Difference Between Paint and Wood Stain


There is a distinct difference between paint and wood stain in theirchemical makeup as well as the circumstances under which each should be used.  There are also at least as many differences in wood stain types as there are in types of paint.  One simple, general rule for choosing between stain and paint for covering either an exterior or interior surface is if the wood is rough-sawn, stain it; if smooth, paint it.

Like paint, wood stain can be oil-based or water-based.  Unlike paint, stain also comes in gel form.  The decision wood scapeson which one to use depends on the wood species to be stained, the space in which the work will be accomplished, and how important environmental friendliness is to the homeowner.

Oil-Based Stain

This is easy to work with as it is slow to dry.  It does require that the staining be done in a well ventilated area if the stain application is taking place in an interior space, as the vapors can be hazardous as well as flammable.

Water-Based Stain

These are more environmentally friendly and do not diffuse harmful vapors into the surroundings.  The stain color duration homeis added to a water-based solution instead of oil.  It is not nearly as flammable as the oil-based stain.  Unlike the oil-based stain, though, the water-based stain dries very quickly making it more difficult to use.  Because of the rapid drying once on the wood surface, it is not easy to achieve an even finish.  Water-based stains actually raise the wood’s grain, roughening up the surface.  One way to smooth the grain is to wash the wood with water, let it dry and sand it smooth before the water-based stain is applied.

Gel Stain

Not everyone knows about these relative newcomers to the stain and paint market.  The consistency of the gel stain is like a thick paste, so it cannot penetrate wood like the oil- and water-based stain products.  Gel stain lies on top of the wood in an even layer.  It is good for woods that have an uneven grain such as maple, where a penetrating stain might make the wood appear blotchy.  However, the gel stain will not allow the natural wood grain to show through.


Modern paints come in two varieties: oil-based and latex.  Oil-based paint is preferred for interior spaces like swpaintcankitchens and bathrooms as dirt and grease can be easily wiped off.  Latex is generally preferred for exterior painting because it weathers better than oil-based paint and is more resistant to fading and chalking.  Latex paint is preferred for all climates, but particularly for harsh climates found in all parts of the country.  Oil paint, however, is a good choice for repainting an exterior where old, brittle paint is already present on the surface of the structure.  This type of situation exists in areas such as New England, where historic homes are cherished and preserved.

The New England states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are not only rife with stately historic homes but are also subject to some of the harshest weather anywhere in the country. Homeowners in these states should consult with the professionals at United Home Experts to guide them to the proper choice.

Choosing between wood stain and paint is a complex issue.  The decision depends on so many factors that conducting a thorough research involving contacting United Home Experts, home improvement stores and retail paint outlets for more information and advice before beginning a major painting or staining project would serve the homeowner well.

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