When it comes to choosing the right material for your project, you have a lot of options. One of the most common decisions is whether to use wood stain or paint. Both products have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it can be tough to decide which one is right for you.
In this blog post, we will compare wood stain vs. paint and help you decide which option is best for your needs!
Table of Contents
Wood Stain vs. Paint
The major difference between wood stain and paint any woodworker should know is their applications on the wood. Stain penetrates deep into the wood’s pores. On the other hand, paint just coats the top of the wood. It means, in the case of paint, it would be a layer of pigments on the wood. On the other hand, stain pigments penetrate deep into the wood pores while giving the real color.
Furthermore, another significant difference in their results for the wood. While applying stain, it gives, protects, and preserves the beauty of the wood while paint only covers and hides it. These are some major differences on which all the other distinctions are based. Let’s go through each difference in detail to make it further clear, so you can decide to either stain or paint the woods.
Category Stain Paint Cost Around $20 to $30 per gallon. Start at $30 and range up to $60 per gallon. Naturality Fills the wood pores with its pigment leaving the natural grain pattern. Makes a thin layer of rich pigments, hiding the original look of wood. Variety Fewer varieties available but still many options. More options available. Application Sanding, pre-stain, then stain. Sanding, preservatives, primer, then paint. Durability Heat related discoloration Chipping and peeling (lasts longer) Difficulty Less steps. More steps. Maintenance Less maintenance. More maintenance.
Stain costs around $20 to $30 per gallon, while paint costs start at $30 and range up to $60, making it almost double the stain cost. Further wood preservatives are required for painting, which costs $5 to $20 per gallon. On the other hand, the stain doesn’t require preservatives. That’s why the stain is comparatively cheaper.
The stain gives a natural look to the wood by just filling the wood pores with its pigment. As a result, the wood actually shows its grain pattern, making it look more attractive and elegant. On the contrary, paint makes a thin layer of rich pigments, hiding the original look of wood. That’s why paint looks more fake than stain and affects the original quality and look of wood.
Since stain is designed to give or enhance the original look of any wood, it’s available in a few varieties. At the same time, paint is available in a huge variety, having lighter to darker colors to give any desired look you want.
The staining process involves sanding the wood surface first. Then make it even further smooth to get ready for the stain to apply right away. After cleaning the dust, the stain is applied, and let the wood dry naturally. You may need another coat in some cases but not all.
Conversely, you have to apply preservatives and then coat them with a quality primer. It costs more money, takes more effort and time. Later, two coats are the minimum requirements to get the desired finish. Last, the painted surface is sealed with a clear PU sealer to let it last longer.
So, we can conclude that paint requires more steps, time, and effort to get the desired look of the wood. It comes with a lot more additional cost, making the process quite expensive. However, you get a variety of colors, which a stain fails to provide. Still, the stain is worth the shot to get a natural look at a lower cost.
The stain is often prone to heat-related discoloration, and paint has unique problems like chipping and peeling. But when it comes to overall long-lasting, paint lasts comparatively longer than the stain. The main reason is that paint covers the wood with its pigment layer while having another PU sealer that keeps it intact for a longer period. The stain only protects the wood against moisture, while paint protects against UV radiation and other external factors, which also keep the wood protected.
You don’t have to be an expert in woodworking to stain the wood. On the other hand, you may go through more steps than staining to get the same finish. An extra step in painting includes applying preservatives and quality primes. In the case of a stain, these two steps are not necessary, making it easier than paint. Last, you may not need a double coat while staining but definitely need it for painting.
You have to maintain the wood in both cases, either when painted or stained. However, maintenance is less during staining and more for painted wood. For instance, you may need to remove mold and bacteria once a year. Also, apply cleaner by roller or sprayer while scrubbing down the dingy spots.
Paint Vs. Stain
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Whether you’re looking to give an old deck a face lift or take a new deck to the next level, there will come a time when you must answer the age-old question……..Paint or Stain?!
In this video, Natalie will take you through some of the pros and cons of painting and staining your deck, so you can determine what’s right for you!
