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The act of staining the wood on a fence, backyard deck or exterior door is a DIY project that shouldn’t be too easy to achieve. With several options out there, knowing how to choose the perfect stain will save you a whole lot of trouble. If you want to have a well-maintained exterior wood project, you should aim to buy long-lasting stains, which should stand the test of time. This guide and review will explore all you need to know before buying your wood stain; we’ve put together a list of the highest-rated wood stains in 2024 to help you better zero in on a perfect fit for your needs! However, before we begin, here’s a detailed buying guide that will help you get the hang of it better – especially if you’re a first-time DIY-er.
Just before you hit that online or offline store, here are a few things you should know about buying any wood stain out there.
What Is Wood Stain?
Wood stains are made up of dyes or pigments which get dissolved inside a solvent. Some of the common solvents include distilled petroleum, water, alcohol, or varnish. Some of the vehicles aren’t natural solvents which makes such stains appear suspended in the solvent. Smaller molecules such as dyes dissolve inside the vehicle, while the larger pigment molecules stand a higher chance of being suspended in the vehicle. This can create a variety of types of stains, such as oil-based wood stains.
Types of Wood Stains
Ultimately, finishes differ depending on how much of the wood’s natural grain is being shown. Note that the best opaque treatments are reputed to last a bit longer. However, it’s cool getting a semi-transparent finish for the beauty of it.
This type of stain is reputed to hold up the longest, with the best of them lasting up to five years on a deck. Solids are known to hide the grain of the wood the way paint does, which makes them perfect for decks.
This color is enough to cover the wood grain, but it allows you to see through the color, thus making them the perfect choice for wood you intend to show off, such as wood furniture. Aside from the regular transparent stains, certain brands offer what is referred to as toners and semi-solid stains. These options work similarly by giving more protection and depth to the wood surfaces without concealing the natural grain.
This type of sealer usually contains limited pigments in addition to water repellant. They are perfect for boosting the beauty of the natural grain wood, such as on wood furniture, even though they don’t have what it takes to turn back natural wood which means the wood will turn gray with time.
Things To Consider Before Buying Wood Stain
Before you decide which stain to buy, here are a few helpful tips that should help you make the right choices.
There are several wood stain colors out there that may suit your needs. While looking for the perfect stain color, you should consider if it will match the existing interior of your house. However, if you do not have to get a specific color match, are you looking for it to serve as a compliment? You will also find light and dark finishes to choose from as well as natural or stained.
As far as stain coverage is concerned, you must decide between a heavy or light one. Are you searching for the one that permits the wood’s grain to catch the house’s attention? Otherwise, you should look for something that shines through subtly.
To find the right stain, you need to decide if the wood is located outdoors or indoors. Also, you need to know how the light source will hit it. This factor can play a vital role in your ultimate choice. While staining your decks or fences, you should examine the type of wood. If possible, you ought to clean and stand it to determine how the stain can affect the appearance.
The nature of the wood also determines the type of stain you will require. Wood texture can influence the overall outcome of a type of stain. Is the wood rough, porous or smooth? Note that the stain has a way of highlighting the grain depending on the coverage you prefer, so you should consider the wood quality before buying. Different wood surfaces will react to stains differently.
Another essential factor you shouldn’t overlook before buying your stain is the cost. While you should be on the lookout for affordable ones, you should never place more value on cost over quality. With several manufacturers out there, finding the perfect stain may require you forking out a bit more. However, stains aren’t that expensive as you can get a very decent one for an affordable amount.
Safety Tips for Before You Stain
You may use a regular rag and stain brush or a sponge brush to apply the stain. Sponge brushes absorb some of the stains to enable you to spread them in an even manner over the wood. Because stain is quite hard to remove from your hands, it is ideal you use latex or vinyl gloves to protect your hands from stains. Also, it would help if you considered working in a well-ventilated area due to the intense nature of the stains.
Lastly, wood stains are essential for preserving your wood and giving them the needed aesthetic appeal. Getting the right stain shouldn’t be too difficult if you follow the tips and reviews contained in this guide.
You also want to be sure you dispose of your stain-soaked rags properly – or else, they could burst into flames (really.) For more safety tips, watch this video from Penalty Box Woodshop:
This Old Masters, Dark Walnut 80708 Gel Stain Pint will be a dream come true for your nonporous woods. With an oil base, this stain will be easier to apply evenly despite it having the thickness of a gel stain. In fact, this gel and oil combination offers the perfect consistency for a novice stainer to gain more experience.
As an added benefit, gel stain is known for masking any previous stains or painting, ensuring that your stain brings out your desired color in the wood. The dark walnut color works well with a variety of home aesthetics.
This gel and oil combination creates a viscosity that is great for vertical surfaces
This stain can be used on fiberglass and hardwood
Doesn’t always work well with woods that have a swirly texture
With Ready Seal stain, you are confident of enhanced natural beauty for your wood, giving the perfect grain and texture for it to retain its visibility. Note that this stain is oil-based, making it suitable for all your exterior wood projects. This unique stain formula goes deep into the wood while preserving the wood from elements such as mildew, wood, and the sun’s rays. Some other added benefits include the fact that it doesn’t require primer. When applied, Ready Seal is darkest when it is first applied.
