Which Wood Stain to Use?


Wood stain can be used on wood surfaces to enjoy the texture of the grain yet protect the surface. Choosing the right wood stain for the job boils down to five choices as follows.

  1. Clear wood stain, such as Thompson’s Water Seal will soak into the wood like water. This clear wood stain is sealing the wood. When water is applied, it doesn’t penetrate the wood surface.
  2. A toner stain has a little more pigment (what is on the surface after the vehicle dissipates.) The vehicle is what carries the pigment to the surface. A vehicle is either mineral spirits based or water based.  When using an oil toner, it is a mineral spirits base and leaves a very small amount of pigment. It protects the wood but also gives a slight bit of color or stain.
  3. Semi-transparent wood stains do essentially the same thing as the oil toners but have more pigment.
  4. Semi-solids use the same principal with a little more pigment.
  5. Solids don’t penetrate as deep as the ones mentioned prior because it stays on the surface. It has the most pigment, which gives the most protection for the wood. In using this application, the knots and grains in the wood will be hidden. The texture of the wood will show, but the grains and the frontal view will not be detected.

Wood Stain Science

If you take a paint chip off the wall and examine it, paint has more mil thickness than stain. A solid color wood stain soaks into the wood and shows the grain and texture. On the other hand, paint won’t penetrate into the wood but sits on the surface. Paint offers more mil thickness. The more mil thickness added to a wood surface, the less the texture of the wood is apparent. This is because the paint is building away from the surface. We recommend solid color wood stains on cedar sided homes. When solid color stains fade, a fresh power washing cleaning will be performed, and a coating applied back on. This new application will refresh the surface with the mildewcides (that are additives in the stain). This wood stain application gives the wood shingles or planks a drink to prevent cupping due to dry out. That is the benefits of using solid color stains.