Choosing Appropriate Stains and Finishes for Refinishing

Are you unsure about which stains and finishes to choose when refinishing your furniture? Wondering if there is a theory that can guide you in making the right decision? Look no further! In this guide, we will explore the world of choosing appropriate stains and finishes for refinishing. We will provide you with valuable information on different types of stains, factors to consider when selecting finishes, popular finishes for various wood types, and tips for making the best choices. By the end, you will be equipped with the knowledge needed to confidently select the perfect stains and finishes that will enhance the beauty and durability of your refinished furniture. So, let’s dive in and discover the secrets to achieving stunning results!

Key Takeaways

  • Various stain colors can transform the look of furniture
  • Consider the environmental impact of finishes and choose eco-friendly options
  • Different wood types benefit from different finishes, considering their natural color and characteristics
  • Test stains on a small area and consider durability and maintenance requirements before applying

Types of Stains for Refinishing

When refinishing furniture, you have various options for stains to achieve the desired color and finish. Different stain colors can dramatically transform the look of your furniture, allowing you to match it with your existing decor or create a whole new aesthetic. From light and natural tones to rich and dark hues, the possibilities are endless. Additionally, eco-friendly stains have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people strive to reduce their environmental impact. These stains are made from natural, sustainable materials and are free from harmful chemicals, making them a great choice for both your furniture and the planet. Not only do they provide beautiful results, but they also give you peace of mind knowing that you are making a responsible choice.

When choosing stains for refinishing, there are several factors to consider. The first is the type of wood you are working with. Some woods may absorb stains differently, resulting in variations in color and finish. It is important to test the stain on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire piece. Other factors to consider include the level of durability you desire, the desired level of transparency or opacity, and the compatibility of the stain with other finishes you may be using. By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that you choose the perfect stain to achieve the desired look for your refinished furniture.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Finishes

Consider several factors when choosing finishes for refinishing your furniture. The right finish can enhance the beauty of the wood, protect it from damage, and provide a long-lasting result. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

  1. Durability: Different finishes have varying levels of durability. For high-traffic areas or pieces that will be exposed to moisture, you may want to choose a more durable finish like polyurethane. However, if you’re refinishing a piece that won’t see much use, a less durable finish like shellac may be sufficient.
  2. Appearance: Each finish has its own unique look. Some finishes, like oil-based polyurethane, can deepen the color of the wood and give it a rich, glossy finish. On the other hand, water-based finishes tend to be more clear and may not alter the natural color of the wood as much.
  3. Application: Consider how easy or difficult it is to apply the finish. Some finishes require multiple coats and long drying times, while others can be applied with a simple brush or rag. Take into account your skill level and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in the refinishing process.
  4. Environmental impact: Some finishes contain harmful chemicals that can be harmful to you and the environment. If you’re concerned about the impact of the finish on your health and the environment, look for eco-friendly options or finishes labeled as low VOC (volatile organic compounds).

Popular Finishes for Different Wood Types

To achieve the desired look and protection for your refinished furniture, it is important to explore popular finishes that are suitable for different types of wood. Each wood species has its own unique characteristics, and selecting the right finish can enhance its natural beauty and durability. When it comes to custom finishes for unique wood species, there are several options to consider.

For lighter woods such as pine or maple, a clear or light-colored finish like lacquer or water-based polyurethane is often preferred. This allows the natural grain and color of the wood to shine through while providing protection against scratches and moisture.

For darker woods like mahogany or cherry, a deeper, richer finish like oil-based polyurethane or tinted varnish can enhance their warm tones and add depth to the wood’s appearance. These finishes also offer excellent durability and protection.

If you’re looking for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional wood finishes, there are a few options to consider. Water-based finishes, such as water-based polyurethane or shellac, are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and provide a clear, durable finish. Another option is natural oils, such as tung oil or linseed oil, which are derived from plant sources and offer a more environmentally friendly choice.

Tips for Selecting Stains and Finishes

For optimal results, carefully evaluate your desired aesthetic and functional requirements when choosing stains and finishes. Here are some tips to help you select the right ones:

  1. Choosing eco-friendly stains and finishes: Consider using water-based or low VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, which are better for the environment and your health. Look for certifications like Green Seal or LEED to ensure the products meet sustainable standards.
  2. Tips for achieving a desired color with stains and finishes: Test the stain on a small, inconspicuous area of the wood to see how it will look. Adjust the color by applying multiple coats or mixing different stains together. Remember that the natural color and grain of the wood will also affect the final result.
  3. Consider the durability and maintenance requirements: If you need a highly durable finish, choose a polyurethane or epoxy coating. These finishes can withstand heavy use and are easy to clean. For a more natural look, consider oil-based finishes, which require periodic reapplication but can bring out the beauty of the wood.
  4. Take into account the intended use and location of the finished piece: If the wood will be exposed to moisture or sunlight, choose a finish that offers protection against these elements. Outdoor furniture, for example, may benefit from a marine-grade varnish or an outdoor-specific stain.

Applying and Maintaining Stains and Finishes

To apply and maintain stains and finishes, you will need to follow specific steps to ensure a successful outcome. When it comes to applying finishes, preparation is key. Start by cleaning and sanding the surface to remove any imperfections. Make sure to remove any dust or debris before applying the finish. Next, choose the appropriate method for applying the finish, whether it be brushing, spraying, or wiping on. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the finish evenly and smoothly. Allow the finish to dry completely before applying additional coats, if necessary.

Maintaining stains and finishes is equally important to ensure their longevity. Regular cleaning is essential to remove dirt and grime that can dull the finish over time. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage the finish. Instead, use a mild soap and water solution or a designated wood cleaner. If the finish becomes scratched or worn down, consider applying a fresh coat of finish to restore its appearance. Additionally, it is important to protect the finish from excessive moisture or extreme temperatures, as these can cause the finish to deteriorate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Stains Be Used on All Types of Wood?

Yes, stains can be used on all types of wood, including engineered wood and bamboo. Stains help enhance the natural beauty of the wood and can be applied to achieve the desired color and finish.

How Long Does It Take for Stains and Finishes to Fully Dry?

Stains and finishes can take varying amounts of time to fully dry, depending on the type and brand. Factors such as humidity and temperature can also affect drying time. Different types of wood may react differently to stains and finishes, so it’s important to choose ones that are appropriate for your specific type of wood.

Are There Any Health Hazards Associated With Using Certain Stains or Finishes?

When choosing stains and finishes for refinishing, it’s important to consider potential health hazards. Some stains and finishes may contain harmful chemicals, so take safety precautions like wearing protective gear and working in a well-ventilated area.

Is It Necessary to Sand the Wood Before Applying Stains or Finishes?

Yes, it is necessary to sand the wood before applying stains or finishes. Sanding creates a smooth surface for better adhesion and helps the stain penetrate evenly. There are no alternative techniques that can replace this step.

Can Stains and Finishes Be Mixed Together to Achieve a Custom Color or Effect?

Yes, you can mix stains and finishes together to create a custom color or achieve unique effects. By combining different products, you have the flexibility to create a look that is personalized and one-of-a-kind.


In conclusion, selecting the right stains and finishes for refinishing is crucial in achieving the desired look and protection for your wood surfaces. Consider factors such as the type of wood, desired color, and level of durability when making your choices. Popular finishes include polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Take the time to research and test different options to ensure you are satisfied with the final result. Proper application and maintenance of stains and finishes will help prolong the lifespan and beauty of your refinished wood.