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The Home Depot

Wood Staining Guide

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Carpentry > Wood Staining Guide
Wood Staining Guide

Wood can lend a timeless beauty to your home – inside and out. Staining can help improve on what is already beautiful by enhancing the wood’s natural grains and patterns. Not only is wood attractive to look at, it can also be more expensive material to purchase. This guide offers helpful tutorial on staining on practices and how to hire someone to stain the wood in your home.


Wood stains are dyes and pigments mixed with a carrier – like water, oil, petroleum distillate or a finishing agent like shellac or lacquer. Oil-based stains give a long lasting wood tone color. They penetrate deep into the pores to seal and protect, but they can also tend to absorb unevenly. Water based stains provide a much more even look. There are also pigment stains, dyes, pastels and gels that all change and enhance the look of wood. Talk with your professional about which is best for your particular project.


That’s a job best left to the experts. Why? You want to make sure it’s done right. Sealers ensure that you will be able to enjoy your beautiful investment for years to come.


  1. 1.Hardwood vs. Softwood:

    Make sure you test a small area of surface before staining the whole object. You don’t want to end up with something that wasn’t what you had in mind.

    Whether your wood is hard or soft makes a big difference in what kind of stain you should use. Some examples of softwoods are pine, fir and cedar. Some hard woods are oak, beech and ash. Softwood can have an uneven wood grain, causing it to stain unevenly. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s something you should be aware of. Hardwood has a much more consistent pattern or grain and takes to stain more easily – however, it could take more coats of stain to notice the difference.


    Make sure your contractor knows what kind of wood he or she will be working with, and what you want your desired outcome to be.

  2. 2.Customer service

    What will your professional do to make sure you are very happy with the finished product? If they are staining a piece of furniture, do they offer any other services to make it good as new? Ask about services like stain removal or treatment for nicks or scrapes in the wood.


    Make sure you thoroughly discuss the project with your professional before you begin. How much stain product will your project need? How long will it take to complete? Does the area you intend to have stained require any special considerations? How much would you like to spend? Asking questions helps ensure you will be happy with the final result.

  3. 3.Warnings

    Make sure you test a small area of surface before staining the whole object. You don’t want to end up with something that wasn’t what you had in mind. Also, once the stain has completely dried, make sure your contractor applies a protective topcoat. You can choose from penetrating oil finishes, polyurethane, water-based polyurethane or lacquer. Talk to your professional about what is best given your piece, budget, and desired outcome and your wood will be attractive and sparkling for years to come.

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