Do you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!

Staining Wood Vs. Painting Wood: The In’s and Out’s

In Blog, Decor, How To Guides by Megan Hodge1 Comment

As you may know, I have featured quite a few woodwork projects on the blog.  So far, I have featured our king size bedframe, built in pantry, refinished bedside tables, cat tower, and our industrial built-in computer desk. I have had many more pieces using wood stain to finish, but I also love finishing with paint. Do you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!

Despite producing extremely different looks, the similarities between and paint and stain finish are numerous.  The main reason I stain more than paint is because we have a dog hair issue here at the McDodge house.  Our three dogs shed heavily, and even if I am working in a spot that has no dog hair, I cannot escape it for some reason. While I love, love, love our gorgeous white bed frame, painting it was a nightmare because I kept finding a stray dog hair that somehow made its way onto the wet paint.  I used so many more coats than I probably needed to because I was trying to make sure I covered up any indentations left by dog hair. Do you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!

So, that is why I stain more than paint.  After I apply a layer of stain, I can use tack cloth to ensure that my surface is free of any stray dog hair or dust or debris.  Plus, the dry time is a lot faster, so if I missed a dog hair, I do not have to worry about it being a permanent fixture on my woodwork piece.

Ian usually puts me in charge of the finishing.  I get flustered when he does any finishing because he is not quite as meticulous as I would be.  Particularly painting.  I have a very specific way I apply paint, so I feel it looks much more even when it dries.  He is happy to go in any direction, which I cannot stand. And, I have a much higher radar for dog hair.  But, Ian does tend to be much better than I am about certain finishing details.  On our bed frame, I was focused on just painting the parts of the bed that I knew would be exposed, and I didn’t think it was worth it to paint the sides that would be hidden by the mattress.  Ian suggested painting the parts that would not be seen (I am a big picture thinker, and he is all about the details), and he turned out to be correct that it makes it feel even more finished even if no one would ever see those sides.

Stain and Paint similarities and differences:

  1. Both require similar preparation before application.
    1. In order to stain or paint wood, it is crucial to sand your woodwork thoroughly. I have gone over sanding many times.  For a good guide, see this postDo you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!
    2. It is also crucial to remove any dust or debris before applying stain or paint. I love using tack cloth to help with this!
  2. Stain sometimes needs an extra step before application.
    1. For staining, sometimes you may feel it is necessary to use a pre-stain wood conditioner. This conditioner helps the stain absorb more evenly on your wood piece.  I feel this is especially needed when you use any stain darker than a natural color. Do you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!
  3. Both stain and paint, need more than one coat for even application.
    1. Depending on the look you want, several coats of paint are needed, especially for lighter colors like white. Stain is similar, but typically more coats are needed for darker stains. Most of my projects, I use natural stain, and I typically apply 3 coats.  For darker stain, sometimes I feel I need 4 or 5 coats to achieve the color I want. Do you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!
  4. Stain needs time to soak into the wood, while paint needs time to dry.
    1. Stain does not really dry. It gets absorbed.  That is one key difference between stain and paint.  Usually after allowing one layer of stay to soak, you then need to use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess stain that did not get absorbed before you apply another layer of stain. Paint, on the other hand, does not get wiped off before adding another layer.  The first layer needs to dry completely before adding another one.
  5. Both have a variety of finished than can be used to give a satin or ultra-gloss look!
    1. This is where things can get fun. Stain finishes typically give protection to wood by sealing it, preventing damage from water, and it comes in a variety from satin to high gloss.  Paint is similar.  You can purchase paint where the finish is already mixed in with your paint color.  For our bed frame, I decided I wanted an ultra-gloss finish.  So, it all depends on the look you want.
  6. Both stain and paint, give you endless options to be as creative as you want to be!
    1. That is the beauty of both. Paint and stain don’t limit your abilities or creativity.  If you dream it, typically you can create it.  And, you can also see how I incorporated both stain and paint into one piece with my refinished bedside tables, hereDo you ever wonder whether you should stain or paint your woodwork? Learn the similarities and differences between these two methods!

I hope this was helpful!  When it comes to staining or painting, it all depends on the look you want.  If you want your room to have a pop of color, paint is fabulous.  You can also stencil a pattern using paint on an already stained piece of furniture.  The options are endless!

My next post will be my McDodge Whole Wheat Pizza dough recipe!  You get all the health benefits of whole wheat flour, without sacrificing on taste or texture.  It may sound impossible, but I will show you how it is very possible.

Which do you prefer, staining or painting?

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