Tips for Staining

Staining is a great way to revitalize or personalize a piece of wood furniture. It can also be a great way to save a little bit of money by purchasing unfinished furniture then investing some time and elbow grease, yet even the most experienced DIY’er can be intimidated by the staining process.

True, there are some rules to abide by when staining. It is important to know that one color of stain can look different on different types of wood, and can even vary on two different pieces of the same species. But with the help of your local Hirshfield’s paint and stain expert, you will be well equipped to handle the job. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Always wear safety glasses and protect your hands with disposable rubber gloves. It is also a good idea to wear old clothing – as the name implies, it will stain.
  • Test your stain color on a small, low visibility section of the piece you will be staining. If that’s not possible then use a piece of scrap wood. A piece of pine from your cabinet will take stain in a different manner than a Marvin pine window sash.
  • If you are mixing species in your home, wood type makes a big difference with shade and color. This is another good reason to test your stain first, or speak with a Hirshfield’s professional for advice on how different wood will take the stain.
  • Apply a thin coat of wood conditioner with an inexpensive brush before staining so the stain doesn’t “blotch”. Wood conditioner will be helpful with pine and maple, but will leave the stain coat lighter than if not treated with a wood conditioner. Give the conditioner about 15 minutes to dry before applying the stain (no need to sand the conditioner before staining).
  • The most common type of stain, oil-based stains, consists of dyes and pigments mixed in with mineral spirits. Make sure to stir the can thoroughly before and during staining to bring the dyes and pigments up off of the bottom to get the full color. When working with oil-based stains there will be fumes, so make sure to always work in a well-ventilated area (to avoid fumes, go with a water-based stain).


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  • You can apply stain with a brush or rag. With a staining brush, work both with the grain and against it. Don’t worry about being neat just make sure to get a nice, even, liberal coat over the wood. You can wipe the stain off immediately for a lighter tone or leave it on for five -10 minutes before wiping for a deeper tone.
  • When wiping, be sure to wipe in the direction of the grain of the wood. This will guarantee that the stain gets into the wood, instead of laying on top, and will really show off the grain of the wood.
  • Stain only provides color, not a finish. Always apply a finish on top of stained wood.

Your local Hirshfield’s paint expert is always ready and willing to help with any of your staining questions. And don’t forget to look back at our Inspired by Nature – Decorating with Wood blog post for some wood décor inspiration!


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