Common Paint Problems: Stains

Applying a wood stain is similar to brushing on paint, and you can still have some common problems with it.

Wood stain differs from paint in that it colors the wood, yet it doesn't cover it up completely. Wood stains also help to seal and protect bare wood finishes. But that doesn't mean that stains are any easier to paint on, or that there aren't problems involved with staining wood.

There are three different types of stains: pigment - based, dye - based and chemical - based. The pigment - based stains are the most common. They are composed of three different parts: pigment, binder and carrier. These parts are important to know because each part can cause problems when you are staining wood.

The pigment is the coloring of the stain, such as cherry, mahogany, oak, et cetera. The pigment hasn't got any adhesive properties in itself, so it needs a binder. A binder is the adhesion that makes the pigment stick to the wood. There are several types of binders, including oils, urethanes, acrylics, et cetera. And finally, the combined mixture of a pigment and a binder is very thick - too thick to be successfully applied to any surface. Therefore, a carrier is added to the mixture. The carrier thins the mixture out so that it can flow smoothly and evenly. Some examples of a carrier include mineral spirits, toluene, et cetera.

Before you begin to apply any type of stain, you must first prepare the wood. The binder in stain will not properly adhere to any surface that is wet, waxy, greasy or otherwise polluted. New, bare wood needs to be sanded down to a smooth finish. Then, you will need to wipe the wood dust off of the surface with a clean, slightly - damp cloth. For large areas, you can use a high - powered blower to clean off the wood dust. Follow that with a light mopping with a clean, damp floor mop.

If you have already stained an area of wood, and there are wet bare spots in the finish, you will have to allow the stain to dry completely. Then, you will need to check the bare spots for any signs of glue, wax, grease, et cetera. Remove any pollutants you may find with an appropriate cleaner. Then, use a fine sand paper to lightly sand the bare spots down to clean wood. Reapply the stain by following the manufacturer's directions on the container.

Another common problem with painting on stains is that certain woods don't accept the pigment or the color of the stain evenly. There are two main causes for this: when a stain is painted on to a wood surface, the tiny particles of pigment easily gets lodged into, and builds up in scratches, knots, and other openings. This can result in darker areas of stain. To remedy this problem, you can use a fine sand paper to smooth down light scratches and other imperfections in the wood. For knots, or other deeper openings in wood, you can fill them with a good quality wood putty. Make sure that the putty is suitable for wood surfaces; that it will accept stain.

The second cause for uneven color is the type of wood you are applying stain to. Often times, woods like soft pines, birch, et cetera, don't naturally accept the color evenly. To help remedy this problem, and give your wood surface a more balanced color, you should apply a good quality base varnish to the wood first. The varnish will give the wood a smooth, uniform base. Be sure that you follow the manufacturer's directions on the container in order to achieve the best results.

Another common problem with stain is that the carrier is sometimes too thick to apply a smooth, even finish. This can happen moreso if the stain has some age on it, and has set around for a time. To remedy this problem, you can thin it down with a thinner that is suitable for wood stain.

Finally, here's a bonus tip to help you avoid a discoloration problem: If you are going to paint a large wood area, then you are going to use several gallons of stain. To ensure that the color is consistent over the entire area, you should pour three or four gallons of the stain into a clean five-gallon bucket. Make sure to stir it up well before you use it. Mixing the stain this way will avoid one gallon of stain being a slightly different color, and making the entire finished job look patchy.

© High Speed Ventures 2011