much more slowly, and slower dry rates allow a more even application. These stains also have deeper penetration, which directly affects the darkness of the stain tint. Oil also gives the added benefit of water resistance. Oil wood stains are more complex and therefore more durable than water stains. Durability means less maintenance.
The biggest advantage gel stain has over the liquid stains is that it will cling to vertical surfaces longer. Vertical surfaces can be a challenge to liquid base stains. Another feature of gel stain is that because it is denser, it penetrates more slowly, which permits better control over the finish appearance.
It does require heavy application. You must load your brush or sponge repeatedly to assure a heavy coat. You will also have to blend in some spots. Some users complain that it does not spray well. Its viscosity prevents an even spray application. Of course, you can solve this by spraying heavily with additional coats as needed.
Decide Which Mode of Application: Brush, Wipe or Spray
How you apply the stain is another factor to consider. Whether you wipe, brush or spray, the results are generally the same. All three have proponents who argue their method is best.
Many traditionalists insist that wiping with a cloth is by far the best way to apply wood stains. Those who brush say brushing is much quicker and cleaner. Sprayers insist that not only is spraying the quickest, it is also the cleanest.
A comparison of application methods often shows no noticeable difference in the finished application. The one common detail of the application procedure is that all three use long, continuous strokes to apply the stain.
Start with a clean, dry surface. This is absolutely necessary if you are to get a smooth, glass-like finish. Dust and other airborne particles can end up in your stain job if the space is not clean to start with. Stir the can of stain from the bottom thoroughly to fully blend the pigments. Continue to stir until you see the pigmentation even out into a single color with no streaks.
Determine the wood type you are working with. Is it a hard wood or a soft wood? To find out for yourself, press your fingernail firmly into the wood on a side that won’t be visible.
Does your nail leave an indentation? If so, you are working with a soft wood. Follow the stain parameters for working with soft woods.
Use a stain conditioner. The single biggest difference in the quality of the stain finish, particularly with soft woods, is the use of a stain conditioner. These conditioners are available for oil and water-based stains. They provide a smooth surface for applying the stain. This smooth surface diminishes blotching and streaking.
Timing also matters with stain finishes. Leave it on longer for darker tones. Wipe it more quickly for lighter tints that will leave more wood grain clearly visible. Darker finishes obscure some of the finer details of the grain. Some stains recommend 15-minute intervals between application and wiping. Others suggest shorter time frames. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for exact application and wiping intervals.
Sand and finish. With your first application, after about four hours, check the wood surface. It should be completely dry for this next step. Lightly sand the dried stain with 220-grit sandpaper. This helps smooth out the first application of stain. Wipe the sanded surface completely clean before applying the second coat.
Protect Your Work
Many do not realize staining has two major components: wood stain and sealant. Most people who work with wood staining get the staining process done without much trouble. Stain is a dye that colors the wood; it does not protect the wood. To protect your newly stained wood, use a clear protective sealer.
Often people are not as successful with the most critical step, the sealing and protecting process. The total job involves both wood stain and sealant for a successful project. There are various types of sealant that can be used.
To apply sealer after the stain dries, rub or brush it in the direction of the wood grain. Use long continuous strokes to even out the first sealer coat. Sealer coat drying times vary based on climate, humidity and other factors. Generally, the first coat takes roughly four hours. When done correctly using the proper materials, a wood-stained deck, fence, gazebo, or other outdoor decor can last for years.
Ready Seal wood stains are formulated to stain and seal your projects, all in one step! There are many more reasons why Ready Seal is the best wood stain and sealer product on the market. Discover Ready Seal’s quality and simplicity - use the wood stain and sealant product on your next project! If you’d like to find out more about the Ready Seal advantage, contact our team and we’ll provide even more convincing details that prove Ready Seal has the best wood stain and sealer!