Wood Staining

The Best Tips on How To Stain Wood

How to Stain Wood

The best tips on how to stain wood

Wood Stains are a finish or coating that will not only protect your wood exteriors, interiors, and furniture, but will also produce rich colors and textures to enhance the beauty and aesthetics of your home!

Occasionally, the wood in certain areas of homes do not match the rest. To remedy this, a wood staining project would be very useful to create a coordinating and synchronized appearance that complements the harmony of the home.

As a result, a simple wood stain can beautify the entire house for a cohesive, organized look. Therefore, learning how to stain wood is very useful!
In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about staining wood, from the different types of wood stains to the best practices.

What is Wood Stain?

A wood stain is a type of finish that is applied to wood to enhance its appearance. They are very durable, protecting the wood from damage and other environmental factors.

While wood stains boast this practical purpose, they also produce great decorative appeal by bringing out the natural and rich textures and colors of the wood.

For those new to DIY and home improvement projects, wood stains are similar to paint but specialized to suit the texture of wood and maintain its welfare.

Wood stains differ from paint, however, as they tend to penetrate the wood slightly in order to enhance the natural colors and offer greater protection.

Depending on the type of wood stain used, they can protect a wood surface against ultraviolet rays, water damage, and turbulent weather. At HB ELEMENTS, our Element Stain Series protects against pests, termites, dirt, and other airborne debris.

When it comes down to actually stain wood, there are two different types of stain solutions to consider. These are oil-based and water-based stains.

How to Stain Wood

Oil-based vs Water-based wood stains

An oil-based stain is commonly used on exterior wood projects as the oil contains small molecules that are able to deeply penetrate the wood surface to provide a protective base layer of moisture. This increases the durability of the wood but also means that it will take longer to dry.

In sunny or warm weather, an oil-based stain can take around 6 to 8 hours to completely dry, whereas, in colder weather, you should wait at least 24 hours.

The main advantages of using an oil-based stain are as follows:

  • Protect and seal the wood against the elements.
  • Often achieve more even coats due to the slower drying time.
  • Oil-based wood stains are long-lasting, requiring less maintenance.

On the other hand, a water-based stain contains larger molecules that tend to stay closer to the surface of the wood. This decreases the durability in comparison to oil-based wood stains but speeds up the drying time. While some may find the smell of oil-based stains slightly overwhelming, water-based stains offer a less pungent alternative.

A water-based wood stain is able to do the following:

  • Dry quickly for a quick protective job.
  • Can be used on wood that has already been painted with an oil-based stain.
  • Hold and enhance the color of the wood for longer than oil-based stain solutions.
  • The stain enables airflow, preventing a build-up of trapped water to decrease the risk of wood decay.

Tools and Materials For Wood Staining?

You first need to know the necessary tools and materials required to successfully stain wood. We recommend having these to hand before you start to apply wood stain to minimalize the risk of something going wrong.

How to Stain Wood

The essential tools and materials needed for wood staining are as follows:

Wood Stain

To ensure a thorough and attractive stain job, you need to have a high-quality wood stain.

The HB ELEMENTS wood stain collection, the Elements Stain Series, will achieve a great overall result for your home. Created to ease the process of wood staining, our Elements Stain Series offers minimal upkeep for an extremely durable and long-lasting finish.

Choose your favorite stain color out of 12 beautiful shades for a rich and natural color that won’t crack or flake away over time.


Try to use high-quality paint brushes where you can for better coverage and a speedier project.

For water-based finishes and stains, we recommend using a synthetic bristle brush or foam brush. If using an oil-based stain, try using a natural bristle brush instead.

Clean rags

Any clean cloth or rags will do! We recommend using white ones so that no color transfers and compromises the hues of the stain. Old white t-shirts work just as well too!

Sandpaper: 120, 180, and 220 grit paper

Sandpaper is needed to ensure a flat and even surface can be painted. Stained wood that has not been sanded will appear bumpy and have obvious clumps of stain. We recommend having to hand 120, 180, and 220 grit sandpaper.

Wood conditioner

A pre-stain wood conditioner will help to prepare the wood surface for the stain to be applied. A pre-stain wood conditioner will ensure a more even absorption rate for a consistent finishing top coat.

Wood Sealant

Make sure that you choose a wood sealant that is compatible with your choice of wood stain, whether this is an oil-based or water-based stain.

Wood Finish

A wood finish will help to seal the stain and protect the wood from excess moisture.

How to Stain Wood? Process and Best Practices

Staining wood is quite a straightforward task, but may seem intimidating for DIY beginners. We have listed below a brief overview of the process, as well as some tips for the best practices that you can follow as you start staining.

How to Stain Wood

Wood Conditioning and Prep: Sand the Wood properly

Before you apply the stain, you need to prep your wood. To do this, you should sand in the direction of the grain, and work your way up from medium grit sandpaper (120) to 220. If applying an oil-based stain, lightly sand the wood using 180 grit.

Sanding wood will help to open up pores through which the conditioner and stain will absorb.


Try to use high-quality paint brushes where you can for better coverage and a speedier project.

For water-based finishes and stains, we recommend using a synthetic bristle brush or foam brush. If using an oil-based stain, try using a natural bristle brush instead.

Wet the Wood: Use a Wood conditioner

Get rid of all the dust produced by the sanding before applying your wood conditioner.

Apply your pre-stain wood conditioner by starting with a thin coat and then building up to a liberal amount. Work in the same direction of the grain as you apply.

Dry and Clean: Wipe Excess and Wait for Conditioner to set

Allow the wood conditioner to absorb into the wood for between 5 to 15 minutes before using a clean cloth to wipe off the excess product.

Stain the Wood

Once the conditioner has set, apply the stain. It is best to do this within 2 hours of applying the conditioner to receive the full benefits.

Stir/Shake the Can Properly

Make sure the stain is distributed evenly by shaking or stirring the can first.

Apply Stain: Thin even strokes

Using a cloth or a paintbrush, paint thin even strokes to start with. It is best to start with thin layers as too much stain at once will cause the color to darken.

Wipe away excess Stain

Use a clean cloth or old t-shirt to remove any excess stain. Wipe with the grain to avoid smudging the paint job.

Wait for Stain to set

Allow the stain to completely dry before sealing it. Water-based stains dry more quickly than oil-based, so make sure you pay attention to the type of stain that you are using.

Apply Sealant as Necessary

While sealant is not always needed, for areas that face harsh weather extremities or are often walked over or touched, it is best to seal the stain to prevent fading. Polyurethane is a popular type of wood finish. If using this, apply one to two coats using a brush.

How to Stain Wood

Elemental Stain Series

The HB ELEMENTS Elemental Stain Series provides long-lasting, rich colored stains to protect and enhance wooden surfaces. From ceilings to flooring, our stain series can offer protection from heat, termites, adverse weather conditions, and moisture build-ups.

Furthermore, our stains come with a long 10-year warranty for fading, and we offer a lifetime warranty on the finish never flaking, cracking, and/or delaminating!


In summary, applying stain can be an effective and straightforward project to achieve a cohesive and beautiful look, whether applied externally or internally! With these tips, you will be successfully staining wood in no time.