Open a can of paint next to a can of wood stain and you’ll find two very different worlds. Both products provide color and protection, but that’s about all they have in common. Staining and painting require two different sets of supplies, tools, and techniques. They also provide two very different looking styles in the finished product.

The game changing difference between staining and painting? Paint coats, stain penetrates.

Paint Coats:

Painting coats the top of wood with a latex-based solid color. It sits on the surface and covers the wood completely, leaving a smooth and solid colored surface. Paint is often more expensive, but gives more versatility in color options.

Paint Advantages:

  • Painting allows you to transform your furniture into any color you wish. Paint also gives a variety of sheens to the piece, whereas stain always maintains a flat finish.
  • Paint is easy to change. Once you have stained a piece of furniture, you can not paint over it without significant effort to remove the stain first.
  • Highly absorbent woods may take more time to stain and dry than paint, which is not absorbed into the wood.staircase-makeover


Stain Penetrates:

Stain penetrates the wood, it seeps into the wood and stains the grain without covering it up.  It is often easier to apply than paint, and does not require primer. Stain protects and preserves your furniture while maintaining the beauty of the wood.


Stain Advantages:

  • Stain requires no primer. This instantly makes your project faster and easier.
  • Stain is generally rubbed into the wood with a soft cloth. This eliminates any and all brush strokes from the wood, and is more forgiving. If you get too much stain on your wood, you simply wipe it off.
  • Stain gives a more natural appearance to the wood, maintaining a natural integrity.
  • Stain does not peel, it does wear off over time and requires re-staining every few years, but it will not chip like paint.
  • Usually, stain only requires one coat to complete the project.



Choosing a Stain:

Stain comes in two varieties, oil and latex. Latex is better for color retention or color change while oil stains are best for touch ups and re-application. You can apply oil stain on top of previously applied latex stain, but latex will not adhere properly to a surface previously coated with oil stain. Stain also comes in semi-transparent or solid varieties, depending on the look you are going for. If you want to see the grain of the wood for a rustic or natural style opt for semi-transparent. If you don’t want to see the wood color or grain, a solid stain will give a paint-like finish.

All wood needs to be protected, whether you are staining or painting, it is important to protect the integrity of the wood against moisture, fading, and UV degradation. Staining and painting your wood tables, chairs, cabinets, stairs, or deck, is the best way to protect your investment and enjoy a beautiful style all your own.

stain and paint