The Seal may be applied using a roller, sprayer and brush on a wooden surface. Also, it requires no back brushing and will never leave laps, runs and streaks. It requires no wet-line application, and the product easily blends itself.
It does not require a primer
Can be applied using sprayer, brush, or roller
It doesn’t need a wet-line application
It’s very lightweight so you cannot apply it with a sprayer or it’ll blow everywhere
The SamaN water-based stains are made for doors, interior woodwork, cabinets, furniture and moldings. You do not need a conditioner, overlapping marks and only need one coat. This stain doesn’t raise the wood grain. It has exceptional coverage as the 12-ounce covers as much as 75 square feet. The stain is eco-friendly, odorless and perfect for pets.
Another unique features of this stain are that it has different colors you can choose from, up to 40 colors. What’s more? You can mix two different colors to get your desired looks.
The Varathane 269400 premium quick-dry wood stain is a unique product designed for high-performance stain usage. With Nano pigments, you can get the best color quality and distinctive wood grain highlighting, which allows you to get the best colors in one coat. Also, Varathane quick drying wood stain helps seal wood pores and becomes hard in just about an hour. You can easily brush it out even without using wood conditioner or pre-stain.
This stain is perfect for your interior wood projects such as doors, cabinets, paneling and trim. It dries to touch within an hour and covers as much as 70 square feet.
Wood Dye produced by Keda Dyes is a unique color kit capable of producing up to 5 quarts of wood-stain dye, with each kit coming with five exotic wood dyes. You can mix these wood dyes in different amounts to create different color variants to make premium quality wood stains. This wood dye is potent, but despite this, it remains environmentally friendly. Due to their composition, they don’t emit volatile organic compounds.
Each kit comes with a rather detailed instruction set that describes mixing, ratios, tips, applications and the likes. Each of the stain colors can cover 150 square feet for each of the five dye colors.
The dye colors are powerful and vibrant
Hardwoods like hickory don’t take up the dye very well
Our sixth stain on the list is the General Finishes oil-based gel stain. This stain makes our list because it is an oil-based gel topcoat among the easiest to use and gets a hand-rubbed look without stress. The application of this stain is easy when using a lint-free cloth or foam brush. With its heavy-bodied gel formulation, the product easily flows out evenly, thus giving it a consistent color control. This stain takes a short time to finish applying while also giving you the best results.
It helps to get an even appearance on difficult woods such as pine
The final item on this list is the SaverSystems deck premium semi-transparent wood stain. This wood stain helps protect against color fade and also helps in preventing graying. The stain can be used for treating cedar, pine, redwood and other softwoods. Also, the Deck Stain is a multi-purpose sealer and stain and gives your wood color and helps seal it, thus averting water penetration. Another unique feature of this product is that it allows for wood grains to show through. Additionally, it is environmentally friendly and easy to clean.
It’s an eco-friendly wood stain
Protects against graying and color fade
Permits the wood grain to show through
Works well on damp wood
It will require more maintenance if used on hardwood
Get this wood stain from ExoShield and seal in a beautiful dark oak look on your back patio deck. This massive tub of wood stain can cover over 800 square feet of hardwood or 400 square feet of softwood to complete a whole deck without buying another tub. It’s oil-based and all-natural so it’s safe to work with and apply to your deck. The material is long-lasting, so you don’t have to reapply for a while after.
The ingredients include UV blockers and trans-oxide pigments to ensure it’s fade-resistant and strong against harsh, direct sunlight. In addition, the stain prevents cracking or peeling around the wood, so it looks and feels great under your feet for years to come. The helpful handle on the tub allows you to easily transport this wood stain around the exterior or interior of your home while you’re painting the floors.
The Minwax Gel stain is specially produced to give you total control of your staining process while helping you achieve the best results. This stain boasts a unique non-drip formula that makes it easy to apply on vertical surfaces. While using this gel stain, be rest assured that you will get uniform delivery of color on both wooden and non-wooden surfaces.
Note that gel stains are thick and soak into the wood, giving it a new color. With gel, you can feel the wood’s underlying texture. In addition to this, gel stains are reputed to have better hiding strengths because they can mask the color of a previously painted or stained wood project.
Non-drip formula making it ideal for vertical surfaces
It can be used on plywood, wood and metal
Allows you to feel the underlying wood texture
They take time to dry
They cannot be sprayed
People Also Asked
Q: What is the best way to apply a stain?
The best way to apply the stain depends mainly on your choice. You may opt to dip small objects into the wood stain if that suits you best. However, please pay close attention to how fast the stain dries up and how long it takes for you to wipe away the excess.
Q: What volume of coats am I supposed to apply?
It isn't necessary to apply more stains than can be absorbed by the wood. More often than not, you don't have to apply more than two coats.
Q: Is it necessary that I sand the wood surface between coats?
You do not have to, however, light sanding may help apply an even coating. When the first coating becomes dry, ensure you sand the stained surface using fine-grained sandpaper.
The Woodsmith Review Team’s product reviews and in-depth guides are here to help you choose the best tools and gear to build great-looking projects confidently. The content is created by The Woodsmith Review Team. Woodsmith’s editorial staff is not involved. Woodsmith is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. The Woodsmith Review Team is composed of authors, editors, and woodsmiths. Large language models (like Artificial Intelligence) may have been used in the research and creation of the content.
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