Tips on Staining Untreated Woods

Not All Woods Absorb Stains the Same
by Paul Bianchina
Deck stainingQ: First-time homeowner and first-time stainer here!
I had a small porch made out of untreated wood built last summer that I would now like to stain.
I like the redwood look I see throughout the neighborhood, what I think of as the most common color of stain around.
I purchased two sample packets of stain, both by Olympic. One was a toner and one was a semi-transparent version of the same redwood color. I applied them both to a piece of wood leftover from my porch and they both went on like a watercolor paint — very thin, very clear and not deep colors at all. I feel it colored it maybe only a shade darker than what the natural wood is.

I do realize this wood is not the optimal wood to build with, but it has got to be stainable! (Please tell me it is!) Do you have any suggestions as far as getting a deep red/brown coloring to soak in the wood and give it the rich look? Is there something I’m doing wrong? Is there a better stain for this type of wood, or do I just start considering paint? Any suggestions would be great.

A: No need to start considering paint just yet.

All wood is made up of fibers and cells in different degrees and configurations. The more “open” the cell structure, the more readily it will absorb liquids, such as stain. So all woods will accept stain to some degree, some more than others. Some woods — pine and oak for example — will even absorb stain very differently within the same piece. Other factors include how wet or dry the wood is, how weathered it is, how smoothly sanded, etc.

One of the first things you need to do is determine what type of wood was used to build the porch. You mentioned that it was not pressure-treated and it is apparently not redwood. Fir, hemlock, cedar and pine would be some other common porch woods, but there are others as well.

I would suggest that you either ask the person who built the porch, or take a sample down to your local lumberyard and ask one of the people there to identify it for you. Stick with a dedicated lumberyard, not a home center.

Armed with that knowledge, I want you to next go to a paint store — again, a dedicated paint store, not a home center. Show them the type of wood you’re working with and the color you’re hoping to achieve, and they can work with you to select the proper type of stain and the proper color, as well as giving you tips on how to apply it. Bring the wood sample with you as well, and they may be able to test it for you to see if the color is going to come out the way you want.

Copyright 2009 Inman News

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at [email protected].

See Paul Bianchina’s feature, Do’s and Don’ts of Deck Cleaning.
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