Paint or Stain: Which Wood Finish Should You Choose

Wood finishing is the final operation in any woodworking projects and it is required after the carpentry work. Wood finishing helps and serves a lot of purposes.

Wood finishing is a process of polishing and protecting wooden surfaces that makes its appearance more deep and rich. Wood finishes are different from wood painting, because painting wood hides the original surface of the wood and while the wood finishes improve the appearance of its surfaces. Finishes can also represent several coats of finish.

Painting vs. Staining

When it comes to wood finishes, there are a lot of options but the most popular choices are wood stain and paint.

Stain has a thinner consistency than the paint that allows it to penetrate the wood rather than the paint does. Stains are used to enhance the natural color of the wood and it is latex-based solid color.

While the paint is a little more expensive but it comes in a huge variety of colors to choose from. Painting will conceal the natural components of the wood surface and can give it a glossy and matte finish.


Benefits of using Wood Stain

Staining any wood pieces does not cover its look. Unlike the paint, the stain does not require a lot of coats and it has a faster drying time. When staining a wood piece, you are not changing its color but staining enhances its natural color that it has and helps it to look flawless for longer. And each type of wood has its own unique grain pattern.

Natural wood stains has pigments that penetrate the wood and adds contrast and definition to the grain design. And the binding agent found in the stain will seal the wood and will block out any moisture that tries to seep in.



Stain fades over time and it happens gradually, it will not also damage the paint underneath the stain even when it does fade. And whenever it fades, you just have to reapply it.

Stain is beneficial for the wood, when stain is applied, it soaks deep into the woods grain and it helps to prevent moisture from affecting its structure. Staining can also prevent rot.


With its pros, it comes a few cons as well. Stain does not stay as nearly as long as the paint does. Stain will only last for several years and reapply the stain.

Some woods will reject the stain that you will apply and some woods just dont hold the stain well and you wont see a difference right after the application. Remove the the entire stain if the wood is rejecting it, because if you leave it on the wood, it will ruin the whole piece.

And to avoid ruining the wood, you cannot just apply the stain haphazardly. You need to take time to practice the application and strokes and to make sure to achieve the look you want.

Best For

Staining is only best to use for any wood materials such as wood frames, wood tables, wood doors, and anything wood based that you want to enhance.

Staining Tips

Always make sure that you are using the right type of stain when staining. Stains may be clear, semi-translucent, or even solid. There are also dye-based stains, gel stains, and pigment stains. It all depends on the type of project that you are working on.

Prepare your wood properly before staining. Sanding the wood first will ensure a smooth finish. And always make sure to wipe off excess residue and sand after sanding.

Apply pre-stain conditioner before staining to condition the wood’s surface and to have a better result and a better reception of the stain.

staining tips for wood finish


Benefits of using Wood Paint

Painting wood not just give it a new look but it also ensure its characteristics are effectively preserved.

Woods looses its texture after some time when it is scratched by any objects. Wood paint also does the same job as the wood stain creates a seal against the moisture. And having a layer of paint on the surface will prevent moisture from penetrating and it keeps the internal moisture from evaporating.


Painting is easier to apply that staining. You dont need to sand it but you just need the basics such as paint brush, paint, covers, painting trays, and rags.


Painting can prove that its more expensive than staining, and you will need a lot of paint depending on a project that youre doing.

Painting may be a bit streaky and you also need an extra time to practice the strokes and how to cover it well.

Paint peels and its is unappealing and damages the piece. Keep the pieces out of direct sunlight if possible to avoid paint peeling.

Best for

You can use paint in anything, there are paints made for clothing, walls, furniture, and whatever kind of project that you are doing, there is a type of paint that corresponds perfectly.

painting tips

Invest in high-quality painting materials. Research which companies appeal to you most and which has the best reviews.

Use a primer before you start painting. Paint primer helps your paint goes smoother and more consistently than putting the paint straight to the surface.

Benefits of using Wood Paint for wood finish

How to decide if you should Paint or Stain the Wood?

When you are planning to revamp a wooden furniture, you’ll have to decide whether to stain the wood or to paint it. And deciding between stain or paint for wood can be hard.

Examine the Wood Material

Examining the wood material is the first thing you should do when you are deciding between staining or painting the wood. Ensure that the piece has the same type of wood throughout. It is best to paint it if it uses multiple types of woods, because pieces with multiple woods may present a problem when it is stained, and the piece will not look exactly the same. While the paint will cover all the surfaces. But in pieces with just one material, paint or stain will work equally.

Look for Damage

The next thing you need to do is to check the wood for any signs of damage. Inspect it if it is needed to be sand out or if it has a more intricate flaw. Pieces that has mild to moderate flaw that you can sand out are better to stain, and the pieces with severe flaws that cannot be fix by sanding, it is better to paint it to better cover the issues.

Pay attention to the Details

Paying attention to the details of the wood is one thing that you should also do throughout the process. Staining may not be the best choice if the pieces has a complex carvings and design.

What lasts longer Wood Paint or Stain?

If you are considering to painting or staining a wood, always keep in mind that paint has a thicker barrier which will preserve the wood better, though it may need more upkeep than stain does, paint can protect a lot against things.

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