How to Stain Bathroom Wall Panels

  • 5-10 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Dust mask
Safety goggles
Power sander
Stain suited to the material
Paintbrush or sponge
Clear wood conditioner if required
Paint thinner is required
Urethane sealant

Wood bathroom wall panels can give your bathroom a great rural and warm feel that is unmatched by other materials. If you would like to install wood paneling yourself and match it to the rest of your bathroom décor, you will need to color it to match. If painting is not the answer you prefer, you can always stain the wood to suit.

All specialized bathroom wood paneling is made from specially sealed wood panels that cannot be stained properly, so you will need to buy some normal panels to stain and seal. Regular wood panels are cheaper to buy than sealed bathroom ones.

Step 1 – Fill Holes with Spackle

Check to see if there are any small holes or cracks in the panels, fill these with ordinary spackle, All these must be filed to ensure that there are no holes for moisture to enter. Wipe off any excess and set it aside to dry.

Step 2 – Sand the Surface

Wearing your dust mask and safety glasses, sand the surface of the panels with fine-grain sandpaper. Don’t use a belt sander as the panels are thin, and a powerful sander may wear a hole right through them. Your aim is to just take off any shine. Wipe off any dust with a damp cloth.

Step 3 –Apply the Stain

Apply the stain in an even coat. The stain may not be exactly the same as you want, so do a little patch to test before you continue with the whole panel. Leave the panels to dry. If the stain is not as dark as you require, give a second coat.

If you are using a light timber panel like pine or cedar, use a clear conditioner before the stain. The conditioner will help keep a truer color by sealing the pores better so it soaks up less stain. Apply the conditioner and allow to dry. Conditioners usually dry quickly and they work best if the stain is applied over them within 2 hours. So do not let the conditioner sit overnight.

Step 4 – Stain Color Control

If you want more control over the color of the stain, fill an empty paint can with 1-quart oil-based paint or stain and 1/2 to 3/4 of paint thinner. Mix well. The stain will come out a little lighter than it looks in the can.

Alternatively, apply the stain quickly and evenly then use a rag to wipe down the paneling while the stain is still wet. It will dry slightly lighter than it immediately looks.

Step 5 – Seal the Panels

When the panels are totally dry, seal the panels. Make sure you seal the panels before installation as they must be sealed all around, including the back and sides. Just to be safe, do it again. If even the tiniest bit of moisture enters the panels, they are likely to bow.