The Difference Between Wood Stain and Wood Paint

The Difference Between Wood Stain and Wood Paint

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Do you have a wooden project that needs to be painted with a new coating?  If so, should you use wood stain or wood paint?  Well, what exactly is the difference?  While both products apply a colored coverage to your wood, they serve different functions and coat the wood differently.

Selecting between wood stain and wood paint can get complicated, so we recommend first deciding what type of coverage you need so that you can make a decision.  Consider the condition of the wood and the appearance you like best to help determine the best option.

Here is some helpful information describing stains and paints for wood.

 

wood stain. staining wood. wood paint

WHAT IS WOOD STAIN?

Wood stain is used to coat bare, natural wood with a sealing and protective coating.  Wood stain ranges from clear to semi-transparent and even color based.   If you prefer a natural look, you’ll want to use a transparent or semi-transparent finish with a natural wood shade.  Stain, unlike paint, seeps into the pores of the wood, penetrating the surface with the coating.  Stains are also less thick than traditional wood paint. Using a stain maintains the texture of the wood surface. Wood stains are available as oil-based, water -based and gel-based for you to choose from.

 

PROS OF WOOD STAIN

Transparent and semi-transparent stains retain the natural appearance of the wood.

Removing and re-coating stain is generally easier than redoing paint.

Because stain penetrates the wood, it is less likely to peel or chip like paint.

Stains often require 1 coat to effectively seal the wood.

It is more economical to maintain and resists cracking or blistering.

 

CONS OF WOOD STAIN

To properly stain the wood, the prep work is a bit more labor intensive; it requires extensive surface sanding.

Stains can take longer to dry.

Once coat stains do not cover wood as evenly as paint.

 

wood stain. wood staining. wood paint. staining deck

WHEN TO USE WOOD STAIN

Wood stains work well in scenarios where you want to maintain a natural, rustic look.  Large wooden structures like decks and pergolas fair better with wood stains that can penetrate the wood and maintain its beauty over time.  Color based wood stains provide the coverage of paint, however, penetrate like a stain.

 

wood paint. wood stain. painting deck

WHAT IS WOOD PAINT

Wood paint is a coating on top of the wood that provides color.  It tends to form an even layer that allows the wooden piece to look more consistent and blemish-free.  The consistent coverage changes the wood into a smoother surface. Paint is also thicker than stain and tends to be more expensive per gallon.  Wood paints are available as oil-based and water-based.

 

PROS OF WOOD PAINT

Wood paint offers an even and smooth finish to wood.

The color range is fairly wide in wood paints.

The paint film remains quite flexible even after drying.

Oil-based paints are perfect for high traffic fixtures like front doors.

 

CONS OF WOOD PAINT

Wood paint tends to chip or peel off over time as the paint becomes brittle and eventually, cracks.

It needs some protective topcoat like poly, oil, wax, etc.

Wood paint always requires the use of primers and should be applied on primed surface.

Wood paint is more difficult than stain to maintain.

 

wood paint. wood stain. painting wood.

WHEN TO USE WOOD PAINT

Wood paint is great to use on very old wood when you want to hide inconsistencies.  Wood paint works well for walls, floors, front doors, window frames, shutters, wood siding, and cabinets.

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