Wood Stain vs. Paint on Furniture
|Less variety of colors||Wide variety of colors|
|Natural Look||Full color look|
When it comes to Wood stain vs Paint on furniture both look brilliant on furniture; however, they may vary a lot in the finish. Paint offers a wide range of variety, but the stain has restricted colors. Since the stain provides a natural look, its colors do not vary too much from the original look.
Another significant difference to notice for furniture is covering the furniture’s flaws. If it’s mild, sanding and applying the stain can make it look new. But you may require painting single or double layers to cover the severe issues to make the piece look new again.
Wood Stain vs. Paint for Fence
When it comes to wood stain vs paint for fences, the stain is often preferred. The stain doesn’t peel, blister, or crack like paint. Also, it can be a great choice to give the fence a natural color. However, if you want to entirely transform the fence into a different color, paint can be a great choice.
Still, the stain is better in terms of application ease, cost, and offering a natural look. Since the fence has to be outside, you should consider durability and protection factors too. In that case, the paint lasts longer and offers comparatively more protection against UV radiation.
Stained Cabinets vs. Painted Cabinets
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Wood Stain vs. Paint On A Door
There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding between wood stain vs paint for your door. The first is the overall look you’re going for. If you want a more natural look, then wood stain is the way to go. Paint can give your door a more finished look, but it will also cover up any of the natural grain of the wood.
Another thing to consider is how much maintenance you’re willing to do. Paint will need to be touched up every few years, while stain can last for several years before it needs to be reapplied. Stain is also easier to apply than paint, so if you’re not the most handy person, that might be something to keep in mind.
So, what’s the verdict? It really depends on your personal preference and what you’re looking for in a door. If you want something that’s low-maintenance and has a more natural look, then wood stain is the way to go. But if you’re willing to do a little bit of work every few years, and you want a door with a more finished look, then paint is the better option.
Paint vs. Stain Experiment
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It’s come time for Allen to choose the final look for the back porch, and he’s torn between a painted railing or a stained railing. Watch, as he decides what to do!
What Lasts Longer Stain Or Paint?
Generally, paint lasts much longer than stain due to its thin layer on the wood, which protects the wood and itself against external weather conditions, such as rain, storm, UV radiations, and moisture. Its thin layer perfectly covers the wood while leaving no cracks or holes.
Also, the paint ends up sealing and primed, which makes it last for 10 years if premium quality paint is used. And when you paint multiple coats, the longevity increases. Usually, a single coat can easily last for around 2 years, and if you want to make it 10 years or more, a double coat is necessary.
Is It Easier To Paint Or Stain Wood?
It is generally easier to stain wood than to paint it. Paint can be difficult to apply evenly, while stain is much simpler to apply. Also paint often requires multiple coats in order to achieve the desired color, while stain only needs one or two coats. In short, painting wood can be time consuming and difficult, while staining it is generally much easier.
However, you require precise sanding and then wiping the debris off the wood to get the process of staining started. This process is the same during painting. When finished the paint doesn’t look natural, gets cracked and peeled, which is not the case with the stain.
What Is The Difference Between Wood Stain And Wood Paint?
Wood stain basically contains color pigments that penetrate deep into the wood while giving a natural look besides enhancing the original look and color. When it comes to wood paint, it provides a colorful protective layer while covering all the holes and cracks to give an entirely new look to the wood.
Another difference between these two products is that stain will protect your wood from weathering, while paint will not. This is because the stain penetrates deep into the wood, creating a barrier against moisture and sunlight.
Also the cost of wood stain is cheaper than the cost of paint.
If you want to show off the natural beauty of your wood, go with a stain. If you want to change the color of your wood or protect it from the elements, go with a paint.
Is It Better to Stain or Paint a Barn?
it’s better to paint because the barn is exposed to direct sunlight, excessive heavy rains, and snow, which may cause damage to the walls. You have two options — a brand new look or an original aged look. For a brand-new look, you may need to paint it, but staining is necessary to give an aged look. So, whatever you prefer can be helpful.
In that case, paint helps to protect and lasts longer during challenging weather conditions. If you can’t afford the cost of painting, go for staining instead at a lower cost. Also, you can make it easier to stain the barn as it doesn’t require sealing, preservative, and primer.
