Wood Stain Finishing Guide


Guidelines for Preparing Wood for Stain:

Before you start applying wood stain, it’s essential to perform some prep work using a wood conditioner. A wood conditioner allows the wood to accept the stain consistently, resulting in an even color without blotching. Conditioners are particularly helpful for softwoods such as white oak or maple. If you plan to use an oil-based stain, apply an oil-based conditioner; for water-based stains, use a water-based conditioner. Water-based conditioners also help prevent the wood grain from rising during staining.

Using Interior Wood Stain:

When staining indoor wood, typically apply the stain with a brush or cloth, allowing it to penetrate the wood without drying, and then wipe off the excess. Some stains may darken with a second coat after several hours, while others may require only one coat. Be cautious of unattractive buildup with additional coats.

Water-based (acrylic) interior stains have less odor than other stains and can be tinted in various shades. Since water-based stains can raise the wood grain, use a wood conditioner first to avoid the need for sanding after staining. Cleaning up these stains is easy with soap and water.

Oil-based (alkyd) interior stains add richness to the wood grain, penetrate deeply, and don’t cause the grain to rise. The longer drying time provides flexibility when working with the stain to prevent lap marks on large surfaces like doors. Cleanup for oil-based stains requires mineral spirits.



  • Applying a stain finish to hardwood can enhance its appearance, add depth to the wood grain, and protect the surface. Here’s a general guide on how to apply a stain finish on hardwood:


    1. Preparation:
    a. Ensure the hardwood surface is clean and free from dust, dirt, and any previous finishes.
    b. Sand the wood using progressively finer grits of sandpaper. Woodnlite rails come with a 220 grit finish for a smooth surface.
    c. Wipe away all dust using a tack cloth or a damp cloth. Allow the wood to dry completely.

    2. Optional Wood Conditioner:
    a. Some stains recommend using a wood conditioner before applying the stain to ensure an even finish. Check the instructions on your specific stain for guidance.
    b. Apply the wood conditioner as directed, usually with a brush or cloth, and allow it to penetrate the wood for the recommended time.

    3. Stir the Stain:
    a. Stir the stain thoroughly using a stir stick. Make sure to mix it well, especially if it has been sitting for a while.

    4. Application of Stain:
    a. Using a brush or a rag, apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain.
    b. Allow the stain to penetrate the wood for the recommended time specified on the product label.
    c. Wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth or rag.

    5. Drying:
    a. Allow the stain to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This typically takes a few hours.

    6. Optional Sealing:
    a. If desired, apply a clear polyurethane or varnish to seal and protect the stained wood. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying times.
    b. Sand lightly between coats if multiple coats are recommended.

    7. Final Inspection:
    a. Once the stain and any sealant have dried, inspect the hardwood surface for any imperfections or uneven areas.

    Remember to follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer of the stain and any additional products you use, as different products may have unique application and drying requirements. Always work in a well-ventilated area and wear appropriate safety gear.