How to Choose the Right Stain

How can you make your beautiful wood surface(s) even better?  The right stain can go a long way when it comes to home finishing. Whether you’re working to upgrade your floors, trim, cabinets, or furniture, start by choosing a stain that brings out the natural grain of the wood.  If you need help finding the perfect finish, ask the experts at D & L Enterprises!  We’ll look at the piece(s) in question and help you keep these guidelines in mind:

Not Every Wood Needs a Stain

Some types of wood—especially the rarer varieties—look best au naturel.  This includes rosewood, cherry, maple, aged pine, mahogany, and more. Since many stains aim to mimic the rich look of these varieties, it doesn’t make sense to cover them up.  Unless, of course, they’ve been damaged.  Still, go by your own preferences.  If you like the way the wood looks, you don’t have to change it.  Many people just prefer to add character to an otherwise undistinguished option like beech, gum, new pine, poplar, and birch.  Not only will the right stain darker these lighter woods, but they’ll also emphasize the grain.  If you’re not sure what to do, sometimes it’s better to do nothing—at least when it comes to staining.  You can always test spots that will remain unseen with potential stains or simply leave the wood alone if you can’t decide on a particular shade.

Create a Custom Color

Today, you can find stains in any color of wood imaginable.  But, for a truly custom finish, we like to create our own unique combinations.  Starting with the four basic shades: mahogany (red hues), maple (yellow/orange finish), walnut (a true brown), and light oak (which is really more of a tan).  You can mix two or more, testing the stain as you go on small scraps of wood.  Don’t forget to add the right solvent to keep the blend from growing too thick.  We also recommend keeping a little black close by, in case you need to dull down a color.  You should only need a drop or two, but that could make all the difference when choosing the right shade!  Once you have a color you really like, mix a larger batch for each particular type of wood you plan to stain.  You may need to vary your combinations slightly if the wood doesn’t match initially, but that’s often unnecessary.  Just make sure you have enough for multiple coats, since it pays to start light and add to it for a darker finish.

Know the Base of Your Stain

Choosing the perfect shade is only half the battle!  You also need to be aware of the type of stain you’re working with—and its distinct advantages/disadvantages.  The most popular stains usually have an oil base, but there’s a big difference between a pigmented oil and a penetrating oil stain.  Basically, with pigmented options, you must leave the stain sit to darken or lighten the overall color of the wood.  This can take a long time to set and it also tends to blur the grain, if you’re not careful.  Penetrating oils are more popular, since they’re both inexpensive and easier to apply. The finished product should be rich and clear, but your stain may penetrate unevenly.  We recommend using these for slight color changes on close-grained hardwoods—like maple.

There are also NGR (non-grain-raising) stains, that produce a more uniform appearance.  They also dry rather quickly, which is both good and bad. It drastically reduces the timeline for this project, but also gives you less time to work with the stain.  So, many beginners steer clear of this option. You’ve probably heard of varnish or sealer stains before, since they’re cheap and pretty easy to use.  This is reflected in their appearance, though, so you may not want to use them for larger jobs.  If you want to go green, you can also investigate your organic options. Just be prepared for different color options and the help of an experienced finished—like your friends at D & L.

We’ve been serving Carroll County communities and the surrounding area for more than 30 years!  That’s countless of rooms painted, stained, and otherwise finished by our experienced team. If you’re thinking about staining or sealing the wood surfaces in your home, give us a call! Not only will we help you choose the right option for your project, but we’ll also expertly apply it. All you have to do is enjoy the finished project!