Can You Paint Over Stain?
Yes, you can paint over stain. In fact, painting over stain is a great way to give new life to old furniture. The key to success is in the prep work. You’ll need to sand the piece of furniture down and then apply a primer before painting. With a little bit of elbow grease, you can transform an old piece of furniture into something new and fresh.
Can You Paint Over Stained Wood Without Sanding?
Yes, you can paint over stained wood even without sanding, but it may require an oil-based primer to seal the wood.
However, stained wood should be sanded first, so the paint has a nice surface that welcomes the paint to stick better and last longer. This can also avoid instant cracks and peeling off. Still, if you don’t want to sand first, you can go for it.
Does Stain Protect Wood?
No, stain does not protect wood. A sealer provides the first line of defense against water damage, decay, and UV rays. After that, stain adds beauty while still allowing the wood to breathe. If you have an older deck, staining it can revive its appearance and give it new life.
Stain comes in a variety of colors and opacity levels. You can choose from clear to solid, and there are even some semi-transparent options. The level of opacity will determine how much of the wood’s grain is visible.
When shopping for stain, always check the labels carefully. Some products advertised as “stain” are actually sealers that don’t provide any color. Others may be pigmented stains that don’t penetrate the wood’s surface, sitting on top like paint. Neither of these products will do a good job of protecting your deck.
The basic purpose of staining wood is to get the natural color and not protect it. However, it does manage to protect against moisture. But it fails when protecting against UV radiations, heavy rain, and more external factors. Still, it protects at some level but not as much as paint. For premium protection, paint is often used and proven helpful. Besides, paint also gives a brand-new look to the wood.
Furthermore, you can go through the sealing process and use the primer to adhere the stain better on the wood. Still, it’s not enough to get more protection than paint. We can conclude that stain offers moisture protection, and some insects that affect wood are also restricted with stain.
Is Wood Stain Better than Varnish?
Wood stain is better than varnish for bringing out the natural grain of the wood. Varnish can actually obscure the grain and give the wood a plastic-like appearance. Wood stain penetrates into the wood, while varnish forms a film on top of the wood. This means that over time, varnish will start to crack and peel, while stain will simply fade. If you want your wood to age gracefully, stain is the way to go.
That said, varnish does have its advantages. It’s much more durable than stain and it’s easier to apply. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance finish, varnish is probably your best bet.
Varnish acts similar to paint and is often used to protect the surface besides giving a brand-new look. So, in terms of safety, it’s better than wood stain. Otherwise, it doesn’t give a natural look like wood stain and costs more money as well.
When it comes to durability, varnish lasts for 2 years, which is longer than stain but less than paint. Also, it offers comparatively less protection than paint but a lot more than wood stain. So, we can conclude that it’s a better choice than stain but not paint.
Is Wood Stain The Same As Paint?
No, wood stain is not the same as paint. Stain is made up of a pigment and oil, while paint is made up of a pigment and latex. Stain penetrates the wood grain, while paint forms a film on the surface of the wood. When applied correctly, stain will enhance the natural beauty of the wood grain, while paint will give the wood a uniform color.
There are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a stain or paint for your project. First, decide if you want a translucent or opaque finish. Translucent stains will allow the wood grain to show through, while opaque stains will give the wood a solid color. Second, consider the amount of time and effort you are willing to put into maintaining the finish. Stain requires less maintenance than paint, but it will need to be reapplied more often. Paint is more durable and will last longer, but it will require more work to keep it looking its best.
If you are looking for a low-maintenance option, stain is the way to go. If you want a long-lasting finish, paint is the better choice. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference. Experiment with both options to see which one you like best.
Paint Vs Stain On Cabinets
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering Paint Vs Stain on Cabinets.
Painted cabinets are very versatile. You can pretty much paint them any color you want, so if you’re looking for a specific color scheme, they’re a good option.
They also tend to show less wear and tear than stained cabinets since the paint protects the wood better.
Stained cabinets have a more natural look. If you’re going for a rustic or country kitchen, stained cabinets are a good option.
They can also be easier to touch up since you’re just dealing with the stain and not paint.
