Colored Stains Offer Color Solutions While Maintaining the Character of Interior Wood Colored Stains Offer Color Solutions While Maintaining the Character of Interior Wood

Many homeowners enjoy the natural look of wood. The natural tones of hardwoods and pines lend much to rustic décor, log homes and more. However, having too much of a good thing or living with it year after year can become tiring. For fans of the natural wood look, deciding to paint and take that irreversible step can be a very difficult decision.

Colored stains offer homeowners the perfect middle ground. Using a colored stain, you can add color to your space, while still enjoying the grain and variation of your wood.

Colored Stain Mixtures:

Stains are available premixed in a wide variety of colors, and can be mixed by your local home decorating supply center in the same way paint colors are custom mixed. Colored stains come in semi-transparent and solid formulas. The finished look of a solid stain will be very close to paint when dry. To maintain the natural variation of your wood, choose a semi-transparent stain; the grain of the wood will still show through on the finished product.

Colored Stain Bases:


Like paint, stains are offered in both oil and latex bases. Both can be used and there are benefits to each, however, for working indoors, latex is a less cumbersome choice. Oil based paints and stains give off a lot of fumes and require good ventilation for safe application. This can be difficult to achieve indoors, particularly during cold weather months, which may be the best available time to attack decorating projects. Latex stains are less volatile, and offer the added benefit of easy water cleanup.

Exterior mixes work equally well for interior decorating applications, and may be a more economical choice as they are available in cans one gallon or larger. You may find exterior colored stains more readily available and in a better variety of color choices, depending on your access to colored stain sellers.

Preparing to Stain:


Before you apply a colored stain, first clean and prepare your surface. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for surface preparations, but generally speaking, the wood needs to be cleaned and sanded prior to any stain application. Dirty or oily areas may resist the stain. Clean the area by vacuuming large dust deposits, and wiping down dusty wood with a damp cloth, allowing the wood to dry before you begin.

You will want to take all the regular precautions for covering furniture and protecting adjacent surfaces with tape and drop cloths. Testing a hidden area or a scrap piece of wood in the room you are planning to stain is a good idea to be sure you are happy with your color choice, as lighting can impact the look of the colored stain.

Stain Application:

Gather your supplies, and begin staining the wood. You will need paint brushes (bristled or good quality foam) and plenty of clean, lint free rags on hand. Start in small sections and apply the colored stain. Move on to the next section and apply stain while the first section dries somewhat. How long to let the stain dry will depend on how much of the stain you want to soak into the wood and how dark a color you want to achieve. (When you are testing your area ahead of time, you may want to play around with this a little bit.) Move back to the first area and wipe any excess stain off. Move on to the next area, apply stain, then wipe the second section down. Repeat until you have covered your entire surface.

Stain Effects:

For a darker effect, repeat the process and apply as many coats as needed until you have reached the desired shade of color with your stain. This can be as little as one coat or as many as three or more; the choice is yours, but keep in mind the more coats of colored stain you apply, the less the grain of the wood will show through and your wood will take on more of a painted appearance. You can control this to some extent by the amount of stain you wipe off during application.

After the colored stain is completely dry, a polyurethane can be applied for shine and sealing if you choose, but is not necessary. This decision will depend solely on the desired look you want to achieve, and the most natural choice may be to leave the stain uncovered. Using a stain with polyurethane previously added to the mix is recommended only if you will not be wiping down the excess stain. You will lose some control over the intensity of the color and amount of the grain that shows through. Staining your wood surfaces, walls and cabinets with a colored stain is a great alternative if you are looking for a way to add color to your home while maintaining the natural character of the wood grain. Colored stains give your home a unique look, a bridge between paint and wood toned stains; for many wood lovers, colored stains are the perfect compromise for interior color.

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