Stains Buying Guide

  • Getting Started

  • Choosing the right stains for your wooden or concrete surfaces is imperative for their durability and longevity. There are several things to consider before applying the stains that will make your wood or concrete look its best even if it has been stained before. A well-stained surface will serve  a long time and provide you aesthetic pleasure.

  • Type of Material You are Staining

  • Wood:  Wood stains allow the natural wood grain to show. This stain penetrates the wooden surface and gives wood protection from different weather conditions.  Depending on your needs, the wood stain can:

        •  Disguise dull and inferior wood and make it look more like high-quality wood.

        •  Stains helps even out the color of the wooden surface which is useful for most wood that has differently colored patches.

        •  Stains can be used to change the shade of wood.

        •  Wood stains are used to hide the difference between several different wood types used to make one object such as furniture.

        •  Stains can be used to help restorers when they need  to replace a certain part of the object with new wood.

        •  Stains are used to protect the wood. Special exterior-grade products are especially designed to protect the wood from UV rays, rain, insects and fungus.

        •  Stains are sometimes used for simple coloring or finishing.

    Concrete: Stains for concrete are used for coloring purposes.

  • What to Consider

  • Material your Staining. What kind of material do you need a stain for. There are special stains for wood and completely different stains for concrete.

    Types of Stains. There are several types of stains out there. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages in relation to a certain material. You will need to choose between, oil, water-based varnish and gel stains for wood and reactive and non-reactive stains for concrete.

    Kinds of Stains. There are several kinds of wood stains that you will need to consider before making the right choice for your surface.

  • Wood Stain Types

  • Oil wood stain. These are the most popular and the most available type of stains. They are very easy to use since the oil ingredients give the painter enough time to remove all the imperfections before the stain dries up. This is true even for large areas. Sometimes oil stains are called “pigment” or “wiping” stains. In most cases oil stains have both pigment and dye. Some just have the dye. Oil stains are the best choice to be applied under any finish except the water-based types. They can be chosen any time you don't require special characteristics other wood stain types offer.

    Varnish wood stain. Varnish stain is very similar to the oil wood stain. There is just one difference. Varnish stains have varnish as the binding agents and that leads to varnish stains drying hard. This means that a varnish stain can be applied to the wooden surface and left to dry without the need of wiping away the excess. The topcoat will not chip or peel they way it would if the oil stain is left without wiping. Varnish stains can use the same mineral spirits thinner as the oil stains do. They are often applied as an overcoat to already stained surfaces, for example, old furniture. You can choose this type of wood stain as an overcoat to a surface that is already stained but dull or scratched.

    Water-based wood stain. For this stain typewater-based finish is used as a binder.  The organic thinner is replaced with water. These stains are more environmentally friendly than other types. They are easier to clean up after than varnish and oil wood stain. However, these stains are more complicated to use since they lift the wood grain and dry very fast.  Water-based wood stains should be chosen for using under a water-based finish.

    Gel stains. Gel stains have oil or varnish base and have a very thick composition. They are hard and messy to use but they are the perfect choice for fighting uneven coloring on pine which is caused by different wood density. Blotching can be removed by sanding or painting. But the best and the easiest solution is staining. Gel stains are irreplaceable for pine and soft woods.

  • Wood Stain Kinds

  • Clear stains. These stains also go by the name of deck water sealers. They allow the grain to show through. There are no oils or pigments in the clear stain but it offers moisture protection for the wood by acting as a water-repelling agent. The downside of this wood stain is its bad durability.  Such stains need to be applied once a year.  They also offer no protection from UV rays.

    Solid stains. These stains don't penetrate the wood. They act as paint and just stay on the wooden surface while making the grain visible. They are used to hide color imperfections, such as discoloration and help create a uniform look. The disadvantage of these stains is that they are prone to peeling and cracking.

    Semi-transparent (opaque) stains. These stains cause some wood tinting and allow the grain pattern to be visible.  Opaque stains penetrate the wood and offer stronger protection. They also last longer than clear and solid stains. Semi-transparent stains are less prone to peeling than their counterparts. The main downside of such stains is that with time color can be lost and they will need to be reapplied.

  • Concrete Stain Types

  • Reactive Stains – acid-based concrete stain produces a chemical reaction with the concrete surface to create translucent color tones and interesting marbling effect. The best acid-based concrete stains have metallic salts that come into a reaction with the lime content of concrete. Once the chemical reaction is completed the stain bonds with the concrete permanently and won't be chipping, cracking or peeling.

    Non-reactive Stains – water-based acrylics stains. They don't produce a chemical reaction in order to create a certain color. They work in a similar way paint does. Acrylic stains leave the pigment in the pores of the concrete surface. Their advantage is a wide choice of different shades and colors and they are much easier to apply.  The final color will be more opaque but a thin layer can still produce a translucent effect.

  • Concrete Stains Buying Tips

  • Learn the color effect. consider what color effect your are striving for before choosing between reactive or non-reactive concrete stains.

    Contemplate the age. The age of the concrete as well as its condition will affect the shade of color it will have.

    Consider the Location. Consider where your concrete is located. Stains for outdoor concrete should designed to resist UV rays and protect the concrete from wear. The same stain which is manufactured for indoor use can't be applied to outdoor concrete.

    Get a sealer. Manufacturers of some stains will recommend applying a clear sealer to the concrete after the staining is done. It will give additional protection against UV rays, chemicals and physical damage.

    How easy is it to use? Is the stain you have chosen easy to mix and use? Read the label before purchasing a stain in order to understand how easy the preparation process is.

    Get the right application tools. Some stains require special application tools that you might not have. So you must be ready for buying additional equipment.

    Coverage rate. Each stain has its own average coverage rate. It will tell you how the area of the surface that can be covered with one can of stain. However, this rate can fluctuate due to many different number of factors.  The main advantage if this information is that it can help you compare the prices 

    Identify the wood. Each different wood type has its own properties, such as natural hue and individual density. You will need to learn the natural color and hardness (or softness) of the wood before finding the right stain.

    Identify the color. Choosing the color is a hard job and requires serious consideration. There are a few tips you can use:

        •  The color is affected by the number of coats.

        •  First coat is usually darker than the second one

        •  Second coat is smoother than the first once

        •  The source of light affects the color. If you are staining furniture which is near a window, it will have a completely different   color than the same furniture in the dark corner of the room. The exterior light changes throughout the day. It is imperative to consider light conditions when choosing the color.

        •  Colors change as the stain dries

        •  Choose more than one color and test each to get a better idea of what it will look like on your object

    Test the stain. The stain must be tested before being applied to the whole object. Get one small piece of wood from the object you are about to paint or, if it's not possible, find the most hidden spot and test the stain.