Is it better to paint or stain wood? ›
Stain protects and preserves the beauty of your wood compared to paint which covers and hides it. Stain wears away gradually for periodic re-coating. Paint peeling requires extensive scraping.Do you paint or stain wood first? ›
Stain before paint is usually the norm! Why? Because if you mess up, you can easily paint over stain, but it's not as easy to stain over paint… often sanding/stripping is required.Is stained woodwork outdated? ›
Stained wood is not in right now, but everything makes a comeback. With light and bright colors trending, we aren't seeing much demand for the stained woodwork look.Is it easier to paint or stain wood furniture? ›
Paint is much easier to remove and change, as it does not soak into the wood. Paint may dry much faster than stain as it only needs the top layer to dry.What are the disadvantages of wood stain? ›
The Cons of Staining Wood
While some stains can last up to five years, postponing re-staining a wood surface for too long can cause the job to become more complex and labour intensive. Even decks that are stripped and re-stained will still require maintenance every couple of years.
A quality paint job, finished by a trusted professional, can last for ten years before needing repainting. Conversely, stains need reapplied every few years because they don't offer the same protection against outdoor elements.Can I stain wood without sanding it first? ›
Good news, you can stain wood without sanding the old finish off! But you'll still have to do some prep to make the new gel stain bond properly with the old stain. Start by always cleaning the old finish with a good cleaner and degreaser, like TSP. Be sure to rinse all of that cleaner off before moving on.Can I just paint over wood stain? ›
As long as you sand the wood with at least a 150 grit sandpaper, you can use acrylic paint on stained wood.Can you just paint stain on wood? ›
You can make your own custom stain color using latex paint. Turn your favorite paint color into a wood stain by thinning the paint with water.When should you not stain wood? ›
You want to apply the stain when the wood surface and air are in the temperature range of 50° – 90°F. You also want to avoid the direct application of sunlight. Lastly, do not apply a stain if there is a forecast of rain in the following one to two days, or all your hard work could end up being washed away.
What wood stain is trending? ›
Minwax, America's No. 1 selling brand of interior wood stains and clears*, announced its 2022 Color of the Year, Gentle Olive. The color is a soothing sage green with hints of gray that embraces the natural tone of wood to connect homeowners to timeless style.What wood stain is popular now? ›
"Cerused finishes, where colored pigments—often white—are used to accentuate the grain of a piece of wood, are enormously popular right now," shares Johnston.Is it better to stain wood with a brush or rag? ›
The best way to apply stain is with a lint free rag and wiping it into the grain of the wood. Using a lint free rag is the best way to apply wood stain because it is great for controlling the amount of stain that is applied and for removing any excess stain.Does painting wood furniture decrease value? ›
"If it's a high-quality antique you want to resell later, painting diminishes the value," notes Modern Antiquarian founder Margaret Schwartz.How do you stain wood furniture for beginners? ›
- Sand the wood. Start by sanding your unfinished wood with 120-grit sandpaper, being sure to sand in the direction of the grain. ...
- Stir your stain. ...
- Apply the stain. ...
- Wipe off excess stain. ...
- Let the wood dry before applying a sealer. ...
- Clean up.
In general, an oil-based deck stain will last the longest, but it also depends on the type of wood, the weather conditions, and how long the deck has gone unprotected before staining.What is the most durable wood stain? ›
- Ready Seal 105 Exterior Deck Stain. – Best Overall. ...
- Penofin Deep Penetrating Deck Stain. – Runner Up. ...
- Storm System Penetrating Deck Stain. ...
- Cabot Wood Toned Deck Stain. ...
- DeckWise Ipe Oil Hardwood Deck Stain. ...
- Olympic Stain Maximum Waterproofing Deck Stain. ...
- SaverSystem Semi-Transparent Deck Stain.
Some ingredients in both stains and finishes settle over time, but shaking will only add unwanted bubbles—and may not mix the ingredients thoroughly. Always stir until all settlement is evenly dispersed.What holds up better paint or stain? ›
Paint lasts longer.
