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7 Different Types Of Wood Stain (With Pictures)

Wood Stain

Staining wood helps improve or change its look and can also help protect it against wear, weather, and other climatic conditions. But there are several different types of stain, not to mention many more types of wood stain colors and choosing the right one for your project can seem daunting. Below, you will find 7 different wood stains, their potential uses, and any pros and cons of each, so that you can choose the best one for the job at hand.

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The 7 Different Types of Wood Stain

1. Oil-Based Stain

Oil based stain contains an oil, typically a natural oil like linseed, combined with a varnish. Oil-based stains apply well and cover evenly. The wood soaks up the stain, which means that it doesn’t just sit on top of the surface, and this makes it a very durable and long-lasting choice. However, the use of ingredients like linseed oil and binders means that mold can grow over time, and you will have to wait at least two or three hours for the stain to dry before it is safe to touch or work with. Once it has dried, you can apply any finisher, other than water-based, to get the look you want.

  • Covers evenly and smoothly
  • Readily available
  • Penetrates the wood so is durable and long-lasting
  • Finisher can be applied on top of the stain
  • Dries very slowly
  • Mold can grow

2. Water-Based Stain

Rather than using linseed or another oil, water-based thinners use water as a thinning agent. These also contain water-based dyes, which give wood its color. These are considered more environmentally friendly but because they are watery, they do tend to run more, so you have to be diligent to ensure a smooth and accurate finish. You need to carefully clean and prepare the surface before applying a water stain and because the water does not penetrate as deep into the wood, the stain is likely to fade and need reapplication sooner than with oil-based alternatives.

  • Fast drying stains
  • More environmentally friendly than oil-based alternatives
  • Careful cleaning and preparation required before staining
  • Not long-lasting or especially hard-wearing
  • Can drip and run

3. Gel

Traditionally, woodworkers would have manually created stain using techniques like leaving iron nails to soak in vinegar, but wood stains have come a long way since then. Gel based stain is a fairly recent innovation and it uses a gel substance as the binding agent. Gel is viscous which means that, once applied to the wood, it will not run or drip, although it does take several hours to dry, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The gel does not do a good job of penetrating wood, though, because it is so viscous. This means that it will need reapplying sooner, and its viscosity also means that a gel-based solution cannot be sprayed onto the surface, so it does require manual application.

  • Doesn’t run or drip
  • Wood doesn’t need much preparation before application
  • Hides stains and blemishes
  • Slow to dry
  • Too thick to spray
  • Doesn’t penetrate well

4. Lacquer Stain

Laquer stained french oak wood floor
Image Credit: 4639459, Pixabay

Lacquer stains are thin, and they dry very quickly, often within just 15 minutes. This combination makes them suitable for fast application because by the time the first coat has dried, you can start on the second coat. However, these features also mean that lacquer stains are prone to running, dripping, and even bubbling. They are popular with professionals and experienced stainers, but they may not be a good option for the novice and first timer.

  • Dries quickly
  • Two coats
  • Penetrates well
  • Runs, drips, and bubbles
  • Need to work quickly for the best results

5. Water Soluble Dye

Painting wood dye
Image Credit: bricoydeco, Pixabay

Aniline dyes come in powder form and need to be mixed with water prior to use. This is a transparent stain, so no matter how many layers you add, you will never completely mask the appearance of the wood. As such, water soluble dyes are best used to add a little color or to slightly change the existing color of an attractive wood. Because these are dye powders, you can get different types that mix with oil stains or other stains to achieve the desired results, but you need to ensure you get the right one.

  • Enhances the natural look of the wood, rather than masking it
  • Good selection of colors and styles
  • Can be mixed with stains
  • Can’t be used to fully cover wood
  • Not UV resistant
  • Metalized Dye

6. Varnish Stains

Varnishes contain oil as a thinning agent but use varnish as a binder. The stain dries very hard so it can essentially cover the look of the wood underneath, and it can be applied with a roller or a brush. In most cases, it will take several coats of a varnish stain to get a uniform and smooth coat, and it will change color over time, but it looks natural and helps protect the wood underneath from dirt, grime, and even water.

  • Dries hard and protects the wood
  • Can be applied with a roller
  • Forms bubbles during application
  • Discolors over time

7. Metal Dye Stain

Metal based stains include metals like cobalt, copper, and nickel. The metal helps to slow, although not completely prevent, the fading of the stain once it is on the wood. Some of these stains need thinning before application, so check the tin to make sure, and their viscosity means that these dyes can be sprayed onto the surface making them a convenient option. The stains dry very quickly, and you will need to master the spray swoop to get even and proper coverage of the surface.

  • Can be sprayed on
  • Fades slower than water-based stains
  • Dries very quickly
  • Application takes some mastery

divider 1Conclusion

Wood stains not only provide an effective way of coloring and staining wood, but they can also help protect against dirt, dust, grime, and even water. As such, they can prolong the life of fences, furniture, and other wooden items, but there are many types of stain to choose from, including a whole spectrum of colors and the seven different stain types on our list above.

Featured Image Credit: ClassicallyPrinted, Pixabay

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