But in a head-to-head of painting vs. staining the deck, paint generally comes out as the more durable and colorfast finish, lasting 10 years or longer before requiring re-application.
Penetrating wood stains are not intended to be a surface finish. If applied too thickly, they won't dry properly and will remain tacky to the touch. This can also happen if the wood wasn't stripped and sanded completely down to bare wood, since the stain will sit on the surface rather than soaking into the wood.
What is the easiest and most durable finish for wood? ›
Polyurethane is the most durable option for indoor woodworking projects. It's highly effective at protecting cabinets, doors, furniture, and floors from scratches and abrasive damage. Polyurethane is also water-resistance and is intended to enhance the natural appearance of the wood with a statin or mid-gloss finish.What happens if you don't wipe off wood stain? ›
Wood stain is intended to be wiped off immediately after application. If the wood stain remains on the wood, liquid solvents in the stain will evaporate, leaving sticky pigments behind that will never fully dry.Can you wipe down a dry stained wood before applying finish? ›
After the stain dries completely, I recommend wiping the entire piece with a very fine piece of steel wool before applying your topcoat. Only if using oil-based stain and topcoat.Do you sand between coats of stain on wood? ›
Sand with fine sandpaper between coats after they dry. Make sure you remove sanding residue before applying additional coats. I recommend three thin coats of paint, but it all depends on the color and consistency. After the final coat of flat paint, sand* lightly with super fine sandpaper.Do you stain wood with a brush or roller? ›
For more professional-looking results, use a sprayer or roller to apply the stain first. Follow with back-brushing to eliminate drips and runs. Stain pads do an excellent job of applying the correct amount of stain, especially on smooth wood.What happens if you put wood stain over paint? ›
You won't get that wood grain finish when you stain over paint. Rather, you'll get a weathered and aged look to your paint job. Staining over paint adds the appearance of wear and distress to the final project. It also makes the paint job look a little faded and worn.What is the best paint for wood furniture without sanding? ›
Chalk paint is the best way to paint practically anything without sanding. It offers a gorgeous matte finish and no need to prepare the surface. Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint was the cornerstone of the painted furniture industry as we know it.
Always wear safety glasses and a mask. Open doors and windows to allow for proper ventilation. Keep children and pets away from wood stain fumes.Is it better to oil or stain wood? ›
Both oils and stains have their own distinct advantages. Essentially, what differentiates oils from stains is that a stain will improve the appearance of the deck by changing the timber colour; while an oil will enhance the current colour if you are wanting to leave your wood as is.Can you sleep in house after wood stain? ›
We recommend a minimum of 2 days of socks-only traffic for floors finished with oil polyurethane. The house is not inhabitable for a minimum of 2 days after the job is completed, and better to stay out for at least 5 as the fumes/off-gassing is not advisable to breathe in, even if there are other rooms to sleep in.
What is the 2022 stain of the year? ›
Auckland, 17 November 2022 – Technology Investment Network (TIN) has named Author-it Software Corporation a winner of this year's TIN Awards for the 2022 TIN Report in the category of Absolute IT Supreme Scale-Ups, announced today at its awards event.What stain does Joanna Gaines use? ›
Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines® Wood Stain delivers oil-like performance without the odor in a thick, fast-drying water-based formula. This product is available in a curated palette, hand-picked by Joanna Gaines to enhance the natural beauty of your interior wood surfaces.What wood color is in style 2022? ›
White Oak and natural pale woods are still going strong (and with good reason, it's the perfect balance between warm and airy) for flooring and cabinetry. But furnishings in richer, burnished browns and even red tones are bringing elegance to spaces.What is the easiest wood stain to use? ›
Oil-based interior stain is what most people think of when it comes to wood stain. They are readily available and the easiest to use. They usually have a linseed oil binder that allows plenty of time to remove the excess before the stain dries.
Compared to paint, stain can be more economical, easier to use and longer-lasting while also letting the natural look of wood shine through. With these advantages in mind, consumers should take time to consider if staining is the better choice after finishing any outdoor wood project.What color wood stain is most popular? ›
Brown-toned stains are, without a doubt, one of the most classic options for furniture wood stain colors. These stains can help create both cool and warm designs and blend the old with the new.Do you wipe stain with a wet rag? ›
The most efficient method of applying stain is to wipe it on using a soaking-wet cloth.Can you wipe stain off with paper towel? ›
“Wiping up spills or scrubbing stains with a paper towel will leave paper residue on carpeting, and it does not do a thorough job of wiping up,” says Deretta Richards, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Instead, use a clean dry cloth to soak up spills, let it dry, then vacuum.”What are the disadvantages of painting wood? ›
Once a wood surface has been painted, it can be incredibly difficult, time consuming, and expensive to remove the paint and restore the wood's natural beauty. Painting a wooden surface with a darker colour can also result in the paint fading faster, which means that you will need to recoat the surface more often.What happens if you don't sand furniture before painting? ›
Furniture comes in a variety of materials and nearly all will require some level of sanding to make sure paint adheres to the surface, since it removes any imperfections or dimples. Sanding also ensures an even, smooth finish that will make it less likely to chip or peel.
Is painted wood out of style? ›
Actually, painted wood furniture has been around for THOUSANDS of years. It is not going away. Ever. That's because its appeal is widespread even if some of you don't care for paint on top of wood.How many coats of wood stain do you need? ›
We always recommend two coats of stain for any wood project, but you should only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb. Extremely dense hardwoods may only be able to absorb one coat of wood stain. The general rule of thumb is to apply only as much as the wood can absorb.Can I stain over stain without sanding? ›
You do not need to sand off the previous stain and finish. The purpose of the light sanding is to give a little tooth to the surface to help your new stain colour stick.Is it cheaper to paint or stain wood? ›
Stain is typically less costly than paint and comes in fewer colors and options. It is typically used for wood projects but there are some options available for concrete as well. However, stain is easier to apply and often does not need more than one coat.What lasts longer solid stain or paint? ›
Although solid stain has its benefits, paint offers better protection, durability, and a wider range of colour selection. Solid stain fades faster than paint, meaning that you will need to repaint it sooner.What are the disadvantages of paint on wood? ›
Once a wood surface has been painted, it can be incredibly difficult, time consuming, and expensive to remove the paint and restore the wood's natural beauty. Painting a wooden surface with a darker colour can also result in the paint fading faster, which means that you will need to recoat the surface more often.Is it better to brush or roll on stain? ›
The first and most obvious reason to roll on deck stain as opposed to brushing it on is that the former allows you to cover a much larger surface area in less time. Rollers are wider, more efficient, and easier to operate. Additionally, using a roller helps you achieve a smoother finish.Can you paint over wood stain without sanding? ›
If you properly clean the surface and use the correct primer, you can avoid sanding altogether. I promise! It's time to tackle painting that stained piece you have been avoiding because you thought you had to sand or even strip off the finish first!Why use solid stain instead of paint? ›
A solid stain will better accentuate the texture of the wood, so a rough surface likely calls for stain over paint. The disadvantage here is that solid stains are very flat and thus are typically less durable than paint.What is the longest lasting paint for wood? ›
The best paint for exterior wood for us is Sadolin Superdec, which is a highly durable opaque exterior wood paint for all exterior woodwork, except decking. It is perfect for decorating garden furniture, sheds, fences & much more, providing a burst of colour to your outdoor spaces!
Does solid stain need 2 coats? ›
Apply solid stains in thin coats and semitransparent stains or clear sealers in even thinner coats. This prevent puddles, which don't soak into the wood and cause the stain to flake off when dry. Whatever type of stain you use, apply two coats to ensure there are no missed spots and to get a more uniform finish.What is the toughest paint for woodwork? ›
Types of paint: When it comes to wood, there's nothing better than enamel paint. “There are good water-based oils and primers out there now, but a quality enamel top coat will harden into a tough upper layer,” he explains. Solvent-based enamel is stronger than latex, making it ideal for outdoor settings.When should you not use paint? ›
Stir up the paint and then test it on a piece of cardboard. If the paint looks normal and goes on smoothly, then you're ready to start painting! If you notice lumps or grainy bits that you can't stir out, the paint's chemical makeup has changed and it cannot be used.